The University of Alabama

UA Libraries Make Jump in Visitors, Research Rankings

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — All is not quiet at the Amelia Gorgas Library at The University of Alabama. In fact, as far as librarians go, they’re talking pretty loudly about the progress made over the past several years.

In a technological climate that all but screams that the printed word is dead, UA’s library system is proving just the opposite: the campus libraries may be more vibrant and useful for students and faculty than ever before.

“The percent of increased visits to the library on an annual rate exceeds the percent of increase in student enrollment,” said Dr. Louis Pitschmann, dean of libraries. “The more we embrace technology and digital information, the more students are taking advantage of what we have to offer.”

That statement is backed up partially by the just-released numbers from the Association of Research Libraries, which ranked UA at No. 79 in the top 115 research libraries in the United States and Canada, up from No. 92 at the time of the last rankings—and that’s taking into account that more and more libraries are joining the ARL’s ranking system.

In a 10-year span, the sheer number of students and faculty using the University libraries is jaw-dropping. The total number of visitors registered at 1,733,143 for fiscal year 2012, compared to 904,017 total visitors in fiscal 2002. That’s a 91.7 percent increase in a decade.  Break the numbers down further, and the stats begin to look even more impressive: Just counting Gorgas, there were 921,265 visitors in fiscal 2012. In fiscal 2002, there were 373,843. That’s an increase of 147 percent in 10 years.

The University invests more than $19.4 million annually on the library system, including materials (books, collections, periodicals, electronic articles), professional and support staff and other expenses. It’s a strong investment for the largest research library in the state.

“The University administration has been very supportive of our materials budget and also very supportive of hiring an outstanding staff,” Pitschmann said.

Pitschmann and the library system staff worked hard to acquire notable print and electronic collections.

“We work closely with faculty to acquire all the materials they need for their students,” Pitschmann said. “We’ve come up tremendously in the ARL rankings, and we’re very proud of that.”

With more patrons than ever pouring through the doors, the UA libraries are aggressively pursuing more ways to be relevant.

“We have a deep commitment to our students and faculty,” Pitschmann said. “If the library patrons don’t think you have a good library, it’s because you’re not meeting their needs. Our job is to meet their needs and anticipate needs they may not know they have.”

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.