Ithaka S+R 2013 Academic Libraries Survey

By Keiser, Barbie E. | Information Today, May 2014 | Go to article overview

Ithaka S+R 2013 Academic Libraries Survey

Keiser, Barbie E., Information Today

The 2013 survey of academic libraries conducted by Ithaka S+R ( is a follow-up to the consulting and research service's 2010 survey that examined the strategic planning, collecting practices, and services of academic libraries in the U.S. As Ithaka S+R managing director Deanna Marcum states in the preface to the latest report: "Ithaka S+R's US Library Survey tracks the strategic direction and leadership dynamics of academic library leaders. Our purposes are to understand the strategies they are pursuing and the opportunities and constraints that they face, and also to compare their attitudes on key services against those of other campus stakeholders such as faculty members."

Respondents to the 2013 survey were deans or directors of the main libraries at 4-year colleges or universities, and data is presented for institutions offering baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral degrees. Readers of this report will learn about the visions of these 499 respondents (a 33% response rate) "and the opportunities and constraints they face in leading their organizations." The library directors who responded to the survey believe it is important to align their libraries with the teaching and education of undergraduates at their institutions. Therefore, it's not surprising that their libraries are very strongly committed to the development of research skills and information literature education for undergraduate students, though faculty members are less certain that this responsibility lies with the library. Key findings of the survey include the following:

* "As in 2010, only a minority of respondents agreed that their library has a well-developed strategy for serving the changing needs of users. Those respondents whose libraries have taken on evidence gathering and other forms of assessment are more likely to be confident in their strategy for serving user needs."

* Library directors at larger institutions are much more likely to see themselves as part of the senior academic administration than directors at other institutions are.

* The majority of respondents agree that building local print collections has declined in importance. This is also emphasized through a review of budget allocation for print versus electronic journals.

* Finances continue to be constrained, but "[Library directors' responses signaled the continuing and perhaps growing importance of staff relative to other major categories of expenditure. Many directors are concerned about limited staff capacity and skills and would spend newly available funding on staff positions or salary increases for existing staff."

* "New hires are expected to concentrate in emerging and growing areas such as web services; digital preservation; and instruction, instructional design, and information literacy services." Traditional areas (e.g., reference, tech services) are not likely to see additional staff.

* Two core undergraduate services of widespread importance were "providing reference instruction to undergraduate classes" and "providing a physical space for student collaboration."

* "At those institutions that provide some form of academic instruction online, a substantial share of directors do not feel that their libraries are fully prepared to provide support [to] students in online courses."

* Support for faculty research is changing, with new tools deployed, but the value of this service is seen by many to be waning, while the role of libraries in undergraduate teaching and information literacy education is on the rise.

* While reference instruction and physical space for students are the highest priority services for all respondents of this survey, institutions offering doctoral degree programs appear more likely to favor a range of library services beyond those offered elsewhere, including interlibrary loan (ILL), licensing electronic journals, index-based discovery services, copyright advice/guidance, special collections, digitizing library materials, institutional repositories, and preserving digitized materials.

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Ithaka S+R 2013 Academic Libraries Survey


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