The annual Library and Information Science Statistical Reports, despite shortcomings noted by Howard White (White, 1998) and others, provide important data for deans and directors of library and information science (LIS) programs in US and Canadian institutions of higher education. Since the Reports were first published in 1980 they have been used to describe the LIS education enterprise from personnel, student, curricular, and financial perspectives. Although the Reports lack the graphical presentations White would have preferred, they nonetheless provide benchmarks, invite comparisons among schools and programs, and, taken as a serial group, allow for the compilation of time series reports and the assessment of trends. They also serve to either substantiate or invalidate our beliefs about the general heath of LIS education.
Two relatively recent developments underscore the importance of the Library and Information Science Statistical Reports as administrative tools. The first of these developments is the inclusion of LIS programs in the US New and World Reports “Best Graduate Schools” rankings. The second, more recent occurrence, is the Fall 1998 directive from the American Library Association's Committee on Accreditation (COA) that external review panel (ERP) reports must no longer state directly whether or not a program under review meets the standards in the ERP’s opinion. These developments draw attention to the opportunities deans and directors have to mine the statistics for important administrative functions. In this report, I will briefly discuss only three: marketing, budgeting, and planning.
Although the US News and World Reports rankings of LIS graduate programs are reputational, deans and directors are sometimes expected to explain their school’s presence, absence, or position on the list. Provosts, academic vice presidents, and boards of trustees want to know, “How can we become number one?” or, for the less favored programs, “How can we get on the list?”
As Howard White so correctly notes, the ranking “remains useful as a gauge of perceived quality.” (White, 1998) Regardless of whether perception reflects reality, the fact is that the ranking, published in a popular weekly newsmagazine, is of incredible value for the purposes of student recruitment, alumni affairs, public relations, and institutional development. Press releases, brochures, web pages, and other public information vehicles note a school’s position in the ranking, and, if that position is high enough, it may appear as a university “point of pride” or “brag right.”
The ALISE Library and Information Science Statistical Reports can be equally effectively used by deans, directors, and their budget analysts to craft persuasive arguments for institutional support and to develop “talking points” for focused conversations about a school’s accomplishments and needs.US News, in short, opens the door for marketing of our programs; the annual Library and Information Science Statistical Reports provide the substance for our arguments and presentations.
If we believe that marketing involves communicating both a program’s accomplishments and its needs, we see that the Library and Information Science Statistical Reports contain a wealth of data to use for marketing within our colleges and universities and with external audiences as well. This section suggests some ways to do this.
The varieties of mission, size, and governance among institutions of higher education and our strong inclination to compare ourselves to others combine to invite segmentation of the market into “peer institution” groupings. When our administrators and boards of trustees study tuition and fees, faculty salaries, costs of instruction, and even faculty workloads, guidance or comfort is sought from peer comparisons. Some institutions use two lists: “actual” and “aspirational” peers. Deans and directors can hardly avoid committing the names of institutional peers to memory, so often are they evoked in campus meetings and reports. But for LIS educators there is a fundamental problem in these macro-level comparisons due to the fact that so few universities have programs in our field. It may be very useful, for example, to compare faculty salaries among institutional peers, but discussion at departmental or school levels becomes meaningless when our university’s peer group list includes few, or no, universities with LIS programs. It is probably useful, then, for us to create our own peer groups and to use the Library and Information Science Statistical Reports as the source of data. Some within-LIS comparisons are already drawn for us; see for example, Sineath’s helpful Table I-13-a, “Mean Salary for Faculty by Region.” If a program has below average salaries, the table can be helpful in lobbying a university administration for higher salaries (internal marketing) as well as in negotiating with candidates for faculty positions (external marketing). While the Library and Information Science Statistical Reports cannot be expected to provide all the comparisons we need, it is easy enough to move selected data to a sortable list or spreadsheet to make our own comparisons. More helpful information and more convincing arguments result from selection of the right comparison groups: non-doctoral granting programs, programs in private universities, religious-affiliated programs, to name just a few. When a non-doctoral granting LIS program appears on the US News “top ten,” for example, that will indeed be news worth reporting.
