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Libraries and Librarians Feeling Effects of Economic Slowdown

The economic recession’s impact on libraries has become a hot topic in recent months. Prompted by editorials and news stories from around the country, the Library Research Service (LRS) undertook our latest 60-Second Survey, “Libraries and the Economic Recession.” The goal of this survey was to gather input from librarians in the field about how their libraries and careers have been impacted by the current economic situation. Nearly 500 people working in public, academic, school, and special libraries responded. The results indicate that while public libraries are seeing much of the increase in traffic and library use, employees in all types of libraries are feeling the pressures of the economic recession.

What is an LRS 60-Second Survey?
In the style of an online readers’ poll, the 60-Second Survey format is short and to the point. By definition, the survey can be answered in a minute or less. Narrow by intent, 60-Second Surveys capture the perceptions and knowledge of respondents on a single timely topic. The online surveys are distributed electronically via email, listservs, blogs, etc. Results are reported briefly on the LRS blog and in more detail in Fast Facts.

Increases in Library Use and Requests for Help
The first set of questions asked for respondents’ personal observations about increases in requests for assistance and increases in the use of library services.FF277_Image 1 copy

Computer use was a dominant theme in the responses. When asked if they were helping more patrons with selected library services, 70 percent of respondents said they had noticed an increase in requests for help using computers, while 66 percent reported more requests for assistance with job-seeking activities, such as filling out online applications or resume preparation (see Chart 1). These percentages were even higher among those working at public libraries, with 9 out of 10 public library employees identifying an increase in requests for assistance with computers and/or job-seeking activities.

“As a librarian in a large urban library system struggling to keep up with the sheer volume of customers needing help with technology, I have experienced the impact of the economic downturn firsthand – in particular with access to technology. Often my staff and I are helping multiple customers with few or no computer skills…”

Chart 1
Reported Increases in Patron Requests for Assistance with Library ServicesFF277_Chart 1Note: Chart details responses to the question, “In the last 12 months, have you had to help more patrons with them following services?”

Similarly, when asked whether they had personally noticed an increase in use of selected library resources in the last 12 months, 67 percent reported an increase in the use of public access computers. Sixty-three percent noted an increase in library visits, and 54 percent said they had seen an increase in the circulation of library materials (see Chart 2).

“Many people have come in to apply for jobs or apply for unemployment benefits that don’t know how to use a computer and helping them has been a strain. Also, many people have sad stories to tell and just need someone to listen.”
“There are more people coming into the library than ever before. We are getting patrons who tell us they didn’t know we existed, never needed us before. Now they need us for job information, computers, printers, and public assistance information. Most of our users have never needed public assistance. I have lots of pamphlets and information that I never see anyone take, but it needs [to be] constantly re-stocked. I have also seen an increase in very stressed-out people on the edge. I’m just hoping I still have a job next year.”

Chart 2
Reported Increases in Patron Use of Library Services
FF277_Chart 2Note: Chart details responses to the question, “In the last 12 months have you personally noticed an increase in use of the following resources at your library?”

Impact on Library Jobs
The second set of questions in the survey asked respondents how the economic recession has impacted their jobs. To determine which staff-related cost-cutting measures libraries were taking, the survey asked respondents to identify any cost-cutting measures they had experienced in the last 12 months. The largest percentage (36%) indicated that none of the selected measures had been taken at their library. Nearly 1 in 3 (32%) said their job duties had increased or changed in the last 12 months, and almost 30 percent said salaries or benefits in their current job had been frozen or cut (see Chart 3).

“We are serving people in our community who had never before used any of our services. They are surprised to see how much we have to offer. They did not expect the level of technology, variety of programs, or the up-to-date collection to be available in their hometown public library.”

Chart 3
Respondents Reporting Selected Cost-Cutting Measures at Work
FF277_Chart 3Note: Chart details responses to the question, “Which, if any, of the following has happened to you in the last 12 months?”

“Not only are we seeing an increase in overall visitors, we notice an increase in highly educated people with very limited library skills. Upper middle class new users who are making the decision to use ‘prepaid’ public library services when they used to meet those needs through video rentals, bookstores, home Internet, etc.”

When asked how the current economic recession has changed their career plans, 2 out of 5 (40%) said their plans had not changed. One in 4 (25%) said they would retire later than planned; 39 percent claimed they would stay in their current library job as a result of the recession. Responses to these job-related questions indicate that although libraries were seeing changes, a large percentage of respondents were unaffected and had not changed their career plans.

“As a solo librarian in a small library, I have lost my total budget and now must rely on donations and free books for acquisitions. Additionally the part-time assistant position has been cut so I must pick-up those job tasks as well as other tasks created by lost positions in other parts of the organization.”

Additional Training
The final set of questions asked respondents whether they felt the need for additional professional training. When asked if they could use training for their own professional development, 44 percent identified stress management as an area in which they could use assistance, 31 percent said dealing with difficult patrons, and 29 percent chose computer skills/software training (see Chart 4).

Chart 4
Respondents Identifying Areas of Training for Their Own Professional Development
FF277_Chart 4Note: Chart details responses to the question, “As a result of the current economic downturn, do you feel a need for additional training in any of the following areas for your own professional development?”

