Academic

The U.S. Labor Market for Library Workers, 2002-12

Librarian retirements are at what some believe to be an all-time high. Many in the field are also concerned about the apparent extent to which library jobs are being restructured and, sometimes, eliminated. In this seemingly unstable climate, several questions come to mind:

  • How many jobs are there for library workers generally—and librarians in particular?
  • How many of those jobs will be vacated in the foreseeable future?
  • How many library jobs will be created or lost?
  • Are there enough people to fill the library positions that will be available?
  • How well (or poorly) are these jobs compensated?

Data that can help decision-makers begin to address these questions are available in Occupational Employment, Training, and Earnings Data accessible via the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. (See http://data.bls.gov/oep/noeted/empoptd.jsp.)

BLS defines 3 library occupations—librarian, library technician, and library assistant (clerical). For definitions of these occupations, see the full report.

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AskColorado’s First Year Online

AskColorado, a statewide virtual reference service, was launched on September 2, 2003. The service, available for both English and Spanish-speaking patrons, is staffed by over 200 library personnel from all types of libraries throughout the state. AskColorado is funded through a combination of local contributions from Colorado libraries, federal funds provided by the Colorado State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), and state general funds allocated to the State Library. Available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at http://www.askcolorado.org/, the librarians at AskColorado answered, on average, over 2,000 questions a month during the service’s first year of operation. The service’s usage figures have continued to increase. During the first two months of 2005 an average of over 5,000 questions were answered per month, over half of them from K-12 students.

AskColorado Highlights

  • Over 2,000 reference questions were answered per month (on average) during AskColorado’s first year online.
  • In early 2005, over 6,000 questions were answered during a single month.
  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents found the service to be “helpful” or “very helpful.”
  • Well over half of respondents under age 18 (59%) and aged 18-24 (71%) used AskColorado to do research for homework or another school project.

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Librarianship in Colorado Academic Libraries

Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado, a recent study conducted by the LRS, asked 1,241 respondents from around the state about their jobs, their libraries, and their career plans. This issue of Fast Facts examines the data provided by the 91 academic librarian respondents—defined as those having a Master of Library Science degree (MLS) or equivalent and working in a Colorado college or university library.

Highlights from Academic Librarian Respondents

  • More than 1 in 3 were under 45.
  • One in 3 have more than 20 years experience working in a library.
  • Two in 3 worked or volunteered in a library or school prior to pursuing a library degree.
  • More than 4 in 5 indicated they had served in a professional leadership role(s) in the last five years.
  • More than half said service to others and/or intellectual challenge made librarianship an attractive profession.
  • Nine in 10 cited “low financial compensation” as a factor discouraging potential librarians.
  • Almost 1 in 2 indicated that salaries or benefits had been frozen or cut at their workplace in the last year.

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Hourly Wages of Colorado Library Workers

During the spring and early summer of 2004, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) conducted a Job Vacancy Survey in the Denver metropolitan area. The report of that survey’s results includes hourly wage statistics for all jobs, including 3 types of library workers: librarians, library technicians, and library assistants.

According to those statistics, hourly wages average $23.78 for librarians, $13.42 for library technicians, and $10.46 for library assistants. These wage rates translate into full-time salaries (based on a 40-hour week and a 52-week year) of approximately $49,500, $27,900, and $21,800, respectively (see Chart 1 in full report).

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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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The Impact of Budget Cuts on Colorado Academic Libraries

Colorado’s libraries have been heavily hit by budget cuts that have coincided with a generally grim economy the last few years. Academic libraries have felt a greater impact than those in other sectors.

In all, 25 of 33 libraries in public or non-profit colleges or universities in Colorado responded to the survey. Eighteen of these reported direct financial budget cuts of some sort since July 1, 2002. The total amount lost by these 18 libraries was $4,676,991, or an average of more than $250,000 for each affected library. Obviously, some libraries lost much more than that—with three reporting cuts upwards of one million dollars—and many reported smaller cuts. Given the range of library budgets, it is probably more appropriate to look at the percent of budgets that are being cut. Chart 1 (in full report) shows that over three-quarters of academic libraries reported budget cuts at some level. More than one-quarter of them reported cuts representing more than 15 percent of their total budgets.

