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Data Set

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This paper explores trends over time in library staffing and staffing expenditures among two- and four-year colleges and universities in the United States. Researchers merged and analyzed data from 1996 to 2016 from the National Center for Education Statistics for over 3,500 libraries at postsecondary institutions. This study is primarily descriptive in nature and addresses the research questions:

  • How do staffing trends in academic libraries over this period of time relate to Carnegie classification and institution size?

  • How do trends in library staffing expenditures over this period of time correspond to these same variables?

Across all institutions, on average, total library staff decreased from 1998 to 2012. Numbers of librarians declined at masters and doctoral institutions between 1998 and 2016. Numbers of students per librarian increased over time in each Carnegie and size category. Average staffing expenditures slightly decreased and plateaued for masters and doctoral after 2010. Salaries as a percent of library budget decreased only among doctoral institutions. This is a valuable study of trends over time, which has been difficult without downloading and merging separate datasets from multiple government sources. As a result, few studies have taken such an approach to this data. Consequently, institutions and libraries are making decisions about resource allocation based on only a fraction of the available data. Academic libraries can use this study and the resulting dataset to benchmark key staffing characteristics.


academic libraries; library expenditures; library collections; library statistics; library performance measurement; library assessment


Library and Information Science

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24,695 KB




Time period covered: 1996-2006.

Carnegie 1994 to 2000 Conversion Table

This table shows how we mapped Carnegie 1994 classifications in the order data years to the 2000 Carnegie classifications.


See the the codebook for Merged NCES Academic Library Survey 1996 - 2016 Dataset included below as a supplemental file.

  • Variable list: See ALScodebook.csv
  • Code list: See ALScodebook.csv NA indicates a missing value in the data


  • Time period covered: 1996-2016

  • Project start date: 2017-05

  • Project end date: 2019-11


  • Software used: R Studio 1.1.423 (on R version 3.2.2)

  • Software used: MS Excel 2011 for Mac


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

HoffmanS_GodbeyS_ALScodebook.csv (29 kB)
Codebook for Merged NCES Academic Library Survey 1996 - 2016 Dataset

HoffmanS_GodbeyS_TableCarnegieConversion.csv (5 kB)
Carnegie 1994 to 2000 Conversion Table