Finally, respondents were asked whether they would benefit from additional professional training in order to better serve patrons. Nearly half (46%) said they could use training on identifying available assistance/social programs for patrons. Thirty percent said they would benefit from training on how to help job seekers, and 18 percent selected training on how to instruct patrons on basic computer use. Almost another half (44%) chose “none of the above.” Those working in rural libraries were more likely than their counterparts in urban or suburban libraries to say they would benefit from additional professional training (see Chart 5).

Chart 5
Professional Training Needed to Improve Service to Patrons
FF277_Chart 5Note: Chart details responses to the question, “To better serve patrons, do you feel a need for additional professional training in any of the following areas,” arranged by the community type respondents selected.

Conclusion
Media stories about the economic recession’s impact on library use and services are largely focused on public libraries. While this 60-Second Survey is not a comprehensive look at how the recession is challenging libraries, it does provide a snapshot of the changes employees at all types of libraries have witnessed with their patrons and experienced for themselves. Survey results and the anecdotal evidence provided by respondents in their open-ended comments demonstrate how the economic situation has influenced the way patrons use libraries and in many cases increased the stress of librarians.

User Satisfaction with AskColorado Continues

Most users of AskColorado, the statewide 24/7 free virtual reference service, continue to report being satisfied with the service, according to a user satisfaction survey conducted by the Library Research Service (LRS).

In the fall of 2008, 1,335 AskColorado users completed a pop-up survey after their virtual reference transaction. The survey asked users how helpful they found the virtual librarian, how satisfied they were with the answer to their question, and how likely they were to use AskColorado again.

The results indicate users are pleased with the service. Nearly 3 out of 4 users (74%) said the virtual librarian they worked with was extremely helpful or helpful, while 72 percent indicated that they were very satisfied or satisfied with the answer to their question. Most respondents (83%) said they were very likely or likely to use AskColorado again (see Chart 1). In addition, comments left by users often reflected their satisfaction. Many said they were impressed with the service and grateful for the help they received.

Virtual Reference: Colorado and the Nation
AskColorado, which marked its fifth full year of service in September 2008, has fielded over a quarter of a million sessions in English and Spanish since its inception. The service is staffed by librarians from 45 libraries throughout the state and 75 libraries in Colorado support AskColorado by providing monetary contributions and/or staffing. Thanks in large part to this service, 53 percent of public libraries in Colorado offer chat or instant-message reference service, compared with 22 percent of public libraries nationwide.1
“The librarian I was working with was very helpful even though my subject was broad, and she found exactly what I was looking for. This site is wonderful. Thank you.”

FF276_Image 1FF276_Image 2

Usage Trends
AskColorado fielded 39,870 sessions in 2008, which is lower than 2007’s total of 61,670. The reason for this decrease is due to the discontinuation of one “queue” that in 2007 generated 14,425 sessions. That queue, known as CoGov, was a pilot project between AskColorado and the web providers for the State of Colorado website. The pilot project was discontinued Jan. 1, 2008. Decreased traffic from the CoGov queue, in addition to technical logistics related to the discontinuation, resulted in lower total numbers for 2008. Although the total number of sessions was down, use by Spanish speakers grew.  The number of sessions fielded in Spanish increased during 2008, from 329 in 2007 (an average of about one sessions per day) to 591 in 2008 (an average of almost two sessions per day).

Chart 1
2008 AskColorado User Survey
Responses to Patron Satisfaction Questions

FF276_Chart 1

User satisfaction with the service appears to be on the rise. In 2008, respondents reported the highest levels of satisfaction for all three satisfaction questions in the four years the survey has been administered. More respondents reported being “very satisfied” with the answer to their question than in previous years (from 43% in 2005 to 51% in 2008) and the percentage of respondents who indicate future use is “very likely” has increased each year the survey asked the question, from 61 percent in 2005 to 70 percent in 2008.

“The librarian was not only helpful, but very friendly as well. I could tell that she was doing everything she could to help me. Thanks!”

Generational Divide
When satisfaction levels were compared to respondents’ age, an interesting discrepancy emerged. Respondents ages 60 and older were less likely to rate the service highly in terms of helpfulness and satisfaction. While more than half (53%) of respondents from this age group were satisfied or very satisfied with the answer to their question, one in three said they were not satisfied with the answer to their question – twice the rate of any other age group (see Chart 2). This may reflect a generational difference in respondents’ familiarity and comfort with instant messaging and virtual reference, among other factors. Although only 5% of survey respondents said they were 60 years or older, this generational divide may merit attention in the future.

Chart 2
Respondent Satisfaction with Answer to Their Question by Age Group

FF276_Chart 2

AskColorado and Schoolwork>
AskColorado is used by students of all ages. Three out of five respondents (60%) identified themselves as current students; of those, nearly half (45%) are middle school students, although high school and college students are also well represented. (See Chart 3).

“I got all my homework done on one trip to this site. I will be recommending this site toallmy friends and family.”

Outcomes

Chart 3
Respondent Distribution by Current Level of Study, Students

FF276_Chart3

Conclusion
As the virtual reference model matures, AskColorado continues to improve its services with user satisfaction ratings at record highs in 2008. Use of the service by students at all levels, as well as the outcomes reported by all respondents, indicate that users rely on AskColorado for assistance with schoolwork as well as for answers to traditional reference questions. The results of this survey suggest that AskColorado is providing a valuable resource for Coloradans by offering one-on-one service for patrons 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Thanks for the help, it saved a lot of time searching meaningless websites.”

