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Participant Satisfaction With Computer Training Classes in Colorado’s Public Computer Centers

In September 2010, the Colorado State Library (CSL) secured a $3.3 million Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant including $2.3 million in federal funds, $754,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and $316,234 in matching and in-kind donations from local libraries, CSL, and community organizations. This grant funded 50 grantees to build or enhance Public Computer Centers (PCCs) in 88 high-need urban and rural communities with high poverty rates, ethnic diversity, low broadband penetration, and/or limited access to public computers.

“I needed to refresh my skills on Excel before I took a test for a promotion…[The instructor] showed me how to do charts and graphs and helped me with keyboard shortcuts.” -BTOP Class Participant

One of the key activities of the CSL BTOP grant is for PCCs to offer computer training classes to the public. Class topics include basic internet and computer use (email, internet searching, social networking), office skills (Microsoft Office, presentations), job seeking (resume basics, job search strategies), multimedia (photo editing, website design), and mobile computing (e-books, mobile devices).

A total of 57 PCCs offered 1,364 classes to 8,625 participants between March and December 2011. Of these PCCs, 26 (46%) administered a survey in their classes to receive feedback from participants. Between May and December 2011, 11,755 participants completed the survey, which contained questions about the class, as well as about participants’ previous experience with computers.

This Fast Facts, which is the second in a three-part series about the CSL BTOP project’s first year, highlights the results from these surveys.2

“I have used Craigslist before, but only to browse for buying or renting. Now I feel confident to create postings. I want to sell things and advertise tutoring and gardening services. Thanks for offering this class.” – BTOP Class Participant

Participant Satisfaction
More than 9 in 10 respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the instructor presented the information clearly, that they learned a valuable skill in the class, and that they would be able to use what they learned (see Chart 1).3Overall, respondents expressed satisfaction with the classes, with more than 95% strongly agreeing or agreeing that they would recommend the class to someone else.

Chart 1
PCC Class Participant Feedback

312_Chart 1

Class Level of Difficulty
Regarding the level of difficulty, 9 in 10 respondents (89%) indicated that their class was “just about right” (see Chart 2). The remaining 11% found their class to be either “too easy” or “too hard.”

 Chart 2
Class Level of Difficulty

312_Chart 2

Participant Level of Computer Experience
Prior to the class, close to two-thirds (61%) of the participants determined their level of computer experience to be either first timer or beginner (see Chart 3). The remaining 39% identified their level as either intermediate or advanced.

 Chart 3
Level of Experience with Computers Prior to Class

312_Chart 3

Class Difficulty by Level of Computer Experience
Most of the respondents who found their class to be too hard (83%) identified themselves as first timers or beginners (see Chart 4). Consistent with this data is that 6 in 10 respondents (62%) who rated the class as too easy possessed an intermediate or advanced level of experience with computers.

Chart 4
Class Difficulty by Level of Computer Experience

312_Chart 4

Learning about the Class
Results from the survey showed that 7 out of 10 respondents learned about the class from the library (staff, website, email, flyer) (see Chart 5). The remaining 30% learned about the class from a family member or friend, the community (banner, yard sign, flyer), newspaper, radio, or “other” sources (Workforce center, Denver Green Jobs, iCast, etc.).

“I’ve recommended these classes to my family and friends. Thank you for offering these classes.”
-BTOP Class Participant

 Chart 5
How Respondents Learned About the Class

312_Chart 5

Conclusion
The PCC class participant survey data demonstrates that Colorado libraries and PCCs are providing computer training classes where patrons are learning new technology skills that they value. Having free and reliable broadband internet access at PCCs empowers patrons across Colorado to use their newly learned skills to improve and enrich their own lives. As one participant shared, the class is “excellent in getting started—the rest is up to me.”

Colorado’s Public Computer Centers: Bridging the Great Digital Divide

In September 2010, the Colorado State Library (CSL) secured a $2.3 million Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The CSL BTOP grant, totaling $3.3 million, includes $754,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and $316,234 worth of matching and in-kind donations from local libraries, CSL, and community organizations. This Fast Facts, which is the first in a three-part series about the CSL BTOP project’s first year,4 summarizes the CSL BTOP project’s location, equipment, training, and usage data during its first year of implementation (March to December 2011).5

CSL BTOP Grant Goals:

  • Increase public access to high speed broadband services in high-need/low-income communities
  • Serve vulnerable populations (including the unemployed, underemployed, non-English speakers, seniors, and people with disabilities)
  • Support job search and career advancement
  • Increase digital literacy
  • Enhance access to libraries and computers through ADA compliance

Locations
The CSL BTOP grant funded 50 grantees to build or enhance Public Computer Centers (PCCs) in 88 high-need urban and rural communities in Colorado with high poverty rates, ethnic diversity, low broadband penetration, and/or limited access to public computers. The PCCs are located primarily in public libraries, and in a museum, town hall, general store, and other spaces in communities without libraries. In 2011, 54 of the PCCs held launches to publicize their services and to give community members the opportunity to test out and receive training on the new desktop computers, laptops, iPads, and tablets.

