June 26, 2004

Library improves ranking in prestigious association

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Morris Library is enhancing its standing in the prestigious Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

Each year, the largest association of academic/research libraries in North America issues a ranking of its members based on a weighted formula. This year, Morris Library -- a member of ARL since the 1960s -- recorded the largest improvement of any of the 123 member libraries, jumping from 98th to 79th place.

Washington, D.C.-based ARL has been collecting data on member libraries since 1961. The association includes five factors in its formula: number of cumulative volumes, number of books/volumes added that year, number of current serials, number of full-time equivalent staff and expenditures.

"We looked very carefully at what we were counting, how we were counting it and, importantly, what other ARL libraries were counting and how they were counting it," David H. Carlson, SIUC's dean of Library Affairs, said. "What we discovered is that we were really undercounting and under-representing the number of current serials that we get."

Carlson said that many, if not all of the other ARL members were counting certain electronic serials.

"We weren't counting them hardly at all," he said. "When we decided to follow what we found to be the practice of our colleague libraries, that number went up quite a bit."

While certainly pleased with the improvement, Provost and Vice Chancellor John M. Dunn noted that the University's lengthy membership in ARL in and of itself is worth bragging about.

"What should be emphasized is that it's not exactly where we're ranking, but the fact that we're a member of ARL," Dunn said. "It is a very exclusive, prestigious organization, and membership puts us in the top tier of libraries in North America."

Carlson said ARL membership -- and the library's ranking -- is a selling point for potential faculty members.

"When candidates come here for a faculty position and are informed we're an ARL member, that rings for them," he said. "That is a positive. I know faculty members can and do ask about it because it reflects on the University's commitment to scholarship."

Elevating Morris Library to within ARL's top 50 publicly supported research libraries is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.