With regard to library services, there is little divergence among libraries by
type and very little by funding, with a few exceptions. For example, laptop
lending and extended hours were mentioned more often by libraries at the lower
end of the ARL Investment Index while a service orientation was mentioned
more frequently by the better-funded libraries. It is not possible to draw
conclusions about these differences, but they might merit some examination.
Other common library services that were mentioned in the profiles include
outreach to the community (44%), outreach services to students (38%), and small
group workspaces (27%). Less frequently mentioned were resources available to
the public (5%), services to alumni (4%), and wikis (2%).
This is perhaps the area where qualitative assessment is most needed.
Measuring the effectiveness of services is difficult. LibQUAL+® has certainly
helped, but additional methods of measuring the true benefit of services beyond
usage statistics are needed.
Virtually all of the profiles discussed branch libraries, with special collections
receiving the greatest attention (93%). Other branches commonly mentioned
were information commons (66%), science and engineering (42%), health
sciences (38%), law (30%), and art and architecture (28%). Less frequently
mentioned were music/dance (23%), business (11%), and maps (9%). There is
little divergence among libraries by type or by funding in this category.
Possible areas for increased measurement include the relative return on
investment of branch libraries or, more generally, the distinctiveness of their
It is notable that the most common reference to collections in the profiles
involves creating digital collections. This was mentioned by 96% of the libraries.
A close second was preservation, mentioned by 85%. Digitizing was mentioned
as a means of improving access by 88% of the libraries while 82% mentioned it
as a preservation technique. There appears to be a greater emphasis on
stewardship of the existing collections, either through digitization or
ARL Profiles: Qualitative Descriptions of Research Libraries in the Early 21st Century
C O N T I N U E D
AUGUST 2010 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC