Integrating the Academic Libraries Survey (ALS) into IPEDS: Staff Types and Staffing Levels for Academic Libraries

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has integrated the Academic Libraries (AL) component, formerly known as the biennial Academic Libraries Survey (ALS), into its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2014-15 collection. All degree-granting, Title IV postsecondary institutions in the U.S. and other jurisdictions are required to report library information annually beginning in December 2014 when the IPEDS Spring data collection opens.

There are major changes concerning library staffing in IPEDS.  Unlike the ALS, the AL component does not request information about library staff types and staffing levels; only expenditures for total salaries and wages are reported for all libraries. Additionally, the expenditures for fringe benefits are reported on the AL component if paid by the library.

When changes to the ALS were proposed in 2011, the Technical Review Panel discussing the survey suggested that:

  • The collection of academic staff and staffing data be relocated to the Human Resources (HR) component of IPEDS.
  • Instead of collecting staffing levels as fill-time equivalents (FTE), IPEDS should collect a headcount of part-time and full-time library staff, thereby maintaining consistency with how personnel data are collected throughout IPEDS.  The HR component also collects staffing information based on  race and ethnicity as well as by gender.
  • Collecting this data in the HR component would ensure consistent reporting and avoid duplication of data. Institutional personnel offices already track this information, so institutional keyholders will not need to rely on the library department to gather data.

[See Report and Suggestions from IPEDS Technical Review Panel #35, Reintegrating the Academic Libraries Survey into IPEDS. Available at https://edsurveys.rti.org/IPEDS_TRP/documents/TRP35_SummaryPackage_Suggestions_final.pdf].

IPEDS collects full-time and part-time headcounts for three library staff-related classifications from the 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). These classifications include: Librarians (25-4021); Library Technicians (25-4031); and Archivists, Curators, and Museum Technicians (25-4010).  The definitions from the 2010 SOC are provided below.

  • 25-4021 Librarians:  Administer libraries and perform related library services. Work in a variety of settings, including public libraries, educational institutions, museums, corporations, government agencies, law firms, non-profit organizations, and healthcare providers. Tasks may include selecting, acquiring, cataloguing, classifying, circulating, and maintaining library materials; and furnishing reference, bibliographical, and readers’ advisory services. May perform in-depth, strategic research, and synthesize, analyze, edit, and filter information. May set up or work with databases and information systems to catalogue and access information. Illustrative examples: Law Librarian, School Librarian, Music Librarian.
  • 25-4031 Library Technicians:  Assist librarians by helping readers in the use of library catalogs, databases, and indexes to locate books and other materials; and by answering questions that require only brief consultation of standard reference. Compile records; sort and shelve books or other media; remove or repair damaged books or other media; register patrons; and check materials in and out of the circulation process. Replace materials in shelving area (stacks) or files. Includes bookmobile drivers who assist with providing services in mobile libraries. Illustrative examples: Library Circulation Technician, Library Acquisitions Technician.
  • 25-4010 Archivists, Curators, and Museum Technicians: This broad occupation includes the following three detailed occupations — 25-4011 Archivists, 25-4012 Curators and 25-4013 Museum Technicians and Conservators.

[U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010 SOC Definitions, February 2010 (Updated January 2013) and available at http://www.bls.gov/soc/soc_2010_definitions.pdf]

These personnel classifications are differ from those used in the 2012 ALS and ACRL/ARL annual surveys.

IPEDS has determined that all three library-related classifications are “non-instructional” personnel although library staff may hold “faculty status.” Part B1 of the HR component data collection instrument asks for the number of “Full-time Non-instruction Staff” arranged in rows by gender and ethnicity vertically on the left side of the form with the three aforementioned classifications situated horizontally as columns at the top. Part B2 of the survey form is used to collect data about faculty and non-faculty status for those in these three classifications. Faculty status includes those personnel tenured or on a tenure track. Staff with faculty status but not on a tenure track are counted on three vertical columns labeled as multiyear, continuing, or at-will contract; annual contract; and less-than-annual contract.  There is also a vertical data collection column for personnel in these three classifications without faculty status.  Similar HR component forms are used for part-time non-instructional staff (Parts D and E). An example of the Human Resources component survey form for degree-granting institutions and related administrative offices that have 15 or more full-time staff and a tenure system is accessible at https://surveys.nces.ed.gov/IPEDS/Downloads/Forms/package_1_43.pdf.

The results of these changes concerning staff types and staffing levels data collection and reporting are:

  • The AL component only asks about library expenditures for total salary and wages and fringe benefits.
  • Information collected about staff types and staffing levels have been relocated to the HR component of IPEDS and will be reported by the institution’s human resources/personnel office.
  • Headcounts are applied in IPEDS which means that staffing information about full-time equivalents are not collected or calculated. This will impact libraries using reported FTE levels for internal trend analysis, and for external benchmarking and best practices concerning academic library staff and staffing.
  • Education levels attained are unspecified in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ definitions of the three classification; as a result, education is not a defining characteristic for 25-4021 Librarians and 25-4031 Library Technicians.
  • The categorization of library staff into one of the three BLS classifications is an institutional decision most often made by HR personnel or, in some cases, the institutional keyholder.  Therefore, academic library leadership may not be involved in the categorization of its personnel when the institution completes and submits the IPEDS HR component.

To ensure institutional accuracy for the upcoming IPEDS Spring collection which includes both the AL and HR components, it is strongly recommended that library leaders learn more about the institutional processes supporting survey information collection and reporting by talking or meeting with the institutional keyholder. This discovery effort should include asking about the institution’s alignment of library staff types and staffing levels with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ SOC classifications discussed above.

– Robert Dugan, Chair, ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey Editorial Board