311_Image 1Equipment
Over the course of the CSL BTOP grant, the planned equipment purchases will total 1,293 computer devices, including 681 laptops, 59 tablets, 487 desktops, 66 ADA compliant stations, and other equipment for training and public use. By the end of 2011, more than four-fifths of the PCCs (83%) had purchased and installed their equipment for public use. Each grantee used its own discretion on how to allocate funds based on community needs. For example, the John C. Fremont Library in Florence, which serves the rural areas of Coal Creek, Rockvale, and Williamsburg, offers classes at a senior center and kids clubs via a mobile laptop lab. Likewise, the Lamar Public Library partners with community groups and brings their mobile PCC lab to City of Lamar offices, the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, and to outlying communities in rural areas of Prowers County. Another PCC, the Literacy Center at Delta County, purchased iPads for computer training and in-library checkout.

Training
The BTOP team at the Colorado State Library provides library staff with computer training and support to develop, market, and launch their PCCs. The BTOP team developed an extensive “Train the Technology Trainer” program for PCC staff and volunteers. In 2011, three full-time members of CSL’s BTOP team provided 470 hours of instruction (127 classes, workshops, webinars, and boot camps) to 2,883 technology trainers. The BTOP team received progressively higher ratings for these trainings over the course of 3 quarters (March to December 2011). More than 4 out of 5 participants (86%) rated the trainings overall as “excellent” or “above average” in Q2, and these ratings increased to 90% in Q3 and 92% in Q4. About 9 in 10 participants indicated that they would “definitely” or “probably” recommend the trainings to others in Q2 (89%) and Q3 (90%), and 94% did so in Q4.

In 2011, staff from 57 PCCs reported offering 1,364 computer training classes to community members (see Chart 1). These classes were attended by 8,625 participants over 2,744 hours of class. Close to two-thirds of the classes (60%) were about basic internet and computer use (email, internet searching). Classes also covered office skills (Microsoft Office, Quickbooks), job seeking (resume basics, job search strategies), multimedia (HTML, Photoshop), and “other” topics (ESL, GED, genealogy, language learning, grant seeking, benefits access, mobile device usage, etc.).

Chart 1
PCC Computer Training Classes, 2011

311_Chart 1

Open Access Usage
The PCCs also kept track of the use of computers during open access times. In 2011, they reported a total of 1.3 million of these types of uses (see Chart 2). Nine out of ten uses (89%) were unassisted, meaning that residents used the computers on their own. The remaining 11 percent included individual tutoring sessions in which users received assistance from PCC staff or volunteers. Of the assisted one-on-one sessions, most (92%) were unscheduled.

Chart 2
Computer Usage, 2011
Assisted and Unassisted
311_Chart 2

Conclusion
Sharon Morris, Director of Library Development and Innovation at the Colorado State Library and the BTOP Project Director, has described the PCC grants as a way for libraries “to re-invent the way they are serving their communities.”6 The 2011 BTOP project data demonstrates that through their PCCs, Colorado libraries are providing computer access and training throughout the state, improving accessibility, and helping residents to more fully participate in and benefit from using the internet. By providing public computers with free and reliable broadband internet access in libraries and other community support centers, PCCs promote small business development, improve job skills, enable lifelong learning, and connect Coloradans of all ages with family, local, and global communities.7

BTOP Workforce Efforts and Partnership

In September 2010, the Colorado State Library (CSL) secured a $3.3 million Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant including $2.3 million in federal funds, $754,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and $316,234 in matching and in-kind donations from local libraries, CSL, and community organizations. This grant funded 50 grantees to build or enhance Public Computer Centers (PCCs) in 88 high-need urban and rural communities with high poverty rates, ethnic diversity, low broadband penetration, and/or limited access to public computers.

This Fast Facts, which is the third in a three-part series about the CSL BTOP project’s first year, highlights the project’s workforce efforts, partnerships, and statewide initiatives that have focused on addressing critical workforce development issues in Colorado’s rural areas.8

Introduction
With many communities finding libraries to be their only source of free access to the internet, libraries are playing a central role in providing employment-seeking assistance to millions of job seekers affected by the economic downturn:

In Colorado, 56 percent of libraries are located in communities where the library is the only place to provide free access to computers and the internet.9

• In 2011, more than 90 percent of US public libraries reported that providing employment services is important to their communities.10
• Librarians themselves identified employment services to job-seekers as the most important public access technology service that they offer to their communities.11
• Almost half of the respondents (47%) to a 2010 workforce investment boards survey indicated that they had entered into partnerships with local libraries in order to deliver employment and training services.12

In Colorado, 92 percent of public libraries provide access to jobs databases and other job opportunity resources.13 More than 4 in 5 provide access to civil service exam materials, help patrons complete online job applications, and offer software and other resources to help patrons create resumes and other job-seeking materials.14

“Yesterday alone I helped three people format and upload resumes. Without the PCC, where would these people get assistance?” -PCC Staff Member

The CSL BTOP project has positioned Colorado’s libraries to effectively partner locally and regionally, while CSL staff have coordinated statewide efforts for public libraries to be instrumental in creating greater workforce development opportunities for Colorado’s job seekers.