Marketing opportunities abound in the Library and Information Science Statistical Reports. Rather than focusing on US News rankings, the eighty percent of programs absent from the top ten list can focus external marketing efforts on such attributes as
Total cost of the ALA-accredited Master’s degree. Data from Table II-13-c-2 can illustrate value to prospective students.
Diversity statistics. Figures from Table II-4-a-1 can be used to characterize a program to prospective students, donors, or funders.
Demographics for full- or part-time students. Data in Table II-1-c-2b illustrate a program’s focus on claims of services to particular student populations such as the employed, adult career changers, or a community of full-time students.
Enrollment in undergraduate, master’s, or doctoral programs. High enrollments reported in Table II-1-a-3 may serve to highlight a program’s particular emphasis.
Faculty to student ratio. Compiled from data in Table II-1-a-3 and Table I-41 will speak to prospective students, university administrators, and accrediting authorities.
Expenditures per student. While not reported directly, data in Table II-1-a-3 and Table IV-20 may paint a useful picture when considered against the high tuition costs of some programs.
Almost every program can find attributes on which it is competitive, particularly if the right comparison grouping is selected. Claims such as “Our primary (or only) focus is on the Master’s degree student…,” “We offer the least expensive MSLS in the South…,” or “We offer the highest faculty to student ratio among LIS programs in private universities…” can draw attention to specific emphases and benefits of particular programs. The marketing-oriented administrator will find, and use, the statistics that support their claims.
Procuring and allocating resources for a program are major parts of every dean’s job, and the financial data in Fred Roper and John Olsgaard’s chapter of Library and Information Science Statistical Reports, when used carefully and in combination with data from other chapters, is useful in the budget planning process. In 1997, Evelyn Daniel warned that financial data in the Reports should “probably be treated with caution as very different patterns exist from school to school on the way income and expenditures are treated.” (Daniel, 1997) While her warning should still be heeded, the data remain useful.
Establishing and Communicating Income Requirements
An important part of the budget process involves convincing university officials of a program’s needs. ; Most often these needs involve improving the availability of financial resources. Indeed, White noted that total income is the single best predictor of presence on theUS News top ten list. (White, 1998) A dean or director will do well to prepare for requesting budget additives by knowing how the budget of the program compares with its peers and how budgets in the field have fared in recent years. Tables IV-1 and IV-2 provide summary data to add to program data generated locally.
The data on incomes and expenditures of individual programs (Tables IV-19 and IV-20) suggest which programs are “tubs on their own bottoms” and which are more dependent on their larger institutions for support. Heads of programs that generate considerably more income for the parent institutions than the universities allocate to those programs may find it useful to present comparative data when negotiating for retention of larger shares of resources generated.
Long term budget planning, to be successful, should include consideration of a university’s present expectations as well as its history of support for a program. To insure adequate income for success in LIS education, deans must convince university financial officers of the need for generous operating budgets, support for an infrastructure that will lead to success in obtaining external funding, or (preferably) both. The data in Library and Information Science Statistical Reports, along with US News and other rankings, can provide helpful evidence for these needs.
Tapping Varied Sources of Income
From the Statistical Reports, deans and directors can ascertain how their programs compare to others in terms of income source distribution, and set their fiscal goals with knowledge of averages and trends over time. One who looks to the Statistical Reports for useful benchmarks on sources of funds and distributions of average incomes (Tables IV-9 and IV-10) will find the comparisons between doctoral and non-doctoral programs and between regions to be most helpful when augmented by Table IV-19, the school by school data.
It is evident that the trend for the decade has been an increase in dependence on federal funds and “other incomes” and that the proportion of income from parent institutions has declined (on average) from about 85 percent in 1988 to around 70 percent in the late 1990’s. The dean or director whose program reflects these trends can determine if adjustments are desirable within the overall institutional environment and within the program’s goals and objectives. It will be interesting to see, several years from now, if the current blip in percentage of income from parent institutions (from the decade’s lowest, under 70 percent in 1996-1997, to 72.03 percent in 1997-1998) marks a turning point or if the general downward trend will continue into the next decade.
