ACRLMetrics

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Association Case Study

Enhancing Data-Driven Decision Making

ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics

Launched in the summer 2010, ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics is an electronic service providing access to the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRLAssociation of College and Research Libraries) annual trends and statistics survey data; as well as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCESNational Center for Education Statistics) Academic Library Survey data (from 2000 to present); and in 2012, a special ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics IPEDSIntegrated Post-Secondary Education Data System data collection.

ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics was developed to help academic libraries demonstrate value, create evidence for support, track trends over time, demonstrate productivity and conduct peer-group comparisons.

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRLAssociation of College and Research Libraries) has partnered with Counting Opinions to provide this service to academic libraries around the world.

Here is how three academic libraries are using ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics to advance their goals.

Walsh University, Brother Edmond Drouin Library: Support for Strategic Planning

Carnegie Classification: Master's M: Master's Colleges and Universities (medium programs)
Interview conducted with Dan Suvak, Dean for Institutional Effectiveness and Library Services

The Drouin Library is a member of OPAL, a consortium of 24 Ohio academic libraries. For many years, one OPAL member gathered statistics from the other libraries and compiled them manually into a spreadsheet. The switch to ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics has saved time as well as providing information not previously available.

OPAL is a peer/affinity group. Dan Suvak, Dean for Institutional Effectiveness and Library Services, says that the Drouin Library can look at the group and make decisions about new services using ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics. ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics also can be used to create a new peer group, finding similar schools using a variety of variables.

Suvak has been using ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics in support of strategic planning, looking at variables such as number of open hours, enrollment, and staffing. They are using the data to determine how they compare with peers and, in some cases, to make a data-supported argument for additional staff. For example, Suvak says, the library can use ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics data to show that libraries in their peer group that are open more hours have more staff. As the Walsh library is under pressure to be open additional hours, this type of data is extremely valuable.

ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics also allows the library to determine how they compare to peer institutions in terms of total budget and how the budget is allocated. “Are we spending money on the things we should be? How do we compare in terms of expenditures on AV, e-resources, and hard copy materials? What about the number of professional staff vs. support staff? These are the types of questions we’ve been able to answer quickly and easily using ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics,” says Suvak.

Suvak says ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics arms the library with data to evaluate the services being offered and to establish whether it is adequately resourced to provide those services. One example he points to is ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics trend reports that support the continued acquisition of hard copy materials. “These days everyone likes to think people use only online resources. But our trend analysis showed that although hard copy circulation has been declining, the national decline is a mere 1% every year over 20 years. This is so gradual that it led us to remain committed to hard copy acquisition for the foreseeable future.”

ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics provides an excellent way for libraries to know where they stand and what areas might need to be enhanced. The data is timelier than what is available through NCESNational Center for Education Statistics alone and is provided without a long lag time. The training they received was excellent, ensuring each OPAL library could readily access the needed data.

The bottom line for Suvak is that libraries need to be more accountable.

University of West Florida Libraries: Demonstrating Value for Dollars Spent

Carnegie Classification: DRU: Doctoral/Research Universities
Interview conducted with Robert Dugan, Dean of Libraries

Bob Dugan, Dean of Libraries, measures the University of West Florida Libraries not just against peers but also against an aspirant group. “It’s important to be looking not only at your peer group but at the group of universities your institution aspires to be like,” he says. ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics has proven to be an excellent tool for this type of evaluation. After choosing his comparison groups in ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics, he created reports based on thirty measures for both the peer and aspirant groups and generated bar charts to show how his library measured up with respect to each element.

The university as a whole looks at five or six measures including retention rate and number of degree programs. The library also looked at service indicators. ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics showed that compared to their peer and aspirant groups, the University of West Florida Libraries was at the top in terms of productivity (e.g., total circulation and reference transactions per student FTE) but below average in terms of collections and funding per student FTE.

