Iowa State is member library of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), which consists of 123 research libraries in the United States and Canada. ARL has a strong Statistics and Measurement Program. An important aspect of our participation in the ARL is the annual collection of significant library statistics, comparable across institutions. The annual statistics survey covers collections, staffing, expenditures, library services, and library and university characteristics. The survey contains a standard, stable group of questions. The data from 1908 to the present available online in a searchable database, allows the Library to track its own trends over time, as well as to make comparisons with key peer institutions. The annual statistics are put through a formula to calculate an overall ranking for each member library. A supplementary statistical survey is also conducted each year, providing ARL libraries with a test bed for potential new statistics. In recent years, for example, a number of questions attempting to quantify access specifically to electronic materials have been included. The ARL has been actively working to identify new measures of services, ways to measure collections that do not solely rely on item counts, and to refine its ranking formula to reflect the current value delivered by academic libraries. One aspect of this work is the development of Developing Indicators for Academic Library Performance. These provide ratios of significance for comparison over time and across institutions. This functionality is now available through the ARL statistical database.
Iowa State University Library's overall ARL ranking from 1996 to the present has varied within the middle/lower region of the rankings. The ISUL ranking has been as high as 66th in 1996 and as low as 84th in 1999. Rankings are highly affected by size of collections, overall budget, and staffing levels. On the whole, the Library has solid collections, but cannot compete in size with institutions founded as private, prestigious universities founded prior to the Morrell Land Grant Act. The state budget has had some strong years during this period, but also several years where every unit on campus was required to revert funds back to the state. Infusions of new money for electronic resources (1999) and efforts to increase our staffing throughout these years have kept us from rapidly sliding down the rankings, but we have dropped from 66 to 79 nonetheless.
Budget management draws on these statistics as a source of comparative information. We can see where we fall within ARL, or within a selected group of ARL libraries. For example, 66.9% of our materials budget was expended for serials in FY2004. The ARL mean for that period is 66.4%, and the median is 68.2%. This confirms that the portion of our current budget allocated to serials is in line with ARL member libraries.
The Library does rank low in staffing levels, and despite concerted efforts to address this situation, this remains one of our lowest rated rankings. Currently we are ranked at 98th for professional staffing and 81st for support staff. A review of the numbers suggests that other institutions in our range are increasing the size of their professional staff at a faster rate on average than has Iowa State University Library. Having comparative data of this sort allows the Library to make sound decisions by inserting these facts. We can compare as a check to see if we are relatively strong, average, or weak on any survey factor and from there, determine whether we think we should improve, maintain, or stride ahead in key areas.
Finally, the Library uses the ARL statistics to assess whether we are making progress in the direction of our strategic plan. A good example is our response to a mandate from the Faculty Senate in 1998 to cancel print journals in favor of electronic versions wherever the content is comparable. Each year, we calculate the percentage of the materials and access budget that was spent on electronic journals, divided by the overall serials dollars expended. Currently we stand at 78.9% as compared to the ARL mean of 43.1% and median of 39.4%. The Library has clearly made great strides towards accomplishing this goal, and is considerably ahead of her sister institutions in doing so.
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