1 PCC, 2 Success Stories
“A hearty congratulations to John Morris on his new employment as an assembler for Kelly Services at Covidien in Boulder. John’s been burning up the hours on our High Plains computers for 3 months. Persistence finally paid off. We’ll be having a mini celebration right here at 3 Coffee this FRIDAY, JANUARY 13, at 9am. Cake, balloons and funk music. All are welcome to stop by.”  Posted on 3 Coffee & Roastery’s Facebook page on January 9, 2012. 3 Coffee & Roastery is a High Plains Library District PCC location in Milliken, CO. (http://snurl.com/pcc-3cr-jm)
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation highlights the story of a 3 Coffee & Roastery PCC patron, Gene Jaramillo, in a video titled “Libraries: More Than Books.” According to Jaramillo, “the company I worked at, which I thought I would retire from, ended up closing after 18 years. So I was out looking for a job. I needed skills.” Jaramillo booked an appointment with the PCC Supervisor. “I was able to create my resume, fine tune my resume, and send my resume” and “because of skills that she helped me with, now I’ll have a job starting next week,” he commented. (http://youtu.be/4pzJEbL2tak)

Colorado’s Workforce Centers
Regional Workforce Centers are located in urban and more populated areas of Colorado. These workforce centers provide a variety of free services to assist both employers and job seekers, including access to online job listings, computers, and high-speed internet. Job seekers can obtain career counseling and training, while employers have access to worker recruitment services such as pre-screening, referrals, training reimbursements, and tax credits.

The Colorado Rural Workforce Consortium
The Colorado Rural Workforce Consortium (CRWC) is comprised of the Colorado Department of Labor and Colorado Workforce Centers and “was formed to meet the collective needs of Colorado’s rural communities relating to workforce vitality.”15 The CRWC consists of 11 workforce regions covering 52 rural counties in Colorado. However, 20 of these counties do not have a workforce center, and the consortium recognized that it needed to devise alternate solutions for providing services to them.16 With 83 public libraries located in the CRWC regions (38 of which are BTOP libraries), libraries were perfectly positioned to team up with the CRWC to help create and implement the Virtual Workforce Center at the Library.

Virtual Workforce Center at the Library
Virtual Workforce Center at the Library (VWFC) provides dedicated workforce stations at libraries with a virtual connection to the nearest Regional Workforce Center. This statewide partnership funded thirty rural libraries to receive equipment and software for computer workstations dedicated to career and economic development. The VWFCs are scheduled to “go live” in fall 2012. Many other partner libraries that are not receiving computer equipment are still benefitting by participating in VWFC training and accessing the VWFC’s YourWorkForceCenter.com portal, an online gateway for patrons who are looking for jobs, business owners who are seeking employees, and residents needing social services.

VWFCs are designed to bring many of the services found at regional workforce centers to employers and job seekers in remote and rural areas. Whereas many public access computers at libraries have a 30- to 60-minute limit per session, the dedicated VWFC workstations allow patrons to use the computers for the time necessary for completing online job applications.

By co-locating the library’s technology resources and the Workforce Center’s career development resources inside of the library’s physical space, VWFCs are able to provide patrons with enhanced access to computers, high-speed internet, and the YourWorkForceCenter.com portal, as well as assistance from Workforce Center staff and library staff—all without having to drive to a distant Regional Workforce Center.

Since some workstations will be equipped with a camera, microphone, and an ISDN video line, patrons will even be able to make appointments for virtual face-to-face counseling sessions with Workforce Center staff. There are plans for many VWFCs to offer training sessions for job seekers on creating resumes, preparing for job interviews, and much more. For those who live far from regional offices, the VWFCs are powerful and accessible resources for improving employment prospects.

BTOP Computer Training Classes
In 2011, BTOP sites offered 22 classes on business development and 93 classes on job seeking, including those for the VWFC program. As comments on class evaluations show, these computer training classes met the needs of a variety of participants, including job seekers looking to improve their resumes or perform better on job skills tests, as well as employed patrons looking to update or improve their job skills.

Comments from PCC Computer Training Class Participants
“This was great and the fact that it was free is the most amazing part. I have been at a disadvantage in not being proficient at the MS Office programs while looking for a new job and now I can add these courses to my resume.”

“Thank you very much!!! I am taking a test for the City and County tomorrow, and this class was very helpful. I would come back and access the resources available for future reference.”

“I used to be great with Excel, but haven’t used it since college. I’m starting a new job where I’ll need that knowledge and this was a great way to brush up on those skills.”

“I was thrilled about the helpful instruction of [PCC staff member]. She is a gem and I will be able to use these skills at my job. Thank you for providing this service.”

Conclusion
The Virtual Workforce Center at the Library initiative is a direct result of multiple state agencies partnering and working together toward the same goal to boost statewide economic recovery. Libraries provide a space where technology, trained staff, and equipment physically come together so that employers can find skilled workers and job-seekers can find meaningful employment. With their newly expanded role as career development centers, libraries are clearly full partners in the statewide initiative to power Colorado’s economic turnaround. As Jamie Hollier, BTOP Project Coordinator commented, “These computer centers are much more than just a computer and internet access. They are an education place, a gathering place. They fill a lot of roles, especially in rural Colorado. The [BTOP] program has been integral to giving us the access to resources and tools and training to help make sure that no one gets left behind.”17

“One of the women I talked to in class has been looking for work for a year and finding that every place she talked to requires an online application, but she had never used a computer before. Our class Monday was the first time she’d successfully navigated from one web page to another, and she’s excited about the Word class, because she’s never had a digital version of a resume and she can’t find work without one.” -PCC Staff Member

For more information about CSL’s BTOP project, visit http://coloradovirtuallibrary.org/btop/.

