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Academic Libraries (AL) Glossary

Academic Library
An entity in a postsecondary institution that provides an organized collection of printed or other materials, or a combination thereof; a staff trained to provide and interpret such materials as required to meet the informational, cultural, recreational, or educational needs of the clientele; an established schedule in which services of the staff are available to the clientele; an established schedule in which services of the staff are available to the clientele; and the physical facilities necessary to support such a collection, staff, and schedule. This definition includes libraries that are part of learning resource centers.
Access rights
Access rights may be acquired by the library itself, by a consortium and/or through external funding. Acquisition is to be understood as deliberately selecting a document, securing access rights and including it in the OPAC (online public access catalog) or other databases of the library. Interlibrary lending and document delivery are excluded.
Audiovisual Materials
Materials that are displayed by visual projection or magnification, or through sound reproduction, or both, including sound recordings, motion pictures and video recordings, and graphic materials. Also included in this category are special visual materials such as three-dimensional artifacts and realia, and web-based audiovisual resources. This includes audio documents such as records, tapes, cassettes, audio compact discs, files of digital audio recordings; visual documents such as slides, transparencies, and combined audiovisual documents such as motion pictures, video recordings, etc. Microforms are excluded.
Bibliographic utilities, networks and consortia
Services provided by national, regional, and local bibliographic utilities networks, and consortia.
Books are non-serial printed publications (including music) that are hard or soft covers, or in loose-leaf format. 
Branch and independent libraries
Auxiliary library service outlets with quarters separate from the central library that houses the basic collection. The central library administers the branches. Libraries on branch campuses that have separate NCES identification numbers are reported as separate libraries.
Cartographic Material
Materials representing in whole or in part the earth or any celestial body at any scale (e.g., maps and charts)
Computer hardware and software operating expenses
These include expenses from the library budget for computer hardware and software used to support library operations, whether purchased or leased, mainframe or microcomputer. Expenses for maintenance and the expense to run information services when it cannot be separated from the price of the product are also included in this category.
Collection of electronically stored data or unit records (facts, bibliographic data, and texts) with a common user interface and software for the retrieval and manipulation of the data. The data or records are usually collected with a particular intent and relate to a defined topic. Each database is counted individually even if access to several databases is supported through the same vendor interface.
Discovery system
A discovery system product consists of an interface directed toward the users of a library to find materials in its collections and subsequently to gain access to items of interest through the appropriate mechanisms. Discovery systems tend to be independent from the specific applications that libraries implement to manage resources, such as integrated library systems, library services platforms, repository platforms, or electronic resource management systems. In most cases they provide access to multiple types of materials, independently of the management platform involved. Discovery systems provide an interface with search and retrieval capabilities, often with features such as relevancy-based ordering of search results, facets presented that can be selected to narrow results according to specific categories, contributors, or date ranges, and tools to identify related materials or to refine search queries. Examples of discovery systems can be found at
E-books are digital documents (including those digitized by the library), licensed or not, where searchable text is prevalent, and which can be seen in analogy to a printed book (monograph). E-books are loaned to users on portable devices (e-book readers) or by transmitting the contents to the user's personal computer for a limited time.
E-media materials are media materials that are in digital format and are available for download or streaming. Include digital graphic materials.
An e-serial is a periodical publication that is published in digital form to be displayed on a computer screen.
Fringe benefits
Cash contributions in the form of supplementary or deferred compensation other than salary. Excludes the employee's contribution. Employee fringe benefits include retirement plans, social security taxes, medical/dental plans, guaranteed disability income protection plans, tuition plans, housing plans, unemployment compensation plans, group life insurance plans, worker's compensation plans, and other benefits in-kind with cash options.
Graphic materials
Opaque (e.g., two-dimensional) art originals and reproductions, charts, photographs or materials intended to be projected or viewed without sound, e.g., filmstrips, transparencies, photographs, posters, pictures, radiographs, slides, and collections of such materials. [NISO Z39.7-2013, section 4.6]  
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)
