ACRL Metrics: Enhancing Data-Driven Decision Making

This post comes to us from Mary Jane Petrowski, ACRL Associate Director

Launched in the summer of 2010, ACRL Metrics is an online subscription service developed by Counting Opinions in partnership with ACRL to provide comprehensive access to the annual ACRL Academic Library Trends & Statistics Survey data as well as the biennial National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Academic Library Survey data. ACRL data for participating institutions is available for 1999-2012 and NCES data is available for 2000-2010. The 2012 data will be available as shortly after it is released by NCES in December. ACRL Metrics also provides access to a select subset of IPEDS data specific to academic libraries. ACRL Metrics can calculate the ratio measures recommended in the “ACRL Standards for Libraries in Higher Education” ( and generate spreadsheets, charts, and graphs suitable for reports, self-studies, and online documents.

ACRL Metrics was developed to help academic libraries demonstrate value, create evidence for support, track trends over time, demonstrate productivity, and conduct peer-group comparisons.  The statistics describe the collections, staffing, expenditures, and service activities of academic libraries in all Carnegie classifications, including:

  • Collections (including volumes, serials, multimedia)
  • Expenditures (library materials, wages and salaries, other operating)
  • Electronic Resources (including expenditures, collections, services, usage)
  • Personnel and Public Services (staff and services)
  • Ph.D.s Granted, Faculty, Student Enrollment
  • Faculty Rank, Status, and Tenure for Librarians

How have some institutions used ACRL Metrics to express library value?

Walsh University has been using ACRL Metrics in support of strategic planning, looking at variable such as number of hours open, enrollment, and staffing. They are using the data to determine how they compare with peers and, in some cases, to document the need for additional staff. The library has used ACRL Metrics data to show that libraries in their peer group that are open more hours have more staff since the library is under pressure to be open additional hours.

The University of West Florida has used ACRL Metrics to demonstrate to the university that even though the library is not as well funded as the libraries in their peer and aspirant groups, it has not affected service and that money allocated to the library is well spent.  Dollar-for-dollar the library is a good investment because in terms of productivity (e.g., total circulation and reference transactions per student), the library is at the top of their peer group even though it is below average in terms of collections and funding per student FTE.

Virginia Commonwealth University has been using ACRL Metrics to determine how access to e-resources affects the number of journal articles produced by the institution. If an institution has more money for e-resources, is there a correlation with research productivity? This type of valuable research allows the library to demonstrate that library expenditures are directly related to publishing productivity in the university environment.

Current users recommend ACRL Metrics to any institution that needs to compare their institution to others because it’s flexible, quick, and easy to use.

Want to read more?  See the excellent reviews of ACRL Metrics by Christopher Stewart:

“An Overview of ACRLMetrics,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 37(1), January 2011, pp. 73-76.

“An Overview of ACRLMetrics, Part II: Using NCES and IPEDs Data,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 38(6), November 2012, pp. 342—345.

More information on ACRL Metrics is available at  Need immediate access? Subscriptions can be invoiced online or purchased by credit card. Libraries that contributed to the 2012 ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics survey receive a substantial discount on the subscription price.

Mary Jane Petrowski

ACRL Associate Director


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