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Downward Trend in Colorado School Library Staffing, 2000-02

Recent trends in library staffing for Colorado public schools are cause for concern. Changes in the numbers of school librarians and library aides between 2000 and 2002, and particularly their changing educational composition, suggest that school librarianship in Colorado is being de-professionalized. Because research links the presence and involvement of professional school librarians with higher CSAP test scores, this trend is an alarming one.

Net Loss in Number of School Librarians
Between 2000 and 2002…

  • There was a net loss of 14 school librarian positions.
  • While 17 additional librarians with bachelor’s degrees were added, 31 librarians with master’s degrees were lost.

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The Colorado Advocacy Project

The Colorado Advocacy Project, Colorado’s @your library Campaign, is a very successful statewide advocacy campaign containing elements of public relations, marketing, and community relations to build visibility and support for the state’s libraries. Funded by LSTA and sponsored by the Colorado Association of Libraries, it has been active since 2002 and is scheduled for completion in October 2004 with 3 components:

  • The Initiative (Coach/Player) Project;
  • Public Relations/Marketing Training;
  • Statewide Promotion Project.

The Coach/Player Project matched mentor libraries with trainee libraries for year-long advice and support. The first year’s project had 13 participating coaches and 11 participating players. 100% of both coaches and players completed library advocacy projects.

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Differences in Home, School, and Library Use of the Internet by At-Risk Students, 2001

According to an October 2003 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2 out of 5 children and teens rely on the Internet to complete school assignments (see Chart 1 in full report). One-third of the respondents to the 2001 survey reported using the Internet to communicate with others via e-mail and to play games. One out of 5 K-12 students indicated obtaining news reports and finding information on products via the Internet. One out of 10 reported using the Internet to participate in online chat and listservs, to watch TV or movies, or to listen to radio.

Highlights

  • The most popular use of the Internet by children and teens is to complete school assignments.
  • The older students get, the more they rely on Internet access.
  • At-risk students——including certain racial and ethnic minorities, the disabled, the poor, those with less well-educated parents, and those from inner cities——are less likely to have access to the Internet at home.
  • Internet access via schools and public libraries helps to compensate for this inequality.

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(200a) Top Ten Fast Facts

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

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

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Budget Cuts Severely Reduce Library Services for Coloradans

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

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

Budget Cut Survey Highlights

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

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Projected Job Openings in Colorado Libraries

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

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School Library Budgets Down in Colorado: Print Collections Suffer

The annual Colorado School Library Survey shows that annual operating expenditures in school libraries decreased in 2002. Expenditures per student benchmarks for the state were also down. This is a troubling trend in light of studies like Colorado’s How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards (2000) that have shown strong school libraries contribute measurably to student achievement.

Total operating expenditures for school libraries in Colorado for the years 1999-2002 are shown in Table 1 (see full report). Totals are extrapolated for the entire state by weighting survey respondent answers. The years 2000 and 2001 showed increases over 1999 expenditures at all but the high school level, but 2002 shows decreases at all levels almost back to the year 2000 totals.

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No Increase in Number of School Librarians in Colorado

Results from the 2002 Colorado School Library Survey show no increase in the number of endorsed school librarians serving Colorado children. This is disappointing in light of the study How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards (Colorado, 2000) which found that strong school libraries staffed by endorsed and licensed school librarians contribute to measurable improvement in student achievement.

The 2002 survey did have good news about how school library staff is spending time. An important finding from the above-mentioned study was that test scores rise when school librarians and teachers work together. This year’s survey shows that school library staff are working collaboratively with classroom teachers and administrators at all grade levels.

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One Out of Four Colorado Public Schools Has No Librarian

The latest data on libraries in Colorado public schools indicates that endorsed, professionally-trained school librarians are not available to students in all schools.

  • More than 25 percent of the state’s public schools have no librarian at all.
  • The shortage of school librarians is especially acute in elementary and combined schools. Almost 30 percent of elementary schools and almost 40 percent of combined schools (e.g., junior/senior highs, K-12 schools) report no librarian.

The numbers are even higher for schools with librarians on only a part-time basis (less than 20 or 30 hours per week).

  • One-third of all schools are staffed with librarians less than 20 hours per week, and over 36 percent, less than 30 hours per week.
  • Of elementary schools, more than 37 percent have librarians on staff less than 20 hours per week, and over 39 percent, less than 30 hours per week.
  • The majority of combined schools have no or only part-time librarians. More than half report librarian staffing of less than 20 hours per week, and almost 58 percent, less than 30 hours per week.

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Half of Colorado School Library Books More Than 15 Years Old

A lot has happened in the world since 1986:

  • DNA was first used to convict criminals (1987).
  • Pan Am flight 103 was bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland (1988).
  • The Berlin Wall fell (1989).
  • Lech Walesa became President of Poland, Nelson Mandela was freed, and Iraq invaded Kuwait (1990).
  • The Soviet Union collapsed (1991).
  • Riots in Los Angeles followed the Rodney King verdict (1992).
  • The World Trade Center was bombed—the first time (1993).
  • The Channel Tunnel linked Britain and Europe (1994).
  • The Oklahoma City federal building was bombed (1995).
  • Mad Cow disease hit Britain (1996).
  • A sheep was cloned (1997).
  • President Clinton was impeached (1998).
  • Throughout much of the European Community, the Euro became the new currency (1999).
  • Every personal computer in the world did not crash due to the dreaded “Y2K bug” (2000).

What do these events have in common besides happening since 1986? Public school students will not learn about them from half of the books in Colorado school libraries. Why? Because those books have copyright dates of 1986 or earlier. (In other words, 1986 is the median for average copyright year.) The average copyright date for school library books is 1987.

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LRS is part of the Colorado State Library, a unit of the Colorado Department of Education. We design and conduct library research for library and education professionals, public officials, and the media to inform practices and assessment needs. We partner with the Library and Information Science program at University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education to provide research fellowships to current MLIS students.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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