Workforce

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.1 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.

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’s2 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 postings3 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 estimates4 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 Salary5 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.

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.

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

In 2009, LibraryJobline.org began its third year of data collection6.  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.

What I Learned About the Value of an MLIS Degree: An LIS Student’s Perspective

“I am torn between not recommending and recommending pursuing a MLIS degree… While I value my degree and what I have learned, entering the profession has been disappointing and frustrating.”

“The job market is extremely glutted, while at the same time people outside of the profession are seeing less and less value in paying for a professional librarian. It’s a really terrible job market right now, yet ALA and library schools are doing absolutely nothing to address these very serious problems.”

“The MLIS reflects our earlier vision and mission but may not address the present and future as well as it should.”

After hours of skimming responses to the Library Research Service’s MLIS value survey1, I suppose a bit of self-doubt was inevitable.

As a student only a few months away from my own MLIS, the stress of exams and projects is gradually being replaced by another, more nebulous anxiety: the fear that I won’t be able to find a professional job, especially once the bills for my student loans start showing up in the mailbox. More than that, will the job translate into a rewarding career and a decent lifestyle? Here, directly from the folks in the trenches, were words that spoke to my anxieties, and they weren’t exactly comforting.

Click the Download Report button at right to continue reading this Fast Facts.

Is it Worth It? The Perceived Value of an MLIS Degree

Would you recommend getting an MLIS to a new graduate? This question, recently posed on libnet (a Colorado-based library listserv), prompted an immediate flurry of thoughtful responses. The number and intensity of the responses inspired us to launch the Library Research Service’s inaugural 60-Second Survey, “The Value of an MLIS to You.” Distributed primarily via listservs and blog posts, the survey response was tremendous. There were almost 2,000 responses, including respondents from each of the 50 states and 6 continents. But, the respondents didn’t stop at just answering the questions. More than 1,000 of them left over 56,000 words worth of comments further explaining their thoughts and feelings about the value of a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree. Clearly, librarians feel passionately about this topic.

In the style of the online reader poll (à la CNN), the survey was short and to the point. With a single purpose, to capture librarians’ gut-reaction to “is an MLIS worth it,” respondents were asked just 7 questions, including the 2 key questions: (1) Do you feel your MLIS degree was/is worth the time and money invested in it? and (2) If asked today, would you recommend pursuing an MLIS degree?

The survey found that overall, librarians are satisfied with their MLIS degree and would recommend it to others. Nine out of 10 (89%) said they felt the degree was worth the time and money they invested in it. Only slightly fewer (86%) said they would recommend the degree to others. Perhaps not surprisingly, those who stay in librarianship are most apt to value their MLIS. An astonishing 95 percent of librarians that received their degree 16 or more years ago felt their degree was worth it. They were also the most likely to recommend the degree to others (89%). Those who graduated in the last 5 years were the least likely to feel their MLIS had value, with 81 percent indicating the degree was worth it and 82 percent indicating they would recommend it to others. Still, more than 8 out of 10 recent grads thought the MLIS worth the investment.

There are undoubtedly many reasons for this gap in the perceived value of the degree between MLIS graduates. Based on the comments, newly minted MLISers were concerned about job availability, adequate compensation, and paying off student loans. Whereas many of the respondents who had had their degree for a longer period of time commented that their MLIS was valuable in their career. However, they also expressed concern that the profession had changed considerably from when they were new MLIS recipients and they pondered the value of the degree, as well as the future of the librarianship in the age of Google. (For more on the comments, see Fast Facts no. 270).

Non-MLIS respondents had a very different opinion about the value of an MLIS degree with only 58 percent saying it is worth the time and money invested in it. Given that they chose not to pursue an MLIS, this attitude seems quite logical. Many non-MLIS respondents commented that there was no financial or other benefit to getting an MLIS. Frequently these respondents said they were in a community or institution that did not pay more or promote staff based on MLIS status. In addition, some respondents didn’t find value in the degree because they felt the work done in libraries could be done as well—or better—by paraprofessionals.

This survey was conceived with the intention of quickly measuring the opinions on the value of an MLIS degree. Because the respondents to this survey were a self-selected group, there is no way to generalize the results to apply to all librarians or the profession as a whole. In other words, this was not setup as a scientific study with a representative sample. Based on the distribution of people and library jobs in the United States, we received more responses from the West (38% of U.S. respondents) and Northeast (37%) than would be expected, and fewer from the Midwest (12%) and South (13%). However, there were no significant differences between regions in responses to most of the questions, and in particular to whether they would recommend the degree.

