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Public Library Statistics: How Colorado Ranks

In 1996, Colorado ranked in the top half of the states on most public library statistics. Three statistics on which the state ranked in the middle among the lowest are noteworthy:

  • Colorado was one of only a half dozen states in which public libraries received no regular income from state government. In every other state, equity of access to public library services is guaranteed by a reliable, annual program of state funding. Among the vast majority of states with such programs, the level of support averaged two dollars per capita.
  • Colorado ranks in the middle of the 50 states and D.C. on several statistics:
    • Colorado is 18th in staff per 25,000 served
    • Colorado is 19th in visits per capita
    • Colorado is 23rd in ILLS received per 1,000 served

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Smaller Secondary Schools Less Likely to Meet North Central Association Staffing Requirements for Library Media Programs

One of the few categories in which the North Central Association specifies quantitative requirements for middle and secondary schools is staffing. Among the categories of staffing included is library media.

The requirements are, by almost any definition, extremely modest: a half-time library media specialist in schools with enrollments of 1,000 and less, and a full-time specialist only in schools with enrollments exceeding 1,000. Statewide, 1 out of 3 Colorado middle and secondary schools does not meet these requirements.

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Almost 7 Million Americans “Unserved” by Public Libraries

According to 1996 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (with some corrections from a few state library agencies), 6,908,844 Americans in 24 states live beyond the legal service area of any public library—roughly the equivalent of the entire Washington, DC, or San Francisco metropolitan area. These individuals are “unserved,” as there is no public library legally responsible for meeting their needs for reading matter, information, and access to the “information superhighway.” Reasons for this situation, include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • In many U.S. counties, there are only municipal libraries, and no provision is made for countywide service that covers residents of unincorporated areas.
  • Some units of government (e.g., counties, cities, towns, townships) that are not part of larger units of service (e.g., library districts, county library systems) cannot afford to support libraries.
  • A few local governments have even closed public libraries due to fiscal problems.
  • Beyond such circumstances, which explain the actual absence of any public library service, some public libraries are so inadequate in terms of local support, staffing, hours of service, or the like, that they are not recognized by the state library agency as a public library.

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Public Library Salary Spending Compares Unfavorably with Average Teacher Pay

According to Public Library Standards for Colorado 1997, public libraries serving populations under 2,500 should have directors employed for a minimum of 20 hours per week, those serving 2,500 to 9,999, 30 hours per week, and those serving 10,000 and over, 40 hours per week. This standard implies that, in general, libraries should be open and staffed for such hours.

To estimate what staffing public libraries at such levels would cost—allowing for differences from one jurisdiction to another—the average salary for one public school teacher in the same area was used as a benchmark—indeed, a very conservative one.

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Technology Trends for Colorado School Library Media Programs, 1994-98

A first look at 1998 data on school library media (LM) programs in Colorado reveals some encouraging trends about the role of technology in those programs. From 1994 to 1998, the percentage of LM programs making various technologies available to their clients—both teachers and students—increased dramatically.

Highlights:

  • Since 1994, Internet access for students almost quadrupled. While only 1 in 6 LM programs provided Internet access for students in 1994, 4 out of 5 provide students access to the World Wide Web today.
  • The Access Colorado Library and Information Network (ACLIN), available in only 2 out of 5 schools in 1994, is now available to all schools that provide web access.
  • Computers with modems, local and district catalogs, and online database searching are also more common in 1998 than in 1994, as are “basic” technology items, such as touch-tone telephones, photocopiers, and fax machines.

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Creating Change in Challenging Times: Marketing Skills for School Library Media Specialists

During 1997, the Colorado Library Marketing Council sponsored a series of workshops to develop the marketing and customer service skills of school library media specialists and to encourage them to adopt “internal locus of control”—i.e., to understand that the status of their positions can be attributed largely to factors under their own control. Recently, having allowed an interval of 6 months to elapse since the last in the series of workshops, the Library Research Service conducted a follow-up survey of participants to assess the impact of these events. Twenty out of 25 questionnaires were returned, for an 80 percent response rate. The accompanying table (see the full report) presents the results of that survey, including the number and percentage of participants marking each response.

Answers to most of the questions indicate that the workshops were highly successful:

  • Virtually all of the responding participants (95 percent) indicate 1) that they are now more likely to attribute the status of their positions in their schools to factors they can control, 2) that they have integrated improved marketing and customer service skills into their jobs, and 3) that they have actually changed what they do based on their own market research projects.

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Library Media Specialists & Technology Linked to Higher CSAP Test Scores

In 1997, Colorado fourth graders were the state’s first public schoolchildren to be tested on reading via the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP). Average test scores for a stratified and weighted random sample of 67 (seven percent) of Colorado’s 908 elementary schools were combined with data about their library media programs to answer the following questions:

Are students likely to earn higher reading scores if:

  • their schools have state-endorsed library media specialists?
  • their school library media specialists are supported by aides?
  • their library media specialists play a vital instructional role, complementing the work of classroom teachers?

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After School Operations in Colorado Library Media Centers

The Library Research Service recently conducted a Fast Facts survey of Colorado library media centers (LMCs) to collect information about being open after regular school hours. LMCs that reported after school hours in the LRS annual survey were sent this survey (82 libraries). Fifty-six questionnaires (68 percent) were completed and returned.

It should come as no surprise that regular media center staff are working both normal school hours and after school, even occasionally volunteering their time.

  • 54 percent are library media aides,
  • 45 percent are CDE-endorsed school library media specialists, and
  • 29 percent are librarians with MLS.

After School Highlights

  • 91% staffed by regular staff
  • 64% of after-school hours paid by school districts
  • 44% of staff work additional hours for same hourly wage (the most frequent practice)
  • 14% of staff volunteer their time

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“De-Brucing” Colorado Public Library Income & Expenditures

Since passage of Amendment 1, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment, many public library districts and county libraries with dedicated mill levies have taken steps to exempt their income and expenditures from the restrictions imposed by that measure. In order to respond to many requests for data about this phenomenon, the Library Research Service surveyed all such libraries to learn what steps, if any, of this sort they have taken. Surveys were sent to 56 libraries in the state. Of the 43 surveys returned, 19 have taken no “de-Brucing” action since enactment of the TABOR amendment. Of the remaining 23—20 libraries reported a “win” at the ballot box between 1995 and 1997! Some of these had mixed results. For instance, Pine River LD reported a loss when requesting a mill levy increase, while receiving a “yes” from voters in its request to keep and spend all income indefinitely.

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The Role of Academic and Public Libraries in Distance Education

In October 1997, the National Center for Education Statistics released a statistical analysis report titled Distance Education in Higher Education Institutions (NCES 98-062). A few of the questions in this survey concerned the role of academic and public libraries in distance education. Three of these questions yielded especially interesting results.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Public libraries popular sites for delivery of distance education courses.
  • Library resources most often extended to distance learners from four-year institutions.
  • Lack of library resources perceived as a serious obstacle to starting or expanding programs.

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