ACRL Report on Top Trends in Academic Libraries

Illinois Association of College & Research Libraries Forum (IACRL)

June 18, 2016

The ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee has released its report on the top trends in academic libraries for 2016. The Committee puts out the report every two years. The 2016 report focuses on such areas as research data services (RDS), emerging staff positions, and the impact of ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy. The main findings for each area are below.

Research Data Services (RDS)

  • The number of college and research libraries in the U.S. and Canada that offer research data services has remained steady, despite plans by many institutions to begin offering data services of some type.
  • The majority of libraries are moving current staff into newly-created data positions, rather than hiring additional librarians; as a result, the demand for professional-development opportunities related to RDS has increased.

Digital Scholarship

  • More libraries are creating digital-scholarship centers, often in collaboration with other campus entities, to help promote education and research.
  • These centers provide “non-traditional” research tools, including big data and visualization, and they instruct faculty and students in such areas of digital scholarship as asset management and preservation.

Collection Assessment Trends

  • Many libraries have worked to make collections more “agile”, or responsive to changes in institutional curricular and research needs.
  • In light of budget constraints, libraries have re-evaluated various acquisition models, including bulk purchases of journal subscriptions and “pay-per-view” access.

ILS and Content Provider/Fulfillment Mergers

  • Journal vendors continue to consolidate, which has the potential to affect pricing, negotiation, and collection budgets.
  • Even though the mergers do offer improvements in efficiency and innovation, they also limit purchasing options and have long-term impacts that are hard to predict.

Evidence of Learning

  • Higher education is increasingly measuring student success through learning outcomes, in light of concerns over accreditation and graduation rates.
  • Libraries have an opportunity to contribute through developing “learning analytics” as a way to measure students’ academic and social progress, and also by making their physical space reflective of student needs, such as by creating more space for collaboration.

New Directions with the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

  • The Framework emphasizes the information “ecosystem” and asks librarians to take a more holistic approach to information literacy, including the discovery, use, and creation of knowledge.
  • The document also highlights the idea of critical information literacy, or the learning process as a series of steps that librarians should constantly evaluate and improve.


  • Altmetrics are seeing increased use by both repositories and publishers, in order to track user reading and research habits (for instance, through citation analysis) and improve services.
  • Despite the amount of data produced by altmetrics, libraries should analyze the quality of that data, to ensure that the collection and analysis methods are as reliable as possible.

Emerging Staff Positions

  • Overall trends that have emerged in job requirements include having technology and technical-support skills, being interested in the user experience, and possessing an awareness of current trends, especially relating to emerging technologies and data analysis.
  • Across all jobs (not just those in library and information science), collaboration and communication were considered among the most important skills.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

  • Due to the skyrocketing costs of college textbooks and an increasing awareness of OER among the general public, colleges and universities are taking steps to develop open-access policies and tools.
  • Librarians can play a key role in this effort by locating open-access materials and working with faculty to integrate OER into the curriculum, including in MOOCs and other non-traditional class formats.

To see the full summary of the report that appears in the June, 2016, issue of College & Research Libraries News, go here.

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