School

Colorado’s Library Job Climate: 2007-2010 Insights from LibraryJobline.org

Over 500 registered employers use LibraryJobline.org to post open positions. The site is managed by the Library Research Service, a unit of the Colorado State Library, and most of the jobs posted (89% in 2010) are located in Colorado. Jobseekers can tailor searches to their own qualifications and preferences and receive customized emails when new jobs of interest are posted. The database-driven site has also been gathering statistics on these job postings since 2007. This Fast Facts reports on these statistics for 2010 and outlines some of the trends in activity on the site over the past four years in an attempt to answer the ever-important questions jobseekers ask in these tough economic times: How many and what kind of jobs in our field are being posted, how much do they pay, and how many people are interested in them? It also highlights some disheartening trends that any astute jobseeker, within or outside of library work, has observed over the past 4 years: There is more competition than ever for fewer full-time, permanent positions, and salaries continue to stagnate.

Quick Look

  • Jobs posted since 2007: 1,788
  • Total MyJobline Accounts: 1,639
  • MyJobline users signed up to receive email notification of new posts: 1,114
  • Subscribers to Jobline RSS feed: 636
  • Twitter followers (@LibraryJobline): 124

295_Chart 1Number of Job Postings: Up Slightly from 2009 but Still Low
Total job postings rose 13 percent from 2009 to 2010, from 233 to 264, but they are still nowhere near pre-recession levels (Chart 1). Chart 2 shows a more detailed, monthly view of Library Jobline posts for January 2007 through February 2011. May 2008 was Jobline’s busiest month, with 106 jobs posted. 2010 was rather unsteady from month to month, with anywhere from 13 (in March) to 36 (in February) jobs posted per month. April, June, and October tend to be good months for job posts regardless of the year.

295_Chart 2

Job Views: More Jobseekers and Competition than Ever
The number of individual views of all Library Jobline posts increased dramatically from 2009 to 2010, from 416,030 to 728,024 views (Chart 3). This means an average of 2,757 people viewed each job posted. In contrast, there were 1,786 views per job in 2009 and 809 views per job in 2008.1 So, accompanying the slight increase in jobs posted in 2010 is more interest than ever in those jobs.

295_Chart 3

Hot Jobs
The three most popular job postings in 2010—in terms of numbers of views—were in the academic and special library sectors, a departure from the popular school library jobs most viewed in the past few years. The top three Hot Jobs of 2010 were:

  • Library Technician at Colorado Mountain College (3,438 views, full-time, starting salary of $34,490/year, MLIS not required)
  • Librarian at Front Range Community College (3,238 views, full-time, starting salary of $40,000/year, MLIS required)
  • Public Services Coordinator at USIS-Labat (3,147 views, full-time, starting salary of $55,000/yr, MLIS preferred)

Fewer Full-Time, Permanent Positions
Just over half (53%) of jobs posted in 2010 were full-time positions. This number reflects a steady fall in full-time job availability over the past four years. In 2009, 62 percent of Jobline postings were full-time, and in 2007, nearly three-fourths (72%) were full-time. National statistics confirm this trend: Library Journal’s “Placements & Salaries Survey 2010”2 notes that “part-time employment has become a way of life for many LIS graduates, and it has steadily risen from 16.3% in 2007 to 22.8% in 2009.” The study also notes that, nationwide, “permanent, professional placements continue to decline, from 75.8% in 2007 to 61% in 2009, while temporary placements increased once again (from 7.8% in 2008 to 10.6% in 2009) as did nonprofessional jobs (from 13.5% of placements in 2008 to 19.4% in 2009).”

Degree Requirements and Salaries
Of 2010’s Jobline postings, one-third (33%) required an MLIS, about one-tenth (11%) preferred it, and over half (56%) did not require it. For the first time since 2007, the average starting salary for a professional position requiring an MLIS dropped, decreasing from $24.50 per hour in 2009 to $24 per hour in 2010 ($49,920/year). Salaries for jobs either preferring or not requiring an MLIS have both risen since 2009, averaging $20 per hour ($41,600/year), and $16 per hour ($33,280/year), respectively (see Chart 4).

295_Chart 4

Beyond Jobline: State and National Salaries from BLS3
According to the national Occupational Employment Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average hourly wage for a professional Librarian position in May 2009 (the latest date for published statistics) was $26.76, placing Library Jobline’s 2009 and 2010 wages at the low end of the national spectrum. However, when comparing these figures, it is important to keep in mind that Jobline figures are starting salaries. The BLS national mean hourly wages for Library Assistants-Clerical and Library Technicians were $11.92 and $14.93, respectively, putting Library Jobline’s $16.00 per hour starting wage for a non-MLIS-required position on the high end of the national range. For Colorado specifically, the BLS reports higher average hourly wages than the national average: $29.58 for a Librarian and $15.22 for a Library Technician in 2009.

Conclusion
Statistics from LibraryJobline.org reveal that the total number of Colorado library jobs available appears to be slowly creeping up from recession levels, but the number of full-time, permanent positions available continues to decline, reflecting a national trend over the past few years. Salaries for all types of jobs on the site have grown little over the past four years, and Colorado jobseekers also face more competition for local library jobs than ever before, based on the ratio of jobs posted to job views.

Colorado School Library/Media Center Salaries: Mixed News

The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) has released fall 2009 staffing statistics for schools statewide. On the whole, average annual salaries for school librarian/media consultants and assistants4 have improved considerably in the last 5 years. This salary growth has librarians/media consultants in Colorado schools earning slightly more than the national average, but not all of the news was positive. Library/media assistants’ annual salaries still fall well behind those for similar positions nationwide.

Librarian/Media Consultant Salaries
CDE reports school librarian/media consultant salaries based on full-time equivalence by level of education. As expected, average salaries increased with higher levels of education such as master’s and doctorate degrees, reaching nearly $60,000 and just over $70,000, respectively, in 2009. For all college degrees, average salaries increased by a considerable percentage: 6.8 percent for doctorate, 10.7 percent for master’s, and 10.4 percent for bachelor’s. In contrast, librarian/media consultants without a bachelor’s degree were the only group to see a decrease in salary, earning only 76 cents for every dollar they made in 2004 (see Chart 1).

Librarian/Media Consultant
CDE and the National Center for Education Statistics, the collectors of state and national data about school staffing in the state and nation, define a librarian/media consultant as someone who “develops plans for and manages the use of teaching and learning resources, including the maintenance of equipment, content material, and services.” This definition does not include endorsement status; i.e., the librarian as defined in this data set may or may not have a school library endorsement and/or teacher certification.