Library Jobs in Colorado: What Does Libraryjobline.org Tell Us?

In 2009, LibraryJobline.org began its third year of data collection2.  This Fast Facts examines and compares the data from job postings in 2007 and 2008 (Jobline’s first and second year), as well as the number of job postings by month in 2009, at the time of this writing.

LibraryJobline.org
Since 2007:

  • More than 1,300 positions have been posted
  • More than 1,200 people have signed up for MyJobline accounts
  • More than 2 out of 3 registered users receive email notifications
  • One out of 3 registered users subscribe to Jobline’s RSS notifications

Number of Job Postings 2007-2009
Due to the current economic recession, it is not surprising that job postings have recently decreased. The number of jobs posted in 2008 was down 20 percent from 2007 (see Chart 1).

Chart 1
Number of Job Postings by Month, 2007-2009
275_Chart 1

However, a sharp decline did not begin until September 2008. Prior to that, the number of job postings fluctuated, but overall, was similar to 2007. So far in 2009, postings have decreased even more. In February and March 2009, Library Jobline received the fewest number of postings yet for a single month. This may improve, as job postings have been seasonal in the past, with monthly totals peaking between May and August and lessening at the end of the year. As of June 2009, this trend does appear to continue as job postings have increased. However, despite the increase since March 2009, the monthly totals are still less than half of what they were in 2007 and 2008.

Job Postings by Library Type
The percentage of job postings by library type for 2008 changed very little from 2007 (see Chart 2). The minimal change indicates that all library sectors are affected by the decrease in job postings. As in 2007, well over half of the job postings were for public libraries (64%) and academic library job postings (20%) were a distant second.

Chart 2
Percentage of Total Job Postings by Library Type
2007 & 2008
275_Chart 2

Degree Requirements
The percentage of all jobs posted that required an ALA-acredited MLIS degree was, again, very similar in 2007 and 2008. However, among the different library types (academic, public, and special) there was a change between the 2 years. The percentage of postings requiring an ALA-MLIS degree decreased for all library types, except academic (see Chart 3). In 2008, the ALA-MLIS degree was required for 54 percent of positions posted by academic libraries, an increase of 6 percentage points from 2007. Public libraries had a slight decrease in MLIS requirements for jobs posted, which went from 36 percent in 2007 to 30 percent in 2008. Special libraries had the biggest change with job postings requiring the MLIS decreasing from 38 percent in 2007 to 24 percent in 2008.

Chart 3
Percentage of Positions Posted Requiring ALA-MLIS Degree by Library Type
2007 & 2008
275_Chart 3
Note: School libraries are excluded from this chart because degree requirements and credentials (i.e. school library endorsement) for librarian positions are often different from other library types.

Reason for Position Openings
When posting a job to LibraryJobline.org, employers are asked to identify the reason for the job opening. Possible responses are resignation, new position, promotion, or retirement.  Resignations were the reason for nearly half (45%) of 2008’s posted positions.  Almost 1 in 4 (24%) positions posted were new positions. The percentage of jobs posted due to promotions or retirements was the same in 2008 (each 15%). Overall, the distribution of reasons for position openings in 2008 was almost identical to 2007. The largest changes seen between the 2 years were a slight increase (3%) in retirements, and a similar decrease (3%) in promotions, resulting in a position posted to LibraryJobline.org. 

Hot Jobs275_Image 1
So far in 2009, the most frequently viewed job has been a posting for a Teacher-Librarian position with Denver Public Schools. The posting has had 4,181 views to date. The most frequently viewed posting in 2008 was another Teacher-Librarian position with Denver Public Schools, which had 4,330 views. The percentage of school library job postings is so few (only 9 percent of the positions posted to Library Jobline are from school libraries, as seen in Chart 2), that when these positions do appear, they are heavily viewed. In addition, these position listings often include multiple job openings, which may further explain the large number of views for these postings. The most recent hot jobs can always be viewed at http://www.LibraryJobline.org/stats/hotposts.php.

Conclusion
The most substantial change during LibraryJobline.org’s second year was the decrease in positions posted, going from 520 in 2007 to 418 in 2008. The economic recession is undoubtedly the main cause for much of this decline. As we move forward LibraryJobline.org will likely continue to reflect the general health of the economy. Although the number of positions posted is lower, the number of users is increasing as more people search for jobs. The total number of visits to LibraryJobline.org in April 2009 (17,155) increased by more than 2,000 from April 2008 (14,932), despite the fact that the number of job postings was less than half.  It will be interesting to see how time and different economic conditions affect the positions posted on LibraryJobline.org. Stay tuned.

Patrons Continue to Love CTBL Service

The Colorado Talking Book Library’s (CTBL) third patron satisfaction and outcome survey was administered in 2008. It is clear from the survey results and the comments left by respondents that the overwhelming majority of patrons are very pleased with CTBL service. Overall satisfaction is exceptionally high—nearly all respondents (99%) rated CTBL as excellent or good (see Chart 1).

