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Standards for Libraries in Higher Education: Benchmarking & Peer Comparison

Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) have designed these standards to guide academic libraries in advancing and sustaining their role as partners in educating students.

Use and Value of Institutional Peer Comparisons

Benchmarking is commonly used as an evaluation and self-improvement tool in higher education. Many academic institutions use benchmarks to compare themselves with similar institutions in order to identify their comparative strengths and weaknesses. Benchmarking is widely used as a strategy to enhance institutional quality and effectiveness.

Libraries are encouraged to use existing institutional peer groups for comparisons. If such a group is unavailable, it is highly advisable to develop one or more peer groups in consultation with senior institutional leadership.  A peer group can be identified using criteria such as the institutional mission, reputation, selectivity for admission, size of budget, size of endowment, and so forth. 

Once a peer group has been determined, points of comparison can be made to compare the strength of the library with its peers. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publishes data from the biennial Academic Library Survey, which provides “descriptive statistics on about 3,700 academic libraries in 50 states and the District of Columbia. Free access to the peer comparison tool is available online

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) collects quantitative and qualitative data for 126 of the largest research libraries in North America that “describe the collections, expenditures, staffing, and service activities for ARL member libraries"; and offers access via online subscription.  The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) conducts an annual survey of academic libraries and offers an online service providing access to the ACRL and NCES survey data starting from 1998 and 2000, respectively. ACRLMetrics provides turn-key benchmarking templates based on ratios recommended in Viewing Library Metrics from Different Perspective: Inputs, Outputs and Outcomes, including

          • Staff Expenditures per Student

  • Total staff expenditures per full-time undergraduate student
  • Total staff expenditures per part-time undergraduate student
  • Total staff expenditures per full-time graduate student
  • Total staff expenditures per part-time graduate studentZ

• Salary and Wages Expenditures per Enrolled Student

  •  Salaries and wages professional staff per enrolled student
  •  Salaries and wages support staff per enrolled student
  •  Salaries and wages student assistants per enrolled student

• Enrolled Students per Staff Full-Time Equivalent (FTE)

  • Full-time undergraduate students per staff FTE
  • Part-time undergraduate students per staff FTE
  • Full-time graduate students per staff FTE
  • Part-time graduate students per staff FTE

• Staffing Percentages

  • % professional staff to total staff
  • % support staff to total staff
  • % student assistants to total staff

• Total Collection Expenditures per Student

  • Total library materials expenditures per full-time undergraduate student
  • Total library materials expenditures per part-time undergraduate student
  • Total library materials expenditures per full-time graduate student
  • Total library materials expenditures per part-time graduate student

• Total Operating Expenditures per Student

  • Total operating expenditures per full-time undergraduate student
  • Total operating expenditures per part-time undergraduate student
  • Total operating expenditures per full-time graduate student
  • Total operating expenditures per part-time graduate student

• Process Metrics (Cost per Hour Open)


• Selected Holdings Ratios

  • Holdings per circulation
  • Circulation per holdings
  • Average cost of current serials

• Circulation per Student


• Participants at Group Presentations

  • Participants at group presentations per full-time undergraduate student
  • Participants at group presentations per part-time undergraduate student
  • Participants at group presentations per full-time graduate student
  • Participants at group presentations per part-time graduate student
  • Participants at group presentations per enrolled student

Benchmarking templates are also available to calculate other ratios, including

• Other Expenditure Ratios

  • Total library materials expenditures per instructional faculty
  • Total expenditures per instructional faculty
  • Other operating expenditures per instructional faculty
  • Staff expenditures per instructional faculty
  • Total library resources expenditures per faculty
  • Serial expenditures as % of total library materials expenditures
  • Monograph expenditures as % of total library materials expenditures
  • E-book expenditures as % of monograph expenditures
  • Salary and wages expenditures as % of total library expenditures
  • Other operating expenditures as % of total library expenditures

 Additional ratios that can be derived using ACRLMetrics include

• Volumes per full-time students (undergraduate and graduate)
• Volumes per part-time students (undergraduate and graduate)
• Volumes per full-time faculty
• Volumes added per year per full-time students (undergraduate and graduate)
• Volumes added per year per part-time students (undergraduate and graduate)
• Volumes added per year per full-time faculty
• Ratio of electronic serial titles to print serial titles
• Ratio of reference transaction to student enrollment (full- and/or part-time)

 

Viewing Library Metrics from Different Perspective: Inputs, Outputs and Outcomes, Robert E. Dugan, Peter Hernon, and Danuta A. Nitecki, (Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2009).