Challenged Materials in Colorado Public Libraries, 2011

In 2011, 60 challenges to materials were reported by 13 of Colorado’s 114 public libraries. The number of challenges was reported through the Colorado Public Library Annual Report, and library staff responded to a follow-up survey to provide details about these items, including the items’ formats, the reasons for the challenges, and the resulting outcomes.18 This information is tracked annually and is also reported to the American Library Association (ALA).19

ALA defines a challenge as an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.

Challenges over Time
2011 was a fairly typical year for the number of challenges reported, with 60 falling slightly below the 10-year average of 69 (see Chart 1).

310_Chart 1

Formats
Books were the most common type of item challenged (63%), followed by videos (28%). Only 1 Internet challenge (information about a library’s matching grant from the Gay and Lesbian Fund) was reported in 2011, marking a change from 2010, which saw Internet challenges rise and book challenges drop. In 2010, a number of requests to have materials unblocked from filtering software were reported; though this was expected to mark the beginning of a trend in rising challenges to computer resources, these challenges were largely absent in 2011. Two periodicals, 1 activity (a Dungeons and Dragons club), and 1 audiobook were also challenged in 2011 (see Chart 2).

310_Chart 2

Audience
Most of the items (77%) challenged were adult items. Just 9 were young adult (YA) items, and 5 were children’s items, numbers more or less consistent with previous years (see Chart 3).

310_Chart 3

Results of Challenges
One book was removed from Colorado public libraries in 2011. The title was The Two Babylons or Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife, and the basis for removal was that the book relies on faulty research and incorrect information and is also widely available online. Most items (83%) saw no change in status. Another 3 items were moved to a different section of the library; 1 was given new subtitles (the American subtitles apparently being less explicit than the Japanese version of the video); 4 others were either undecided at the time of reporting or not reported by the library; and 1 challenge was dropped by the patron (see Chart 4).

310_Chart 4

Reasons
More items (42%) were challenged based on a religious viewpoint than for any other reason in 2011. Sexual explicitness was the second most frequently cited reason, with 16 challenges. Other reasons for challenges are detailed in Table 1.20 This is the first time in 10 years that “religious viewpoint” has been among the top 3 reasons for challenges. Since 2002, the most common three reasons for challenges have been “sexually explicit” (the number-one challenge for 7 out of 10 years), “unsuited to age group,” and “offensive language.”

310_Table 1

For more information on challenges and intellectual freedom, visit:

Clearer Skies Ahead? Using Statistics from LibraryJobline.org to Gauge Changes in Colorado’s Library Job Climate

LibraryJobline.org, an online resource maintained by the Library Research Service (LRS) at the Colorado State Library, lists job postings from employers in Colorado and beyond.21 Library Jobline dates back to 2007, offering 5 years’ worth of statistics about Colorado’s library job climate.

An analysis of Library Jobline statistics over time, in conjunction with data gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the American Library Association (ALA), and Library Journal, indicates slight improvements to the library job climate in 2011. This Fast Facts addresses these improvements as they pertain to the number of job postings, full-time positions, and starting salaries, and provides current job seekers with reason to feel cautiously optimistic about their quests to find library jobs.

Quick Look: 2011 Library Jobline Statistics

  • Registered employers: 505
  • Registered job seekers: 1,663
  • Twitter followers (@LibraryJobline): 224
  • New job postings: 334

Subscriptions
In 2011, more than 500 employers and 1,600 job seekers—223 of whom joined in 2011—were registered with Library Jobline. Almost two-thirds (63%) of those job seekers were signed up to receive email notifications of new job postings, and another 656 job seekers (39%) had opted into a custom RSS feed to stay abreast of the latest library job opportunities. Library job seekers can also monitor Library Jobline postings via Twitter; in 2011, @LibraryJobline had accrued 224 followers.

Job Postings Continue to Rise
Since bottoming out in 2009, the number of annual Library Jobline postings rose 43 percent in 2011, from 233 to 334 (see Chart 1). March, May, and June saw the most job postings, or an average of 35 new jobs per month, whereas January, September, and November were the worst months for job seekers, with an average of only 19 new postings per month. As compared to previous years, the monthly average of 26 postings per month is the highest since 2008, which saw an average of 35 new jobs per month.

309_Chart 1

The number of times that Library Jobline postings were viewed overall decreased slightly in 2011, from an all-time high of 728,024 in 2010 to 651,599—a difference of 10 percent (see Chart 2). In addition, the number of views per job posting also dropped by almost 30 percent, from an average of 2,757 in 2010 to 1,951 in 2011. While this shift could signify a healthier job market, in which fewer people are looking for open positions, it might also be attributed to the rise in the number of Library Jobline users who receive news about available positions via customized emails, RSS feed, or Twitter, rather than by accessing those postings directly from LibraryJobline.org.

309_Chart 2*No job view data is available for 2007.

Requirements and Preferences
Across all 2011 Library Jobline postings, one third (33%) required applicants to have an ALA-accredited Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree or Master of Library Science (MLS) degree. Another 12 percent of jobs preferred candidates who had an MLIS or MLS degree. The remaining 54 percent of job postings did not require an MLIS or MLS degree.

Entry-level library job seekers may be relieved to know that in 2011, only 1 in 4 Library Jobline postings specifically required 1 or more years of library experience, and only 1 in 5 stated experience as a preference. More than 80 percent of employers did not require professional-level library experience, and 11 percent listed professional-level experience as a preference. Just 1 in 10 postings (38 in total) required 1 or more years of supervisory experience, while another 11 percent preferred it.

