July 31, 2021

Academic Libraries: Ithaka S+R Library Survey 2019 Published; Report Now Includes Coverage of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategies

Note: Make sure to read Roger Schonfeld’s preface about the report and the COVID-19 crisis. 

From the Executive Summary:

The  Ithaka S+R Library Survey 2019 examines strategy and leadership issues from the perspective of academic library deans and directors. This project aims to provide academic librarians and higher education leaders with information about chief librarians’ visions and the opportunities and challenges they face in leading their organizations.

In fall 2019, we invited library deans and directors at not-for-profit four-year academic institutions across the United States to complete the survey, and we received 662 responses for a response rate of 46 percent.

In this survey cycle, we added new coverage of three key topics: equity, diversity, and inclusion strategies, changes to collections strategies, and the library’s role in ensuring student success outcomes. The key findings below highlight many of the most notable results on these topics as well as longer-standing thematic areas of interest, both from the current cycle and over time.

Key Findings

  • Library directors continue to perceive the value of their roles—and the roles of their libraries—as declining in the eyes of their supervisors and other higher education leaders. Continuing a trend found in the previous cycle, directors at all institution types feel less valued by, involved with, and aligned strategically with their supervisors and other senior academic leadership. Further, as library directors’ perceptions of the value of various functions of the library from the perspective of their supervisors have decreased, the perceived valuation gap between library directors and their supervisors has grown wider.
  • Student success remains a top objective for library directors and they see the contributions of their library toward this success most strongly in relation to increasing student learning and enhancing student well-being. Contributions toward more traditional metrics of success—such as enrollment and graduation—have not been similarly identified.
  • Priorities continue to shift from collections to services. Directors anticipate increased expenditures for services and staffing related to teaching and research support. Correspondingly, decreases in collections expenditures are anticipated over the next five years.
  • A declining share of directors expect to increase financial support for technology, systems, and infrastructure. While in previous survey cycles, doctoral university directors expressed relatively more interest in adding support in this area, this has plateaued to levels more similar to other institution types.
  • Spending on electronic books now roughly equals that for print books. For the first time, the percentage of library budget spent on e-books has risen to nearly the same level as print books. This reflects the general trend of increased spending on all forms of electronic resources and decreased spending on all types of print resources.
  • Half of library directors will likely cancel a major journal package in the next five years. Fewer respondents compared to the previous cycle believe that the value of electronic resources is rising faster than cost, possibly contributing to the likelihood of cancellations. A relatively small share plan on pivoting to transformative agreements to bundle publishing and subscription costs. Roughly half of library directors are interested in contributing to institutional learning analytics tools. However, about half are also concerned about third-party vendors having access to individual-level data. Both interest and concern i highest amongst leaders at doctoral universities.
  • Relatively few library directors agree that their library, as well as their broader institution, have well-developed strategies related to equity, diversity, inclusion, and access. While only one in three feel confident in these strategies, many are implementing relevant practices for recruiting and selecting candidates, including having separate minimum requirements and preferred qualifications in job descriptions.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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