Chart 1
Respondents Overall Satisfaction with CTBL
274 Chart 1

About CTBL
The Colorado Talking Book Library (CTBL) serves, at no cost to the user, over 13,000 patrons who, due to physical, visual, or learning disabilities, are unable to read standard print material. CTBL’s collection consists of 56,000 talking books, 5,000 titles in Braille, 14,000 titles in large print, and about 300 descriptive videos. CTBL is part of the Colorado State Library, a division of the Colorado Department of Education and is affiliated with the Library of Congress’ National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).

Features of CTBL Service
In addition to rating overall satisfaction with CTBL, respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction with selected features of CTBL service. Features were generally rated very well. The features that received the highest rankings were courtesy of library staff and speed with which books are delivered, both with 98 percent rated as excellent or good (see Chart 2). Even the 2 lowest rated service features—quality of the cassette machine and the book titles selected—still received very high ratings, with almost 9 out of 10 respondents indicating a good or excellent rating.

CTBL Services

  • Books may be ordered via mail, email, phone, fax, or online.
  • The Library loans the cassette playback machines free of charge to its patrons.
  • Patrons can request specific titles or books can be selected for them based on their reading interests.

Chart 2
Percentage of Respondents Rating Selected Features of CTBL Service as Excellent or Good
274 Chart 2

Outcomes of CTBL Use
The survey also asked respondents how CTBL has been valuable to them. Reading for pleasure was by far the most frequently selected outcome of CTBL, with 8 out of 10 respondents citing that as valuable (see Chart 3). The next most valued outcome of CTBL use, with more than 1 in 3 respondents selecting it, was learning more about a personal interest. About 1 in 6 found information needed for school and 1 in 10 stayed connected to their community.

“Mom will soon be 93. These books keep her mind alert, and provide entertainment for some of her long hours. They have been a “godsend” thank you for the independence you have given my mom.”

Chart 3
Percentage of Respondents Indicating Selected Outcomes of CTBL Services
274 Chart 3Note:  Respondents could select more than 1 outcome.

“Losing my ability to read has been an extremely difficult adjustment for me. The CTBL helps me connect to my world, stay current on new information, and gives me hope to continue learning throughout my life. Thank you for all you do.”

What’s changed?
Results of the 2008 CTBL patron satisfaction survey were very similar to the previous 2 surveys in 2004 and 2006. Most satisfaction ratings varied only slightly from previous years with respondents indicating high satisfaction levels. This was also true of the most frequently selected outcomes of CTBL service. However, there were a few exceptions.

In 2008, the CTBL newsletter received a combined rating of excellent and good from 95 percent of survey respondents. This was similar in 2006, with 94 percent rating the newsletter positively. These ratings were greatly improved from 2004, when only 74 percent rated the newsletter as excellent or good. When asked about the increased patron satisfaction, Debbi MacLeod commented that in 2004, when she became CTBL’s director, she revamped the newsletter. Some of the changes included featuring new books (e.g., large print or locally recorded books) and information about products and events of interest to CTBL patrons. Ms. MacLeod said, “These changes have jazzed up the contents, made it more interesting and useful to our patrons, and don’t forget the readability factor.  It’s also available in alternate formats, which is becoming more widely known and helps patrons who can’t read the large print.”

The quality of the cassette machine loaned to the patrons was also rated differently in 2008. Combined ratings of excellent and good dropped from 96 percent and 94 percent in 2004 and 2006, respectively, to 88 percent in 2008. The decrease in ratings is possibly due to the cassette machines aging. This problem is being addressed statewide and nationally with the adoption of a new digital talking book player, which will be distributed to patrons starting in fall 2009.

Digital Talking Book Players274 Image 2
The new digital talking book player will be about the size of a cassette and will weigh almost 5 pounds less than the traditional talking book player.

Benefits of CTBL use, according to respondents, have also been quite similar each year, with 1 notable difference.  In 2008, 16 percent of respondents indicated finding information needed for school was a valued outcome (see Chart 3). This is about twice the percentage of previous year’s surveys (9% in 2004 and 7% in 2006). This increase could be due to a change in 2008’s survey administration, when more school-aged patrons received the survey than in years prior.3

“Continue with the great work you do, this service has really helped me with my school work. Thank you.”

Conclusion
Clearly, the vast majority of patrons are satisfied with CTBL service. Nearly all respondents rate their overall satisfaction with CTBL and individual service features extremely high. In addition to high ratings, the comments received from survey respondents reflect how much CTBL means to its patrons. Patrons appreciate CTBL for keeping them informed, entertained, and connected to their communities.

“I look forward to Fridays when I usually receive a new selection of books. My life is so much more pleasurable with the books as reading has always been a high priority for me. Special requests are sent to me very promptly, staff have always been helpful and pleasant. I really do not think I could do without you people and the services you provide.”

Colorado Libraries Return on Investment: 5 to 1

It’s no secret that public libraries provide essential services to their patrons and are important resources for their communities. Intrinsic values are easy to understand, but actual values can be difficult to quantify. For every dollar spent on public libraries in Colorado, how much is returned to the community? Approximately $5, according to a study conducted by the Library Research Service (LRS).

The LRS report, Public Libraries – A Wise Investment: A Return on Investment Study of Colorado Libraries, details the results of a study utilizing a multiple case study approach to quantify the return on investment (ROI) to taxpayers for 8 public libraries in Colorado. These libraries represented geographically, economically, and demographically diverse regions of state, and included 3 large Front Range libraries (Denver Public Library, Douglas County Libraries, and Rangeview Library District); 3 in mountain communities (Montrose Library District, Eagle Valley Library District, and Cortez Public Library); 1 on the Western Slope (Mesa County Public Library District); and 1 on the Eastern Plains (Fort Morgan Public Library).