In the short run, income varies with the overall institutional budget and with the level of control a dean or director has over incoming funds. Most programs’ incomes do not shift radically from year to year. But long term planning to improve income generated from a particular source can have rich payoffs. Greater efforts to bring income from endowments, gifts, or a program’s entrepreneurial efforts may be rewarded as long as the parent institution allows the program to keep the greater proportion of incomes from those sources. Similarly, patient investment in acquiring research funds (proposal-writing efforts, improving relations with external research officers, and the like) can enhance grants and contracts income from federal and other sources.
In considering varying sources of income, one might posit that a program that depends wholly on the parent institution for all its budgetary needs could benefit from using some of the available resources to develop federal or “other” sources such as alumni gifts, corporate donations and gifts-in-kind. It would be interesting to compare alumni giving; for example, at schools that do and do not employ dedicated development, or fund raising, staff. Similarly, if schools that depend heavily on outside funding were to receive greater support from their parent institutions, would institutional investments “pay off” in terms of the generation of greater external funding sources?
The area in which deans and directors have greater discretion is in expenditures, but even here budgeting options are sometimes limited, especially for those programs whose salaries and wages cannot be altered and whose student aid expenditures are institution dependent. However, adjustments can be made in the distribution of expenditures across other categories, and it is helpful to see average proportions of expenditures assigned to the seven, albeit ambiguous, categories by the group of programs represented in the Statistical Reports. The expenditures assigned to the categories are more revealing when individual programs are considered, and percentages and time series data developed from Table IV-20 and related tables from earlier years are even more enlightening.
The expenditures in various categories inform us of interesting trends that we may or may not want our program budgets to mimic. For example, the continuing decline in proportion of budget allocated to faculty salaries (76 percent in 1992, 74 percent in 1995, and just under 70 percent this year) and the doubling of the proportion allocated to “specialist” salaries (7 percent in 1992 and over 15 percent in 1998-1999) suggest an increasing dependence on technical staff and others to support the educational enterprise. For all salary and wage categories, the proportion of expenditures on clerical staff, at around 7 percent, has remained the most stable over the decade. These trends are important for those of us who prepare budget requests to monitor. Care is needed to assure that budget requirements match the program’s mission and goals.
Faculty replacement costs and other anticipated expenses can be estimated by referring to the statistical reports. For example, Table 1-11-c “New Assistant Professors – Academic Year Appointments 1989-90 to 1998-99” and the related regional statistics on salaries can suggest ranges of reasonable compensation for vacant positions. Similarly, the program anticipating a vacancy in the dean’s or director’s position can refer to the tables in Chapter 1 for a degree of guidance.
In addition to being useful for marketing and budgeting, Library and Information Science Statistical Reports can augment other indicators of trends and directions in LIS education and thus assist in program planning. Most often several years’ Reports will be more helpful than a single set of statistics, but even a single set can give deans, directors, and their faculties food for thought. To name just three examples, the Statistical Reports provide input for considering program niches, for developing enrollment management plans, and for personnel planning.
Whether a program plans to focus on a limited number of curricular areas or to expand into new markets, Chapter III of the Statistical Reports will serve its decision makers. Table III-39 “Special Course Changes Made within the Past Academic Year” for and Table III-40 “Curricular Changes Under Consideration” provide insight into what local or regional competitors are doing with their curricula. Table III-30, “Distance Education” offers another perspective on which schools are delivering distance education and the accompanying notes further describe the modes of delivery used by the schools.
Enrollment figures presented in Chapter II, Students, will also play a part in expansion planning. Growth in doctoral and bachelors programs, for instance, should be considered as a school looks at its growth or specialization opportunities.
Of course many additional factors will be considered in planning to change or expand programs, but the material in the Statistical Reports can illuminate the field of the planner’s vision.
Chapter II,, Students, by Jerry Saye and Wen-Chin Lan contains a wealth of information to assist in enrollment planning. Rather than “taking” whatever applicants meet admissions requirements, schools can begin “making” the cohorts that will be best served by their programs.
Schools with substantial undergraduate populations can recruit directly from these bachelor programs to their own graduate programs. For those schools without undergraduate programs, recruitment from a wider range of colleges and universities may be in order.
For the program that values its diversity or that hopes to improve its enrollment of minority or international students, planning can include outreach to particular countries that are not well represented or to US institutions that serve large numbers of minority students. Comparisons with peer schools can indicate what is possible
Programs that wish to appeal to more full- or part-time students should plan scheduling and financial assistance to the benefit of the target prospective student group. Again, comparisons with peers, or “aspirational “ peer institutions can provide models.
