AALL Professional Development
Listserv on the ABA 2003 Annual Questionnaire
Submitted by Darin Fox and Leonette Williams
Co-Chairs, ALL SIS Statistics
Committee, USC Law Library
During the time period September 15 - September 26, 2003, AALL held a Professional
Development Listserv on the ABA 2003 Annual Questionnaire. The listserv was
sponsored by the Academic Law Libraries SIS Statistics Committee to serve as
a forum for discussion on the new changes made to the ABA 2003 Annual Questionnaire.
Darin Fox and Leonette Williams, both from the University of Southern California
Law School and co-chairs of the ALL SIS Statistics Committee, served as moderators
of the listserv. In their introduction to the listserv, the moderators offered
the following categories to participants as issues for discussion: (1) the
new changes to the questionnaire; (2) whether the instructions for filling-in
the questionnaire are self-explanatory or need revision; and (3) whether the
changes match the goals of the association. In other words, does the questionnaire
gather information that is important and relevant to the process of setting
standards for accreditation and comparing law libraries. During the two week
life span of the listserv, approximately two dozen of the 174 participants
who had signed up for the listserv actively engaged in the discussion.
The two most heavily discussed issues on the listserv concerned title counts
and alternative measures of law library quality. There were also a number of
issues mentioned ranging from the counting of wireless access to the lead time
for new questions to the distribution of the compiled questionnaire data in
I. Title Counts - there were two separate threads of discussion relating to
title counts. First, one member asked whether web-based resources should be
counted in Question 4 relating to a title count of non-book titles. Second,
one member suggested that a count of “unique titles” provided by
a law library is one important measure of library quality.
- Counting Web-Based Resources - One member asked whether web-based resources
should be counted in Question 4 relating to a title count of non-book titles.
One member responded that her school does not count individual titles in
web-based resources in Question 4. One member responded that web-based
serial titles can be counted in the serial subscription section if those
are cataloged. One member added that the use of software, such as SFX,
that automatically adds titles from aggregate databases may present a problem.
Should multiple instances of an electronic title be counted if they appear
in separate aggregate databases? One member responded that her school treats
electronic titles which are cataloged as “multiple copies” where
the title is already held in another format. In other words, her school
only counts “unique” electronic titles. One member added that
there are three different types of publications (databases, journals, and
and each presents its own problems when trying to count them.
- “Unique Titles” - One member suggested that a count of “unique
titles” provided by a law library is one important measure of library
quality. It was suggested that “unique titles” include (1)
Current Question 1 (book titles), (2) Current Question 2 (microform titles),
Current Question 4 (Other Non-Book Titles), plus (4) any electronic titles
which are cataloged, which the library provides access to, and which are
not already counted in 1-3. There were several responses. Two types of
problems with this approach were suggested. Both revolve around web-based
First, it is difficult for some libraries to know which web-based resources
to count. Some libraries may share a central university catalog, and they
may be a member of a university consortium which subscribes to resources.
If the law library did not pay for a specific title and did not catalog
it, yet it appears in the shared university catalog, should the library
it? Second, it may be difficult and expensive for some libraries to catalog
the titles of web-based resources, such as HeinOnline or JSTOR.
II. Alternative Measures of Library Quality - The second major thread of
discussion involved alternative measures of library quality. There were three
separate threads of discussion. First, what can we learn from other questionnaires
used by other library organizations? Second, what is the purpose and what
are the uses of the Annual Questionnaire?
- Questionnaires Used by Other Library Organizations - One member
suggested that we might look to other questionnaires, such as the ARL
questionnaire or the LibQual+ process. Another member questioned the inclusion of these
types of surveys in the ABA questionnaire, stating that service and quality
are defined differently given our locations, goals, institutions, target
patron groups, etc. One member commented that the ABA/AALS site inspections
serve as a decent quality instrument to measure law schools. Further comments
included that over time new questions added to the questionnaire sometimes
become dated. What was seen as new, interesting, and a measure of quality
has quickly become standard in all law libraries, for example integrated
library systems. Another member questioned how one questionnaire could
possibly provide a useful basis for comparison purposes when library
materials provided through consortia or through affiliation with university
libraries is vastly different. Specifically regarding electronic title
counts, one member suggested that the ARL survey provides a better mechanism
comparison. She stated that it requires schools to count electronic titles
purchased as part of an aggregated database, and it also requires that
duplicate subscriptions should be counted so that the total count includes
to access a title.
- Purpose and Uses of the Annual Questionnaire - One member asked “who
wants to know these things?” Another member responded that the ABA
Questionnaire is a reflection of the measurements that over many years
law librarians have said were appropriate. Another member suggested that
ABA Questionnaire originated as a mechanism for the ABA to collect information
to insure that law libraries are meeting ABA standards. However, the Questionnaire
has expanded to become a tool for law libraries to compare themselves for
- Staffing and Expenditures - One member suggested emphasizing staffing
and expenditures as ratios to the size of the faculty and student body,
instead of emphasizing volume and title counts. It was further suggested
that a ratio
of total library expenditures to faculty and student body might be the
best comparison since, for example, cost of living differences impact
III. Other Issues Discussed - Many other questions were raised on the listserv.
Below is a brief summary of each.
- Technology Sections - Question 5 - One member suggested that it
is difficult to count the total number of simultaneous wireless users
vendors no longer provide the maximum number of users that can connect
to their equipment. This school’s wireless network can support
thousands of simultaneous users, yet the school has only 650 students.
It was suggested
that this specific part of Question 5 be removed from the questionnaire
or that the question ask for the percentage of the student body that
to use the wireless network. Another member suggested that it might be
difficult for schools to determine the percentage of students registered
that this question may be irrelevant in a few years since all schools
will likely have a wireless network.
- Time to Prepare - One member suggested that the ABA give one
notice to libraries before a new question appears in the Annual Questionnaire.
This would give libraries a chance to prepare and to begin gathering
statistics that must be reported in future years. One member responded
that it might
be difficult for the ABA to pilot newly proposed questions, but the various
listservs could be used to promote awareness of proposed questions.
- Work Study Hours - One member asked whether Question 25 should
include the “work study” hours of student workers or just
those hours paid by the Library. A member responded that the purpose
of the question
is to describe the total staffing level of the library. So, work study
hours should be included.
- Federal Depository Holdings and Title Counts - One member asked
whether government documents which are cataloged should be included
in Question 6.
There was no discussion of this issue.
- Software Which Accompanies Books or Looseleafs - One member asked
whether software which accompanies other materials should be counted
If so, how? There was no discussion of this issue.
- Distribution of Final Data Compilation Tables in Excel - One member
asked whether the final data compilation tables could be distributed
in Excel format.
This would allow libraries to sort data more easily and make comparisons
among schools of similar size. There was no discussion of this issue.
- Aggregate Resources - Two members asked whether there should be
a separate section of the Questionnaire on Aggregate Resources. Is Question
Is Section 2, Information Access, the best place to include more information
on this issue? There was no discussion of this issue.