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Diversity of Colorado Library Workers: Professional Self-Perceptions and Portents for the Future

Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado—a recent LRS study—was based on a survey of more than 1,200 library workers statewide in Fall 2003. While the sample for this study could not be obtained randomly, their answers to questions about how library workers themselves perceive librarianship as a profession are intriguing. The ethnicity and gender demographics of these respondents also offer some hope that, in the near future, Colorado librarians will become more diverse, like the patrons they will serve.

Predictably, 9 out of 10 respondents to the library worker survey were White (89.8%) and female (90.3%). Each of the other three major racial groups—American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Black/African-American—represented less than 2 percent of the respondents. Hispanic respondents (who could be of any race) constituted more than 5 percent (5.1%) of the total survey response (see Chart 1 in full report). Suffice it to say, that there is little diversity in gender or ethnicity among Colorado library workers.

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Librarian Among Top Colorado Jobs Requiring Master’s Degree Through 2012

According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), librarian is among the state’s top jobs requiring a master’s degree through 2012. Employing a projected 2,720 Coloradans in 2012, librarian ranks fifth on projected employment behind physical therapist, market research analyst, educational counselor, and mental health counselor.1

Rounding out the top 10 master’s-degreed jobs will be speech pathologist, environmental scientist, substance abuse counselor, instructional coordinator, and rehabilitation counselor (see Chart 1 in full report).

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Colorado Public Library Paraprofessionals Experienced, Well-Educated Good Candidates for Future Leadership, but They Need Incentives

Colorado’s public libraries boast a wealth of experienced, educated paraprofessionals, according to responses to Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado, a study recently released by the Library Research Service. Many of them could be in line for credentialed librarian leadership positions in the near future.

For the purpose of consistency in the study, public library paraprofessionals were defined as individuals without an MLIS or library media endorsement who are working in a library. Surprisingly high levels of education and experience were reported by those who are neither planning on retiring in the next 5 years nor currently enrolled in an MLIS program.

In public libraries throughout the state, paraprofessionals prove to be very well-educated. Nearly all of those who responded to the survey (99.7%) have at least a high school education. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of them (65%) have at least a bachelor’s degree, and three-quarters (76%) have an associate’s degree or higher (see chart 1 in full report).

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Challenged Materials in Colorado Public Libraries, 2003

Each year, the Library Research Service collects data on formally challenged materials as a part of the Colorado Public Library Annual Survey. In 2003, 20 Colorado libraries reported 63 challenges to books, materials, events, and exhibits. The number of challenges represents a reduction from the 70 reported in 2002, although the number of libraries reporting these challenges increased from 16 to 20. The number of materials, events, and exhibits challenges reported in 2003 was slightly below the average of 65 occurrences for the preceding 5-year period (see Chart 1 in full report).

Highlights

  • Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture by Michael A. Bellesiles was the most challenged title in Colorado’s public libraries during 2003.
  • Three reasons for challenges accounted for nearly half (45%) of reported objections: offensive language, unsuited to age group, and sexually explicit.
  • Young adult materials represented a larger proportion of challenges in 2003 than in previous years.

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Colorado Public Libraries and the 2004 November Elections

Colorado voters had a mixed response to requests for increased funding for libraries across the state. Five of 8 ballot initiatives to raise mill levies passed, and 1 bond initiative failed. Voters in the Florence area approved a ballot initiative to create a new library district, while Mesa County voters rejected a bond issue for a new library and also a mill levy increase for maintenance projects. TABOR language was not as prevalent on this year’s ballots with only 2 library systems asking for TABOR overrides and only one being successful. Table 1 summarizes election results by type of ballot measure. Table 2 gives details about locations and voting percentages for public library measures on the November ballot (see full report for tables).

Libraries that failed to pass their ballot measures were looking for voter support for maintaining or expanding services. Cortez Public Library was hoping to double their operating budget to bring them “up to average compared to other public libraries in the state.” While they will retain current funding, failure of the referendum means that their “services will stay the same for the next few years.”

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Pricing Trends for Public Library Print Materials

Colorado’’s public libraries have recently been faced with new challenges concerning the management and maintenance of their collections. Following significant wholesale and jobber price increases in the early and mid-1990s, prices paid by public libraries for books, periodicals, and other information resources have continued to rise. The Library Research Service (LRS) has continued to monitor these trends and is using this information to assist libraries in planning for materials expenditures in the future.

Recently reported pricing figures indicate that future materials costs for public libraries will be highly dependent on the origin and format of the items in question. Figures from the Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac and the annual periodicals pricing report in Library Journal show that while these prices have continued to rise, the rates of increase have slowed in recent years and vary significantly between specific media.

LRS.org adds budget calculators

  1. Enter your library’s current budget and population.
  2. Estimate growth in the population.
  3. Choose a year through 2008.
  4. Click “Calculate” and receive an estimate of funds needed to maintain buying power adjusting for inflation and population growth.

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Downward Trend in Colorado School Library Staffing, 2000-02

Recent trends in library staffing for Colorado public schools are cause for concern. Changes in the numbers of school librarians and library aides between 2000 and 2002, and particularly their changing educational composition, suggest that school librarianship in Colorado is being de-professionalized. Because research links the presence and involvement of professional school librarians with higher CSAP test scores, this trend is an alarming one.

Net Loss in Number of School Librarians
Between 2000 and 2002…

  • There was a net loss of 14 school librarian positions.
  • While 17 additional librarians with bachelor’s degrees were added, 31 librarians with master’s degrees were lost.

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Children’s Summer Library Use

Children’s use of public libraries during the summer after kindergarten is affected by household socio-economic status (SES) and the availability of a neighborhood library, according to a new Issue Brief from the National Center for Education Statistics.2 Children from low SES households3 were less likely than other children to:

  • participate in reading events at libraries or bookstores;
  • visit parks, museums, zoos, and historic sites;
  • attend concerts or plays;
  • go on vacation; and
  • attend camp.

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National Averages Outstrip Colorado Public Librarian Salaries

Gains in librarian salaries at Colorado’s larger public libraries (i.e., those serving populations of 25,000 or more) have lagged behind salary gains for their counterparts nationally over the last two years. Colorado’s public librarians also earn less than the national average for some types of positions, according to the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual salary survey.

The ALA survey found librarian salaries nationwide gained 4.2 percent from 2001 to 2002 and 3.6 percent from 2002 to 2003. In Colorado, the average year-to-year gains for public librarians’ salaries were 1.1 percent in 2002 and 3.0 percent in 2003.

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The Colorado Advocacy Project

The Colorado Advocacy Project, Colorado’s @your library Campaign, is a very successful statewide advocacy campaign containing elements of public relations, marketing, and community relations to build visibility and support for the state’s libraries. Funded by LSTA and sponsored by the Colorado Association of Libraries, it has been active since 2002 and is scheduled for completion in October 2004 with 3 components:

  • The Initiative (Coach/Player) Project;
  • Public Relations/Marketing Training;
  • Statewide Promotion Project.

The Coach/Player Project matched mentor libraries with trainee libraries for year-long advice and support. The first year’s project had 13 participating coaches and 11 participating players. 100% of both coaches and players completed library advocacy projects.

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LRS is part of the Colorado State Library, a unit of the Colorado Department of Education. We design and conduct library research for library and education professionals, public officials, and the media to inform practices and assessment needs. We partner with the Library and Information Science program at University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education to provide research fellowships to current MLIS students.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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