It seems clear that librarians find their MLIS degrees valuable and they would recommend the degree—and by implication the profession—to others. The overwhelming response to this quick survey suggests that there is room for further study into the value of an MLIS. There are larger issues, as well as subtleties, that need to be explored.

In Your Own Words: The Value of an MLIS

In May 2008, the LRS 60-Second Survey, “The Value of an MLIS to You,” was released, prompted by a 2008 posting on a Colorado-based library listserv that asked a simple question: Would you recommend an MLIS degree to a recent college graduate? Enthusiastic responses to the listserv question from dozens of people inspired the Library Research Service to create its own survey, distributed mostly via listservs and blogs. Almost 2,000 responses from all 50 states and 6 continents were received, and over half included voluntary comments further explaining respondents’ thoughts about the MLIS degree.  Overall, the results of the survey showed that respondents do value the MLIS.  Nine out of ten (89%) respondents said their degree was worth the investment.  However, not quite as many would recommend the degree to others (86%).7 This is a small difference, and it and other subtleties of the responses may be explained in the many thoughtful comments left by respondents.

In reviewing more than 1,000 comments received on the “Value of an MLIS to You” survey, many themes emerged and most fell into 6 categories. These categories were the overall perception of the profession, the job market, the intrinsic value of the degree, personal financial impact, MLIS content, and career advancement. Each comment was tagged with the categories that it covered, and whether the comment was perceived to be positive or negative.

Definition of Comment Categories

  • Perception of the profession: relating to the public’s view and/or appreciation of librarianship
  • Job market: availability of professional positions for MLIS holders and the ease or difficulty in obtaining those positions
  • Intrinsic value: personal values and beliefs related to working in the profession
  • Personal Financial Impact: the cost of the degree and the salaries earned post-degree
  • MLIS content: MLIS degree programs and curriculum
  • Career advancement: the ability to advance in a library career

Many comments mentioned more than 1 theme and were included in multiple categories. Chart 1 shows the number of times a category was mentioned at least once in a comment. Chart 2 shows the number of responses that were perceived as positive and negative in each category. No comments were tagged as both positive and negative within a category, but some respondents did make positive comments in 1 category and negative comments in another category. The overall tone of the comments is analyzed later in this Fast Facts. The categories are discussed in order of most positive response received to least positive response received.
270_Chart 1270_Chart 2

Intrinsic Value
Comments that were categorized as relating to intrinsic value were overwhelmingly positive. Ninety-eight percent (167) were categorized as positive—more so than any other category. The comments in this category were defined as those that mentioned personal values and beliefs.

The intrinsic value of the MLIS degree was regarded positively in multiple respects that included recognizing librarianship as an opportunity to contribute to society and being a part of a profession that is congruous with their value system. Respondents articulated many underlying values, including the defense of intellectual freedom, the search for truth, provision of sound information, and betterment of self and community. Other respondents mentioned that the degree gave them the capacity to shape their interests and talents into a fulfilling career that they love and enjoy. Based on their remarks, most of these respondents implied that job satisfaction has value above monetary compensation.

“For me, the value of the MLIS lies in the feeling of having a fulfilling, important career. Every day I feel as though I am making a difference. The degree was worth the money in the knowledge I have utilized every day alone. If I could go back, I would do it again.”

The few respondents in this category who left comments perceived as being negative expressed personal preferences for paraprofessional work, and a dislike of the role of politics in libraries.

“This degree has allowed me to get a job that I enjoy – that is worth every penny I lost from a higher paying job that I hated.”

Career Advancement
More comments referred to career advancement than any other category. Of the 393 comments related to career advancement, almost 9 out of 10 (89%) were positive. These respondents seemed to feel that the MLIS is essential for a successful career in libraries. Many stated specifically that they had advanced and experienced flexibility in their own career due to the MLIS degree.  For many respondents the value of the MLIS degree is exhibited in the number and type of opportunities available when one has the degree. Some wrote that the degree turned what was formerly just a job into a profession, and others commented on the portability of the degree and the wide range of opportunities available to MLIS graduates. Others mentioned the salary increases that came with the degree as proof of its value.

“It was the only way I could obtain a professional position. Right now, our library is being cut. MLIS positions were saved.”

Some respondents who didn’t have the degree would recommend it for others, but said they chose not to pursue it because it would not bring any career advances or pay increases, often due to personal factors (e.g., the respondent was unable to relocate or the rural library they worked for did not employ degreed librarians).

