SPEC Kits

Overview

SPEC surveys gather information from ARL member institutions on current research library practices and policies. SPEC Kits combine the survey results and documentation from ARL member institutions to guide libraries as they address the ever-changing challenges facing libraries. These guides help libraries learn about current practice in research libraries, implement new practices and technologies, manage change, and improve performance. SPEC Kits comprise four key elements:

  • Executive Summary of the survey results
  • Survey Questions and Responses
  • Representative Documents from the responding institutions
  • Selected Resources, including books, journal articles, and websites

Originally established as an information resource for ARL member libraries, the SPEC Kit series has grown to serve the needs of the library community worldwide.

SPEC Kits from 2006 to the present (SPEC Kit 292 --) are freely available in ARL Digital Publications. You may read the publication online, download a PDF of a section of a SPEC Kit, or download a complete SPEC Kit PDF.

Online versions of SPEC Kits from 1973 through 2005 (SPEC Kit 1 - 291) are available through the HathiTrust.

  • SPEC Kit 307: Manuscript Collections on the Web (October 2008)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit investigates how many manuscript collections are held in ARL member libraries; what percentage of these collections are represented on the Web; what types of information about the collections are available in finding aids and on the Web; what formats are used for finding aids on the Web; how many library staff are working on manuscript collections, the challenges and benefits of migrating collection information to the Web, and whether and how usage of manuscript collection information is tracked.

    The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in February 2008. Seventy-two libraries completed the survey by the March 31 deadline for a response rate of 59%. The survey responses indicated that the respondents are all managing to get at least some information about their manuscript collections onto the Web. Most of the comments indicated that they want to get more there, but are unable to do so for a variety of reasons, primarily staff and time constraints. Almost all respondents are creating MARC records for their collections; fewer are creating EAD finding aids. A select few have all their manuscript collections represented on the Web in some way, either as a MARC record, a brief blurb in HTML, or an EAD finding aid.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of manuscript collection Web sites, finding aid Web sites, arrangement and description guidelines, and Web processing procedures.

  • SPEC Kit 306: Promoting the Library (September 2008)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit explores what promotional activities and objectives research libraries are pursuing, who organizes them, how are they evaluated, and what challenges they face.

    The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in February 2008. Eighty-seven libraries completed the survey for a response rate of 71%. All of the responding libraries indicated that they currently engage in some form of promotional activities. Sixty-four percent of the responding libraries indicated that they have at least one library staff member with “promotion” as part of his/her position description. These positions typically report to library administration and are charged with strategic planning, media relations, and guiding the communications vision. However, they are usually not involved in the day-to-day promotional activities of their libraries.

    The survey responses indicated that day-to-day promotional activities are handled by a wide array of committees, task forces, and ad hoc groups. These teams tend to be interdepartmental and focus on hosting events, developing print and Web materials, fundraising, and other outreach-related duties. Similarly, respondents indicated that individual departments and branch libraries typically produce their own material to increase awareness and explain particular services.

    The survey results also show which skills these staff need; how they decide which promotional activities to pursue; what their objectives are; how the activities are funded; and more. Descriptions of a wide variety of activities are included, as well.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of marketing plans, job descriptions, and promotional materials.

  • SPEC Kit 305: Records Management (August 2008)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit explores the state of records management in ARL member institutions.

    The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in February 2008. Sixty-two libraries completed the survey for a response rate of 50%. Of those 62, 41 (66%) have records management programs. Three have had programs, but no longer have them. One of these began at an unknown time and ended in 1993; one existed for only five years, between 1991 and 1996; a third ended in 2003 after thirty-eight years of operation.

    At the majority of responding institutions (25 or 61%) records management duties are located in a library unit. They are the responsibility of special collections in twelve institutions (29%); archives units that are part of the library system but not part of the special collections library or department in five cases (12%); and another library unit or department in 10 cases (24%). Records management is the responsibility of an archives unit that is not part of the library system in five cases (12%) and of some other non-library unit or department in 11 cases (27%).

