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ACRL, PLA Launch New Digital Data Tool for Libraries

Joint project gives member users access to collected survey data from libraries throughout the country.

Note: TDWI’s editors carefully choose vendor-issued press releases about new or upgraded products and services. We have edited and/or condensed this release to highlight key features but make no claims as to the accuracy of the vendor's statements.

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and Public Library Association (PLA) now offer Benchmark: Library Metrics and Trends to power library data analysis and visualization. This new digital resource can help libraries plan, make informed decisions, and tell the story of their impact.

Through Benchmark (), library professionals have access to a centralized collection of their library data and the ability to compare with peer libraries using a robust set of visualization and reporting tools. Public libraries have access to PLA survey data, public libraries survey data (reported to the Institute of Museum and Library Services), and census data. Academic libraries have access to ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey data. Subscribers will find an intuitive interface that supports analysis and reporting efforts. Virtual data dashboards and customized comparison tools are interactive and user-friendly.

The new Benchmark tool provides the most comprehensive data available, aligning with the American Library Association’s commitment to serving as a clearinghouse for library data and trends. It fills gaps in U.S. libraries’ ability to understand their performance in context with peers. Peer comparison, or benchmarking, can help libraries support everyday decision making, establish baselines, and identify opportunities to improve service.

Benchmark offers dashboard visualizations aligned with principles in the ACRL Standards for Libraries in Higher Education and provides access to data from the ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey, the largest survey of academic libraries in the country. Fielded annually since 1998, the survey provides a comprehensive portrait of academic libraries' impact across the U.S. Oversight for the survey is provided by the ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey Editorial Board.

Benchmark replaces the historic Public Library Data Service (PLDS), which was discontinued in 2019 after virtual town halls and member outreach highlighted requests for better peer comparison data, user-friendly interfaces for data analysis and reporting, less redundancy in data collection, and improved data training related to community indicators. PLA and its Measurement, Evaluation, and Assessment Committee (MEAC) decided to invest resources in developing a new tool to better meet the field’s needs. Benchmark is the result.

All public and academic libraries have free access to open surveys, their survey responses, and select summary data in Benchmark. Libraries and other individuals or organizations interested in library data will subscribe and have access to a full suite of peer data and interactive tools. Subscription discounts will be available to PLA and ACRL organizational members and libraries that participate in Benchmark surveys. 

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