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(200a) Top Ten Fast Facts

In celebration of the 200th Fast Fact…
The Library Research Service at the Colorado State Library in partnership with the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Denver is proud to present our list of the Top 10 Fast Facts. These are the Fast Facts that have been the most downloaded, requested, and used.

  • No. 193 – June 13, 2003 – Colorado Library Districts Thrive While Other Public Library Types Face Big Cuts
  • No. 189 – March 5, 2003 – Older Patrons Rely on Internet Access & Technology Assistance Provided by Colorado Public Libraries
  • No. 187 – January 26, 2003 – Kids & Computers: Selected Results from Colorado Public Libraries & the Digital Divide, 2002
  • No. 185 – September 18, 2002 – Half of Colorado School Library Books More Than 15 Years Old
  • No. 183 – April 15, 2002 – Colorado Public Libraries Outpace National Trend in Circulation per Capita, 1988-2000
  • No. 172 – March 6, 2001 – Future Trends in Pricing for Library Materials
  • No. 167 – April 28, 2000 – The State of Intellectual Freedom in Colorado Public Libraries and School Library Media Centers
  • No. 158 – March 30, 1999 – Planning for Results: How to Find Community Analysis Information on the WWW
  • No. 142 – August 15, 1998 – Creating Change in Challenging Times: Marketing Skills for School Library Media Specialists
  • No. 138 – January 14, 1998 – The Role of Academic and Public Libraries in Distance Education

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Budget Cuts Severely Reduce Library Services for Coloradans

The last year and a half has been grueling for Colorado libraries. Of the 83 academic, public, school, and special libraries responding to an autumn 2003 Library Research Service survey, 52 reported budget cuts since July 1, 2002, for a total of over $11 million.

Forty-nine of the state’s 115 (43%) public library jurisdictions responded to the survey, reporting a total of over $6.5 million in cuts since July 1, 2002. These 49 public libraries serve approximately 3 million Coloradans—roughly two-thirds of the state population. If the public libraries that responded to this survey are representative of those across the state, total cuts have probably reached $9.5 million for Colorado public libraries alone.

Budget Cut Survey Highlights

  • 52 Colorado libraries reported budget cuts of $11,021,826
  • 78% of academic libraries and 67% of public libraries reported budget cuts since July 1, 2002
  • About half of Colorado’s libraries are being forced to buy fewer materials—many have also needed to postpone technology-related expenses
  • With fewer public service hours and staff, libraries will struggle to provide programs and learning opportunities

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Projected Job Openings in Colorado Libraries

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) projects growth in jobs available in libraries in the coming years. Annual growth in librarian positions in the state is expected to be 1.9 percent, in library assistant positions, 2.8 percent, and for library technicians, 3.2 percent. (Definitions of these terms can be found on page 2 of the full report.) The number of openings in libraries is smaller in number than in some other types of employment, but the annual percentage change is promising for job-seekers in libraries. Expected openings due to replacement needs are higher than openings due to growth, except for library technicians. This suggests current librarians are reaching retirement age and will need to be replaced. See Table 1 in the full report for a summary of these findings compared to growth projected for other professions and jobs with similar requirements. While these projections do not take into account the recent economic downturn, there is not yet any reason to expect the relative positions of these occupations to be dramatically different.

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Courier Service by Regional Systems Saves Libraries Millions of Dollars Annually Over Alternative Delivery Methods

From February 10-14, 2003, 30 Colorado libraries collected statistics on the numbers and types of items they sent to each other via the statewide courier service managed by the Central Colorado Library System and funded by all seven of the state’s Regional Library Service Systems. The data collected were specifically for items sent—not received—via the courier, as any alternative to this mechanism for facilitating resource sharing—the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, or FedEx—would be a cost to be borne by the sender, not the recipient.

Highlights

  • Via the library courier system, academic and public libraries alone move an estimated 3.3 million items annually.
  • The additional costs of comparable alternative delivery options (US Postal Service, UPS) range from $1.4 to $2.1 million annually.
  • These are delivery charges alone. They do not include other requisite costs, such as labor, packing materials and other supplies, and storage.

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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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