Vanderbilt Heard Libraries make leap in research library rankings

University Librarian Valerie Hotchkiss in front of Central Library (photo by Susan Urmy)
University Librarian Valerie Hotchkiss in front of Central Library (Susan Urmy/Vanderbilt University)

The Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries continue to climb in the Association of Research Libraries rankings, rising to the No. 36 spot in the newly released 2018 data.

Vanderbilt’s libraries jumped seven places in the ARL Index from 2017 to 2018, and moved up a total of 18 places the past three years—a 33.33 percent increase since 2015. According to University Librarian Valerie Hotchkiss, these rankings are a good indication of the overall progress the libraries have made since the 2015 Future of the Libraries report identified key areas in which the libraries needed to evolve in support of the Academic Strategic Plan.

A Future of the Libraries committee was charged in 2014 by Provost and Vice Chancellor Affairs Susan R. Wente to develop a vision for the future direction of the Heard library system to support the research and teaching needs of Vanderbilt. Areas of focus have included new hires, the implementation of the new online catalog and collections building.

“One of our strategic goals—to be included in the top third of all North American research libraries—has been achieved,” Hotchkiss said. “I am very proud of the collaborative and considerable efforts of library staff that have resulted in this astounding increase during only three years. It is also a testament to university support as we build a great research library. We have been hiring a new generation of diverse and tremendously talented new staff members, increasing collections budgets and working hard to reorganize the libraries in ways that have increased both efficiency and innovation.”

The ARL ranking system, which evaluates data from more than 120 member institutions, is based on dollars spent for total library expenditures, as well as for salaries and wages and library materials, plus the number of professional and support-staff employees.

Established in 1932, the ARL is a membership organization of libraries and archives in major public and private universities, federal government agencies and large public institutions in the United States and Canada.