Well-resourced libraries drive academic success

New survey measures how academic library collections support research and teaching activities.

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Links between libraries and academic success revealed

A well resourced library has a correlation to the overall success of an academic institution, according to a new survey.

The Scholarly Reading and the Value of Library Resources project, funded by JISC Collections and led by the University of Tennessee, measures the value and outcomes from access to scholarly publications in six UK universities. The project, undertaken by Carol Tenopir and Rachel Volentine, examines how academic library collections support research and teaching activities, explores the value and outcome of scholarly reading for academic staff, and looks at how reading patterns differ for articles, books, and other materials. Underpinned by a survey of more than 2000 academics, the project provides evidence that the library has an integral role in the university's mission of research and teaching, with scholarly journal provision benefiting both staff and students.

The importance of 'scholarly reading'

Carol Tenopir discussed the project in detail at the recent UKSG conference in Glasgow. Not surprisingly, she noted, the survey confirmed that scholarly reading is essential to academic work, with academics in the UK averaging thirty-nine scholarly readings per month or 468 readings per year. Academics make a huge time investment - the equivalent of 56 eight-hour days each year, on average  - engaged in scholarly reading. 

The role of the library

The library plays an important role in academic endeavour, with 67% of scholarly articles being provided by the library. 94% of article readings came from e-collections. As Tenopir points out, e-collections which allow academics to access information from any location, clearly save time for academic staff, increasing the time they are able to spend on their work  - just 2% of survey respondents read articles in the library itself, with 62% saying they read articles in their office or laboratory, and 26% reading them at home.

The survey asked questions to determine the purpose, value and outcomes of academic readings, to give insight which cannot be provided by usage data.  Nearly three quarters of academic readings are for the principal purpose of research and writing, and 12% of readings are for the purpose of teaching. Interestingly, article readings obtained from the library are considered significantly more important to academics' principal purpose than those obtained from other sources.

The survey also suggests that the library plays an important role in supporting the work of younger academics, who are more likely to obtain books from the library rather than purchase them. Approximately 28% of respondents under 30, and 47% of respondents over 60 purchased the academic book which they read most recently, while 38% of respondents under 30 and 22% of respondents over 60 obtained the book through the library collection.

The survey contains a number of 'quotable quotes' from respondents who praise the importance of library sources to their academic work. As one respondent put it: "Accessibility of scholarly journals and other library resources is crucial to the standing and effectiveness of a university and is a key discriminator between world-class universities and less prestigious institutions."

The full report is available here.


Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Beale via Flickr.