More than one-fifth (22%) of all 2011 postings gave preference to candidates with Spanish-language skills, and 2 percent made Spanish a requirement.

Full-Time and Permanent Postings
While just over half (53%) of job postings in 2010 were full-time positions, nearly 62 percent of 2011 postings to Library Jobline were for 40-hour-per-week positions. Only 21 postings, a mere 6 percent, were for temporary positions.

2011’s Hot Jobs

These LibraryJobline.org postings were viewed more than any others in 2011:

  • 5,190 views: Librarian, Colorado Heights University. Part-time, starting salary $15-20/hour, MLIS not required
  • 3,967 views: Manager of Library Services, The Children’s Hospital. Full-time, starting salary not specified, MLIS not required
  •  3,067 views: Library manager, Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Full-time, starting salary not specified, MLIS required

Starting Salaries
In 2011, the average starting salary for professional positions was $24 per hour, which was equal to the starting salary for professional positions in 2010, but still down from the $24.50 average in 2009 (see Chart 3). Wages for positions which did not require an MLIS continued to climb for the third year in a row.

309_Chart 3

Related National Data
In 2010, the median annual wage for a librarian, according to BLS,22was $54,500 annually, or an hourly rate of $26.50. Whereas data from the 2010 ALA-APA Salary Survey23 (the most recent year available) shows an average starting salary of $48,317 annually, or $23.23 per hour. For recent LIS graduates—notably not all librarians—Library Journal’s “Placements & Salaries Survey 2011”24 reports an average starting salary of $42,566, or $20.46 per hour. Although these data points are valuable in evaluating current and potential salaries for librarian positions, caution should be exercised in comparing them to each other or to Library Jobline data, as they represent different data sets and geographic areas.

Conclusion
Data collected from Library Jobline shows modest improvement in 2011 for Colorado’s library job market, as marked by an increase in job postings. Starting salaries for positions that required an MLS/MLIS remained stable, and they improved slightly for those jobs that did not require an MLIS. While restoring hope for both library job seekers and employers, this information demonstrates that despite some signs of recovery the job market has not fully recuperated.

School Librarian Numbers Decline from 2004-2005 to 2010-2011

As part of the Common Core of Data (CCD) program, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) releases a report each year on public elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. that includes staffing and student enrollment numbers.25 In 2004, these reports began providing the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) public school librarians nationwide and for each state.

NCES (http://nces.ed.gov/) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education.

The definition of a “librarian” used by NCES is specific to the CCD collection, and is therefore the one that applies to the data presented in this Fast Facts. Notably, this definition does not include education or licensure requirements, i.e., a librarian does not necessarily have a master’s degree, a school library endorsement, or other library certification. The CCD defines a librarian or media specialist as:

A professional staff member or supervisor [as opposed to support staff] assigned specific duties and school time for professional library services activities. These include selecting, acquiring, preparing, cataloging, and circulating books and other printed materials; planning the use of the library by students, teachers, and instructional staff; and guiding individuals in the use of library books and materials maintained separately or as a part of an instructional materials center.

Librarians are categorized as “instructional and student support,” a group which also includes instructional aides, instructional coordinators and supervisors, guidance counselors/directors, other library support, and student support services staff. All together, this group represented 15 percent of public school FTEs in 2010-11.

The number of public school librarians (based on the definition above) nationwide in the 2010-11 school year according to NCES was 50,300, representing 0.8 percent of all FTE staff for public schools. The number of public school librarians in Colorado was 773, accounting for 0.7 percent of all Colorado FTE public school staff. (Not to be confused with the number of endorsed public school librarians, of which Colorado had 489 in 2010-11, based on Colorado Department of Education staffing data.)

Both the state and national numbers of school librarians have steadily declined since the 2007-08 school year, when the total number nationwide was 54,385 and Colorado’s number was 851. This decline marks a contrast from the relatively stable staffing period of 2004 to 2007. The exact figures for each year since 2004 are shown in Charts 1 and 2.

Chart 1
Total Public School Librarians
United States, 2004-2011 308_Chart 1

 Chart 2
Total Public School Librarians
Colorado, 2004-2011
308_Chart 2

While the number of librarians decreased from 2007 to 2011, the number of students in schools rose. From the 2007-08 to the 2010-11 school year, the total number of public school students increased by 2 percent nationwide (from 48,515,020 to 49,484,181), while the number of librarians decreased by 8 percent. In Colorado, the gap is more pronounced, as the total number of students rose by 5 percent over this 4-year period (from 801,867 to 843,316) while the number of school librarians fell by 9 percent.

This is a disturbing trend, as research over several decades has linked school librarians with student achievement. With fewer librarians employed in this sector—and more students—school librarians’ efforts will likely become diluted, thus limiting their ability to help students.

Additional information about school librarians’ impact on student achievement can be found on LRS’s School Library Impact Studies web page at http://www.lrs.org/impact.php, as well as in the Scholastic report School Libraries Work! (http://www.scholastic.com/content/collateral_resources/pdf/s/slw3_2008.pdf).

