June 03, 2005

Morris Library moves up to No. 74 nationally

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale is continuing its climb in the rankings of 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. The just-released rankings for 2003-2004 show SIUC's Morris Library in 74th place, up five spots from the 2002-2003 ranking of 79th.

Three years ago, Morris Library ranked 98th. Five years ago, the library ranked 99th.

Washington, D.C.-based ARL has been collecting data on member libraries since 1961; SIUC has been a member since the 1960s. The association includes five factors in its formula: number of cumulative volumes, number of volumes added that year, number of current serials, number of full-time equivalent staff and expenditures.

SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler said the higher ranking also makes a difference to students. "We have one of the largest, open-stack collections in the nation and the collection's depth and accessibility makes a distinct difference to prospective students," Wendler said.

"Major upgrades to Morris Library itself are also in the initial stages and when the $33 million renovation is completed, students will have accesses to a great collection and a state-of-the art facility."

The dramatic jump in Morris' ranking two years ago was attributable to improvements in the counting of current serials, notably, electronic serials. Library Affairs Dean David H. Carlson said the "modest but respectable" five-point jump in the newest rankings reflects a continuation of that trend.

"Most of the increase is due to the fact that we're continuing to make improvements and progress in how we better account for and count things," he said. "Our process is improving and the increase continues to reflect that."

SIUC's membership in the 113-member ARL, and the continuing improvement in the library's ranking, are strong selling points for the University.

"It is something new faculty look at when they consider job offers," Carlson noted. "One of the ways they measure how they're going to get research support from the library is taking a look at how the library is ranked within ARL. If you see a university that is a member of the ARL and its library is in the top 75, then that speaks to the value and emphasis that institution puts on support of research."

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