Chart 1
Colorado Department of Education
Average Annual Salary of Colorado School Librarian/Media Consultants by Education Level
2004 & 2009

290_Chart 1

Average Annual Salaries for Librarians in Elementary and Secondary Schools Nationwide
Bureau of Labor Statistics
May 2009: $57,950
May 2004: $48,870

Colorado school librarian5 salaries seem to be on pace with national averages. In May 2009, the national annual wage for librarians working in elementary and secondary schools was $57,950, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This was an 18.6 percent increase over the $48,870 school librarians earned 5 years before.

Library/Media Assistant Salaries
Similar to librarian/media consultants, school library/media assistants in Colorado have seen a notable increase in salaries (around 10%) in the last 5 years, regardless of education level (see Chart 2). Unlike the previous group, however, Colorado school library/media assistants are well behind the national salary average of $28,960 for library technicians, which BLS defines as assistants who may have a certificate or associate’s degree.

Library/Media Assistant
Assists in the maintenance and operation of a library/media center by aiding in the selection, ordering cataloging, processing, and circulation of all media and/or serving as specialist, etc.

Chart 2
Colorado Department of Education
Average Annual Salary of Colorado School Library/Media Assistants by Education Level
2004 & 2009

290_Chart 2
Average Annual Salaries for Library Technicians (Assistants) in Elementary and Secondary Schools Nationwide
Bureau of Labor Statistics
May 2009: $28,960
May 2004: $24,090

According to CDE’s figures, even library/media assistants with higher degrees earn considerably less (for example, a third less for those holding a bachelor’s) than the national average for library technicians. In fact, the discrepancy between Colorado and national salary averages for library technicians or assistants has grown wider from 2004 to 2009. While the national average salary increased by 20 percent over those 5 years, Colorado salaries increased by only half that amount.

Conclusion
Overall, Colorado school librarian/media consultants and assistants have seen notable increases in their salaries in the last 5 years. For consultants, that increase has kept them in the ballpark of national salary averages for school librarians, but Colorado school library assistants continue to earn much less than the nationwide average.

Increased Library Staff Links to Higher CSAP Scores

Known links between higher school library staffing levels and better CSAP scores are confirmed by a recent examination of 2007-08 data on school libraries and 2008 data on students scoring proficient or advanced on CSAP reading. In addition, better-staffed school libraries are also associated with reduced percentages of students receiving unsatisfactory CSAP scores, thereby helping to close the achievement gap.

Endorsed Librarian Staffing
For purposes of this study, the term “librarian” refers to an individual endorsed by the state of Colorado as a School Librarian, a Teacher Librarian, or a Media Specialist. Total FTE includes support staff.

Elementary schools with at least 1 full-time endorsed librarian averaged better CSAP performance than those with less than 1  full-time endorsed librarian. More students earned proficient or advanced reading scores and fewer students earned unsatisfactory scores where there was a full-time endorsed librarian (see Chart 1). Elementary schools with librarians averaged 68 to 72 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced and 9 to 11 percent scoring unsatisfactory. Schools without librarians averaged 64 to 68 percent scoring proficient or advanced and 12 to 13 percent unsatisfactory (see Chart 1).

Chart 1
CSAP Reading Performance by Librarian Staffing
Grades 3 to 5, 2008

287 Chart 1 copy

Total School Library Staffing
In addition to full-time endorsed librarians, total library staff in full-time equivalents (FTE) makes a difference in CSAP reading scores.

For elementary schools with at least 1 full-time endorsed librarian or 1 and a half FTE library staff, the percentage of third, fourth, and fifth grade students scoring proficient or advanced in reading was consistently higher than for schools with lower staffing levels—a 4 to 5 percent absolute difference and a 6 to 8 percent proportional difference (see Table 1).6

Table 1
Percent of Students Scoring Proficient or Advanced in Reading on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) by Library Staffing Level
Grades 3-5, 2008

FF287_Table 1

**p ≤ .01

Schools with more librarian staffing also tended to have a lower percentage of students scoring unsatisfactory in reading—a 2 to 3 percent absolute difference and a 15 to 25 percent proportional difference (see Table 2).  An even stronger pattern in scores was seen in schools having at least 1 and a half FTEs (ideally, at least 1 librarian and support staff)—a 2 to 3 percent absolute difference and a 17 to 27 percent proportional difference.

“When a school includes an endorsed librarian in its staffing, the librarian’s role is a strong part of the teaching and learning in that school.  Students benefit from the collaborative teaching of information problem-solving, inquiry, and critical thinking skills that the librarian and classroom teachers provide.  These skills ensure that students are effective users of ideas and information, helping to close the achievement gap and to prepare the students for life-long learning.” – Nance Nassar, School Library Senior Consultant, Colorado State Library

Table 2
Percent of Students Scoring Unsatisfactory in Reading on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) by Library Staffing Level,

Grades 3-5, 2008
287_Table 2
Relative impact and relationship to the achievement gap
Elementary schools with better-staffed libraries have a significantly higher percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in reading and a significantly lower percentage of students scoring unsatisfactory. Based on the proportional differences reported above, the evidence indicates that library staff can have a positive impact on all students. In addition, the fact that proportional differences associated with unsatisfactory scores are so dramatic suggests that a well-staffed library can be especially important for the neediest students. These results indicate that school library staffing can play an important role in narrowing the achievement gap.
Conclusion
These findings come from the third Colorado study of the impact of school libraries and librarians on academic achievement, and the second one to examine their impact on student performance on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) tests. The findings about library staffing levels in this latest study are consistent with those of the two previous studies. Students tend to perform better on achievement tests where school libraries have more full-time equivalents (FTEs) of staffing, especially at the librarian level. Between 2000 and 2009, similar findings have been generated by studies in 17 other states (Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin) as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. Many of these studies also present evidence that the relationships between library staffing and test performance cannot be explained away by other school or community conditions. More recent studies in Indiana and Idaho suggest some of the day-to-day dynamics of school life that may account for these relationships. In Idaho (the latest of these studies), higher test scores tended to be earned by students whose principals felt that their schools did an excellent job of teaching information, communication, and technology (ICT) literacy. In turn, such self-assessments were more likely at schools where principals valued as essential (or at least desirable) several policies and practices associated with fully credentialed librarians:
  • Flexibly scheduled access to the library,
  • Collaboration between the school librarian and classroom teachers in the design and delivery of instruction,
  • Provision of in-service professional development opportunities to teachers by the librarian,
  • Appointment of the librarian to key school committees,
  • Regular meetings between librarian and principal, and
  • Addressing the instructional role of the librarian during teacher hiring interviews.

