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Remote and On-Site Use of Colorado Academic Libraries

As computers and digital technologies continue to play a greater role in the lives of college students and faculty, the ways in which these two groups utilize their academic libraries will certainly continue to change. In order to provide insight into the nature of academic library usage, the 2005 Colorado Academic Library Impact Study asked undergraduate students and faculty from 9 Colorado colleges and universities about their experiences and attitudes relating to their institutions’ libraries. Students and faculty members were asked to estimate what proportion of their time using library resources was spent at their college or university libraries, and what proportion was spent accessing library resources remotely from other locations.

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The Average Copyright of Colorado School Library Books is (Still) 15 Years Old

In 2001, the average copyright of a book collection in Colorado school libraries was 1986—over 15 years old. Although the average copyright has increased to 1991, the age of Colorado school library collections has not. In schools, access to information is essential, but the information students are retrieving is often older than they are.

Consider some of the major events that have occurred since 1991:

  • Bill Clinton is elected as the 42nd president (1992).
  • The World Trade Center is bombed the first time (1993).
  • Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president (1994).
  • The Oklahoma City bombing occurs at the Alfred P. Murrah federal building (1995).
  • The first version of Java programming language is released (1996).
  • Dolly the sheep is the first mammal to be successfully cloned (1997).
  • Google is founded (1998).
  • The Columbine High School shooting occurs Littleton, Colorado (1999).

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Home-Based Education and Colorado Public Libraries

Home-based education is defined as an education program whose instruction takes place at home, is implemented by “the child’s parent or by an adult relative of the child designated by the parent” and is not managed by a school district. The homeschool population is small within Colorado and across the nation, however, as Colorado’s home-based education numbers decrease, the nation’s numbers are rising.

According to the Colorado Department of Education, in Fall 2003, 8,591 children were educated at home in Colorado and those numbers dropped by 18% to 7,081 in 2004. Between 2000 and 2004 there has been a steady decrease in reported homeschooled students—the only exception being 2001, in which there was a 3.2% increase. Conversely, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports in Homeschooling in the United States: 2003 that “the percentage of the entire student population who were being homeschooled increased from 1.7 percent in 1999 to 2.2 percent in 2003.”

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How Librarians Help College Students at Colorado Correctional Facilities

In fall 2005, students taking college-level classes in 10 Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities participated in a study to examine the impact of correctional libraries on students’ academic pursuits, with emphasis on the impact of skills taught by librarians. Earlier the same year, about 3,000 undergraduate students from nine Colorado colleges and universities answered similar questions.

When comparing the answers of DOC students with these students, some notable differences are apparent.

In both correctional and academic library settings, majorities of respondents were helped by librarians to find resources. This highlights the crucial role the librarian plays in formal education and information access. Fifty-seven percent of respondents in correctional settings reported receiving this service, indicating the importance of the librarian particularly in extremely restricted environments.

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Colorado Public Library Performance Rankings

The mission of a public library is to provide the best service possible to its community. Output measures—which are often per capita statistics—give an individual’s perspective on the services libraries provide. The 6 output measures used here as performance measures are (in no particular order):

  • Registration as Percentage of Population
  • Library Visits per Capita
  • Reference Questions per Capita
  • Program Attendance per 1,000 Served
  • Circulation per Capita
  • Circulation Turnover Rate

Looking at 2004 data on these 6 measures for 5 population categories statewide, many public libraries stand out. Twelve of 114 public libraries came to the forefront, one by ranking in the top 3 in its population group on every measure and the other by ranking in the top 3 on 3 or more measures.

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AskColorado Use Continues to Grow in Second Year

AskColorado, a statewide virtual reference service which recently completed its second year of helping Coloradans, continues to gain momentum and receive positive feedback from its users. The 24/7 reference service, staffed by more than 200 library personnel from all types of libraries throughout the state, significantly increased its number of users between its first and second years. During the first 10 months of its existence (September 2003 through June 2004), the librarians were involved in an average of 2,000 reference transactions per month. In its second year (July 2004 through June 2005), that number rose to an average of more than 3,500 transactions in each month. In February 2005 alone AskColorado librarians were involved with 6,483 reference transactions. Note: A reference transaction is defined as a discrete online reference session with one or more users which may include one or more questions and answers.

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State’s Public Libraries Still Place Colorado in Top 10 But Rankings Slipping After 2002-03 Cuts

Since 1995, the National Center for Education Statistics has ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia on selected statistics, usually per capita or another population-based ratio. Since 1998, Colorado has consistently placed in the top 10 states on three per capita measures of public library service output: library visits, circulation, and reference questions.

Notably, however, after “peaking” in 2001 (before the state budget cuts of 2002 and 2003), the state’s rankings on all three indicators for 2003 dropped.

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Colorado’s Low Ranking on State Funding for Public Libraries Plummets Further

In 2003, Colorado—at five cents per capita—ranked 46th among the 50 states on state revenue to support public libraries. The only states that spent less than Colorado were Wyoming, New Hampshire, Vermont, and South Dakota, with three, two, one, and zero cents per capita, respectively. In 2002, Colorado spent 51 cents per capita, ranking 34th. That low ranking was no reason for pride, except that it put Colorado ahead of an additional dozen states.

The top ten states for state revenue per capita for public libraries are: Ohio ($39.87), Hawaii ($18.92), Pennsylvania ($6.60), Rhode Island (6.35), Maryland ($5.06), West Virginia ($4.77), Georgia ($3.80), Delaware ($3.21), Indiana ($2.94), and Illinois ($2.76).

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Eight Out of Eleven Colorado Library Ballot Measures Win Voter Approval

The results of the elections finalized on November 1, 2005, included good news for several Colorado public libraries.

  • East Routt Library District, serving the Steamboat Springs area, and the Ignacio and Mancos Library Districts all won voter approval for funding to improve and operate public library facilities. Ignacio also won a mill levy increase for operation.
  • Nederland Community Library District won exemption from revenue-and-spending limitations imposed by the so-called Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, or TABOR.
  • Fort Collins Public Library benefited from passage of a multi-purpose city measure, “Building on Basics” (or BOB), which is expected to generate an additional $6 million of support for library technology.
  • Residents of the Boulder County portion of Erie voted to join the city’s Weld County residents in being provided public library service by Weld Library District.

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Challenged Materials in Colorado Public Libraries, 2004

As a part of its annual survey of Colorado’s public libraries, the Library Research Service collects data on books, periodicals, non-print materials, events, and exhibits that have received formal challenges during the previous year.  A challenge—as defined by the American Library Association—consists of  “an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group…Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view, rather they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.”

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