Workforce

Librarian Jobs in Colorado Public Libraries, 1990-2004

Is there a librarian shortage or surplus? This is a debatable question. Studies such as the LRS’s Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado describe the high number of librarians who are expected to retire in the next five years. In regard to the profession of librarianship, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that “Employment of librarians is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations over the 2002-12 period. However, job opportunities are expected to be very good because a large number of librarians are expected to retire in the coming decade, creating many job openings. Also, the number of people going into this profession has fallen in recent years, resulting in more jobs than applicants in some cases.”

Ask a graduating LIS student and you might hear a different story. An article written by Rachel Holt and Adrienne Stock for Library Journal examines what they call the “Entry Level Gap.” They mention the relative scarcity of entry level jobs for new graduates. Additionally, they point to a more disturbing trend in the field—the “growing tendency of libraries to hire individuals for staff positions who are not MLS librarians at all.”

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The U.S. Labor Market for Library Workers, 2002-12

Librarian retirements are at what some believe to be an all-time high. Many in the field are also concerned about the apparent extent to which library jobs are being restructured and, sometimes, eliminated. In this seemingly unstable climate, several questions come to mind:

  • How many jobs are there for library workers generally—and librarians in particular?
  • How many of those jobs will be vacated in the foreseeable future?
  • How many library jobs will be created or lost?
  • Are there enough people to fill the library positions that will be available?
  • How well (or poorly) are these jobs compensated?

Data that can help decision-makers begin to address these questions are available in Occupational Employment, Training, and Earnings Data accessible via the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. (See http://data.bls.gov/oep/noeted/empoptd.jsp.)

BLS defines 3 library occupations—librarian, library technician, and library assistant (clerical). For definitions of these occupations, see the full report.

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Librarianship in Colorado School Libraries

In the recent study, Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado, library workers from all types of libraries from around the state were asked about their careers, their workplaces, and their attitudes about librarianship. Included in the study were school librarians, who were defined as librarians with a library media endorsement, Master of Library Science degree, or equivalent and working in a Colorado school library. This issue of Fast Facts reports the responses of the 110 school librarians who participated in the study.

Highlights from School Librarian Respondents

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 indicated they were 45 or older.
  • Almost half indicated they plan to retire in the next five years (45%).
  • One in 3 have more than 20 years library work experience.
  • Nine out of 10 said they had some experience working or volunteering in a school or library before pursuing a library credential.
  • More than 3 out of 5 identified a love of books or reading as a factor making librarianship an attractive profession.
  • More than 2 out of 3 said misconceptions about librarianship discouraged a career in the profession.

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Librarianship in Colorado Academic Libraries

Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado, a recent study conducted by the LRS, asked 1,241 respondents from around the state about their jobs, their libraries, and their career plans. This issue of Fast Facts examines the data provided by the 91 academic librarian respondents—defined as those having a Master of Library Science degree (MLS) or equivalent and working in a Colorado college or university library.

Highlights from Academic Librarian Respondents

  • More than 1 in 3 were under 45.
  • One in 3 have more than 20 years experience working in a library.
  • Two in 3 worked or volunteered in a library or school prior to pursuing a library degree.
  • More than 4 in 5 indicated they had served in a professional leadership role(s) in the last five years.
  • More than half said service to others and/or intellectual challenge made librarianship an attractive profession.
  • Nine in 10 cited “low financial compensation” as a factor discouraging potential librarians.
  • Almost 1 in 2 indicated that salaries or benefits had been frozen or cut at their workplace in the last year.

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Librarianship in Colorado Public Libraries

In a recent LRS study, Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado (3Rs), 1,241 respondents from all types of libraries were asked about their careers, their workplaces, and their attitudes about librarianship. This issue of Fast Facts explores the responses from the 245 public librarian respondents—defined as librarians with a Master of Library Science degree (MLS) or equivalent library credential and working in a Colorado public library.

Highlights from Public Librarian Respondents

  • One in 7 said they plan to retire in the next 5 years.
  • One in 4 was 55 or older, within 10 years of the traditional retirement age of 65.
  • Nearly 2 in 3 indicated “service to others” as a leading factor in making librarianship an attractive profession.
  • 4 out of 5 said “low financial compensation” was the leading factor discouraging potential librarians from pursuing a career in librarianship.
  • Approximately 1 in 3 had their salary and/or benefits frozen or cut in the last year.
  • More than 1 in 5 experienced staff cuts at their workplace.

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Hourly Wages of Colorado Library Workers

During the spring and early summer of 2004, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) conducted a Job Vacancy Survey in the Denver metropolitan area. The report of that survey’s results includes hourly wage statistics for all jobs, including 3 types of library workers: librarians, library technicians, and library assistants.

According to those statistics, hourly wages average $23.78 for librarians, $13.42 for library technicians, and $10.46 for library assistants. These wage rates translate into full-time salaries (based on a 40-hour week and a 52-week year) of approximately $49,500, $27,900, and $21,800, respectively (see Chart 1 in full report).

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Diversity of Colorado Library Workers: Professional Self-Perceptions and Portents for the Future

Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado—a recent LRS study—was based on a survey of more than 1,200 library workers statewide in Fall 2003. While the sample for this study could not be obtained randomly, their answers to questions about how library workers themselves perceive librarianship as a profession are intriguing. The ethnicity and gender demographics of these respondents also offer some hope that, in the near future, Colorado librarians will become more diverse, like the patrons they will serve.

Predictably, 9 out of 10 respondents to the library worker survey were White (89.8%) and female (90.3%). Each of the other three major racial groups—American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Black/African-American—represented less than 2 percent of the respondents. Hispanic respondents (who could be of any race) constituted more than 5 percent (5.1%) of the total survey response (see Chart 1 in full report). Suffice it to say, that there is little diversity in gender or ethnicity among Colorado library workers.

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Librarian Among Top Colorado Jobs Requiring Master’s Degree Through 2012

According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), librarian is among the state’s top jobs requiring a master’s degree through 2012. Employing a projected 2,720 Coloradans in 2012, librarian ranks fifth on projected employment behind physical therapist, market research analyst, educational counselor, and mental health counselor.1

Rounding out the top 10 master’s-degreed jobs will be speech pathologist, environmental scientist, substance abuse counselor, instructional coordinator, and rehabilitation counselor (see Chart 1 in full report).

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Colorado Public Library Paraprofessionals Experienced, Well-Educated Good Candidates for Future Leadership, but They Need Incentives

Colorado’s public libraries boast a wealth of experienced, educated paraprofessionals, according to responses to Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado, a study recently released by the Library Research Service. Many of them could be in line for credentialed librarian leadership positions in the near future.

For the purpose of consistency in the study, public library paraprofessionals were defined as individuals without an MLIS or library media endorsement who are working in a library. Surprisingly high levels of education and experience were reported by those who are neither planning on retiring in the next 5 years nor currently enrolled in an MLIS program.

In public libraries throughout the state, paraprofessionals prove to be very well-educated. Nearly all of those who responded to the survey (99.7%) have at least a high school education. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of them (65%) have at least a bachelor’s degree, and three-quarters (76%) have an associate’s degree or higher (see chart 1 in full report).

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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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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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