Credentialed librarians were 2 to 3 times more likely to report engaging in most of these activities at least weekly than others deputized to run the library.

Endorsed Librarian Positions in Colorado Public Schools Trending Downward

As Colorado begins implementing new content standards that emphasize the acquisition of 21st century skills and the ability to understand information in new ways, “digital natives,” a demographic group born and raised in the information age and presumed to be tech savvy, demonstrate a surprising lack of discernment when evaluating information resources, according to a recent study of first-year college students at the University of Illinois in Chicago.7 Unfortunately, this comes at a time when school librarians are finding their positions being eliminated, despite being uniquely qualified as information specialists to help students develop information literacy as part of meeting the post-secondary and workforce readiness expectations of students in the state.

Data from the Colorado Department of Education reveals that the number of endorsed librarian positions (in full-time equivalents) in Colorado public schools is trending downward, with substantial losses over the last 2 school years. In 2007-08, the majority of endorsed librarians (278) were employed in elementary schools, and the following year that number dropped to 241. Similar declines were experienced at middle and high school levels (see Chart 1).

Chart 1
Number of Endorsed Librarians in Colorado Public Schools by Grade Level
2007-08 and 2009-10

288 Chart 1

Despite the fact that a greater number of librarians were employed at elementary rather than middle and high school levels in 2007-08, elementary schools were still the least likely to have an endorsed librarian on staff. This difference is a result of the greater number of elementary schools in Colorado, which proportionally have fewer librarians compared to the smaller number of middle and high schools in the state.

In 2007-08, only about a quarter (27%) of elementary schools had a librarian, compared to almost half (45%) of middle schools and more than a third (37%) of high schools. The percentage of elementary schools with a librarian fell from 27 percent in 2007-08 to 23 percent in 2009-10. Even more dramatic downward trends were experienced at middle and high school levels (see Chart 2).

Chart 2
Percent of Colorado Public Schools with Endorsed Librarian by Grade Level
2007-08 and 2009-10

288 Chart 2

Between 2007-08 and 2009-10, Colorado elementary schools experienced a net loss of 37 endorsed librarian positions. Similar patterns for middle and high schools account for the net loss of another 30 positions at middle and high schools. The reduced number of librarian positions at elementary and middle schools constituted a loss of 13 percent. At high schools, the proportional loss of librarian positions was slightly less severe at 9 percent (see Chart 3). Of course, the data does not reflect any reduced funding for K-12 education for the 2010-11 school year, which will likely result in additional library staff reductions.

Chart 3
Loss of Endorsed Librarians in Colorado Public Schools by Grade Level
2007-08 and 2009-10

 288 Chart 3

Over the past 2 school years (2007-08 through 2009-10), the net loss of 67 librarian positions out of 562 constitutes a loss of 12 percent of all endorsed librarian positions in Colorado public schools. If endorsed librarian positions continue to be lost at the rate of 67 a year, they will be extinct in Colorado public schools by 2025. Hypothetically speaking, that means that by the time children born today reach high school, they would not have the assistance of trained librarians to help them navigate the information environment—and just at a time when such skills are becoming more and more important to society and also as part of the very standards in which students are expected to be proficient.

The Future of the Book, Part 2: Beyond the Bathtub, Personal Preference Among Many Factors Influencing Format Choice

With the emergence of more and more electronic reading devices, many people are discussing what this new reading method means for print formats. The Library Research Service’s (LRS) recent 60-Second Survey: The Future of the Book asked respondents what they thought of electronic and print formats and how those formats might change their reading habits in the future. Many respondents (71%) also left comments, which were analyzed according to 6 themes that emerged addressing various influences on format (see the first in this Fast Facts series, The Future of the Book, Part 1: Cost and Technological Advantages of Paper and Electronic Formats, for more information on the comment analysis).

This Fast Facts takes a closer look at what survey respondents said about the existence of multiple formats, the role content plays in determining format, the emotional and aesthetic aspects of paper books, and the influence of time and generation. Also analyzed are their responses to some of the survey questions, with particular attention paid to how the type of library where respondents work and whether they own an e-reader affected their responses.

Chart 1
60-Second Survey: The Future of the Book
Library Circulation in 10 Years
Percentage of Types of Materials

FF286_Chart 1

Multiple Formats
When asked what they thought about the future of the paper book, almost two-thirds (63%) of survey respondents reported that books would never disappear, and about 1 out of 10 (11%) foresaw their eventual demise after more than 100 years. In the meantime, paper books are left to compete with the growing number of electronic books appearing on the market.

Almost half (46%) of survey comments suggested that multiple formats for reading would coexist successfully in some way, citing electronic books as an alternative to, rather than replacement of, paper. In fact, when asked what they thought libraries would circulate in 10 years, 2 out of 5 respondents (43%) answered an equal number of physical and electronic resources, the most popular response. Nevertheless, the trend toward incorporating more electronic materials is apparent. Forty percent of respondents predicted that libraries would circulate more electronic than physical resources or only electronic materials in 10 years, with less than half as many (16%) anticipating circulation of more physical resources  (see Chart 1).

“Like all communication formats, change is constant and new formats continue to evolve. Different formats work for different audiences and purposes. Paper will continue to work best for some types of reading and some audiences, although eventually some form of e-book will be the predominant format.”

Owning an E-Reader and Multiple Formats
As might be expected, owning an e-reader influenced what survey respondents thought about the future of library circulation.  Although a plurality of respondents from each camp (41% e-reader owners, 44% non-owners) agreed that libraries would circulate about the same amount of physical and electronic materials, the more telling numbers are in the responses to “more electronic” or “more physical” materials.  Respondents who owned e-readers (46%) were more likely than non-owners (38%) to anticipate higher circulation of electronic materials, while double the percentage of non-owners (17%) as owners (8%) predicted higher circulation of physical materials.

Library Type and Multiple Formats
The type of library where respondents work also affected their views on future library circulation. Public and school library staff gave similar responses to the types of materials libraries would circulate in 10 years, with half anticipating an equal number of electronic and physical materials. In contrast, only a third of academic librarians expected to circulate an even number of each format.

Instead, the majority of academic librarians (55%), more than any other type, predicted more electronic materials, while just under a third (30%) of public and school librarians said the same. Special librarians’ predictions were split more equally, with nearly half (46%) expecting to circulate the same amount and slightly fewer (44%) anticipating more electronic materials (see Chart 2).