    The survey results also show which staff manage records and how much time they spend on this activity; how staff are trained; who pays for records management; who makes policy decisions; what types of materials are included; where these materials are stored; procedures for adding and discarding materials; who may retrieve records from storage; and more.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of records management unit Web pages, policies, retention schedules, job descriptions, transfer, retrieval, and destruction forms, and management of electronic records.

  • SPEC Kit 304: Social Software in Libraries (July 2008)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit explores how many libraries are using social software and for what purposes, how those activities are organized and managed, and the benefits and challenges of using social software, among other questions.

    For this study social software was broadly defined as software that enables people to connect with one another online. The survey asked about ten types of applications: 1) social networking sites; 2) media sharing sites; 3) social bookmarking or tagging sites; 4) Wikis; 5) blogs; 6) sites that use RSS (Really Simple Syndication) to syndicate and broadcast content; 7) chat or instant messaging (IM) services; 8) VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services; 9) virtual worlds; and 10) widgets.

    This survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in February 2008. Sixty-four libraries completed the survey by the March 14 deadline for a response rate of 52%. All but three of the responding libraries report that their library staff uses social software (95%) and one of those three plans to begin using social software in the future.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents of examples of Web sites that show how each of the ten types of social software is used.

  • SPEC Kit 303: Library Assessment (December 2007)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit examines the current state of library assessment to provide a starting point for those seeking to develop a library assessment program at their own institutions.

    The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in May 2007. Seventy-three libraries completed the survey for a response rate of 60%. Only one library indicated that it did not engage in any assessment activities beyond collecting annual data for the ARL statistics, though no reason was given as to why this was the case.

    Survey results indicate that while a modest number of libraries in the 1980s and earlier engaged in assessment activities beyond annual ARL statistics gathering, the biggest jump in activity occurred between 1990 and 2004. The overwhelming majority of responses indicate the impetus was service driven and user centered and came from within the library itself rather than from an outside source. Respondents’ top impetus for beginning assessment activities (63 respondents or 91%) was the desire to know more about their customers. Based on responses to a question about their first assessment activities, over half began with a survey, almost all of which were user surveys.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of job descriptions, assessment mission statements, plans, reports, Web sites, and organization charts.

  • SPEC Kit 302: Managing Public Computing (November 2007)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit explores the management of library public computing, i.e., those computers that are located in public spaces for use by patrons, as distinct from staff computers and servers. By jointly looking at the scale of the public computing operations, the staffing and organizational structure, budgets, upgrades, maintenance, security, polices, and assessment, the survey pulls together and expands on issues covered in several previous SPEC Kits.

    The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in July 2007. Sixty-nine libraries (56%) responded to the survey. The survey respondents were primarily library deans, directors, and heads of library information technology or library systems departments. All 69 respondents indicated that their library contains public computers that need support. Responsibility for the support, service, repair, and replacement of computers in public library spaces falls solely on library staff in 44 of the responding libraries (64%). Support is shared with non-library staff in 21 of the libraries (30%); in four libraries (6%), the institution’s central IT staff provides sole support. In none of the libraries is computer support contracted out or provided by a consortium’s IT staff.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of job descriptions, public computing policies and procedures, and organization charts.

  • SPEC Kit 301: Liaison Services (October 2007)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit explores the current roles of liaisons in ARL libraries, any changes in focus in their interactions with academic departments, whether liaisons are being reactive to faculty and student needs, partners in providing teaching/library instruction, and pioneers in the new electronic world or have limited involvement with the academic departments. It documents how libraries mix the activities of traditional liaison responsibilities with the new trends that are fostered by the evolving needs of today’s library patrons.

    The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in May 2007. Sixty-six libraries—63 academic and 3 non-academic—responded by the deadline for a 54% response rate. Only one of the academic libraries does not provide liaison services to academic departments in their university; these services are not applicable to the non-academic libraries. Twenty-nine of the responding libraries (49%) began offering liaison services before 1980.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of descriptions of liaison roles, responsibilities, and services offered, job descriptions, and training materials for liaisons.

  • SPEC Kit 300: Open Access Resources (September 2007)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit gathers information on whether and how ARL member libraries are selecting, providing access to, cataloging, hosting, tracking usage of, and promoting the use of open access research literature for their patrons by using established library resources such as the OPAC and link resolvers.

