Integrating the Academic Libraries Survey (ALS) into IPEDS: Academic Libraries’ Data Collection Changes and its Influence on Benchmarking

Editor’s Note: The ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey Editorial Board is working to create awareness of the migration of the NCES Academic Library Survey back into the Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS) and the implications for academic libraries. This is the fourth in a series of updates from the Robert Dugan, dean of libraries at the University of West Florida, and chair of the ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey Editorial Board.

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.

The ACRL annual Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey is now open. Mary Ellen K. Davis, Executive Director of ACRL, sent emails to academic libraries about the availability of the survey from acrlsupport@countingopinions.com.  Please note than an “opt-in” question is posed in this year’s survey; an affirmative response will display the questions from the IPEDS AL component for completion.  The data submitted will enable respondents to import a file that can be used to respond to the AL component of the IPEDS spring collection without the need to re-key the library’s responses.

Many academic libraries have used the data collections from the former biennial Academic Library Surveys and the annual ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics Surveys to conduct peer and aspirant benchmarking studies.  Data elements often used in library benchmarking analyses and reports that will not be captured in the current AL component include:

Staffing

  • Instead of collecting staffing levels as full time equivalents (FTE), IPEDS staffing information includes a “head count” of part-time and full-time library staff, and staffing counts of race and ethnicity by gender. IPEDS will collect this data in the Human Resources (HR) component (Spring collection) to ensure consistent reporting and avoid duplication of data.
  • Libraries may be able to extrapolate FTE; however, the part-time count will not be precise –libraries will not be able to view or calculate .25, .5, and .75 levels of FTE. As an example, 10 part-time staff could be equal to as few as 2.25 FTE (.25 FTE each) or as much as 7.75 FTE (.75 FTE each). This imprecision could be significant in benchmarking studies.
  • The IPEDS HR component will collect full- and part-time counts for three staff classifications as defined by the 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Standard Occupational Classification (SOC): Librarians (25-4021); Library Technicians (25-4031); and Archivists, Curators, and Museum Technicians (25-4010). The definitions of these staffing classifications differ from those used in the ALS.
  • Institutions’ personnel offices already track the staffing level information. Therefore, IPEDS keyholders may not ask the library department to gather or submit staffing data.

Library Services

  • No reporting for the number of reference transactions.
  • No reporting at all for information services to groups. This includes the number of presentations provided and the total attendance at all presentations.

Library Services Typical Week

  • No reporting of weekly public service hours (hours open).
  • No reporting of entrance gate counts.

Library Collections

  • No reporting of the number of documents digitized by library staff

Use of Electronic Resources

  • No reporting of the number of successful full-text article requests.

IPEDS’ integration of the Academic Library Survey into the AL component has changed the data elements compiled; as a result, the loss of one or more of the data elements in the new survey may affect libraries’ benchmarking studies. Many of these data elements from the AL component will be collected through the ACRL survey currently underway.  ACRLMetrics subscribers will be able to apply the compiled data to support their library’s benchmarking studies.

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