6 takeaways from the UC Berkeley Library’s faculty survey

Last fall, the UC Berkeley Library took the pulse of faculty, asking them a host of questions on their teaching, research, and publishing practices.

The goal? To get a better sense of how faculty instruct, discover information, and share their work — and to help the Library set priorities to support these activities as it ventures further into the age of information.

Responses poured in, with more than 800 people — about 30 percent of faculty — completing the survey, conducted in partnership with national research firm Ithaka S+R. (In the Ithaka S+R Faculty Survey, “faculty” includes those who fall into the ladder tenured, ladder nontenured, and lecturer categories.)

Here are a few things we learned. (View and print the full report, and download a screen reader-friendly version.)

1. Faculty say students pay too much for textbooks.

Three-quarters of faculty believe that reducing the cost of textbooks and other course materials is very important. And about 6 in every 10 faculty members are interested in using open educational resources — that is, materials used for teaching that are free and openly available to access, share, and remix.

What the Library is doing: The Library has made it a priority to ease students’ financial burden by rolling out a pilot program, introduced in 2017, offering free or openly available course materials, including open textbooks and free electronic course packs and assigned books. The Affordable Course Content Pilot saved students an estimated $200,000 and supported more than 40 courses and approximately 2,400 students.

2. Faculty want their work to be freely available.

When it comes to publishing their research, three-quarters of faculty say reaching the broadest possible readership is crucial to maximizing the impact of their research. Nearly three-quarters — about 70 percent — report that they would be happy to see the traditional publishing system completely replaced by an open access publishing model, where the results of all scholarly research would be available to the public — for free.

What the Library is doing: The Library is committed to open access. Launched by the Library, the Berkeley Research Impact Initiative, or BRII, reimburses UC Berkeley authors without sufficient funding who choose to publish in open access journals or produce an open access book. The Library is partnering with publishers to develop transformative agreements that make the results of taxpayer-funded UC research freely available to everyone.

3. Reading cover to cover is still better in print.

Electronic books and journals have revolutionized the way people read and learn, but physical copies still have their benefits. More than 80 percent of respondents reported it was easier to read a scholarly monograph cover to cover in depth in print than in digital form.

What the Library is doing: The Library works with users to collect materials in their preferred formats, print or electronic, and actively supports efforts to make e-books more accessible and readable.

4. The Library is valued as a provider of scholarly resources.

Nine out of every 10 faculty members say the Library’s collections or subscriptions are very important when it comes to the journal articles and monographs they use in research and teaching. In addition, a majority of faculty, across disciplines, found digitized or born digital primary sources to be very important for their teaching and research.

What the Library is doing: As part of its digitization efforts, the Library scanned nearly a million images in-house last year, up threefold from the previous year. With its new Digital Lifecycle Program, the Library aims to further improve scholars’ access to a trove of materials from our collections by making them available in digital formats.

5. Faculty think undergraduates could improve their information literacy skills.

About half of faculty think that their undergraduate students have poor skills related to locating and evaluating scholarly information, and nearly three-quarters agree that improving these skills is an important educational goal for their courses. Nearly 60 percent of faculty believe librarians play a vital role in students’ learning by helping them find and access information and develop research skills.

What the Library is doing: Each day, librarians across campus help students of all disciplines in a multitude of ways, through classroom visits, one-on-one consultations, research help, drop-in workshops, online guides, and eye-opening exhibits.

6. Financial support of the Library is important to faculty.

More than 80 percent of respondents strongly agreed that the Library should be financially supported to ensure continued access to collections when prices of scholarly journals rise.

What the Library is doing: To offset a steady decrease in funds from internal sources, the Library counts on private philanthropy to meet — and exceed — the needs of today’s students. Fundraising efforts netted $12,662,173 last year, a 30 percent increase over the previous year, helping the Library to advance research, teaching, and learning at Berkeley, and to share our knowledge with the world. Of the funds raised, 59 percent went to programs, 27 percent went to collections, 10 percent was unrestricted, and 4 percent were gifts in kind.

These takeaways, along with others from the survey, will help the Library better serve Berkeley’s dynamic scholarly community. The data from the survey will guide the Library as it pursues projects and activities that respond to UC Berkeley faculty’s diverse needs.