Chart 2
60-Second Survey: The Future of the Book
Percentage of Library Materials Circulated in 10 Years
Predicted by Different Types of Librarians

FF286_Chart 2

Content is King
A number of respondents emphasized that the information itself is more important than how it is packaged; nevertheless, the nature of that information can influence its presentation. Nearly 1 out of 5 (18%) comments indicated that content may be the most influential factor in dictating the preferred format for various genres and types of materials.

“If a book contains something that interests a significant number of people it will be published and ‘read,’ regardless of format, and regardless of whether ‘reading’ actually means reading, viewing, listening, or participating, or all four.”

Two survey questions addressed the topic of content driving format choice. Respondents noted which format they currently used to read fiction, non-fiction, and textbooks and then indicated their anticipated use in 10 years. Only 1 format showed little change: audio use of each type of material was expected to increase less than 1 percent.

In contrast, respondents indicated that their use of electronic formats to read fiction, non-fiction, or textbooks would escalate anywhere from 3 to 6 times the current percentages, while paper use would decrease accordingly. Paper was still the preferred format in the future for fiction and non-fiction, but a closer balance between it and electronic use supports the likelihood that multiple formats will coexist.

Within the predicted changes, the number of respondents who expected to read textbooks electronically jumped significantly, from 1 in 10 now to nearly 6 in 10 (59%) in a decade. Fiction and non-fiction saw substantial, though less dramatic, increases in anticipated use of electronic formats (from 5% to 22% and 11% to 37%, respectively) (see Chart 3).

Chart 3
60-Second Survey: The Future of the Book
Percentage of Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Textbooks
Read Electronically Now and in 10 Years

FF286_Chart 3

Owning an e-reader influenced whether respondents thought they would read fiction, non-fiction, and textbooks electronically in the future, though the discrepancy was least obvious in the latter category. In 10 years twice as many e-reader owners (65%) as non-owners (32%) anticipated reading nonfiction electronically, with nearly the exact opposite being true for paper format (see Chart 4).

Chart 4
60-Second Survey: The Future of the Book
Non-Fiction Format in 10 Years by E-Reader Owners and Non-Owners

FF286_Chart 4

Responses and comments indicated that survey respondents thought news or informational reading was most likely to lead the way in transitioning to electronic text, while pleasure reading would remain in print. One rationale suggested by respondents was that electronic textbooks could offer enhanced searching and reduced costs for students and revised editions would be simpler to produce. When it came to defending fiction in print format, respondents often cited more emotive reasons.

Emotional and Aesthetic Appeal of Paper Books
One out of 4 comments addressed the unique emotional or aesthetic appeal of paper books. Although not asked directly about it in the survey questions, these comments revealed a heartfelt, personal attachment to paper books for a variety of reasons.

“Who wants to read their kid a bedtime story using a Kindle? And what e-reader can simulate the experience of looking at a large hardcover art book with high-quality reproductions? I just don’t see how e-readers supplant the paper book in areas such as this.”

Frequently noted was the comprehensive sensory experience of reading, which includes holding, feeling, and smelling a paper book, and hearing the turning of the pages. Equally common was a reference to the pleasure of “curling up with a good book.” For many respondents, the comfort and familiarity of reading paper enhanced the enjoyment of the activity.

“The times, they are a-changing. The book in some form will always be around. We just may not recognize the form our grandkids or great-grandkids call a ‘book.’”

In addition to the emotional aspect, paper books also boast certain aesthetic qualities that e-readers have yet to mimic satisfactorily. For example, many respondents claimed that the superiority of print illustrations ensured that coffee table, art, and children’s books would remain in print rather than finding success in an electronic format.

Time and Generational Influences
Just over 1 out of 10 (12%) survey comments indicated that the emotional attachment or aesthetic preference could be a generational phenomenon that would fade with time, affecting format prevalence. This almost inevitable “change over time” has occurred before, most obviously in format changes for music and movies, some of which resulted in near complete transitions and others that were shorter lived. While paper books offer more durability to survive the e-reader invasion, some respondents predicted that their use eventually would be restricted to museum displays and collectors’ items.

“Electronic materials will continue to rise in popularity, and will eventually take on some format that we can’t even imagine now. Regarding a time frame, it won’t happen overnight. We’ll have time to prepare and adapt. Relax.”

A few respondents remarked that with constant developments and the unveiling of new devices, it was nearly impossible to predict how e-readers would look and function in a few years. Despite the uncertainty, younger generations are already accustomed to using electronic technology. Most comments predicted that the transition to electronic formats would coincide and accelerate with baby boomers’ retirement and tech-savvy youngsters’ emergence as a driving force in the market and the economy.

Conclusion
The debate over electronic versus print books continues to raise a variety of questions and opinions. Despite some conflicting views, however, a significant percentage of survey respondents agreed that in the future, multiple formats will coexist in some way and libraries will circulate an increasing number of electronic materials. The type of content may prove to be the most influential factor in determining format. Many foresee informational reading transitioning to electronic text and pleasure reading remaining in print, as numerous respondents feel an emotional tie to paper books. Generational differences also could impact format prevalence, but only time will truly tell how and why paper or electronic formats prevail.

The Future of the Book, Part 1: Perceptions of Cost and Technological Advantages of Paper and Electronic Formats

With the advent of e-readers, such as the Kindle, Sony Reader Touch, and the Barnes & Noble Nook, many people are discussing what this new reading method means for print formats. Is it the beginning of the end for paper books? Will paper books and electronic formats exist together? Or are electronic books and reading devices just a fad that will eventually fade?

The Library Research Service’s (LRS) recent 60-Second Survey: The Future of the Book asked respondents what they thought of electronic and print formats and how those formats might change in the future. The survey was advertised on several librarian listservs, the Library Research Service website and blog, and the American Library Association weekly e-newsletter. More than 1,300 respondents participated and 947 of them (71%) also left comments, further explaining their thoughts on the future of the book. The majority of the comments were thoughtful and passionate, revealing a high level of interest in this topic. The comments were analyzed and 6 themes emerged addressing various influences on format: multiple formats will coexist, technological advantages, emotional and aesthetic draw to paper books, content is king, and generational change.

Definition of Comment Categories

  • Multiple formats will coexist: the belief that several formats will be used in the future
  • Technological advantages: advantages based on format of e-books versus paper books
  • Emotional/aesthetic draw to paper books: the relationship and attachment to the physicality of the paper book
  • Content is king: the argument that content will dictate format
  • Cost: the production cost and/or retail price of e-books versus paper books
  • Generational change: a shift will occur over time and with new generations

In this Fast Facts, the comment analysis in general is described, as well as what respondents said about technology and cost, and how those comments relate to other survey question responses. For more about the survey results and an analysis of the other comment categories, see the second in this series of Fast Facts: The Future of the Book, Part 2: Beyond the Bathtub, Personal Preference Among Many Factors Influencing Format Choice.