Usage patterns for these libraries varied as much as the libraries themselves (see Table 1.)

Table 1
Selected Characteristics of Public Libraries Used in Return on Investment Study, 2006273 Table 1Note: Data is from the 2006 Public Library Annual Report, available at www.lrs.org.

Assigning values
LRS utilized survey questionnaires filled out by almost 5,000 Colorado residents, a library survey, and existing data sources to determine how much – in dollars – libraries contribute to their communities. To identify library services or functions to which dollar values could be easily assigned, LRS looked at ROI studies completed in other states for guidance. Several different numbers were considered together in calculating final returns. These values included:

  • “Cost to use alternatives” – Cost to patrons to acquire information or materials from an alternative source if the library did not exist
  • “Lost use” – Direct benefit patrons who chose not to seek information elsewhere would lose if the library did not exist
  • Local expenditures – What the library spends on goods and services in its community
  • Lost staff compensation – Salaries and wages that would not be paid without the library
  • “Halo spending” – Purchases made by patrons at businesses near the library when they visit

For more information on the methodology used in this study, see the full report at www.lrs.org/documents/closer_look/roi.pdf.

Results
For most of the libraries in the study, the ROI was approximately 5 to 1; for every dollar spent on the library, about 5 dollars of value was realized by taxpayers (see Table 2.)

Table 2
Return on Investment Per Dollar for Participating Libraries273 Table 2

Why so different?
As Table 2 illustrates, the ROI for the Cortez Public Library ($31.02 per $1.00) vastly exceeded the median, while the ROI for the Fort Morgan Public Library exceeded the median slightly ($8.80 per dollar).  In these libraries, the discrepancy between who funds the libraries (municipalities) and who uses them (county residents) accounts for much of the difference in ROI. For a more detailed explanation, see the individual ROI reports for Cortez Public Library and Fort Morgan Public Library, available at www.lrs.org/public/roi.

Determining personal ROI
As part of this study, LRS created an interactive return on investment calculator that patrons of public libraries in Colorado can use to determine a personal return on their investment as taxpayers. The calculator (available at www.lrs.org/public/roi/usercalculator.php) assigns a dollar value to a single use of a particular library service. Individual returns on investment are based on the number of times the individual reports using each service per month and the typical annual tax contribution for the selected public library.

Using ROI
Return on investment studies can be valuable for public relations campaigns and budget discussions, as they detail how libraries benefit their communities in a dollars-and-cents way. While understanding the ROI value of libraries can be useful and important, it is equally important to remember that there are other dimensions of library value. True returns on taxpayer investments in public libraries include intangible benefits that are nearly impossible to quantify, such as the sense of community and lifelong learning that libraries help foster. It is important to keep asking patrons how they benefit and to communicate these values to patrons and stakeholders.

For more information on the LRS return on investment study, including individual reports for the participating libraries, ROI calculators, and related articles, information, and resources, visit www.lrs.org/public/roi.

References

  • Colorado Public Library Annual Report, 2007. (2007). Compiled by Library Research Service. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from www.lrs.org.
  • Library Research Service. Individual Return on Investment Calculator. 18 April 2008. 8 May 2009 http://www.lrs.org/public/roi/usercalculator.php.
  • Steffen, Nicolle, et al. Public Libraries – A Wise Investment: A Return on Investment Study of Colorado Libraries. (2009). Library Research Service. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from www.lrs.org.

Out for Life; Restorative Librarianship in the Colorado Department of Corrections

A 2008 article in Public Libraries makes the case that there is “no greater need [for library services] than in the lives of incarcerated community members.”4 While the focus of the article is on the role of librarianship in juvenile detention centers, it can be contended that adults in correctional facilities have many of the same needs as their juvenile counterparts, including the need for accountability, competency development, technology instruction, and educational opportunities, all of which contribute to successful reintegration into larger society.

Colorado taxpayers spend $28,759 per inmate per year 5 to house 14,662 state prisoners in its prisons.6 That’s an annual price tag of over 420 million dollars. With half of all prisoners returning to prison within 3 years, recidivism reduction has become a statewide priority.

83% of respondents indicated that the prison library assisted in the acquisition of Life Skills.

Per Colorado Statute,7 the Colorado State Library’s Institutional Library Development (ILD) unit oversees 23 libraries in the state’s 22 adult correctional facilities. As part of its commitment to reduce recidivism, the ILD unit received a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant to create “Out for Life.” Designed to promote libraries’ role in helping prisoners successfully reenter society, this grant allowed for the purchase of library materials in subject areas that demonstrably reduce recidivism, including job seeking, finding affordable housing, budgeting, addiction recovery, mental health, and recreation.

In cooperation with prison library staff, ILD selected similar materials for each prison library in print and non-print formats and in Spanish and English. Staff at each facility library designed and implemented their own library programs.