“The data we gathered through ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics enabled the library to demonstrate to the university that even though we are not as well funded as the libraries in our peer and aspirant groups that doesn’t get in the way of our service,” Dugan says. “In other words, the money allocated to the library is well-spent; dollar for dollar the library is a good investment.”

Dugan says the type of reports he has been able to produce would not have been possible without ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics. He saved his report templates so that in the future he can re-run the reports using updated data. This will enable Dugan to generate detailed annual reports needed by the university in 3-4 minutes.

Using the same thirty metrics and reports allows the library to track trends from year to year. Dugan says he considers fiscal year 2010 to be his benchmark and will be looking to see how the two peer groups perform from 2010 to 2011. ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics provides timely annual updates well in advance of the release of the NCESNational Center for Education Statistics Academic Survey date.

Access to ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics has allowed Dugan to raise the level of discussions within the university. He uses the data to continually evaluate the university’s peer and aspirant groups to ensure they are valid comparisons. “You have to constantly evaluate if you’re looking at the right groups to measure yourself against, particularly in this difficult financial period. ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics allows us to have this discussion at the institutional level as opposed to just the library level. This helps the library demonstrate our value within the larger institutional context.”

Virginia Commonwealth University, Cabell Library: Improving Capacity for Analyses

Carnegie Classification: RU/VH: Research Universities (very high research activity)
Interview conducted with Michael Rawls, Budget and Assessment Director

Michael Rawls, Budget and Assessment Director, receives frequent data requests from administrators and managers at VCU Libraries. The Director of Communications needs to know how VCU compares to its peer group and other institutions in Virginia in terms of funding per student FTE. Rawls says it took less than five minutes to produce the report. The University Librarian needs data showing how the libraries compare to ARL institutions in terms of investment in personnel and collections. “ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics allows me to respond to these kinds of requests quickly and easily,” Rawls says.

In addition to meeting specific data needs, Rawls says he has been working on a major research project that relies heavily on ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics. The focus of the project is to determine how access to e-resources affects the number of journal articles produced by the institution. If an institution has more money for e-resources, does that impact research productivity? Although Rawls needs several data sources for this research, he was able to start by pulling data using 30 to 40 variables on 300 U.S. doctoral institutions. Using ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics, he produced a trend report on 300 institutions covering 2005 to 2010 in just two to three hours. “This is valuable research to demonstrate that library expenditures are directly related to publishing productivity in the university environment,” he says. “Without ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics this research would have been much more time consuming.”

Rawls says he would recommend ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics to any institution that needs to compare their institution to others. “This is a tool that’s flexible, quick and easy to use. Access to ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics can encourage you to do analysis that you might not otherwise undertake because other sources are harder to use.”

In addition, he says, some libraries are competing with other units on their campuses for funding. ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics provides the data to show how your library compares against its peers. This data can help make a strong argument for securing funding or increasing the institution’s investment in the library based on the comparison with similar institutions.

Knowing where you stand helps you move forward, Rawls says. “We are a large state research university serving 32,000 students. We run one of the best health sciences libraries on the East Coast and a system that serves the traditional arts and humanities programs, business and engineering schools and many innovative undergraduate programs along with master’s and doctoral programs. For VCU, the ability to compare ourselves to others is very important because we have so many demands from students and scholars. ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics lets us slice and dice the data to see where we are and where we aspire to be in the near future.”

About Counting Opinions

Facing constant competitive challenges, libraries and library organizations need better tools to understand and manage customer needs and to compete more effectively for scarce resources. In business since 2004, Counting Opinions provides libraries and library organizations with a cost-effective, evidence-based management solutions’ platform for the comprehensive management of their performance and customer satisfaction data. Solutions for custom surveys, open-ended customer feedback, trends, benchmarking, outcomes and peer comparisons are also available.


Note: Interview conducted and case study prepared by JAM Marketing LLC.


Please cite this article as: ACRLAssociation of College and Research LibrariesMetrics;