Comment Analysis  
The comments were tagged for each theme they fell into (many comments discussed more than one theme). The categories of technology and cost were further tagged as pro-paper book, pro-e-book, or neutral, if they did not clearly indicate which format was believed to be superior. Chart 1 shows the number of times a comment was tagged in each category. The 2 most frequently discussed categories were “multiple formats will coexist” (431 comments) and “technological advantages” (340 comments).

As mentioned before, comments that discussed technology and cost were tagged based on the format advocated. These comments are discussed in this Fast Facts due to their “e-books versus paper books” approach to the future of the book discussion.

Chart 1
Future of the Book:
Number of Comments Tagged by Category

FF285_Chart 1

Technological Advantages
More than 1 in 3 comments (36%) discussed the technological advantages of e-books or paper books. The majority of these comments (62%) discussed paper book advantages, while only 26 percent discussed e-book advantages, and the final 10 percent were neutral (generally mentioning advantages of both formats). Comments that discussed the technological advantages of paper books frequently pointed out that paper books are a durable format, they can be used without electricity or batteries, and that paper books are easier on the eyes. Comments that discussed e-books mentioned the convenience, portability, and various enhancements of e-books.

“Books are a cheap, simple, durable, transferable, and persistent technology. Most e-books I have seen so far meet none of these criteria.”

Respondents tagged as commenting on technological advantages were compared with responses to 2 survey questions which asked respondents about their predictions for paper books and libraries (“Do you think paper books will eventually disappear?” and “What do you predict libraries will circulate in 10 years?”). The results of these questions from all respondents revealed that almost 2 in 3 respondents (63%) did not believe paper books will ever disappear. Much smaller percentages believed books will disappear in 100 years or more (11%), within 51-100 years (11%), or within the next 50 years (15%). Regarding what respondents predict libraries will circulate 10 years from now, an almost equal percentage of respondents predicted more electronic materials than physical (40%) and an equal number of electronic and physical materials (44%). The remaining 16 percent predicted physical items will continue to predominate in libraries.

“Books will always have a place, but I find with the enhancements made with electronic format… has made me a convert… I foresee vast educational uses for this format – easy access to references and background information, plus it would be helpful for an array of special education reading problems.”

However, among respondents tagged as commenting on technological advantages the response to these questions was slightly different. Three out of 4 respondents (75%) that discussed the advantages of paper books think the paper book will never disappear (see Chart 2). Just over half of the respondents that discussed e-book advantages (55%) agree that paper books will never disappear. However, 1 in 4 of those that discussed e-book advantages (25%) predict the book will disappear within the next 50 years.

Chart 2
Future of the Book:
Respondents Comments on Technological Advantages Compared to
If Paper Books Will Ever Disappear 

FF285_Chart 2

Almost 1 in 2 of those that commented on the paper books’ advantages (48%), did however, predict that libraries would circulate an equal amount of paper and electronic materials 10 years from now (see Chart 3). Although these respondents believe the paper book is currently superior, they do anticipate libraries will greatly increase their electronic collections. On the other hand, the majority of those that commented on e-books’ advantages (53%) predict electronic materials to surpass physical materials in the next 10 years.

“It is sad, but I think it is going to change greatly in the next 20 years. I think eventually the printed book will disappear. Cost, convenience and new generations will all make the move to electronic happen.”

Chart 3
Future of the Book:
Respondents Comments on Technological Advantages Compared to Prediction of Formats Libraries Will Circulate in 10 Years

FF285_Chart 3

Cost
In addition to technology, several comments (116) discussed the cost of paper and electronic formats. As with technology, there were comments on both sides of the argument. Sixty-four percent of these comments indicated that paper books were the less expensive format, while 25 percent said this was true of e-books, and 11 percent mentioned cost, but did not indicate which format was most cost effective.

“The cost of the machines [e-readers] is prohibitive…Libraries can become too heavily invested in electronics and the cost of having to replace all the outdated technology that keeps being replaced by newer technology. There is not enough money for libraries to supply everything to everybody.”

Again, the responses to the survey questions “Do you think paper books will eventually disappear?” and “What do you predict libraries will circulate in 10 years?” were compared with the respondents that were tagged as commenting on cost. The majority of respondents (64%) that commented on the lower cost of paper books also believed that paper books will never disappear (see Chart 4). Forty-eight percent of those that commented on the lower cost of e-books agree that paper books will never disappear, but the second largest group in this category (24%) believe paper books will disappear within the next 50 years. Their thoughts on the cost effectiveness of the e-book may be one reason why. Those that argued that the paper book is less expensive are very similar to the response received from all respondents; though a higher percentage from the overall response believed paper books will disappear within the next 50 years (15%).

Chart 4
Future of the Book:
Respondents Comments on Cost Compared to If Paper Books Will Ever Disappear

FF285_Chart 4

 

“The book is durable and economically less costly than e-books or audio books. Thus, I feel that their continued survival is pretty much guaranteed.”

Among the respondents that commented on the lower cost of paper books, more than 1 in 2 (53%) still predict that libraries will circulate an equal number of electronic and physical materials in 10 years and 24 percent predict libraries will circulate more electronic materials than physical materials (see Chart 5). Similar to those that discussed the technological advantages of paper books, these respondents still believe the disparity between physical and electronic materials in libraries will decrease regardless of which format they believed more cost effective. Only the remaining 24 percent anticipate more physical than electronic materials. Unsurprisingly, the majority of respondents that argued the lower cost of e-books (59%) expect more electronic materials and only 7 percent of this group believe physical materials will still outnumber electronic materials 10 years from now.

Chart 5
Future of the Book:
Respondents Comments on Cost Compared to Prediction of Formats Libraries Will Circulate in 10 Years

FF285_Chart 5

Conclusion
The future of the book is certainly an issue respondents felt strongly about. The comments revealed the important issues of technological advantages and cost of both formats. Although many respondents believe paper books to be superior in technology and cost, the majority still predict a shift in the formats libraries will circulate. With 44 percent of all survey respondents expecting an equal number of physical and electronic materials in libraries, it is no surprise that the most frequently cited theme in the comments was that multiple formats will exist in the future. In the second in this series of Fast Facts, this comment category will be analyzed, as well as the emotional/aesthetic draw to paper books, content is king, and generational change. Interesting differences in how respondents answered survey questions based on the type of library they work in and if they own an e-reader are also examined.