To measure the overall success of the grant-funded programs, a survey was administered pre- and post-program to inmates at all but 1 facility, Delta Correctional Center. 3,551 responses were collected, 2,507 pre-program and 1,044 post-program. Responses were compared across facility security levels ranging from Level 1—the lowest security level—to Level V, the highest. Of the respondents, 89 percent of were male and 11 percent female. While 97 percent of respondents took the survey in English, only 3 percent took it in Spanish.

Overview of Results
Individuals who responded after the Out for Life program had been administered in their facilities cited a higher level of helpfulness of the prison library than those who responded before administration of the program (see Charts 1 and 2). Nearly 9 out of 10 (88.6%) respondents reported that they had used the prison library. Notably, in facilities where Out for Life had been administered, a greater percentage of respondents reported using the library to help with the re-entry process. Only 9.8 percent of respondents from post-program facilities reported not using the library, compared with 12.0 percent for pre-program facilities.

Chart 1: Helpfulness of the Prison Library – Pre-Program Respondents272 Chart 1

A higher percentage of those who responded after their facilities had completed the program said that the prison library was at least somewhat helpful in preparing them for re-entry, increasing to 83 percent from 77 percent. Furthermore, the percentage of respondents who described the prison library as “very helpful” increased from 26 percent at pre-program facilities to 33 percent at post-program facilities.

Chart 2: Helpfulness of the Prison Library–Post-Program Respondents272 Chart 2

Overall, 83 percent of those surveyed after program implementation said that the prison library was at least somewhat helpful in preparing for re-entry, up from 77 percent prior to program implementation. Additionally, 83 percent of all respondents indicated that the prison library assisted in the acquisition of one or more “Life Skills,” which for the purpose of the program included skills related to obtaining employment, public transportation, health care, addiction recovery, mental health services, and education,8as well as managing anger and setting goals.

A further breakdown of the responses highlights areas in which the program was most successful (see Table 1).

Table 1: Out for Life
Outcomes for Respondents Pre-and Post-Program272 Table 1(Note: Excludes those who reported that they did not use the library)

Summary and Conclusions
Prison libraries in Colorado are actively engaged in attempting to improve the lives of their constituents, and specifically in helping to ease the re-entry process. This is evidenced by the high levels of satisfaction with the prison library reported by respondents to this survey.

Project Director Diane Walden indicated that the overarching purpose of the Out for Life project was to “provide materials and programs …to support the successful reintegration of Colorado Department of Corrections inmates.”9

While her final report suggests that much remains to be done in order to achieve the project goals, statistical analysis has demonstrated that the project can be deemed a success for many participants, and that inmates in Colorado’s correctional facilities are using library programs and resources in order to aid them in successful reentry.

Book, Newspaper, and Periodical Prices, 2004-2010

Books
During times of a slowing economy and the tightening of city, state, and national budgets, it is important to prepare for how to best meet the needs of library patrons. Studying trends in library material price changes helps to anticipate the challenges of collection development. Libraries face ever-increasing prices for materials and on a yearly basis the prices go up and down, but the overall trend is a steady increase in prices.

The 2008 Book Prices Fast Facts includes data from 2004 to present and is compiled from the book wholesaler Baker & Taylor and its subsidiary, YBP Library Services. Past data has been compiled from Bowker’s Books in Print.

Trade paperbacks are leading price increases with a 20.2 percent change between 2004 and 2007. Continuing this trend, prices would increase approximately 4 percent per year (see Chart 1).

268_Chart 1Source: http://www.ybp.com/title_reports_2007.html; Bogart, D. (2008).10 Note: 2008-09 based on trend analysis.

During this same period, audio book prices experienced the second highest increase with a change of 13.1 percent. Although audio book prices tend to fluctuate up and down along with audio book sales, overall prices are trending up 2.5 percent per year (see Chart 1).

The desire to provide library patrons with materials on multiple platforms is increasing the sales of electronic books (e-books). Prices rose drastically with an increase of 37.8 percent between 2005 and 2006 following an average sales increase of 34.5 percent between 2004 and 2006. YBP Library Services believes that e-book prices have stabilized with market demand. Future price increases are expected to be less volatile, likely following print book pricing trends.11

Newspapers and Periodicals
While the material price of international newspapers has remained steady, the cost of shipping has brought about a recent sharp increase in the absolute price (see Chart 2). The number of U.S. newspapers is slowly decreasing and the price change has been relatively small. Increasing popularity of the online news format is forcing some newspapers to keep prices low, or move to online only formats, in order to stay competitive.12

Periodical prices rose 39.2 percent between 2004 and 2008. However, prices may increase around 6.7 percent in both 2009 and 2010 (see Chart 2). According to The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac, 53rd Edition, periodical publishers are looking for better ways to price periodicals because libraries are having difficulty affording print and online versions of journals.13

268_Chart 2

Source: Van Orsdel, L., & Born, K. (2008);14 Bogart, D. (2008)15

Colorado Public Librarian Salaries Keeping Pace with National Averages

Librarian salaries in Colorado’s larger public libraries are keeping pace with national averages, according to data collected by the Library Research Service and the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual salary survey.

267 Chart 1

Salaries for managers/supervisors in Colorado libraries were nearly equal to the national average. Salaries for all other positions lagged behind the national statistics by an average of about $900 annually (see Chart 1).

The ALA survey found librarian salaries nationwide gained 2.8 percent between 2006 and 2007 for all positions in public libraries of all sizes. In Colorado libraries serving populations of 25,000 or more, salaries for all positions increased an average of 5.6 percent between 2006 and 2007.