    The survey was sent to the 123 ARL member libraries in March 2007. Seventy-one responses were received by the deadline, a return rate of 58%. All but one of the survey respondents provide access to OA resources. These 70 libraries represent 57% of the ARL membership. The results indicate that although many of the ARL member libraries have embraced a wide range of OA literature and have fully integrated it into their selection, acquisition, cataloging, and promotion processes, others have been less active in this area.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of newsletter articles and blogs, open access and institutional repository Web pages, and collection development and cataloging policies.

  • SPEC Kit 299: Scholarly Communication Education Initiatives (August 2007)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit explores what kind of initiatives ARL member libraries have used or plan to use to educate faculty, researchers, administrators, students, and library staff at their institutions about scholarly communication issues.

    The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in May 2007. Respondents were asked to provide information about the nature of library-initiated education activities about scholarly communication (SC) issues that had taken place in their institutions in the past three years or that were expected to take place soon. Seventy-three libraries (59%) responded to the survey. Of those, 55 (75%) indicated that the library has engaged in educational activities on scholarly communication (SC) issues; 13 (18%) have not but indicated that planning is underway. Only three libraries indicated that they had not engaged in this activity; another two responded that this is the responsibility of another, non-library unit of the institution.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of proposals for education initiatives, scholarly communication and copyright Web pages, job descriptions, and education materials.

  • SPEC Kit 298: Metadata (July 2007)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit investigates how metadata is implemented in ARL member libraries: which staff are creating metadata and for what kinds of digital objects, what schemas and tools they use to create and manage metadata, what skills metadata staff need and how they acquire them, and the organizational changes and challenges that metadata has brought to libraries.

    The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in February 2007. Sixty-eight libraries (55%) responded to the survey, of which 67 (99%) reported creating metadata for digital objects at their institutions. The primary factor driving the creation of metadata is the responding libraries’ involvement in digitization projects (66 of 67 responses or 99%). Metadata also plays an important role in institutional repositories (54%). Other initiatives and projects that have promoted the use of metadata are: Web content management, datasets, subject-based and educational repositories, metadata registries, digital media labs, EAD-finding aids, and online journal publishing. Metadata is being created to describe and provide access to a wide variety of digital resources, including images, text, collections, audio, maps, video, datasets, EAD finding aids, theses, and Web pages.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of mission statements, organization charts, job descriptions, and policies.

  • SPEC Kit 297: Library Development (December 2006)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit investigates the staffing, reporting relationships, and duties of library development programs in ARL member libraries to provide a baseline for institutions as they work to create, refine, or advocate for library development programs in their institutions.

    The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in March 2006. Ninety libraries (73%) responded to the survey. Eighty-three (92%) reported that they have a formal library development program. Of those institutions, all have a fundraising professional assigned to the program, 76 (92%) use printed giving materials, 71 (86%) use direct mail, 50 (60%) conduct a phonathon, 50 (60%) have a friends organization, and 47 (57%) raise more than $500,000 a year in private support.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of mission statements, organization charts, job descriptions, budgets, and policies.

  • SPEC Kit 296: Public Services in Special Collections (November 2006)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit explores public service staffing, reference and public services offered, methods of patron access, types of intellectual access tools used, patron registration, the reference interview process, and public service evaluation and promotion methodsin Special Collections. In addition, respondents were asked to comment on significant changes in reference and public services in the last few years, particularly those related to outreach, instruction, and learning.

    The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in March 2006. Seventy-nine libraries (64%) responded to the survey. Thirty-five of the responding libraries (44%) have a single Special Collections unit. Twenty-five of the libraries (32%) have one primary Special Collections unit and additional, smaller special collections in other libraries or branches. Eleven (14%) have multiple Special Collections units dispersed across a number of libraries or branches. Respondents who have dispersed units were asked to base all survey responses on services provided at one primary Special Collections unit.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of service policies, patron registration forms, job descriptions, and service prices.

