2020 State of Academic Libraries Benchmark Survey

Released at 2020 Charleston Conference

At this year's Charleston Conference, Ex Libris released findings from its second State of Academic Libraries Survey. The introduction of the report shows that survey findings were based on responses from 233 institutions "from a broad spectrum of the higher education community in the United States, including small and large, public and private, 2 and 4-year colleges...from those granting Associates Degrees to Doctoral granting colleges".

Among the highlights of that survey:

  • Student retention is the top priority at 92% of the institutions surveyed, while 91% of those responding indicate supporting affordable learning remains a priority.
  • 84% of libraries say supporting remote students is forcing them to make changes
  • Many libraries, 46%, expect to improve instructional technology with increased spending
  • Most schools, 94%, rely on the library to provide course materials
  • 60% saw an increase in demand for electronic and digital resource sharing during the pandemic
  • The number of people with a negative budget outlook is 56 percentage points worse than in the 2019
  • Nearly half the libraries, 47%, want to better support research at their institutions

During a Lively Lunch discussion of the report at Charleston, one key concern of participants were the emerging staff shortages at libraries and what that might mean for institutional value.

Said John White, Dean of Libraries at the College of Charleston, "You can you can cover up a lot of losses in, you know, buying materials for the library through resource sharing and really good librarianship really well trained librarians who can help students and faculty figure out ways to get what they need. If you begin to lose those people who are so critical to the success of both faculty and students on the campus, you can't come back from that." He continued, "I think the impacts of some of these funding cuts and furloughs and layoffs really has has enormous potential to to do damage to libraries that were able to do really good work in the last round of budget cuts."

With regard to budgeting concerns and the impact of the on-going pandemic, the survey findings indicated: 

Despite concerns around enrollment affecting budgets, 52% are maintaining or increasing their investment in the acquisition of non-physical content. That is a budget reallocation from the 87% who are actively reducing their spend on physical items, and a massive shift from the 37% who said they would reduce in 2019.

At an infrastructure level, 61% are maintaining or increasing their investment in cloud-based solutions in order to satisfy the increased demand for reliable and scalable online services and staff who must work remotely.

During the same Lively Lunch, Elijah Scott, Executive Director of the Florida Academic Library Services Cooperative, emphasized the criticality of digital resources, saying "That's the best place that we can put our scarce budget dollars to ensure that those resources are most readily available to our students."

The full text of the Ex Libris Survey may be downloaded from their web site