Note: The averages used in this article were calculated using average salaries reported by LRS and the ALA salary survey for libraries serving populations 25,000 and more. In 2007, 26 public libraries in Colorado served populations more than 25,000. Because job duties and descriptions in smaller libraries tend to vary widely and are therefore more difficult to compare, smaller libraries were not included in this analysis.

Sources

  • Grady, J. & Davis, D. (2008). 2008 ALA-APA Salary Survey: Librarian – Public and Academic. American Library Association – Allied Professional Association.
  • Library Research Service. (2008). 2007 Colorado Public Library Annual Report (Survey). www.lrs.org/public/stats.php?year=2007.

The Kids Have It: Children’s Use of Public Library Services Continues to Grow

During the decade spanning 1998 and 2007, circulation of public library children’s materials and participation in public library programs for children increased significantly both in Colorado and in the United States. While Colorado statistics for these measures grew in fits and starts over the 10-year timeframe, the national numbers show relatively steady growth from one year to the next. This report provides a detailed look at the Colorado and U.S. data, as well as its correlation to the population growth rate of each locale.

Children’s Services in Colorado Public Libraries
From 1998 to 2007…

  • The number of circulation transactions for children’s materials rose 41 percent from 13.5 to 19.1 million.
  • Attendance at children’s programs increased 53 percent, going from some 810,000 to 1.24 million.
  • The number of children’s programs showed the highest rate of increase at 58 percent, going from 31,165 to 49,136 programs annually.
  • Children’s circulation transactions totaled some 159.1 million and children’s program attendance totaled 10.2 million.

Colorado – Circulation of Children’s Materials
From 1998 to 2007, the number of circulation transactions for children’s materials at Colorado public libraries rose from 13.5 million in 1998 to 19.1 in 2007, an impressive 41 percent increase. Most years showed either an increase or a slight decline. However, in 2002, children’s circulation transactions experienced an 11 percent dip and remained below 2001 numbers until 200416 (see Chart 1).

In total, over the decade, children’s circulation transactions at Colorado public libraries totaled some 159.1 million.

265_Chart 1

Summer reading continues to be an annual favorite in public libraries. For more about children’s summer reading programs, see Colorado Summer Reading Programs More Popular Than Ever (Fast Facts No. 263, September 3, 2008).

Summer Reading highlights include:

  • For the 10 years from 1998 to 2007, there were a total of 1.5 million participants registered for summer reading programs in Colorado public libraries.
  • In the last ten years, Colorado experienced a 77% increase in summer reading registrants.
  • In 2007, 97% of the state’s public libraries had a summer reading program.

Colorado – Attendance at Children’s Programs
Annual children’s program attendance at Colorado public libraries ranged from some 810,000 in 1998 to 1.29 million in 2006. Despite a slight downturn in 2007, these figures showed a healthy increase of 53 percent from 1998 through 2007. While dips of 5 percent or less occurred in 1999, 2002, and 2007, over the decade, this measure trended mostly upward (see Chart 2).

During these ten years, children’s program attendance at Colorado public libraries totaled some 10.2 million.

265_Chart 2

Colorado – Number of Children’s Programs
The number of children’s programs offered at Colorado public libraries over the last decade—31,165 programs in 1998 compared to 49,136 programs in 2007—showed the highest rate of increase at 58 percent. Chart 3 also depicts the most dramatic hills and valleys of any year-to-year range in this report. Between 2001 and 2002, program numbers jumped by 39 percent and then declined by 15 percent over the next two years. In 2005 program numbers surpassed the 2002 level and have remained above that mark ever since.

Over the past decade, the number of children’s programs offered at Colorado public libraries totaled more than 406,000.

265_Chart 3

National – Circulation of Children’s Materials
From 1998 to 2007,17 the number of circulation transactions for children’s materials at all U.S. public libraries rose from 612.1 million in 1998 to an estimated 759.7 million in 2007. Each year’s figure since the 1998 baseline shows an increase from the year prior—a relatively steady rise—reflecting an overall increase of 24 percent (see Chart 4).18

Children’s circulation transactions at U.S. public libraries totaled an estimated 6.8 billion for the ten year period.

265_Chart 4

National – Attendance at Children’s Programs
Between 1998 and 2007,19 annual children’s program attendance at U.S. public libraries grew from approximately 45.9 million to 58.2 million. Using the 1998 data as a baseline, attendance numbers rose steadily—reflecting an overall increase of 27 percent over the decade (see Chart 5).

Over these ten years, children’s program attendance at U.S. public libraries totaled an estimated 524 million.

265_Chart 5

Population Growth as a Factor
According to U.S. Census figures,20 Colorado’s population grew 22 percent between 1998 and 2007. Increases in Colorado public library children’s circulation, program attendance, and program numbers all exceed the state’s gain in population growth. Likewise, on the national level children’s circulation and program attendance figures over the decade show greater gains than did the total U.S. population growth of 12 percent for those years.

How do these rates of increase compare with one another? When correlated through the population-growth lens, the increase in U.S. children’s circulation transaction numbers over the decade outpaces that same measure for Colorado; conversely, the increase in Colorado children’s program attendance numbers exceeds that of the U.S. as a whole. The number of children’s programs cannot be compared because there is no public reporting of the annual national figures.

