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No Increase in Number of School Librarians in Colorado

Results from the 2002 Colorado School Library Survey show no increase in the number of endorsed school librarians serving Colorado children. This is disappointing in light of the study How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards (Colorado, 2000) which found that strong school libraries staffed by endorsed and licensed school librarians contribute to measurable improvement in student achievement.

The 2002 survey did have good news about how school library staff is spending time. An important finding from the above-mentioned study was that test scores rise when school librarians and teachers work together. This year’s survey shows that school library staff are working collaboratively with classroom teachers and administrators at all grade levels.

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Older Patrons Rely on Internet Access & Technology Assistance Provided by Colorado Public Libraries

Public libraries are striving to meet the growing technical needs of Colorado pensioners. Providing opportunities for equal participation of all citizens in the information society decreases the disadvantages in day-to-day uses (i.e., online banking, news, government and medical information) that technology “have-nots” face. Sometimes referred to as a “gulf” rather than a “divide” when it comes to residents 55 and older, these seasoned thinkers are taking advantage of equipment and technical support available in public libraries.

  • Colorado’s older patrons rely on Internet access through public library terminals more than any other age group. Half (50%) of respondents age 55 and older indicated having no other Internet access.
  • Over half of the patrons 55 and older (53%) use public library terminals to access the Internet more than once a week.
  • People 55 and older are least likely to teach themselves new technology skills at library computers. They are more likely to learn new skills with staff assistance and through library courses than any other age group.

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Public Libraries and Adult Literacy

Adult literacy levels correlate to employment and wages. The National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) done in 1992 by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that literacy proficiency is strongly related to levels of formal schooling. In general, literacy proficiency is lowest for individuals who have not graduated from high school rising to highest for individuals with postsecondary schooling. Individuals with higher literacy levels are more likely to be employed, work more weeks in a year, and earn higher wages than those with lower literacy levels.

The United States 2000 Census found that 13 percent of the Colorado population 25 years of age and older had not graduated from high school. This is an improvement over 1990 when the census found that 15.6 percent of people age 25 and over living in Colorado had not finished high school, but still represents a large number of adults (see Table 1 in full report).

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Kids & Computers

The ““digital divide”” is a social phenomenon created by the social obstacles that limit access to computer technology and digital resources. Providing access to this technology and these resources are important parts of public library service in the 21st century.

In March 2002, the Library Research Service conducted a survey of users of Internet computers in Colorado public libraries. Of 1,856 responding public library Internet users from throughout the state, 164 were younger than 18. We found that young people are engaged in wide and frequent use of this technology; that they often serve as teachers of technology skills to adults and peers; and that public libraries help to bridge the “”digital divide”” for Colorado’’s youth.

Highlights
Colorado library patrons younger than 18 indicated that…

  • 15 percent of kids who use library Internet computers report no other access to the Internet.
  • Over three-quarters of these young Internet users were visiting libraries because of the access to technology.

Colorado library Internet users older than 18 indicated that…

  • In many instances, kids were their primary source of learning new technology skills.

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One Out of Four Colorado Public Schools Has No Librarian

The latest data on libraries in Colorado public schools indicates that endorsed, professionally-trained school librarians are not available to students in all schools.

  • More than 25 percent of the state’s public schools have no librarian at all.
  • The shortage of school librarians is especially acute in elementary and combined schools. Almost 30 percent of elementary schools and almost 40 percent of combined schools (e.g., junior/senior highs, K-12 schools) report no librarian.

The numbers are even higher for schools with librarians on only a part-time basis (less than 20 or 30 hours per week).

  • One-third of all schools are staffed with librarians less than 20 hours per week, and over 36 percent, less than 30 hours per week.
  • Of elementary schools, more than 37 percent have librarians on staff less than 20 hours per week, and over 39 percent, less than 30 hours per week.
  • The majority of combined schools have no or only part-time librarians. More than half report librarian staffing of less than 20 hours per week, and almost 58 percent, less than 30 hours per week.

