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Academic Libraries Survey (ALS)


Some of the key concepts and terms in ALS are defined below. For additional terms, refer to Documentation for the Academic Library Survey (ALS) Public Use Data File: 2008 (Phan, Hardesty, and Sheckells, 2009).

Academic Library. An entity in a postsecondary education institution that provides all of the following: (1) an organized collection of printed or other materials, or a combination thereof; (2) a paid, trained library staff to provide and interpret library materials to meet the informational, cultural, recreational, or educational needs of clientele; (3 an established hours of operation during which paid, trained staff are available to meet the informational service needs of clientele; and (4) the physical facilities necessary to support such a collection, staff, and schedule. This definition includes libraries that are part of learning resource centers.

Branch Library. An auxiliary library service outlet with quarters separate from the central library of an institution. A branch library has a basic collection of books and other materials, a regular staffing level, and an established schedule. Branch libraries are administered either by the central library, as in the case of some libraries (such as law or medical libraries), or through the administrative structure of other units within the university. Departmental study/reading rooms are not included. Libraries on branch campuses that have separate NCES identification numbers are reported as separate libraries.

Carnegie Classification Code.Started in 1970 by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, the Carnegie Classification Code has been the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education for the past 4 decades. The 2000 Carnegie Classification has been used for the ALS since 2000, with 1994 and 1996 ALS data collections having used the 1994 Carnegie Classification. Since 2008 the ALS has utilized the 2005 Carnegie classification. Reports prior to 2008 used the 2000 Carnegie classification.

Child Institution. A “child” institution does not respond directly to the ALS or IPEDS data collections. The data for such an institution are aggregated with and reported by its “parent” institution.

Circulation Transaction. Includes all items lent from the general collection and from the reserve collection for use generally (although not always) outside the library. Includes both activities with initial charges (either manual or electronic) and renewals, each of which is reported as a circulation transaction.

Gate Count. The total number of persons physically entering the library in a typical week. A single person can be counted more than once.

Interlibrary Loan. A transaction in which library materials, or copies of the materials, are made available by one library to another upon request. Loans include providing materials and receiving materials. Libraries involved in these interlibrary loans cannot be under the same administration or on the same campus.

Parent Institution. An institution that reports data for another institution (a “child”) aggregated with its own data.

Reference Transaction. These are information contacts that involve the knowledge, use, recommendation, interpretation, or instruction in the use of one or more information sources by a member of the library staff. Information sources may include printed (e.g., book volumes) and nonprinted (e.g., microforms) materials and machine-readable databases (e.g., those on CD-ROM). The transaction may include providing direction to services outside the library.

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).