ALA-MLS Librarian Staffing Levels in Colorado and U.S. Public Libraries

Among numerous other statistics, both the Colorado Public Library Annual Report (PLAR) and the Public Libraries Survey (PLS), a national report published by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), gather and publish information about the number of staff, librarians, and ALA-MLS librarians working in public libraries in the state and the nation.

PLS & PLAR
Personnel Categories

Librarians:
Persons with the title of librarian who do paid work that usually requires professional training and skill in the theoretical or scientific aspects of library work, or both, as distinct from its mechanical or clerical aspect.
ALA-MLS Librarian: Librarians with master’s degrees from programs of library and information studies accredited by the American Library Association.
All Other Paid Staff: This includes all other FTE employees paid from the reporting unit budget.

Colorado Library Staffing
According to the 2010 PLAR,26 approximately 59 percent of Colorado’s public library jurisdictions employ at least 1 person with an ALA-MLS degree.27 Of the 67 libraries that reported employing an ALA-MLS librarian, 4 reported having less than 1 full-time ALA-MLS position.

As measured in full-time equivalents (FTEs), more than 6 out of 10 librarian positions in Colorado’s public libraries are staffed by ALA-MLS librarians (63%), and nearly 1 in 5 of all staff positions (19%) (see Chart 1).28 Looking back over time, these figures have remained relatively stable; on average, since 2005, ALA-MLS-certified librarians represented 63 percent of FTE librarians working in public libraries, and just under 19 percent of the public library workforce in general. Thus, it seems that external forces, such as the recession, have had little bearing on the proportion of ALA-MLS librarians versus non ALA-MLS librarians working in Colorado’s public libraries. However, the data does not shed light on the issue of part-time versus full-time positions and their relative rise or fall.

307_Chart 1

National Library Staffing
The 2009 PLS data published by IMLS reported that 4,464 of 9,225 U.S. public libraries had ALA-MLS librarians.29 Thus, less than half of all public libraries in the United States employ at least 1 ALA-MLS librarian (48%). Colorado bests this average, but ranks only 24th nationally, falling behind other states in which greater percentages of public libraries employ ALA-MLS librarians.

Also according to the PLS data, U.S. public libraries employed more than 144,261 FTE staff, 48,015 of whom were classified as librarians (33%) and 96,247 as other paid staff (67%) (see Chart 2).30 Nearly 7 out of 10 librarians had an ALA-MLS degree (69%) and approximately 1 in 5 of all staff had these credentials (23%).
307_Chart 2In terms of the percentage of public libraries employing ALA-MLS librarians, and also the ratio of ALA-MLS librarians to other staff, Colorado is more-or-less on par with national trends. Of course, whether a library can hire ALA-MLS librarians is largely a matter of economics, location, the availability of accredited applicants, and other factors. Yet, the distribution of librarians with and without ALA-MLS degrees is an issue critical to libraries and the profession of librarianship.

Data Sources
The Public Library Annual Report (PLAR) is a survey of all public libraries in Colorado. Visit LRS.org to obtain PLAR data and to read more Fast Facts about workforce trends in Colorado libraries.
Public Libraries Survey (PLS) data can be found on the IMLS website at: http://www.imls.gov/research/default.aspx.

What is the Value of an MLIS to You?

In May 2011, librarians, library staff, and library school students weighed in on the LRS 60-Second Survey The Value of an MLIS Degree to You. Almost 2,500 people from every state and 15 countries, representing all library types, responded. Around 1,300 respondents left comments, sharing additional thoughts on the value of the MLIS degree today.

What is a 60-Second Survey?
In the style of an online readers’ poll, LRS’s 60-Second Surveys are short and to the point. Narrow by intent, these surveys capture the perceptions of respondents on a single timely topic. The online surveys are publicized through local, regional, and national library listservs, blogs, etc., and as a result most respondents have some connection to the library profession.

When asked if they thought their MLIS degree was/is worth the time and money invested in it, 4 in 5 respondents (79%) strongly agreed or agreed that their degree was worth the investment (see Chart 1). Eleven percent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, and 10 percent were “neutral.”

Chart 1
My MLIS Degree Was/Is Worth the Time and
Money Invested in It
306_Chart 1

Respondents who have had their MLIS degree the longest were more likely to indicate that the time and money invested in the MLIS was worth it (see Chart 2). Nine out of 10 (92%) respondents who have had their MLIS for 16+ years strongly agreed or agreed that the degree was worth the investment. Almost 90 percent of respondents who have had their degrees for 11-15 years strongly agreed or agreed that the investment in the MLIS degree was worth it, as did 80 percent of respondents who have had their degrees for 6-10 years. While around two-thirds of newer professionals felt that their investment in the degree was worthwhile, they were less likely to strongly agree and were more likely to be neutral or disagree. Respondents who completed their degree 1-5 years ago were the most likely to indicate that the degree was not worth the time and money they invested in it.