More Job Seekers, Fewer Jobs: Findings from Library Jobline, Year Three

For the last 3 years, Library Research Service, a unit of the Colorado State Library, has provided a venue for libraries and library staff to meet in the job search. LibraryJobline.org is a database-supported website where job seekers can create personal accounts and libraries from throughout the state and nation can post job listings. This free service, available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, offers job seekers interactive tools to specify what they are looking for in a position and allows them to receive notifications when a related description is posted. Comparisons among the postings over the 3-year period reflect aspects of the current economic climate as well as reveal trends in the library field.

Quick Look at LibraryJobline.org
Since 2007:

  • 1,500 positions posted
  • More than 1,500 people have signed up for MyJobline accounts
  • 2 out of 3 registered users receive email notifications of new job posts
  • More than 1 out of 3 registered users subscribe to Jobline’s RSS feed

Number of Job Postings
As librarians are well aware, their profession has not been immune to the negative effects of the economic recession. This is evident simply from the decline in the number of job postings on Library Jobline. Only 233 jobs were posted during 2009—56 percent of the total posted in 2008 (418) and less than half (45%) of the 2007 total (523).

The sharp decline started in September 2008 and continued through most of the following year. By the last 3 months of 2009, however, the number of job posts matched those of the same period in 2008. Though still considerably fewer than the number of jobs posted in 2007, this may indicate the first signs of recovery (see Chart 1).

Chart 1
Library Jobline:
Number of Job Posts by Month
January 2007-December 2009
284_Chart 1

While the number of job postings decreased, the number of job post views increased by 23 percent (from 338,347 in 2008 to 416,253 in 2009).  Not only are fewer jobs available, but those looking for work face more competition.

In an increasingly competitive job market, job seekers and employers search for a variety of ways to distinguish the top candidates from the larger pool of applicants. Advanced education traditionally has been a way to do that. Surprisingly, the percentage of job postings requiring an MLS degree has decreased slightly in the last 3 years (from 35% in 2007 to 31% in 2009).  However, a notable increase in the proportion of postings preferring an MLS degree, from 12 percent in 2007 to 18 percent in 2009, suggests that the further education is still an advantage for job seekers (see Chart 2).

Chart 2
Library Jobline
Percentage of Job Postings Requiring ALA-MLS
2007, 2008, 2009
284_Chart 2

Reasons for the changes in degree preferences and requirements are unclear. Even so, it is obvious that the increase in the percentage of job posts preferring the degree is connected to the decrease in percentage of job posts that require and do not require the degree. The changes could simply be due to the level and types of jobs posted, which can vary from year to year (i.e. more shelving versus administrative positions, or an increase in positions that combine professional and non-professional duties).

Another noticeable shift has occurred in the ratio of full-time (40 hours per week) to part-time (less than 40 hours per week) job posts. Over the last three years, the percentage of full-time job posts has steadily decreased, dropping from 72 percent in 2007 to 62 percent in 2009. The same trend seems to be occurring nationwide, according to Library Journal’s8 latest report on the employment rates and salaries of recent MLIS graduates. In 2007, nearly 9 out of 10 (89%) MLIS graduates reported finding full-time jobs, but only 7 of 10 had similar luck in 2008.

Posts by Library Type
Overall, the proportion of job postings by library type stayed about the same as in previous years, with the majority of posts (58%) being for jobs in public libraries. Fewer than 1 out of 5 postings were for academic (19%) and special (17%) libraries, and just 1 of 10 were for schools (9%). Perhaps due in part to other avenues for advertising available positions, especially in school libraries, these proportions may not be an accurate reflection of the actual number of job openings (see Chart 3).

Although school library postings account for a small percentage of the positions posted on Jobline, they tend to garner considerable interest. The “Hot Job” of 2009 was for a teacher librarian with Denver Public Schools. This post was viewed more than 5,000 times. The next most popular post, for a management position with the Rangeview Library District, received 28 percent fewer views, with 3,663.

Chart 3
Library Jobline
Percentage of Total Job Postings by Library Type
2009
284_Chart 3

Salaries
For those lucky enough to find a job, salary is an obvious concern. Unfortunately, it appears that salary was not immune to the cutbacks visible in other areas. Although the average starting hourly wage of job postings9 saw a significant increase from 2007 to 2008 (4.3%), it declined by 2.4 percent during 2009.

Average Starting Hourly Salary of Jobline Postings
2007 – $17.68
2008 – $18.44
2009 – $18.00

Average Hourly Salaries
For Library Staff
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nationwide
May 2007 – $19.69
May 2008 – $20.40

Colorado
May 2007- $20.73
May 2008 – $21.39

Compared to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ librarian and library technician salary estimates10 for the nation and for Colorado, the salaries listed for Library Jobline posts are on the low end. This could be due to an uneven distribution of postings according to their level and salaries (i.e. more page positions than administration), skewing the average lower. Another factor may be that the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses actual current wages, rather than starting salaries, in its calculations.  Nevertheless, Library Jobline postings showed a higher percentage increase in average salary from 2007-2008 (4.3%) than did the nation (3.6%) or the state of Colorado as a whole (3.2%).

284_Image 1Salary and MLS Degree
While average salaries overall declined in 2009, the job postings requiring an MLS—though slightly fewer than in previous years—were offering higher average starting wages.  Positions with fewer educational requirements dropped below the average salary from 2 years before.

Most drastic was the drop in salary for job postings preferring an MLS. The decrease of 13.5 percent brought the average down by $2.70 from 2008 to 2009, settling at a significantly lower amount, even, than in 2007.  It seems that although more job postings preferred candidates with an MLS degree, they weren’t necessarily offering monetary compensation for it (see Chart 4).

Chart 4
Library Jobline
Average Hourly Salary11 by MLS Degree Requirement
2007, 2008, 2009
284_Chart 4

Conclusion
Without a doubt, the most significant change in Library Jobline’s third year was the drastically lower number of jobs posted—little more than half the number posted in 2008. At the same time, the number of job post views has increased considerably (23%). More people are looking for jobs, but there are fewer job openings, and salaries for those jobs available have decreased. The final months of 2009 saw the number of job posts return to late 2008 levels, showing the slightest signs of the beginnings of a recovery. Even so, Library Jobline stats show the library field still has a long way to go in climbing out of the economic slump.

