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National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): Using their library data

This is finishing the discussion about the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Comparative library data. Email me for help if this all sounds like too much work and we will be glad to do this for you.  Not always, but sometimes, our educational institution client may wish The Virtual Librarian Service to express their library in a comparative tone. Comparisons may be done secretly as in competitive intelligence and reported just to the Provost, or in a self-study programmatic or accreditation report positioning what the library has or does in a certain light. You can use the NCES site to pull up data to compare your library. 

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): Gathering Library Data

Our focus at The Virtual Librarian Service is the providing of management of resources and services to the solely online student, the hybrid student using the online library or the campus based student using the online library. How we describe the library in the self-study report requires many pieces of information from many organizations, but I pay attention greatly to the reporting Agencies, the USDE and the various accrediting bodies. So how the NCES gathers data and how they define things in the virtual library interests me. And sometimes before your very eyes, you can see the national trend forming or the education department reaction to changes being implemented by the education industry. Before I discus the use of the NCES academic comparative analysis tools, I am going to share what I have learned about their gathering of that data.

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) : The Library Data

The National Center for Education Statistics NCES ( is one place to go and get comparative post-secondary academic library data when looking to benchmark your library to another. Reporting library data is mandated to be gathered, but not verified. Librarians input the statistics and they can be flawed by interpretation, inefficient gathering or full of misinterpretation. But it is one tool to use in the library accreditation narrative so it is a place to learn about and is unique in what it provides.

The Case of the Declining use of the word "library"

The word “library” in the Principles, Standards, Criteria or Guidelines of the six Regional accreditors is a dying entry. Take for example The Principles for Accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges SACS/COC.  The occurrence of the word “library” is greatly reduced since 1997. And a new term has been introduced “information resources”. Where the word “library” used to be enjoined with a slash to the term “learning resources”,  that has been replaced with learning/information resources as a phrase.  Either way, the word “library” is a disappearing word. I do not mean to imply  that the institution of the library is threatened, (although with the growth of online learning and the battle with the publishers on the cost of digital content I do have my opinions) just that the word “library” is not specified at length as it used to be.

The Self Study Report and demonstrating the role of the library

When writing this portion of the Self Study Report, it is tough to demonstrate how the academic library staff have made an impact on information literacy and transferring those skills to students. The link below to the article in Inside Higher Ed by Steve Kolowich sheds a lot of light on why students do not get to the library and when they do do research, these same computer whizzes, do not know how to do effective searches. But then in many cases their teachers have not kept up either. Information formats, search interfaces and database content is a rapidly changing arena, and we all need to do our part to keep up with the trends.

Faculty Engagement

This heading is not a love letter or about marrying an instructor. It is about the importance for libraries to be partners with faculty/instructors through faculty engagement with the library in ensuring student learning outcomes are articulated, met and assessed.  But, maybe it is about relationships.

ebook debacle

Your accredited educational institution must have a library. If it is going to license ebooks for the library, you probably have questions. Use the contact form below to ask for a professional librarian's help.

Programmatic Accreditation

Different, but the same, below the institutional accreditation, is the accreditation of a program within the institution. Educational Institutions often desire the status and validation of a professional association to review their program and determine if it meets their written and published standards. This is a very valuable exercise and the library should ensure they are included in the program review. Every accrediting professional association has a component somewhere in their standards which includes information resources. By being involved we can better assure the students and faculty and the institutional accreditors that we are engaged with faculty and knowledgeable of what we need to support excellent programs and their learning outcomes. And involvement could be part of your information literacy program.

Usage statistics - confusing the reader

Call it what you will: data, usage data, metrics, look up, visit, session, usage statistics, quality assurance, review tools, counter compliant - whatever, what we are referring to is quantifiable discreet numbers which explain, hint or describe usage of something. They do not describe quality because if that item is the only thing in the library, well, it may be heavily used. But we can agree it was used, or used less or more than some other item or in some other time frame. Someone stepped over the door sill and through the turnstile and stayed for a bit (which we don't have in online, but you get the idea). To further confuse the reader, we can not profess to know why it got used. It could be for work in a course, or for personal continuing education.

RUSA Standards and The Virtual Librarian Service Part IV

And the last of the evaluation of the VLS against the RUSA Standards

5.0 Organization of Service

The Virtual Librarian Service’s primary clientele is the online academic institution with no campus. All faculty, administration and students are online and all service is offered at the beginning by email and all eResources are web-based and all meetings are by videoconferencing or phone. Accreditation guidelines for that educational institution’s online program are met.