The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), conducted by the NCES, began in 1986 and involves annual institution-level data collections. All postsecondary institutions that have a Program Participation Agreement with the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE), U.S. Department of Education (throughout IPEDS referred to as "Title IV") are required to report data using a web-based data collection system. IPEDS currently consists of the following components: Institutional Characteristics (IC); 12-month Enrollment (E12);Completions (C); Admissions (ADM); Student Financial Aid (SFA); Human Resources (HR) composed of Employees by Assigned Position, Fall Staff, and Salaries; Fall Enrollment (EF); Graduation Rates (GR); Outcome Measures (OM); Finance (F); and Academic Libraries (AL).
Interlibrary loan services
Interlibrary loan is the process by which a library requests material from, or supplies material to, another library" where "'material' includes books, audiovisual materials, and other returnable items as well as copies of journal articles, book chapters, excerpts, and other non-returnable items.
Library collections
Comprise of documents held locally and remote resources for which permanent or temporary access rights have been acquired. Access rights may be acquired by the library itself, by a consortium and/or through external funding. Acquisition is to be understood as securing access rights and including it in the library catalog, other library databases or discovery systems.
Library Consortia
A library consortium is any local, statewide, regional, or interstate cooperative association of libraries that provides for the systematic and effective coordination of the resources of schools, public, academic, and special libraries and information centers, for improving services to the clientele of such libraries. (U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Sect. 54.500)
Library expenses
Funds expended by the library (regardless of when received) from its regular budget and from all other sources; e.g., research grants, special projects, gifts and endowments, and fees for services.
Media materials
Titles of all library materials that include audio visual materials, cartographic materials, graphic materials, and three-dimensional artefacts and realia.
Microforms are photographic reproduction of textual, tabular, or graphic material reduced in size so that they can be used only with magnification. Examples of microforms are roll microfilm, aperture cards, microfiche, ultrafiche, and reproductions on opaque material.
Materials that the library does not expect to have returned. Examples of non-returnables include photocopies or facsimiles, fiche-to-fiche copies, print copies from microfilm, electronic full-text documents, and gratis print copies of unpublished reports and/or departmental working papers.
Ongoing commitments to subscriptions
Ongoing commitments in all formats, including duplicates, for all outlets. This includes serials and any other items committed to annually, as well as annual e-platform or access fees. Serials are publications issued in successive parts, usually at regular intervals, and, as a rule, intended to be continued indefinitely. Print-based serial subscriptions include periodicals, newspapers, annuals (reports, yearbooks, etc.), memoirs, proceedings, and transactions of societies. Include the costs of electronic serials bought in aggregations and serial packages. Include abstracting and indexing services and any database that requires an annual subscription fee. Do not include subscription fees if they are part of an annual consortium fee. Government documents received serially are included if they are accessible through the library's catalog.
Activities associated with maintain library and archival materials for use in their original form or some other usable way. Examples include rebinding, de-acidification, restoration, lamination, materials conservation and digitization.
Materials that the library expects to have returned. Examples of returnables include books, dissertations and theses, microfilm reels, sound recordings, and audiovisual material.
Salaries and wages
Amounts paid as compensation for services to all employees - faculty, staff, part-time, full-time, regular employees, and student employees. This includes regular or periodic payment to a person for the regular or periodic performance of work or a service and payment to a person for more sporadic performance of work or a service (overtime, extra compensation, summer compensation, bonuses, sick or annual leave, etc.).
A serial is a publication in any medium issued in successive parts bearing numerical or chronological designations and intended to be continued indefinitely. This definition includes periodicals, newspapers, and annuals (reports, yearbooks, etc.); the journals, memoirs, proceedings, transactions, etc. of societies; and numbered monographic series.
Serial back-files
Previous issues of serial titles that libraries buy back (such as back issues of magazines).
Serial subscriptions
Publications issued in successive parts, usually at regular intervals, and, as a rule, intended to be continued indefinitely. Serial subscriptions include periodicals, newspapers, annuals (reports, yearbooks, etc.), memoirs, proceedings, and transactions of societies.
Serial titles
Titles of serials collected.
Use the ANSI/NISO Z39.7-2004 definition for title as follows: The designation of a separate bibliographic whole, whether issued in one or several parts. A book or serial title may be distinguished from other such titles by its unique International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or International Standard Serial Number (ISSN). This definition applies equally to print, electronic, audiovisual, and other library materials. For unpublished works, the term is used to designate a manuscript collection or an archival record series. Two subscriptions to Science magazine, for example, are counted as one title.
Title IV institution
An institution that has a written agreement with the Secretary of Education that allows the institution to participate in any of the Title IV federal student financial assistance programs (other than the State Student Incentive Grant (SSIG) and the National Early Intervention Scholarship and Partnership (NEISP) programs).

