Skip to main content

Survey: Academic Library Spending to Drop 9%

Young woman using tablet computer in library
(Image credit: iStock/photodeti)

While the pandemic-related challenges of teachers, students and institutions have been looked at in detail and from multiple angles, less attention has been paid to essential but behind-the-scenes activities by academic libraries. How will the changes in instructional practice affect library purchases? How much will spending on academic journals change vs. spending on online databases? 

The Survey of Academic Library Leadership: Outlook for Materials Expenditures, 2020-21, looks closely at the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on academic library spending plans for books, eBooks, online databases, academic journals, and audio-visual resources.  For overall materials expenditures, and for each of these specific categories, the report contrasts estimated spending in the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 academic years.  The estimates were drawn from a survey of the spending plans of 60 academic libraries in the United States.  Data in the report is broken out by size and type of higher education institution as well as by tuition level and for public and private institutions, among other variables.

 Survey respondents also discuss in open ended questions their views on how use of open access resources will be impacted by the pandemic, and the extent to which it might accelerate the use of online vs. print resources.  The study helps strategic planners in academic libraries and publishing/information providers seeking to answer questions such as:  To what extent will spending on print and eBooks be impacted?  What kind of libraries will be cutting back the most of print books? Or journals? Are any areas of materials spending expected to grow in this difficult environment? Will demand collapse for any particular information vehicle in certain types of colleges? 

Findings include:  

  • The overall expected drop in materials spending by the libraries in the sample for the 2020-21 academic year vs, the 2019-20 academic year was 9.43%. 
  • Research universities planned larger declines in eBook spending than did other types of colleges. 
  • Colleges in the sample planned to increase spending on audio-visual resources for the upcoming year.

A PDF edition of this report is currently available directly from Primary Research Group for $109.00; a print edition at the same price will be available for shipment on June 11th, 2020 and can be ordered now.  Site licenses are also available.

For a table of contents, list of participating institutions, the questionnaire and an excerpt – view the product page for this report

Orders can also be emailed to: or faxed to 212-412-9097.