  • SPEC Kit 295: Remote Shelving Services (October 2006)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit focuses on user services and how they have changed since the last survey in 1998 that was published in SPEC Kit 242 Library Storage Facilities, Management, and Services (May 1999).

    Eighty-five of the 123 ARL member libraries (69%) responded to the survey. Of that group, 68 (80%) use at least one remote shelving facility or are currently planning for one. A sizeable number of libraries have relatively new facilities; 25 of the respondents reported that they send material to a facility that has been in operation fewer than six years. Of that group, eight reported an existing facility in the 1998 survey.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of facility descriptions, service policies, service request forms, and operating policies.

  • SPEC Kit 294: Managing Digitization Activities (September 2006)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit investigates the purposes of ARL member libraries’ digitization efforts, the organizational structures these libraries use to manage digital initiatives, whether and how staff have been reassigned to support digitization activities, where funding to sustain digital activities originated and how that funding is allocated, how priorities are determined, whether libraries are outsourcing any digitization work, and how the success of libraries’ digital activities has been assessed.

    The survey, which focussed on the digitization of existing library materials, rather than the creation of born-digital objects, was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in February 2006. Sixty-eight libraries (55%) responded to the survey, of which all but two (97%) reported having engaged in digitization activities. Only one respondent reported having begun digitization activities prior to 1992; five other pioneers followed in 1992. From 1994 through 1998 there was a steady increase in the number of libraries beginning digital initiatives; 30 joined the pioneers at the rate of three to six a year. There was a spike of activity at the turn of the millennium that reached a high in 2000, when nine libraries began digital projects. Subsequently, new start-ups have slowed, with only an additional one to five libraries beginning digitization activities each year.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of organization charts, mission statements, job descriptions, policies and procedures, and selection criteria.

  • SPEC Kit 293: External Review for Promotion and Tenure (August 2006)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit explores the policies and procedures that ARL member libraries use in the external review process for candidates who are eligible for promotion, tenure, or continuing appointment. It examines how external reviewers are identified and asked to participate in the review process, what instructions are given to reviewers, what materials are included in candidates’ portfolios, and the criteria for evaluating candidates’ portfolios, among other questions.

    The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in February 2006. Seventy-seven libraries (63%) responded to the survey. Librarians at 35 of the responding institutions have faculty status. Forty-four institutions offer tenure or other permanent appointments (32 with faculty status and 12 without). Slightly more than half of the respondents (39 or 51%) do not require external reviews for librarians who are candidates for promotion, tenure, or continuing appointment. While the majority of these have neither faculty status nor permanent appointments (27 or 69%), they also include six whose librarians have faculty status and 11 that offer tenure or other permanent appointments (five with faculty status and six without).

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents for external review procedures and innstructions to external reviewers.

  • SPEC Kit 292: Institutional Repositories (July 2006)
    Abstract:

    This SPEC Kit collects baseline data about ARL member institutions’ institutional repository activities.

    For the purposes of this survey, an IR was simply defined as a permanent, institution-wide repository of diverse locally produced digital works (e.g., article preprints and postprints, data sets, electronic theses and dissertations, learning objects, and technical reports) that is available for public use and supports metadata harvesting. If an institution shares an IR with other institutions, it was within the scope of this survey. Not included in this definition were scholars’ personal Web sites; academic department, school, or other unit digital archives that are primarily intended to store digital materials created by members of that unit; or disciplinary archives that include digital materials about one or multiple subjects that have been created by authors from many different institutions (e.g., arXiv.org).

    The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in January 2006. Eighty-seven libraries (71%) responded to the survey. Of those, 37 (43%) have an operational IR, 31 (35%) are planning for one by 2007 at the latest, and 19 (22%) have no immediate plans to develop an IR. The survey found that most IRs had been established in the last two years (or had just been established). By far, the library was likely to have been the most active institutional advocate of the IR. It was also likely to have been the primary unit leading and supporting the IR effort, sometimes in partnership with the institutional information technology unit. The main reasons for establishing an IR were to increase the global visibility of, preserve, provide free access to, and collect and organize the institution’s scholarship.

    This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of IR home pages, IR usage statistics, deposit policies, metadata policies, preservation policies, and IR proposals