Workforce

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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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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Earnings of Library Staff in the Mountain West Low Compared to Workers in Similar Jobs

“Nobody goes into library science to make money.” Nobody knows the truth of this truism better than a library staff member on payday.

Professional librarians are required to earn master’s degrees in library and information science. Yet, librarians earn much less than many others in professional and technical fields that do not require such high educational qualifications (e.g., purchasing agents, elementary and secondary school teachers, managers of service organizations). Consider the average hourly earnings of those in some of the other professional and technical fields most closely akin to librarianship (see Table 1 in full report).

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Managers’ Salaries for Colorado’s Largest Public Libraries Fail to Keep Pace with Regional, National Trends

According to the ALA Survey of Librarian Salaries 2001, the status of compensation for library personnel in Colorado is mixed.

  • The salaries paid to senior management (i.e., director, deputy/associate/assistant director, department head) of the state’s largest libraries (i.e., serving 100,000 or more) are consistently lower than the norms for the West/Southwest region and the nation as a whole. The greatest deficiency is a gap of more than $7,000 between deputy/associate/assistant directors in Colorado ($65,073) and their regional peers ($72,133).
  • By contrast, directors and their most immediate subordinates for the state’s medium-sized public libraries earn, on the average, $6,000 to $12,000 more than their counterparts elsewhere in the nation. This competitive edge does not extend to department heads for those libraries; they earn almost $4,000 less than their regional peers.

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Job Outlook for Library Paraprofessionals in Colorado

How many jobs are there for paraprofessionals in public, school, and academic libraries in Colorado? What does the outlook for their employment look like for the rest of this decade? Data available from the Library Research Service (LRS) and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) help to answer these questions. According to the LRS’’s 2000 data files, all posted— or at http://www.LRS.org:

  • Colorado public libraries employ at least 307 and as many as 1,868 “”paraprofessionals.”” This particular sector of the library community demonstrates how difficult it can be to define and count people in this category of employment. Of those with the rank or title of librarian, 307 do not have master’’s degrees in library science (MLS) accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). In addition, public libraries reported a total of 1,561 “”other”” staff. This category includes library assistants and technicians, pages and shelvers, and miscellaneous other staff. It may also include some professionals or “”paraprofessionals”” in other fields such as human resources, marketing, and technology. These two categories together——non-MLS librarians and other staff——total 1,868.
  • The state’’s academic libraries reported 521 “”other”” staff (i.e., not librarians, contributed staff, or student assistants).
  • Colorado school libraries reported 1,130 FTEs of library aides.

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Librarians, Teachers, & Principals Agree: “Power Libraries” Lead to Higher Student Test Scores

Since 1998, selected Colorado school library media programs have been paired to encourage their mutual development. School library media specialists with “high performance” LM programs mentor “mini-grant” (or developing) schools. These LM staff, classroom teachers, and principals have made commitments to the improvement of their own LM programs. The high performance schools, in turn, take a fresh look at their own programs and recommit themselves to the support of those programs.

Recently, the Colorado State Library surveyed library media specialists (LMSs), classroom teachers, and principals at both high-performance and mini-grant schools to assess the impact of this program. While the samples are small, the message from the respondents is resounding. Librarians, teachers, and principals agree that Power Libraries in schools lead to higher student test scores.

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Growth in School Librarian Positions Fails to Keep Pace with Growth in Teacher Positions, 1993-98

From 1993 to 1998, growth in the number of school librarian positions failed to keep pace with growth in the number of classroom teacher positions. This was true at both the state and national levels, although the situation was more extreme for Colorado than the nation. This trend is an issue for concern because research has shown that professionally-staffed library media programs have a significant positive effect on academic achievement of students, as measured by standards-based tests like the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP).

Throughout the U.S., between 1993 and 1998, the number of school librarian positions grew a scant 3.3 percent. At the same time, the number of classroom teachers nationwide grew by 10 percent——more than three times the growth rate for librarian positions (see Chart 1 in full report).

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The Status of Salaries for School Library Media Specialists & Aides in Colorado, 1999

In 1999, the median salary for a full-time endorsed school library media specialist in Colorado was $35,750. This salary is on a par with what the state recommended for housekeeping supervisors and plumbing inspectors.

Half of these LM specialists earned between $28,900 and $41,900. At the low end, this salary range is comparable to state-recommended pay for traffic signal technicians and lottery sales representatives. At the high end, this pay level is comparable to recommended pay for food service managers.

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The Status of Library Media Center Staffing and its Effect on Student Achievement

The study How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards found that school library media centers are instrumental in students’ academic achievement, including getting higher CSAP scores. In addition to the library media center’s collection and funding, key factors impacting student performance include adequate staffing of library media centers and the professional role of the endorsed library media specialist as an educator and leader.

Highlights

  • More than 1 in 3 public schools have either no library media specialist or one who works less than half-time. For elementary schools, that proportion is 2 out of 5.
  • Statistics from 2000 indicate a trend to staff LM centers with the equivalent of 1 full-time person, moving away from more than 1, as well as less than 1 full-time equivalent.
  • Almost 1 in 5 public schools is staffed by less than 1 full-time LM center employee. In addition, close to a quarter of elementary schools have less than 40 hours a week of such staffing.
  • The total LM center staff-to-student ratio dropped 24 percent in the last six years from 5 per 1,000 students in 1994 to 3.8 in 2000. However, LMS-to-student ratios remained relatively stable, going from 1.4 in 1994 to 1.7 in 2000.
  • Fewer LM center staff can mean that library media specialists are spending less time in the role of teachers and leaders, and as reported in How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards, this can adversely affect student academic achievement and ultimately lower CSAP scores.

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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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