“I started studying for my MLS when I was 44. I had already worked in libraries for 8 years and wondered if it would be too late for it to make a difference in my career. It has! It opened many professional doors for me and today I am the director of our public library.”

MLIS Content
Comments in this category related to the quality and value of the MLIS degree program and/or coursework. MLIS content was mentioned in 376 comments, making it the second most common theme, and one of the most divisive. Respondents expressed strong opinions, both positive and negative, about the MLIS.

Comments in this category that were perceived as being positive (60%) usually referred to the MLIS degree as an essential foundation that provided theoretical and historical grounding for the profession and contributed to a common culture among librarians.

Some respondents stressed that in order to be successful, the MLIS student would need to pursue practical experience and participate in professional development activities in addition to their formal education.

“Learning the theory behind what we do is important, and is a framework for decisions that we make. I learned about sources and services that I use to this day. A lot of what I learned has changed, and a lot was not even invented (internet, for one), but I’ve been able to adapt because I had the foundation of knowledge.”
“The value of the degree is completely dependent on the experience the student intends to have. Some will treat the MLIS like it is a true graduate degree; others will treat LIS school like it is trade school, or a rite of passage. Some students will leave LIS school with a line for the resume; others will leave with a robust curriculum vitae that will only continue to develop.”

However, 41 percent of comments related to MLIS content were perceived as being negative. These respondents voiced disappointment with their degree programs, criticizing the relevance and academic rigor of their courses. Some felt the curriculum was outdated, and lamented the lack of technology, management, or library instruction courses. Several wrote that the skills they learned on the job were more valuable than the skills they learned in school or negated the need for an MLIS entirely.

“I wouldn’t recommend that someone get a degree, except that it’s a requirement for the job. There is no real content to an MLS degree…the MLS curriculum was really very silly. Not graduate level work at all.”

Job Market
Several respondents voiced frustrations with the job market—their comments were generally perceived as negative. Of the 132 comments tagged as job market, 91 of them were categorized as negative. Many argued that the market is saturated, especially in areas where there are 1 or more library schools. Without additional data, it is impossible to know whether the dearth of job opportunities was real or perceived, but the presence of this theme indicates it is a legitimate concern for those who commented. Some comments explained that the job market is tight especially for those without library experience and for those who are unwilling to relocate for a position. Some mentioned the notion that new librarians have been drawn to the field, due in part to the oft-cited librarian shortage brought about by the large number of librarians expected to retire. Many expressed feelings that the librarian shortage has not materialized and would not materialize any time soon.

A few respondents, however, noted that the variety of career possibilities for graduates made the MLIS a valuable degree, and their comments were often perceived as positive.

“It has been an unbelievably frustrating, sad, disheartening experience to work so hard for a degree with so little economic or professional value. I simply cannot find work, and after 6 years of looking, I am giving up on the field.”
“Marketed effectively, these skills open up many opportunities within the “traditional” boundaries of our profession, as well as outside of those boundaries.”

Personal Financial Impact
Of the 224 comments that mentioned personal financial impact, 77 percent were perceived as negative. Several respondents mentioned the struggle to pay back student loans on librarian salaries; others wrote they would only recommend the degree to someone with significant existing financial support. A few commented that in hindsight they wished they had pursued more lucrative professional degrees, such as business or computer science. Those who referred to personal financial impact in what was perceived to be a positive light usually mentioned salary gains or promotions that came after obtaining the MLIS.

“Given the low wages and poor opportunities for advancement in the field, within my geographic area anyway, I’m questioning whether all the debt I went in to get my MLIS was worth it. And I was one of the lucky ones in my class who got a full-time job shortly after graduation.”
“If you were to judge an MLS on a strictly monetary ROI [return on investment], no one in their right mind would get one… the only thing keeping libraries going is the sincere love for the job that many of us have.”

Perception of the Librarian Profession
Ninety-two comments mentioned the public’s perception of the library profession. More than 5 of 6 reflected a negative perception of the profession (86%). These comments were defined as those that discussed the public view of librarians and/or the MLIS.

Many respondents wrote of a general lack of understanding of a librarian’s educational background and role in the community.  Some comments perceived as negative in this category discussed the low pay of some MLIS graduates as a constant reminder that the public does not have a particularly positive perception of librarians, if they have any perception at all. Some noted a recent rise in staffing paraprofessionals in librarian roles and felt this practice diminishes the value of the degree in the eyes of the public and the eyes of MLIS graduates. According to some respondents, librarians are individually and collectively responsible for promoting their own professional value to the public and have disregarded this responsibility in the past.