Use of Statewide Databases Skyrockets in 2009: Library Patrons Benefit from Additional Databases & Training

Use of electronic databases in Colorado libraries increased significantly during the last fiscal year, according to new data from the Acquisition of Information Resources Statewide (AIRS) Committee. Thanks to a significant investment in training for librarians and additions to the statewide database package, database use more than doubled between Fiscal Year 2007-08 (FY08) and Fiscal Year 2008-09 (FY09).

For each fiscal year, the AIRS Committee—a group of representatives from the Colorado State Library, the Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC), the Bibliographic Center for Research (BCR), Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries, and individuals from public, academic, school, and special libraries—negotiates the database package from EBSCO and OCLC at a special statewide rate. The package includes databases covering general, business, and K-12 information (see sidebar).

During FY08, 695 libraries subscribed to the AIRS database package, compared to 715 in FY09. In spite of only a modest increase (3%) in the number of participating libraries and comparing only the databases common to both years, the number of sessions increased by 56 percent for all libraries from FY08 to FY09. For some types of libraries the increase was even greater, with special (120%) and public (113%) libraries showing the largest growth (see Table 1).

Databases in the AIRS Package Fiscal Year 2008
- Academic Search Premier
– Agricola
– Biomedical Reference Collection: Basic Edition
– Business Source Premier
– Corporate ResourceNet
– EBSCO Animals
– ERIC
– Fuente Academica
– Health Source: Consumer Edition
– Image Collection
– MAS Ultra – School Edition
– MedicLatina
– MiddleSearch Plus
– Newspaper Source
– Nursing and Allied Health Collection: Basic Edition
– Primary Search
– Professional Development Collection
– Regional Business News
– TopicSearch
– WorldCat

Training Pays Off
These increases can be attributed largely to the training sessions, which were comprehensive and used different approaches for different types of libraries, according to Lisa Priebe, Assistant Director at CLiC, which helped coordinate trainings throughout the state. “Without a trained staff, you can’t train your patrons,” Priebe said.

Table 1
AIRS Database Package Use, 2008 and 2009
Comparing Databases Common to Both FY08 & FY09

282_Table 1Note: A session is defined as a login by the user to one or more databases from a vendor to find information on one or more topics.

During FY09, the AIRS committee focused on training librarians, in-person and online, on how to use databases in the package. Representatives from EBSCO and CLiC conducted 25 webinars and 37 live training sessions for librarians throughout the state. In addition, BCR taught 3 classes on OCLC FirstSearch and EBSCO conducted 4 “Train the Trainer” sessions, which gave attendees the skills to teach their coworkers and patrons about package databases. Between September 2008 and May 2009, 938 Colorado librarians (excluding those who viewed archived webinars) received database training. “The investment in training for library staff throughout Colorado’s libraries had a planned effect. Becoming more informed about the databases meant that staff members promoted them directly to their communities in various settings, both within the library as well as through outreach efforts,” said Jim Duncan, Director of Networking and Resource Sharing.

More Databases, More Use
Investing in training is only half the story. As the database package grew, so did the number of sessions in all types of libraries.

A 2007 survey of library staff identified the topics most frequently requested by patrons, educators, and students. Nine databases related to these popular topics were added for FY09. When the use of these databases is included in the comparison to FY08, the increases in use are even more dramatic. Statewide, the use of AIRS databases increased by 139 percent from FY08 to FY09. Public libraries saw the largest increases with the number of database sessions increasing by more than 800 percent in FY09. Use in special, community college, and K-12 libraries increased significantly as well—more than doubling in a year (see Table 2).

Once again the increased usage was no accident, but instead the result of AIRS Committee initiatives. “The addition of educational and research content, geared to kids for study and homework, addressed the findings of an earlier needs assessment in which libraries reported and stressed their desire to deliver quality K-12 content,” explained Duncan, adding, “The demand was already there and primed to consume all of that database content.”

Databases Added to the AIRS Package
Fiscal Year 2009
- Auto Repair Center
– Consumer Health Complete
– History Reference Center
– Literary Reference Center
– MasterFILE Premier
– NoveList
– NoveList K-8
– Points of View Reference Center
– Science Reference Center
Note: the Image Collection database was removed in 2009.

Table 2
AIRS Database Package Use, 2008 and 2009
Comparing FY08 to FY09, Including Additional Databases in FY09

282_Table 2Looking Forward
282_Image 1In 2009-10 (FY10), $1 million was eliminated by the state from the budget line that had been appropriated in 2008 to subsidize the AIRS database package costs. This resulted in a substantial shortfall in funding and some databases were cut. The AIRS Committee negotiated with EBSCO and OCLC to create an affordable, smaller package, in which the number of EBSCO databases was reduced to the resources most frequently used in all types of libraries. The package now contains 12 databases, and 719 libraries are subscribed as of this writing.

With fewer databases available to patrons, where will patrons turn for information? Some believe the Internet has all the answers—for free. However, as Duncan points out, “Individuals and small businesses that understand and value the role of libraries in providing access to high-quality educational content recognize that libraries offer them a competitive advantage. Unlike so-called ‘free’ Internet resources, these databases are available to library users as an integrated mix, drawing together consultation by professional librarians, training in how to search, customized service, and high-value content.”

State’s Collaborative Climate Fosters Interlibrary Loan in Colorado

Interlibrary loan (ILL) is a popular research support service in Colorado libraries. ILL borrowing has increased substantially among public and academic libraries in the state since 2004. Although the increase has been steady for these libraries, items borrowed via ILL still make up a fairly small percentage of circulation overall.

Interlibrary Loan Code
According to the American Library Association’s Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States, “interlibrary loan is based on a tradition of sharing resources between various types and sizes of libraries and rests on the belief that no library, no matter how large or well supported, is self-sufficient in today’s world.”

Academic and Public Libraries
ILL traffic has increased considerably among Colorado’s academic libraries between 2004 and 2008. During that time, the number of items borrowed via ILL has increased 68 percent (see Chart 1). Like academic libraries, the number of items borrowed via ILL has increased significantly in the state’s public libraries—69 percent between 2004 and 2008.

281_Chart 1

How does ILL affect circulation overall?
Clearly, borrowing through ILL among both library types is increasing, but is that increase impacting circulation? For public libraries, items borrowed through ILL make up a relatively small percentage of total circulation – just under 1 percent (see Table 1). In academic libraries the percentage is higher, increasing from 5.5 percent in 2004 to almost 11 percent in 2008.

