The purpose of this survey was to determine how collection assessment methods, measures, and
practices are currently employed and how the results are used at ARL member libraries. Despite recent
prognostications of radical changes in form and function of libraries (Taiga Forum, 2014), the center
of any current library (physical, virtual, or hybrid) is its collection. There have been notable changes
in collection development, management, format, distribution, organization, and accessibility of these
collections, but the collection remains at the center of librarianship (Bullis & Smith, 2011; Lehman, 2014).
Indeed, because of these changes and the corresponding predictions of radical transformation of library
collections (e.g., reduced physical collections, on-demand purchasing, just-in-time collection building,
etc.), collection evaluation, analysis, and assessment will be needed to manage these activities that are
much more complex than traditional selection.
Librarians have always cared about the quality of their collections (Johnson, 2009; Mosher,
1984), but formal methods of evaluation or assessment have developed primarily from the middle of
the last century. Most complex and discussed among these has been the Conspectus method, but other
methods developed include White’s Brief Tests (White, 2008), circulation and usage analysis (Adams &
Noel, 2008; Hughes, 2012), and citation analysis (Hoﬀmann & Doucette, July 2012; Kohn & Gordon, 2014;
Wical & Vandenbark, 2015). While there have been many articles describing these methods and case
studies of assessments of speciﬁc collections, there have been few surveys of assessment or evaluation
practices actually used in libraries.
This survey was developed to better understand and to clarify the processes, procedures, and
approaches used by research libraries related to collections data collection, analysis, and reporting.
The survey was distributed to the 124 ARL member libraries in May 2016. Seventy-one responses were
received by the June deadline, providing a 57% response rate. Although all 71 respondents indicated that
data collection and analysis are integral to collection management, the practices they use vary widely.
The assessment of collections involves both the collecting of data and the analysis of that data.
Because the processes for these activities may be distinct or converged, depending on the institution,
survey questions addressed each activity separately. Attention was paid to the positions of individuals
involved in collection evaluation, analysis, assessment, and data gathering because these processes
involve numerous individuals.
2 Survey Results: Executive Summary