Academic libraries in the United States - Statistics & Facts

Academic libraries in higher education institutions are meant to support the study of students and the research of faculty. Students and academic staff require materials that would support curriculum readings and writing scientific papers, making university libraries an important part of the academic life. In 2016, more than 96 percent of academic library deans and directors in the United States thought that the most important function of academic libraries was to help undergraduates to develop research, critical analysis, and information literacy skills, placing the library in a crucial position to support degree attainment.


In 2015, academic libraries in the United States at post-secondary institutions that granted doctoral degrees had an average weekly attendance of 24,181 visits. In contrast, academic libraries in universities granting Bachelor of Arts degree had only 5,462 weekly visits on average. To support all operations regarding maintenance and service, academic libraries, on average employed 34 full-time librarians at post-secondary institutions granting doctorate degree in 2015. In higher education institutions that offered Bachelor of Arts degree programs, the number amounted to five full-time academic librarians, highlighting academic libraries’ role in supporting research.

When looking closer at annual academic library budgets, post-secondary education institutions in the United States spent most of the financial resources on supporting ongoing commitments to subscriptions in 2015. The second largest segment was operation and maintenance expenses. As of 2015, materials and services costs in academic libraries at post-secondary education institutions granting doctoral degrees amounted to 5.7 million U.S. dollars, while Bachelor of Arts institutions spent 524, 184 U.S. dollars on average.

Academic libraries invest a great deal of time and finances in maintaining and developing their collections. Libraries at institutions granting doctoral degrees tend to have the largest physical and digital collections when compared to other types of academic libraries in the United States. As of 2015, academic libraries at universities offering doctor’s degrees had a total physical collection of 532,374 items on average. In comparison, Bachelor of Arts degree libraries had an average physical collection of 4,239 items.

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Academic libraries in the United States - Important statistics

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