281_Table 1

Circulation is changing differently among the two library types as well.  In public libraries circulation has increased 24 percent, while in academic libraries it has decreased 14 percent. Although borrowed ILL items constitute a higher percentage of circulation in academic libraries, this is due, in part, to the fact that circulation overall has declined over the past five years. The increased use of ILL combined with the decrease in circulation in academic libraries could also represent a difference in how public library patrons and academic library patrons use their libraries.

Though ILL borrowing is a relatively small percentage of circulation, ILL is still an important service providing patrons with otherwise unavailable resources. Prospector, the unified catalog of 25 academic and public libraries in Colorado and Wyoming, is one way Coloradan’s are receiving these resources. Rose Nelson, Systems Librarian for the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries, said 65 percent of Prospector libraries’ holdings are unique items. By collaborating with other libraries through programs like Prospector, Colorado’s library patrons have access to those unique, otherwise unavailable, items.

School Libraries
In addition to public and academic libraries, borrowed items increased, though not as dramatically, among a school library cohort of about 320 libraries. This cohort of 320 libraries are libraries that consistently submitted the Colorado School Library Survey in 2004, 2006, and 2008. Items borrowed per week through ILL  increased 11 percent for these school libraries between 2004 and 2008. All of Colorado’s school libraries are not discussed here because not all school libraries participate in the annual survey.

Collaborative Programs Contribute to Success in Colorado
Increasingly, patrons of Colorado’s academic and public libraries are borrowing items through ILL. Colorado libraries have multiple factors that are undoubtedly contributing to this increase:

  • SWIFT – the free ILL system for academic, public, school, and special libraries in Colorado, operated by the Network and Resource Sharing unit of the Colorado State Library with over 400 participating libraries
  • Prospector – the unified catalog of 25 public and academic libraries in Colorado and Wyoming, operated by the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries
  • Colorado Statewide Courier – the delivery system between Colorado’s libraries, operated by the Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC)

The unique combination of these services creates a climate that greatly supports ILL use in Colorado. Although generally a small percentage of circulation, ILL service is an important service that enables libraries to meet their patrons’ unique information needs.

“ASK” – A National Campaign for Reference?

In a world where unreliable authorship and reviewed scholarship are in a mixed bag just a Google search away, what role should the library community play in providing information acquisition and discernment?

Inspired by a discussion from the Dig_Ref listserv, LRS conducted a 60-Second Survey in late 2008 and asked if librarian-assisted reference services should be promoted. If so, should a library organization promote reference, perhaps with an “ASK” campaign (similar to ALA’s “READ” campaign)? The survey also included questions to measure opinion on the significance of reference and virtual reference. Almost 1,500 library employees responded and more than 560 of them shared their views and ideas with comments.

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.

Promoting Reference
Respondents overwhelmingly agreed (92%) that the library profession should do more to promote reference services (see Chart 1). A handful of respondents (3%) said that reference services should not be promoted at all. The remaining 5 percent responded that they are not sure whether reference services should be promoted.

Chart 1:
The Promotion of Reference Services
FF279_Chart 1

The idea of a professional organization launching a national campaign to promote reference garnered slightly less but still substantial support, with more than 8 out of 10 (83%) respondents in favor (see Chart 1) of such an effort. Just over 20 (6%) said that a professional organization should not launch a reference campaign and the remainder (11%) said they “don’t know.”

Public library employees were most likely to be in favor of the idea of a professional organization starting a reference campaign, with 87 percent indicating support. Respondents from academic libraries were somewhat less likely to favor a campaign, with 78 percent in support.

Many comments substantiated the respondents’ support of a national campaign for reference. The small percentage of dissenting respondents opined that librarians are busy enough with in-person, phone, chat, and email reference; there is no need to promote their services. Others lamented that reference desks are too often staffed by under-trained employees, which they consider a predicament that puts limitations on a service they decree as critical.

“This is a vital effort. Re-branding reference librarians as ‘super searchers’ ought to be job #1 for the profession.”

Reference as a Critical Service
As one would anticipate, the survey results show the value placed in reference services with 1,473 (99%) of the 1,494 respondents viewing librarian-assisted searching as a necessity. More than half of those respondents (51%) say that assisted searches are greatly needed (see Chart 2). Only 17 respondents claimed that librarian-assisted reference services are not needed (1%).

Chart 2:
How great is the need for librarian-assisted search services in today’s information environment?
FF279_Chart 2

Librarians concur that reference services are needed, but are they considered critical to the survival of libraries? Just under two-thirds (65%) of the respondents agree that reference services are very important to the survival of libraries and one-third (33%) feel they are important (see Chart 3). Only 2 percent of respondents claimed that reference services are not important to the survival of libraries.

“I believe that there are 3 key points to library survivorship: youth services to establish behaviors; reading celebration; and reference services.  Each is a leg of the stool supporting healthy libraries.”

Chart 3:
How critical are reference services to the survival of libraries?
FF279_Chart 3

Virtual Reference
Respondents believe that virtual reference will be an integral complement to in-person interviews in the future of librarian-assisted searching (see Chart 4). Eight out of 10 (80%) respondents agree that virtual reference will be an important tool going forward, but it will never replace in-person reference interviews. Less than 1 in 10 (7%) responded that all reference would soon be done in a virtual environment, and less than half that many (3%) think virtual reference is a fad.

“It is the in-person service that provides the opportunity for the most efficient, meaningful, and thorough support and instruction . . .  while at the same time defining the dynamic and rich social-educational community that is the library. Virtual reference is a distant second to the real thing!”

Chart 4:
Do you think virtual reference services are the future of library reference?
FF279_Chart 4 copy

Many comments left by respondents regard virtual reference as an essential service provided by libraries. Other comments suggest that existing virtual reference tools are clunky and do not provide proper patron feedback in the timely manner necessary to complete successful reference transactions. Some comments indicated a hopeful attitude that technology will advance and bring about better tools in the future.

“Sometimes I wish librarians would stop trying to out google Google. Let it go! Focus on how we can teach people to search smarter.”

Surprising Results?
The idea that librarians consider reference to be a valuable service comes as no surprise. The real story lies in the fact that a strong majority of librarians would like to see a professional library organization launch a campaign to promote reference services, which they view as a critical function of libraries. The overwhelming response shows that librarians are interested in sharing their thoughts on how libraries might advance the public’s awareness and utilization of librarian-assisted information acquisition.

“We need to meet our users where they are, not where we wish they were. Many people never set foot into a library anymore, but they could use our assistance in sorting through all of the garbage that is floating around on the Internet to locate the reliable, authoritative information. Without marketing our services, without making the public aware of what we have to offer them, how can they know just how much we can help them?”
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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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