Current Survey Changes

Table 4. Proposed Minor Changes to Academic Libraries (AL) Form

Changed instruction/FAQ/screen (where applicable; additions in red, deletions with strikethrough, rewording in blue)

DELETED FAQ. Why do you no longer request a title count for the physical book collection? This has been done for many years. Beginning with the 2014-15, NCES requested a volume count only to simplify reporting. This change seemed logical in view of the recent focus on access rather than on ownership

REWORDED FAQ. Are music sheets collected?
Old. Bound volumes of music sheets are collected under the category of "Physical Books". Digital music sheets are not collected.
New. Include physical and digital/electronic music scores if searchable by title through the library catalog or discovery system.

INSTRUCTION CHANGE: Physical Books (include government documents) - Report physical book titles owned or leased by the library if individual titles are cataloged and/or searchable through the library catalog or discovery system. Exclude serials, microforms, maps, nonprint materials, and uncataloged items. Include music scores if searchable by title through the library catalog or discovery system. Include government documents that are accessible through the library's catalogs regardless of whether they are separately classified and/or shelved. "Cataloged" includes documents for which records are provided by the library or downloaded from other sources into the library catalog or discovery system.

INSTRUCTION CHANGE: Physical Media – Report the number of titles of media materials. Include microforms, audiovisual materials, cartographic, and graphic materials and three-dimensional artifacts realia.

INSTRUCTION CHANGE: Total interlibrary loans and documents provided to other libraries – Report the number of filled requests for material provided to other libraries. Include all returnable and non-returnable interlibrary loans and documents. Include direct borrowing between consortium members. Do not include transactions between the main or central library and branches, or transactions between branches.

NEW FAQ: Our institution now has a Library and Learning Center, instead of a standalone Library, which is comprised of a library, tutoring, a writing center, and computer labs. Should we answer for the entire facility or just the library component?
You should answer for the entire facility if it's under the library's administrative unit, reports to the head of libraries, and expenses are paid from the library's budget.

NEW FAQ: Where are microfiche and microforms included? How does an institution count microfilm by titles Government Document collections are not in the library catalog or discovery system as individual titles?
Microfiche, TITLES ONLY, are counted in physical media; DO NOT INCLUDE microfiche pieces. Microforms titles are counted in physical media only if the titles are searchable through the institution's catalog and discovery system. For example, while there may be thousands of titles in ERIC that may not be searchable through the institution's catalog or discovery system, ERIC should be counted as 1 title. Another example is the Congressional Record on Microfiche which would be counted as 1 title.

NEW FAQ: If a title is not searchable through the institution's catalog or discovery system, but is searchable through their link resolver, is this counted in IPEDS?
Yes, institutions should count titles that are searchable through their link resolver even if they are not searchable through their catalog or discovery system.

NEW FAQ: How should direct borrowing between consortium members be included?
Direct borrowing transactions are included in interlibrary loan services reporting.

NEW FAQ: Are proceedings included as an e-book or as an e-serial?
Based on the definition of serials, numbered monographic series are included in the e-serial collection count. If the proceedings are numbered, then they may be a monographic series, which should be counted in e-serials. However, if the proceedings have an ISBN, then it is a monograph and should be counted as an e-book. If it has both an ISBN and ISSN, and if it is an individual volume within a series that can stand on its own (it is not dependent upon content before it or after it), then it would be counted as an e-book.

NEW FAQ: Is ArtStor reported as a database or media?
ArtStor is reported as a database.

NEW FAQ: The instructions state to exclude DDA and PDA collection usage numbers until they have been purchased or leased by the library. How should an institution report usage if DDA and PDA numbers cannot be excluded in a COUNTER report?
If DDA and PDA numbers cannot be excluded in the institution's COUNTER report, then please report the COUNTER report with DDA and PDA numbers included. However, please note this detail in the comment box available on the survey.

NEW FAQ: What should an institution report if they have platforms with BR1 and MR1 data, as well as, BR2 data?
Please only report BR1 and MR1 data.

NEW FAQ: Ebrary counts every page download as a chapter download. Should an institution report Ebrary counts in COUNTER BR2 data?
Include COUNTER BR2 reports with Ebrary. However, please note the inclusion of Ebrary in the comments section on the survey.

NEW FAQ: Should an institution include usage based collection model items (e.g., evidence-based programs) in e-book usage?
The survey excludes DDA or PDA collections unless they have been purchased by the institution. However, if the title is purchased in an evidence-based model and it is searchable through the catalog or discovery system, then it is counted in e-book usage.

NEW FAQ: Should expenditures for memberships (e.g., state and national associations) be reported?
Yes, include membership costs if they are part of the library budget. These types of membership costs should be included in "all other materials/service cost."

NEW FAQ: How does an institution report digitization expenditures?
Report digitization expenditures as preservation expenditures, if it is an outsourced service. Additional digitization-related expenses are either reported as memberships or services and included in "all other materials/service cost" OR reported as computer systems/other technology-related expenditures and included in "All other operations and maintenance expenses."

NEW FAQ: Where do we report annual access fees for e-journals or e-books?
Report annual access fees under "Ongoing commitments to subscriptions."

IPEDS collects information on collections, services, and expenditures at libraries at degree-granting institutions.

Data collected include:

  • Counts of books, media, serials, and database collection held in the physical and digital/electronic form;
  • Physical circulation and digital/electronic usage;
  • Interlibrary loan services; and
  • Library expenditures.

Institutions with annual library expenditures less than $100,000 are only required to report collections, circulations, and services information.

Contact: Christopher Cody, Survey Director

academic libraries