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Academic Library Statistics: About Academic Library Statistics

Statistics on US academic libraries collected by the National Center for Education Statistics.

About Academic Library Statistics

The Academic Library Statistics dataset summarizes services, staff, collections, and expenditures of academic libraries in 2- and 4-year degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the 50 United States and Washington, DC. The data were formerly collected by the United States Census Bureau for the National Center on Education Statistics through the Academic Libraries Survey (ALS), a voluntary biennial survey of approximately 3,700 degree-granting postsecondary institutions. As of the 2014-15 data collection cycle, the ALS has been integrated into the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and is conducted annually. Participation in the IPEDS collection is mandatory for all postsecondary institutions in the US and other jurisdictions that participate in federal student aid programs authorized under title IV of Higher Education Act. The population now includes over 7,000 degree‐granting and non‐degree-granting institutions. An academic library is the library associated with a degree-granting institution of higher education and is identified by the postsecondary institution of which it is a part. An academic library is defined as providing: an organized collection of printed or other materials or a combination thereof; a staff trained to provide and interpret such materials as required to meet the informational, cultural, recreational, or educational needs of clientele; an established schedule in which services of the staff are available to clientele; and the physical facilities necessary to support such a collection, staff, and schedule. Data are reported for the main or central academic library and all branch and independent libraries that were open all or part of the fiscal year. Branch and independent libraries are defined as auxiliary library service outlets with quarters separate from the central library that houses the basic collection. Libraries on branch campuses that have separate IPEDS unit identification numbers are reported as separate libraries. Data are presented by fiscal year.

What Do Academic Library Statistics Tell Us?

Academic Library Statistics time series provides granular detail on library administration, organization, and services. Indicators provide data on staff counts by employment status; expenditures for resources, including subscriptions and hardware; interlibrary loans and documents provided; circulation transactions; numbers of and attendance at library presentations; and reference services provided.

Over time, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has changed how it has collected data on academic libraries, which has implications for how the data can be used and analyzed. NCES surveyed academic libraries on a three-year cycle between 1966 and 1988. Between 1988 and 1998, the Academic Libraries Survey (ALS) was a component of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and data were collected on a two-year cycle. Beginning with fiscal year 2000, the ALS was no longer a component of IPEDS, but remained on a two-year cycle. Beginning with the 2014-15 data collection cycle, the ALS component has been reintegrated into IPEDS and subsequent data releases are available via IPEDS.

Because of these changes, along with changes in the survey questions, you may need to utilize several datasets in order to fully assess changes over time. Keep in mind that changes in the format of the survey questions may make indicators discontinuous. In particular, data at the state level will be discontinuous because of differences in the numbers of institutions surveyed by the ALS vs IPEDS. For more information, visit the Academic Libraries Information Center.

ALS Total Expenditures Ranking View

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About the NCES

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity in the United States for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the US and other nations. NCES is located within the US Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. The NCES fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition of US education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally. The NCES is one of four centers (along with the National Center for Education Research, the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, and the National Center for Special Education Research) charged with carrying out the work of the Institute of Education Sciences.

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