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Stanford Withdraws from Association of Research Libraries

On January 20, 2004, Stanford officials confirmed that the university has withdrawn from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), of which it has been a founding member for over 70 years. Notice of the decision was sent to the president of ARL, Cornell Librarian Sarah Thomas, during the winter recess. The withdrawal is effective on 1 January 2004.

Stanford University Librarian Michael A. Keller made the decision after conferring with President John Hennessy, Provost John Etchemendy and the heads of the five campus Coordinate Libraries that are administratively separate from the Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources. None voiced opposition to the policy.

Stanford’s decision to withdraw is based on an annual review of expenses and engagements the University might avoid in favor of other investments. “The bottom line,” Keller stated, “is that we no longer saw a return on Stanford’s continued investment of dues, of reporting effort, or of staff engagement in ARL.” Keller explained that his concerns with ARL focused on mission drift, weak oversight of programs and direction, and inadequate management on the part of members. In Stanford’s opinion, ARL programs have not been subjected to sufficiently rigorous cost-benefit analysis. In sum, “ARL is not serving the needs of this institution or of the community of research institutions as we understand them. We have other ways of engaging productively with our peers and partners in the research community.” Keller declined to provide the text of his five page letter, which contained detailed comments on ARL decisions and policies, though he hoped that ARL would see fit to provide that letter to all of its current members.

The withdrawal letter did not indicate conditions or circumstances in which Stanford would reconsider membership. For more information, see the January 30, 2004 Stanford Report article at

Some 122 institutions are members of ARL, almost all of which are North American universities. Additional information about ARL may be found at

Last modified: June 24, 2005

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