Conclusion
The use of public library resources and services by children has been on the rise both in Colorado and in the U.S. as a whole over the past 10 years. Clearly, public libraries are collecting materials that children wish to borrow while providing appealing programs. Trends should continue to be monitored in order to understand how children’s public library use is faring in a world with ever-increasing ways to access and obtain information.

Colorado Summer Reading Programs

Amongst the services public libraries provide for children across the nation and in Colorado (such as storytimes, homework and reference assistance, computer access, and readers’ advisory services), summer reading programs in particular give young people support and encouragement to read books and engage with public library services during traditional “school vacation” months. When promoted to the public, summer reading programs typically espouse reading for fun and pleasure. Within the library and education communities, ongoing and past research studies also address the impact of summer reading as a means to enhance the development and retention of children’s reading skills. This report focuses on statistics about summer reading programs in Colorado libraries. Further, it elucidates the role of the Colorado State Library (CSL) in promoting, implementing, underwriting, and evaluating such programs.

Prevalence at Libraries
National Center for Education Statistics reports covering research from 1988-198921 and 1993-199422 show 95 percent of America’s public libraries offered summer reading programs for children during both those time frames. Last year (2007) in Colorado, 111 of the state’s 115 library jurisdictions (97%) reported implementing summer reading programs for their patrons (see Chart 1).

Colorado Public Library Summer Reading Highlights

  • For the 10 years from 1998 to 2007, there were a total of 1.5 million participants registered for summer reading programs in Colorado public libraries.
  • In the last 10 years, Colorado experienced a 77 increase increase in summer reading registrants.
  • In 2007, 97 percent of the state’s public libraries had a summer reading program.
  • More than 8 of 10 Colorado public libraries used the 2007 Collaborative Summer Library Program theme and resources.

263_Chart 1

Registrants
Since 1999, the Library Research Service has collected information about the number of registrants in summer reading programs at Colorado public libraries. Reported data shows some 125,400 summer reading registrants in 1999 increasing nearly every year to 204,700 in 2007. Using trend analysis to determine a 1998 estimated figure (see Chart 2), the data indicates Colorado experienced a 77 percent increase in summer reading registrants over the last decade; a significant rise in registrant numbers occurred during the later half of that time span. In total, some 1.5 million participants registered for summer reading programs at Colorado public libraries in the course of the 10 years spanning from 1998 to 2007.

263_Chart 2

Collaborative Summer Library Program
Most commonly, public libraries around the nation organize their summer reading programs’ promotional campaigns, reading lists, story time programs, special events, and reading incentive/giveaway materials around an overarching annual theme. However, the time, costs, and effort associated with successfully developing and implementing such a theme can frequently strain (or exceed) the resources of individual libraries. To address that need, a grassroots consortium, the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP),23 took root as a multi-regional initiative within Minnesota in 1987. Today (21 years later), CSLP’s members include 46 states—represented by state agencies or associations—and 2 regional library systems. Together, consortium members select annual themes and work with vendors to produce related programmatic, promotional, and incentive materials on behalf of the entire collaborative. The dramatic growth of CSLP is indicative of the value its products and services have to libraries nationwide.

Colorado joined CSLP in 2003 with the Colorado State Library as its member agency. Through a myriad of activities (see below), CSL works to help participating Colorado libraries successfully incorporate the CSLP annual theme. Particularly popular with small and medium-sized libraries, some 80-83 percent of Colorado’s libraries opted to use the CSLP theme during the past 3 years (see Table 1).

263_Table 1

CSL Summer Reading Support to Libraries
Through its Statewide Summer Reading Program, the Colorado State Library currently works to assist all Colorado libraries with effective summer-reading program implementation. In addition to staff support and its role in CSLP, CSL allocates nearly $30,000 in LSTA funds each year for non-salary summer reading-related expenses, including approximately $10,000 in grants to libraries.

In total, over the past 3 years (2005-07) CSL support has included:

  • Sixteen summer reading-focused training workshops reaching more than 415 attendees in locales around the state.
  • The purchase and statewide dissemination of CSLP theme-oriented manuals and support materials—enough for all of Colorado’s 250 public library sites each year.
  • 182 grants totaling nearly $29,000 in direct financial support to libraries throughout the state.

As for current CSL summer reading program-related research:

  • In 2006, CSL became a partner in a 3-year Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant research study24 entitled: “Do Public Library Summer Reading Programs Impact Student Achievement?” Participating sites in 8 states around the nation include Colorado’s Pueblo City Schools and the Pueblo City-County Library District.
  • Beginning in 2008, CSL will collaborate with the Library Research Service (LRS) in tracking and collecting statistics about the prevalence of young adult (teens) summer reading programs and registration numbers—in addition to LRS’s current collection of children’s data—for publication in future Public Library Annual Reports.25

Conclusion
The data in this report clearly indicates that summer reading programs are attractive both to libraries and to their young patrons. Encouraged by library participation levels and the mutual benefits of collaboration, library agencies, leaders, and organizations virtually nationwide are cooperating to make such programs affordable to jurisdictions both large and small—and to further assess the benefits of such programming. The Colorado State Library continues to refine and enhance its leadership role in helping all Colorado public libraries and their patrons benefit from summer reading program experiences.

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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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