306_Chart 2

Survey respondents also indicated whether or not they would recommend pursuing an MLIS degree if asked today. Almost two-thirds of respondents (63%) would recommend pursuing the MLIS degree, with one-fourth of respondents indicating they would “highly recommend” the degree (see Chart 3). Close to 1 in 6 respondents would not recommend pursuing the degree, and 7 percent would actively dissuade others from pursuing it. Around 14 percent of the respondents said that they were not sure if they would recommend the degree if asked.
306_Chart 3

Comment Analysis
An analysis of respondents’ comments offered insights into why respondents would or would not recommend the MLIS degree. Comments were grouped into the following 6 categories and could be coded in more than 1 category (see Chart 5):

  • MLIS content: Any reference to MLIS (or equivalent) degree programs and curriculum, including knowledge and skills and/or the need to supplement with additional degrees or experience.
  • Career advancement: Any reference to the ability to advance in a library career, including the degree being a requirement.
  • Job market: Any reference to the availability of professional positions for MLIS holders and the ease or difficulty in obtaining those positions.
  • Personal financial impact: Any reference to the cost of the degree and the salaries earned post-degree.
  • Intrinsic value: Any reference to personal values and beliefs related to working in the profession.
  • Perception of the profession: Any reference to the public’s or government/policy makers’ view and/or appreciation of librarianship.

306_Chart 5

Comments were also coded as positive, negative, or neutral/mixed in tone (see Chart 6). Respondents commented predominantly negatively on the job market, the cost of the degree, and the perception of the profession, but they were more upbeat about the degree’s intrinsic value and possibilities for career advancement. Comments relating to MLIS content were the most ambivalent in tone.
306_Chart 6

“Even before the current economic crash, many employers were cutting professional-level jobs, either replacing them with lower-qualified positions or not replacing them at all, due to the widespread perceptions that the existence of the internet and ebooks make both libraries and librarians unneeded and unwanted.” – Survey Respondent
“The field is just too saturated, and only those who can afford the greatest flexibility in time, money, and geography can get great jobs. I would hope that anyone wishing to pursue the degree, which I do love, would be able to hear that kind of information transparently… just so they know.” – Survey Respondent
“An MLIS is only valuable if it provides flexibility for today’s uncertain job market. Also, I think an MLIS degree is less valuable than it was years ago because the job market has been flooded with too many program graduates, especially since the programs can be done online, anyone anywhere can do it and you don’t have to move to a library school.” – Survey Respondent

Conclusion
The Value of an MLIS to You 60-second survey showed that a majority of respondents would both recommend the degree to others today (63%) and agree that the MLIS is worth the investment of time and money (79%). While a sizeable chunk of respondents would be reluctant to recommend the degree or to say that the MLIS retains its value today, their comments show that any hesitations about recommending the degree stem largely from a weak job market, the financial burden of education, concerns about the content and delivery of LIS curriculum, and a generally negative perception of the profession by the public. Yet, comments about the intrinsic, non-monetary awards of the librarianship, and about opportunities for career advancement, compensate for these drawbacks, especially for those who have had their degrees for more than 15 years. As 1 survey respondent articulated: “Every day I go to work excited about what I do, whether it’s doing story time, visiting classes, doing readers advisory for our patrons or teaching classes to the staff and public, I feel like what I do matters to the quality of life of our individual patrons and to the vibrancy of our community.”

“The degree itself is only half the opportunity. You must also know deeply, and be able to articulate clearly, why you pursued it and what libraries actually mean to you and to society.” -Survey Respondent

For a more detailed analysis of this survey and respondents’ comments, as well as a comparison to LRS’s 2008 Value of an MLIS survey, see the Closer Look Report at: http://www.lrs.org/documents/closer_look/MLIS_Value_Closer_Look_Report.pdf.

“Great Service!” Coloradans Embrace AskColorado and AskAcademic

AskColorado (www.askcolorado.org), a statewide virtual reference service, was launched on September 2, 2003. Colorado libraries joined the cooperative as members to provide 24/7 chat reference service to Coloradans. Over the years, the cooperative honed in on 3 essential and high-use entry-points for patrons: K-12, General, and Academic. These entry points remain today. In 2008 the cooperative’s academic libraries voted to accept academic members from outside the state of Colorado; and in 2010, the academic queue was re-branded as AskAcademic and a separate website was launched (www.askacademic.org). AskColorado and AskAcademic are funded with contributions coming directly from the member libraries and federal funds provided by the Colorado State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act.

“This was my first time using the website. I LOVE IT! The librarian was very nice and helpful. I will definitely return.” – AskColorado User

Though AskColorado as a whole was previously evaluated by the Library Research Service (LRS), 2011 marks the first year LRS has evaluated AskAcademic as a separate entry point. This Fast Facts presents the results of the AskColorado and AskAcademic customer exit surveys that were administered to almost 1,300 people (1,091 AskColorado users and 206 AskAcademic users) between April and October 2011.31

AskColorado User Satisfaction
Responses show that the majority of AskColorado users are pleased with the service and are likely to be repeat users (see Chart 1). Four out of 5 users (80%) rated AskColorado librarians as “very helpful” or “helpful,” and 6 out of 7 users (85%) said that they would be “very likely” or “likely” to use the service again. Responses to the question “To what extent are you satisfied with the answer(s) to your question(s)?” were similarly positive: More than three-fourths (77%) of AskColorado users were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the answers they received. Compared with previous evaluations of AskColorado, in 2011 the service received the highest ratings yet on the questions of librarian helpfulness, future use, and overall satisfaction.
305_Chart 1

AskAcademic User Satisfaction
Satisfaction was even higher among AskAcademic users. Nearly 9 in 10 AskAcademic survey respondents indicated that the librarians who assisted them were either very helpful or helpful (89%), and most (86%) were either very satisfied or satisfied with the answers they received to their questions. Answers to a question about the likelihood of using AskAcademic again were even more enthusiastic, with 94 percent of respondents saying that they were “very likely” or “likely” to utilize the service again (see Chart 2).

