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Value of Academic and College Libraries

The value of academic libraries is often strongly tied to the value of colleges and universities themselves. There are many reports on the impact of universities and colleges and higher education on the economics of a community.

In this particular sector I am fond of a study called “Libraries Designed for Learning” by Scott Bennett. This is an articulate report on what needs to be considered to place the library at the heart of the new university – virtual and bricks. As we create information and learning commons we need to consider many new and mutated issues (including our Millennial users) and this report is a good place to start.
Another study that makes a good point is OCLC’s “White Paper on the Information Habits of College Students” ( This excellent, free study provides data on students’ preferences in dealing with the library and research information. It concludes with some tough questions for libraries and library staff to ponder, strategically.
“Dimensions and Use of the Scholarly Information Environment” from CLIR/DLF ( was published after the Digital Library Federation and Council on Library and Information Resources commissioned Outsell to conduct a large-scale study of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty from academic institutions to better understand how users’ expectations of libraries are changing. This report, available online, is fascinating and shows the impact libraries have on research and learning.
I do worry that my literature scan finds too few empirical studies of the broader role of the college and university library on learning and research. I understand that ACRL has started to fund research in this area to address the shortfall in overall studies about the value of academic libraries.

Selected Academic Libraries Value Study Links

2005 Colorado Academic Library Impact Study (Feb. 2006)

Libraries Designed for Learning by Scott Bennett

Dimensions and Use of the Scholarly Information Environment

Pew Internet and American Life
(Many useful studies)

OCLC White Paper on the Information Habits of College Students

OCLC Report: Research Libraries, Risk and Systemic Change (pdf: 579K/20 pp.)

First-ever National Study: Millions of People Rely on Library Computers
for Employment, Health, and Education

Canadian University Library Benchmarks


All publish data academic libraries. It will require some significant massaging to find value proposition in these data.

ACRL has a list if 8 studies here:

Value of Academic Research Libraries

The ARL Statistics and Assessment resources are here:

The ARL site covers some of the StatQual, ServQual, ClimtaeQual, DigiQual, and LibQual resources which are other metrics used in academic libraries to judge effectiveness, impact and value that deserve a posting of their own.

In addition it is worthwhile reviewing some of the work in the following:

Evidence Based Library and Information Practice

Educause / CNI

I hope this list is helpful.

Please report any other studies or dead links in the comments. Thanks.


Posted on: April 7, 2010, 11:27 am Category: Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. This is a very helpful list, Stephen. I had read a few of these but most of the resources here are new to me.

    I think your literature scan is write in not finding much in terms of impact. Measuring the number of Library website visits or book checkouts is a fine place to start, but the more important (and difficult to answer question) is whether that resource made education or research better.

  2. My only concern is the age of a lot of it.

  3. Pam Ryan said

    Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for putting this list together. The lack of depth only further shows the need for the collective library “us” to direct resources into research on these issues and the savvy communication of findings.

    Just to clarify, the CACUL Benchmarks are essentially just a different way to present existing CARL data (and some existing regional data) so any Cdn academic/college library can understand their traditional output numbers (that CARL defines and collects for CARL members) in the context of others. ARLs and CARL members take this for granted because they have easily accessible annual ranked lists to look at; not so for all our Cdn colleagues. So, they are not about describing value but not without value for libraries looking to better understand where they sit on CARL-defined measures.