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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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Job Outlook for Library Paraprofessionals in Colorado

How many jobs are there for paraprofessionals in public, school, and academic libraries in Colorado? What does the outlook for their employment look like for the rest of this decade? Data available from the Library Research Service (LRS) and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) help to answer these questions. According to the LRS’’s 2000 data files, all posted— or at http://www.LRS.org:

  • Colorado public libraries employ at least 307 and as many as 1,868 “”paraprofessionals.”” This particular sector of the library community demonstrates how difficult it can be to define and count people in this category of employment. Of those with the rank or title of librarian, 307 do not have master’’s degrees in library science (MLS) accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). In addition, public libraries reported a total of 1,561 “”other”” staff. This category includes library assistants and technicians, pages and shelvers, and miscellaneous other staff. It may also include some professionals or “”paraprofessionals”” in other fields such as human resources, marketing, and technology. These two categories together——non-MLS librarians and other staff——total 1,868.
  • The state’’s academic libraries reported 521 “”other”” staff (i.e., not librarians, contributed staff, or student assistants).
  • Colorado school libraries reported 1,130 FTEs of library aides.

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GUI Grants Make a Dent in the Digital Divide

If you are from the metro area, broadband (high-speed) Internet access is probably a given in your local library. In fact, you probably don’t think twice about web pages downloading quickly and having access to sound and video over the net. Unfortunately, in rural areas, this is often not the case. Exorbitant costs, poor telecommunications infrastructure, and lack of vendors have made it difficult, if not impossible, for some rural communities to get broadband Internet access.

Since implementation of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) grant, a $250,000 two-year LSTA grant, 57 public and school libraries that lacked Internet access, or only had dial up, now have some form of broadband Internet access. The GUI grants helped to purchase computers and to offset telecommunications costs by paying for first-time installations and one year of Internet access fees for libraries receiving GUI grants.

What were the far-reaching effects of these grants? Has improved Internet access made a difference to those libraries receiving GUI grants?

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Future Trends in Pricing for Library Materials

For each person in your community, how much income does your public library earn? In Colorado the average local income per capita for public libraries in 1999 was $29.67. Now think how much an average hardcover book costs and how it will change between now and 2004. The 45th edition of the Bowker Annual reported the average retail price of a hardback book in 1997 as $34.57. You needed more than $100 per customer in income to buy 3 books at 1997 retail prices.

Of course, public libraries pay jobber prices for materials, not retail. The Public Library Price Index in the 2000 Bowker Annual lists jobber hardcover prices in 1997 as $14.43, trade paperback at $8.54 and mass market at $3.55. We took these jobber prices for all library materials and charted a trend line over 5 years using an exponential formula to forecast pricing for the next 6 years. Chart 1 (see full report) shows hardcover prices in 1998 at $14.35. By 2004, we can expect an average hardcover jobber price of $16.20 for a 13 percent increase.

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Availability of Public Access Internet Computers in U.S. Public Libraries by State and Size of Jurisdiction, 1999

How many computers does a public library need to provide equitable public access to the Internet?

There are a lot of ways to go about answering this question. One strategy is to consider the typical number of such computers found in libraries of different sizes and in different parts of the nation. To account for the enormous variation in the size of public library jurisdictions, it is also helpful to adjust for that factor by looking at the ratio of computers to a certain level of population—let’s say, 5,000 people.

Highlights

  • The average number of public access Internet computers per 5,000 served rises as size of jurisdiction drops: for 25,000 and higher, one; for 5,000 to 25,000, two; and for less than 5,000, three.
  • States reporting the most public access Internet computers per 5,000 served are: Wisconsin (4.6), Minnesota and Colorado (both 4.0).
  • States reporting the fewest such computers per 5,000 served are: Arkansas and Hawaii (both 0.8), South Carolina (0.7),  Connecticut (0.4).

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Larger Municipalities Fund Public Libraries Better

According to the Census Bureau’s 1997 Census of Governments, larger municipalities fund public libraries better on a per capita basis (see figure in full report).

The inability of many smaller municipalities to fund public library service alone on a viable basis may help to explain another trend revealed by the Census of Governments, the prosperity of library districts nationwide (see table in full report).

Between 1986/87 and 1996/97, the expenditures of library districts in the U.S. more than quadrupled from $0.4 billion to $1.4 billion. At the same time, the expenditures of library districts as a percentage of all special district expenditures doubled from 0.8 to 1.6 percent.

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Service to Seniors: Meeting the Needs of a Growing Segment

A recent PublishersWeekly.com feature states that one American turns 50 years old every 7 minutes. Although it is not news that a large segment of the population is “graying,” it may be surprising to learn how large the mature adult population in Colorado grew recently and is projected to grow in the next 5 years. People tend to think of Colorado as a “young” state. While it is true that Colorado ranks 47th in the country in its resident population older than 65, it will still soon see a major population shift. Since 1997, Colorado’s population older than 60 increased by 5 percent. In the next 5 years the over-60 group is projected to increase over 17 percent! See Table 1 in full report.

With the senior population comprising 13 percent of the total in Colorado, public libraries already notice an increase in services to this segment of the community. Results from a USA Today survey in 1999 showed that people older than 65 spend more time reading than any other age group—more than 1 hour and 15 minutes per day. Many seniors on fixed incomes rely on their public libraries to supply this reading material, often in large print editions.

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The State of Intellectual Freedom in Colorado Public Libraries and School Library Media Centers

Every year the Library Research Service surveys public libraries and school media centers in Colorado. These surveys include items concerning the number of challenges received and policies and practices related to Internet filtering. Such data have been collected from school library media centers for the last two years and from public libraries since 1994. Chart 1 (see full report) shows the history of Colorado public library challenges. The 1994-95 peak was largely attributable to the Madonna book, Sex.

Highlights

  • Public libraries saw the number of challenges almost double from 1996 to 1998.
  • A similar jump in school media center reconsiderations was observed from 1998 to 1999.
  • The majority of items challenged remained in collections with no change in status.

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Public Library Statistics: How Colorado Ranks

In 1997, Colorado ranked in the top half of the states on most public library statistics. Five of the top-ranked statistics clearly demonstrate how popular public libraries are with Coloradoans.

  • Colorado ranks in the top tier of statistics that demonstrate how much and how often residents use their libraries:
    • 7th in the number of visits per capita
    • 8th in the number of reference questions per capita
    • 11th in the circulation transactions per capita
  • Coloradoans back up their enthusiasm with local dollars, as shown by these national rankings:
    • 8th in local income per capita
    • 11th in operating expenditures per capita

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Public Internet Services More Likely to Boost Than Suppress Public Library Circulation

“Our circ. stats. are falling! Our circ. stats. are falling! And it’s because of electronic services.” For the last few years, many in the public library community have been exclaiming, like Chicken Little, that annual circulation statistics are in decline and have blamed this trend on the availability of Internet and other electronic services to the public. National public library data for 1996 and 1997—the two latest years available and the first two years for which questions about Internet services were asked—indicate that the assumed relationship between circulation and Internet services is incorrect. Indeed, those concerned about such a relationship have it exactly backwards. Public library Internet services appear more likely to boost than suppress circulation statistics.

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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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