The increases in doctoral and undergraduate enrollments suggest trends in the making. Along with institution specific goals, these trends in enrollment can be taken into account in a program’s recruitment planning. Masters students, for example, may be selected and admitted with the assumption that an increasing proportion will continue on to doctoral study. As a result, curricular implications, such as the need for increased attention to courses in research methods or for thesis advisement, also require planning.
Personnel planning, particularly planning for faculty needs, is a major responsibility of a dean or director. Recruitment, search, and hiring are costly, and sometimes unexpected, expenses for a program. Some of the difficulty may be avoided if the Statistical Reports are reviewed and if changes are anticipated in advance of a faculty member’s retirement, resignation, or move to another institution.
Knowing average salaries (Table I-13), regional salaries (Table I-13-a), percentages and bases for salary improvements (Table I-45), and workloads (Table III-33) help the dean or director in recruiting, negotiating, and retaining faculty. Although countering specific competitors for personnel is difficult since we do not know which institutions offer the highest wages and most favorable teaching loads, at least we can know where our own institutions stand in comparison to the means and medians reported.
Knowing that enrollments in doctoral programs are up (Saye and Lan, 1999) should provide some assurance that there is not likely to be a drastic shortage of faculty as the older third of faculty retire (Table I-18). Programs that anticipate retirements or resignations can begin to build relationships with doctoral students who might fit the profiles for positions to be vacated.
The growth in professional staff positions suggests a continuing need to identify talented technical workers who can fill the slots as these positions grow. Instructional designers, network administrators, lab managers, and others can come from graduate student ranks or from pools of recent graduates. Strategies for “growing our own” may also be fruitful, but regardless of the approach taken by individual schools, planning for professional staff needs may deserve attention in the near future.
At several meetings during the 1999 annual conference of the American Library Association, LIS educators were reminded that external review panel reports to the Committee on Accreditation (COA) may no longer include what had become traditional statements of a panel’s assessment of whether or not a school “substantially met,” “met,” or “did not meet” one or another of the 1992 Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies. The assembled educators were also advised that COA, when deliberating on a program’s accreditation status, considers the external review panel reports “along with other evidence,” including the program presentation, the Statistical Reports, and biennial reports filed by the program’s dean or director. Thus, the importance of the report has increased for both those who submit the data to ALISE and those who use it.
The use of an individual program’s data in COA’s accreditation evaluation seems sensible and fair. After all, the administrator of a program should be thoroughly familiar with the school’s current and recent time series data. Fluctuations in enrollment, tuition, budget, or the number of full-time faculty are obvious examples and they are easy to track over time.
The importance of the Reports is heightened, however, when an evaluator who is unfamiliar with the particulars behind statistics for an individual program begins to use the data for decision making. When COA uses the Statistical Reports in their deliberations, it is probable that they will have analyzed the data – over time and in comparison to other programs and that new measures will have been derived from combinations of the tables as presented. In order to prepare for one’s meeting with COA, a dean or director will need to have thoroughly digested his or her own statistics and analyzed the data in a variety of ways in anticipation of what the committee members will ask. We can hope that the analyses used in the deliberations on accreditation will be shared with representatives of the programs under consideration, but if that does not occur, deans and directors will need to use the Statistical Reports more than ever to present articulate cases for their programs.
The greatest single merit of the Statistical Reports is their availability. Some fields have no such reports to describe their educational programs. The fact that the data are collected, organized and reported by peers is, as Daniel said, “a remarkable accomplishment.” (Daniel, 1997) It is fitting that, as we approach the 21st edition in 2000, the importance and utility of the Reports, at least for administrative use, is at an all time high.
Daniel, Evelyn H. (1997) “Summary and Comparative Analysis.” In Evelyn H. Daniel and Jerry D. Saye, eds., Library and Information Science Education Statistical Report 1997. Arlington, Va.: ALISE, pp. 345-354.
White, Howard D. (1998) “Summary and Comparative Analysis.” In Evelyn H. Daniel and Jerry D. Saye, eds., Library and Information Science Education Statistical Report 1998. Arlington, Va.: ALISE, pp. 301-310.
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