In 2021 IMLS funded a feasibility study for the transfer of the Academic Library Component survey of IPEDS to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). QualityMetrics offered a number of concrete steps to undertake to ensure a potential transfer is successful from a political, scientific, and administrative perspective.

Concrete steps include:

1. Authorization from OMB (appropriations) or Congress (legislation);
2. IMLS staff representation in the ACRL/ALA/ARL Joint Advisory Task Force on IPEDS Academic Libraries Component Definitions;
3. IMLS should explore establishing an permanent advisory body on academic libraries and higher education;
4. IMLS should pursue and publish a study on the State of Libraries in the Nation;
5. IMLS should establish regular communication with IPEDS/NCES staff;
6. IMLS and IPEDS/NCES staff should jointly prepare the package for OMB clearance for 2025-2026;
7. NCES and IMLS staff should ensure continued and easy access to historical and longitudinal data;
8. IMLS will need to reaffirm the universe of academic libraries and explore outlet level data feasibility; and,
9. NCES/IPEDS and IMLS work closely together to share contact information and convene stakeholders.

With the recent OMB call for comments for upcoming changes to IPEDS, [Federal Register Volume 89, Number 43, PP. 15558-15559] opening the 60-day public comment period on the request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for changes to the IPEDS Collection years 2024-25 through 2026-27, our eye caught the planned elimination of the Academic Library Component survey – as of today four comments are submitted, one explicitly asking for the ALC survey to continue and the other explicitly supporting its elimination noting its lack of use.

The current issue of College and Research Libraries (v85, no2, 2024) just published an analysis of the “Characteristics of United States Academic Libraries in 2020 and Regional Changes from 1996 to 2020” by Samantha Godbey and Staff Hoffman (DOI: – so clearly the data are used and people may not always go to the NCES website to download the data because they have merged the data in new more interesting and intuitive ways in other environments.

Comments should be submitted through the site linked above and are due by May 3, 2024. Details on the proposed changes can be found in the Supporting Documents posted on the website linked here:

Academic library statistics have a rugged history, yet they provide a shared basic understanding of why libraries are important in learning and research despite limitations in national level data collection activities. In combination with IT and Academic Affairs services, libraries are ensuring students and faculty know and utilize content and technology effectively and learn about new knowledge creation and dissemination methods on a timely and relevant basis.

As a colleague recently shared “Personally I think having library statistics as a part of the IPEDS data collection demonstrates libraries’ essential role in teaching and learning.”

AIR manages the Public Library Statistics and the State Library Administrative Agency statistics as well as the IPEDS data collection activities as a subcontractor to IMLS and to NCES; maybe not all is lost if there is indeed some interest in having some level of national level data for academic libraries and some efficiencies of effort can be achieved through AIR.

Ideally, some data collection effort that can capture value to the learning and research enterprise would answer questions such as:

  • How many students use library spaces, services, content?
  • How much do academic libraries support sponsored research?
  • How much learning and support do academic libraries offer in teaching and learning?
  • What is the basic level of investment (resources such as spending and space infrastructure) available and how impactful is it to the lives of students and faculty?
  • In an information rich and AI enabled world, what is the unique role of academic libraries in supporting research and learning?
  • What are their collaborative advantages?

Hopefully posing some of these questions is the basis for renewed interest regarding the role of the library in the lives of our students and faculty!

In the recent ARL President’s Institute we talked about sustainability using the United Nations sustainability framework — maybe there is a glimpse of hope that we can sustain some self-knowledge about academic libraries at the national level. Such knowledge tightly coupled to the deeper, more meaningful, and sustainable learning gains of our students and faculty as they utilize, appreciate, and produce scholarship can capture our imagination and professional practice in higher education! After all academic libraries are the intellectual home of the scholarly products of our students and faculty, our collective collection, whether they can visited physically or digitally, funded well or poorly, curated as physical or digital scholarly assets and learning objects.

And, yes, not everything can be measured by a national level data collection activity on academic libraries but let’s not throw the baby with the bathwater! For what does stopping the collection of academic library statistics convey about our values in higher education if we cannot link our student level and faculty level data to their achievements, their learning and their scholarship. DOIs, citations, utilization, downloads, circulation of digital and physical assets or even mere appreciation of the intellectual labor and breakthroughs in knowledge, coupled with some level of investment on curating this labor is at the heart of our academic libraries, and it is still at the heart of our values in higher education last time I checked.

Also, see earlier post, including a webinar, on issues around the potential transfer of ALC from NCES to IPEDS!