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Half of Colorado School Library Books More Than 15 Years Old

A lot has happened in the world since 1986:

  • DNA was first used to convict criminals (1987).
  • Pan Am flight 103 was bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland (1988).
  • The Berlin Wall fell (1989).
  • Lech Walesa became President of Poland, Nelson Mandela was freed, and Iraq invaded Kuwait (1990).
  • The Soviet Union collapsed (1991).
  • Riots in Los Angeles followed the Rodney King verdict (1992).
  • The World Trade Center was bombed—the first time (1993).
  • The Channel Tunnel linked Britain and Europe (1994).
  • The Oklahoma City federal building was bombed (1995).
  • Mad Cow disease hit Britain (1996).
  • A sheep was cloned (1997).
  • President Clinton was impeached (1998).
  • Throughout much of the European Community, the Euro became the new currency (1999).
  • Every personal computer in the world did not crash due to the dreaded “Y2K bug” (2000).

What do these events have in common besides happening since 1986? Public school students will not learn about them from half of the books in Colorado school libraries. Why? Because those books have copyright dates of 1986 or earlier. (In other words, 1986 is the median for average copyright year.) The average copyright date for school library books is 1987.

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Book Displays Increase Fiction Circulation over 90%, Non-fiction Circulation 25%

One of the most visible differences between bookstores and libraries is the manner in which books are presented to the public. At bookstores, it is more common to find books displayed, cover facing out, while in libraries, books are usually shelved so that only the spine is readily visible. More and more public libraries, however, are adopting the practice of displaying books as bookstores do. What difference does this make to a library’s circulation statistics?

At Lafayette Public Library, Michele Seipp, Director, and Sandra Lindberg, Coordinator of Information Services, asked this question. Library managers assumed that patrons like to browse and will examine books on display, but they had no hard evidence of that. Likewise, they did not know if it mattered what type of books were on display (i.e., fiction, non-fiction). Because of the inconvenience involved in having displayed books out of place, library managers wanted to know whether the assumed increased usage was worth the need to hunt for books that aren’t “on the shelf” where they are “supposed to be.” Accordingly, during the first three months of 2002, Lindberg managed a research project to investigate these issues.

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Colorado Public Libraries Outpace National Trend on Circulation per Capita,1988-2000

Colorado residents check out books and other items from public libraries at a higher rate than Americans in general. While the national trend has increased relatively modestly, from about 5.0 to 6.5 items per resident between 1988 and 2000, circulation per capita for public libraries in Colorado has nearly doubled, from about 5.0 to 9.5 (see Table 1 in full report).

What factors influence the varying levels of public library usage from state to state? Both the level of educational attainment among the adult population and the level of spending on new library books and other materials seem likely explanations. In fact, almost two-thirds of the variation in circulation per capita (64%) is explained by collection expenditures per capita (see Table 2 in full report). Educational attainment follows a distant second, explaining only another 14 percent of the variation in circulation per capita by state.

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Earnings of Library Staff in the Mountain West Low Compared to Workers in Similar Jobs

“Nobody goes into library science to make money.” Nobody knows the truth of this truism better than a library staff member on payday.

Professional librarians are required to earn master’s degrees in library and information science. Yet, librarians earn much less than many others in professional and technical fields that do not require such high educational qualifications (e.g., purchasing agents, elementary and secondary school teachers, managers of service organizations). Consider the average hourly earnings of those in some of the other professional and technical fields most closely akin to librarianship (see Table 1 in full report).

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Managers’ Salaries for Colorado’s Largest Public Libraries Fail to Keep Pace with Regional, National Trends

According to the ALA Survey of Librarian Salaries 2001, the status of compensation for library personnel in Colorado is mixed.

  • The salaries paid to senior management (i.e., director, deputy/associate/assistant director, department head) of the state’s largest libraries (i.e., serving 100,000 or more) are consistently lower than the norms for the West/Southwest region and the nation as a whole. The greatest deficiency is a gap of more than $7,000 between deputy/associate/assistant directors in Colorado ($65,073) and their regional peers ($72,133).
  • By contrast, directors and their most immediate subordinates for the state’s medium-sized public libraries earn, on the average, $6,000 to $12,000 more than their counterparts elsewhere in the nation. This competitive edge does not extend to department heads for those libraries; they earn almost $4,000 less than their regional peers.

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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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