The few positive comments in this category mentioned the value of the degree in the eyes of library directors and trustees. These respondents wrote that the degree demonstrated a commitment to libraries, life-long learning, communities, and one’s own career and education. Only a couple of respondents stated that they felt respected and appreciated by the public.

“The perception the degree carries with potential employers, especially public library trustees, is of more value than the practical skills taught in pursuit of the degree.”
“I love being a librarian, but I am disappointed that librarians have such a low level of recognition by the community. Unlike teachers, our profile as perceived by the public has never changed. I think that is the main reason that libraries are the first department or institution cut when money tightens up. We need to do a much better job clarifying what we do that helps the community. We do much more and our libraries offer more than people realize. We need to make libraries indispensable to the communities.”

Conclusion
In the more than 1,000 comments left by respondents, many lauded the degree and profession in 1 or more categories. About 43 percent of comments had a positive tone only and 28 percent had a “mixed” tone, meaning the comment had both a positive and negative tone. Less than 1 in 5 respondents (19%) had a negative only comment (see Chart 3.)  Just over 100 comments were not applicable to this analysis and were labeled “unrelated.” These comments were either personal comments or too vague to infer meaning.

270_Chart 3

The positive comments reflected on a love of the profession, the necessity of the MLIS for career advancement, and an overall belief that the MLIS program content provides a fundamental foundation of knowledge to thrive in the profession.

The negative comments acknowledged concern with the job market, post-MLIS personal financial impact, and the perception of the profession. These concerns caused hesitation for respondents in recommending the MLIS degree to others. However, many respondents who mentioned negatives also made positive comments in other categories.

There are two sides to the value of an MLIS degree “coin” and it is necessary to examine both the positives and negatives. The comments indicate that librarians clearly value the MLIS degree. At the same time, they have many real-life concerns. Armed with this knowledge, library leaders and library educators can advocate more effectively for librarians and enhance the value of the degree for all.

“Repeat after me: I will be cognizant of realistic expectations (salary, daily activities, career advancement/opportunities, freebies etc) in my chosen career – libraries or otherwise – my interests and desired location must match supply and demand for a realistic match – a sense of entitlement won’t get me a job, much less one I really think I should have – choosing among my options carefully, and with work and some good fortune, will increase my chances of a having a great career I love!”

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.

More School Librarians for Metro Areas, Fewer for Non-Metro

Colorado has experienced tremendous population growth over the last several years, and the number of students attending Colorado schools has increased along with the population. On the surface, it appears that the rise in the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school librarians—as defined by NCES—has kept up with and even surpassed the rise in the student population. However, a closer look reveals that the increase in librarians is primarily benefiting metropolitan-area students.8

Figures reported by school districts and collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)9 indicate that the state’s schools saw an overall increase of 10 percent in the number of students from 1999 to 2005. The number of FTE school librarians in schools grew 15 percent in that same time period (see Table 1).

NCES Data and Definitions
Each year the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) collects data for the Common Core of Data (CCD). This collection is conducted by state education agencies and includes data reported by all public schools and districts in the U.S. The data presented here is from the CCD and is used to describe the number of librarians in Colorado’s schools and districts.

Accordingly, the definition of a librarian used throughout this Fast Facts is the NCES definition: “A professional staff member or supervisor assigned specific duties and school time for professional library services activities. These include selecting, acquiring, preparing, cataloging, and circulating books and other printed materials; planning the use of the library by students, teachers, and instructional staff; and guiding individuals in the use of library books and material maintained separately or as a part of an instructional materials center.”10

Note, this definition does not differentiate between positions requiring a Colorado Department of Education school librarian endorsement and those not requiring such credentials.

264_Table 1

As would be expected, there is a disparity in population increases between metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas of Colorado. In metropolitan areas, student population has increased nearly 12 percent. In non-metropolitan areas, the number of students has increased only 1 percent (see Table 2).

264_Table 2

Districts Without Librarians
Despite this rise in number of students and librarians over this 6 year period, there was an increase in the number of school districts without any school librarians, rising from 39 such districts in 1999 to 51 in 2005. However, as a group metropolitan districts were not affected by this trend. In fact, the number of districts in metropolitan areas without a school librarian dropped from 8 to 5. Whereas, the number of districts outside of metropolitan areas without a librarian increased by almost 50 percent, from 31 to 46 (see Table 3).

264_Table 3

This can be seen graphically on a map of school districts in Figure 1. The shaded districts are those without school librarians as reported by the school districts in 2005 (see NCES Data and Definitions, page 1).