“I was a little uncomfortable about using the library because I haven’t been in school for over twenty years, but the assistance I received today eased my fears and made it into [an] enjoyable experience. I am so glad for the library and now not only do I know how to use it I welcome it. Thank you!” – AskAcademic User

305_Chart 2

Outcomes
The surveys also asked respondents about what they achieved by using the service. Respondents could select multiple answers to this question. The most popular outcomes for both services were to “identify a new source of information to search” (31%), “obtain a specific fact or document” (30%), and “do research for homework for a school project” (30%) (see Chart 3).
305_Chart 3

*“Other” responses included assistance with job searches, e-readers, and other library services.

In addition, comments from AskColorado and AskAcademic users show that these virtual reference services complement and enhance traditional library services, enabling users to speak with a librarian late at night or to fill in the gaps caused by closures and reduced hours. In all 5 years of AskColorado evaluations, “Learned how the library can help me” has been a top outcome. Respondents may even use the services to gauge whether a trip to the library is worth their time. For example, 1 user commented: “This feature showed me how I might find info at the library, making it worth a trip downtown on a Saturday. LOVED this.”

Conclusion
Survey data gathered from 2004 to the present shows that Coloradans are consistently and increasingly pleased with the virtual reference service AskColorado. In its first year of evaluation, AskAcademic performed similarly well. Respondents’ comments further underscored the value users place on these services: “[The AskColorado librarian] did her best with a difficult research problem and found information in a few minutes that took me months!” concluded one user.

A Brief Look at Librarian Salaries in U.S. and Public Libraries

The 2010 Public Library Annual Report (PLAR) produced by the Library Research Service and the 2010 ALA-APA Salary Survey published by the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association both provide windows into the compensation earned by library professionals. Both the PLAR and the ALA-APA Salary Survey collect and publish salary data about similar library positions (see below), and classify libraries by size according to the same guidelines.32 Yet, the 2 reports vary significantly in other respects. The ALA-APA Salary Survey draws data from a sample of libraries nationally, and reports this information at the national, regional, and state levels, whereas the PLAR takes its data from a census of Colorado public libraries. Despite these differences, looking at the 2 reports side-by-side yields insights about the spectrum of salaries for public library professionals in Colorado and nationally.

The ALA-APA Salary Survey is a national survey conducted to ensure that librarians, and those who hire librarians, have accurate and timely salary data. Information about the methodology, as well as additional data and findings, can be found in the 2010 ALA-APA Salary Survey available at: http://www.alastore.ala.org/.The LRS survey data from the 2010 Public Library Annual Report data may be accessed in its entirety at www.LRS.org.

The 2010 ALA-APA Salary Survey
Comparing national data averages, librarians in medium and large libraries make less than librarians in very large libraries, but the difference is fairly small for non-supervising librarians, managers/supervisors, and department heads (see Chart 1). There is a difference of less than 15 percent between the medium and very large libraries within these job categories. For example, managers/supervisors in very large libraries make 8 percent more than managers in medium libraries.  However, for assistant directors and directors the variance is much greater, with directors making two-thirds more in very large public libraries than in medium libraries (68%).

Library Position Definitions
Non-Supervising Librarians: Librarians who do not supervise.
Manager/Supervisor: Individuals who supervise staff in any part of the library but do not supervise librarians with MLS degrees.
Department Heads, Coordinators, Senior Managers: Individuals who supervise one or more librarians with MLS degrees.
Associate Directors: Individuals who report to the Director and manage major aspects of the library operation.
Directors: Chief Officers of libraries or library systems.
304_Chart 1

The 2010 Colorado Public Library Annual Report (PLAR)
Unlike the ALA-APA survey, the PLAR gathers the high and low salaries for non-supervising librarians, managers/supervisors, department heads, and associate directors from all public libraries in Colorado, with 3 very large, 9 large, and 14 medium public libraries reporting data. (Note that directors’ salaries are represented by only 1 figure per library, not a range.)

Several patterns emerge from this data (see Chart 2). For one, the differences between low and high salaries, across all positions, are more drastic in very large public libraries than in medium and large public libraries. For example, in medium public libraries, high-end salaries for managers/supervisors are 30 percent higher than low-end salaries, and in large public libraries, high-end salaries for managers/supervisors are 36 percent more than low-end salaries, whereas in very large public libraries, this difference is the most extreme, with managers/supervisors at the high-end of the scale earning more than twice as much as non-supervising librarians.

Comparing professional salaries in medium, large, and very large public libraries across Colorado, pay rates in very large libraries generally trump those in medium and large libraries. Yet, this trend is not true of low-end salaries for librarians and managers/supervisors, who tend to earn more in medium and large public libraries than in very large public libraries.

304_Chart 2

Conclusion
Despite obvious differences between the PLAR and ALA-APA Salary survey data, some comparisons between the two are inevitable. These show that, on average, directors in Colorado tend to make less than directors nationally. Salaries for other library positions in Colorado are more evenly matched to the national averages, with the mean salaries for the nation generally falling between the average high and low salaries in Colorado. The 2010 PLAR and ALA-APA Salary Survey data also show that in Colorado and across the nation, library professionals in very large and large public libraries tend to earn more than their peers in medium public libraries.

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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.

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