264_Image 1

264_Figure 1

This trend is mirrored when we look at the number of FTE librarians per 1,000 students in metropolitan versus non-metropolitan areas. The ratio of librarians per student in metropolitan school districts grew 9 percent between 1999 and 2005. In non-metropolitan areas that number actually fell 11 percent (see Table 4).

264_Table 4

These figures indicate a troubling trend for school libraries in non-metropolitan areas. It appears that gains made in the number of school librarians are only in school districts near large urban areas. As various studies11 have shown that students at schools with well-developed school library programs fare better on standardized tests, it is important to not take the loss of these library positions for granted.

Libraryjobline.org – The First Year

In January 2008 the Colorado State Library Jobline celebrated its first anniversary at its new home, www.LibraryJobline.org. The new Library Jobline, unlike the original website, is database driven and gathers detailed information about job postings. This new interface allows both employers and job seekers to customize their use of the site. In addition, it allows for the compilation of data about job vacancies, including number of postings, library type, educational requirements, and reason for the position vacancy. This report examines some of this data based on the 552 jobs posted to Library Jobline in 2007.

Features of LibraryJobline.org

  • Customizable email & RSS notification of new jobs
  • Searchable job postings (current and archives)
  • Map of job locations
  • Hot Jobs – list of the most viewed posts

Jobs by Type of Library
Of all library types, public libraries posted the most job openings on Library Jobline with nearly 2 out of 3 listings (61%). This is not particularly surprising, given that public libraries employ more staff than any other library type.12 Academic libraries were a distant second with fewer than 1 in 5 of the jobs posted (17%), followed by special (9%), school (8%), and institutional (5%) libraries. Seven postings indicated more than one library type (see Chart 1).

257_Chart 1

Postings from school libraries comprised a smaller percentage (8%) on Jobline than public, academic, or special libraries, in spite of being the second largest employer of library staff. This relatively low proportion can be attributed to school library postings being more likely to include multiple positions in one listing and school districts’ tendency to post job vacancies internally or on school job websites (e.g., TeachinColorado.org). Nevertheless, school library positions are some of the most searched on the Jobline. As of this writing, the most viewed job post in 2008 was for a Teacher-Librarian position at Denver Public Schools.13

Jobs by MLS Degree Requirements
A master’s degree was required at varying levels among different library types. Public, school, and special libraries required an ALA-accredited MLS degree for about one-third of the jobs they posted. Academic libraries required the degree most frequently, with nearly half of positions posted indicating the degree was required. However, special and public libraries were much more likely to prefer an MLS degree than were academic libraries. For all 3 of these library types, more than half of the jobs posted either required or preferred a master’s degree (see Chart 2).

When listing jobs, school libraries were given the option of “MLS required,” but not the option of “preferred education” because of the unique educational and licensing requirements for endorsed “school librarian” and “teacher-librarian” positions. These positions require a Colorado Department of Education school library endorsement, which includes a teacher license as well as a library science education.14

257_Chart 2

Reason for Vacancies
Employers posting to Library Jobline were asked the reason for the job vacancy. Of those who responded to this query, nearly half said the opening was created by a resignation (46%). Far fewer indicated they were trying to fill openings created by promotions (17%) or due to retirements (12%). A surprising and heartening 1 in 4 jobs listed were new positions (25%). Such a high rate of new openings suggests a continued demand for librarians in the Internet age (see Chart 3).

257_Chart 3

New Jobs and Spanish-Language Skills
Spanish-language skills were important in new positions posted on Library Jobline. A third of new jobs indicated a preference for such abilities (33%). This contrasts with a preference for Spanish skills in 1 out of 5 vacancies for existing jobs (20%). Given the changing demographics of Colorado, this increased demand to serve the Spanish-speaking public makes sense. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2006 American Community Survey indicates that the number of Spanish-speaking Coloradans age 5 and older jumped from 363,723 in 2000 to 545,112 in 2006, an increase of 50 percent.15

Library Workforce Trends
The first year of the new Colorado State Library Jobline gives us a brief glimpse into the types of jobs being posted for library staff. Notably, there continue to be new jobs created in the field, a master’s degree still seems to be relevant, and the desire for Spanish-speaking employees appears to be desirable in new positions. The real power of the new Jobline site, though, lies a few years down the road. As we harvest more information over time we will be able to follow trends in the job market and view a more complete picture of how the library workforce landscape is changing.

For more information on posting a job or viewing current job openings, see www.LibraryJobline.org.

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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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