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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 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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Power Libraries Workshops Prepare–and Motivate–Librarians and Other Educators to Collaborate

During Fall 2004 and early Winter 2005, the Colorado Power Libraries project offered a series of workshops throughout the state to encourage more schools to join the project. Power Libraries promotes collaboration between administrators, classroom teachers, and library staff through peer-to-peer mentoring. Educators who attended these events were asked how they intended to act differently after the workshop—within the next week, month, semester, or year.

Of the 259 registrants, there were 216 survey respondents who identified themselves by educator type—just over 40 percent were teachers, almost another 40 percent were library staff, and 20 percent were administrators.

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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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Challenged Materials in Colorado Public Libraries, 2003

Each year, the Library Research Service collects data on formally challenged materials as a part of the Colorado Public Library Annual Survey. In 2003, 20 Colorado libraries reported 63 challenges to books, materials, events, and exhibits. The number of challenges represents a reduction from the 70 reported in 2002, although the number of libraries reporting these challenges increased from 16 to 20. The number of materials, events, and exhibits challenges reported in 2003 was slightly below the average of 65 occurrences for the preceding 5-year period (see Chart 1 in full report).


  • Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture by Michael A. Bellesiles was the most challenged title in Colorado’s public libraries during 2003.
  • Three reasons for challenges accounted for nearly half (45%) of reported objections: offensive language, unsuited to age group, and sexually explicit.
  • Young adult materials represented a larger proportion of challenges in 2003 than in previous years.

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Colorado Public Libraries and the 2004 November Elections

Colorado voters had a mixed response to requests for increased funding for libraries across the state. Five of 8 ballot initiatives to raise mill levies passed, and 1 bond initiative failed. Voters in the Florence area approved a ballot initiative to create a new library district, while Mesa County voters rejected a bond issue for a new library and also a mill levy increase for maintenance projects. TABOR language was not as prevalent on this year’s ballots with only 2 library systems asking for TABOR overrides and only one being successful. Table 1 summarizes election results by type of ballot measure. Table 2 gives details about locations and voting percentages for public library measures on the November ballot (see full report for tables).

Libraries that failed to pass their ballot measures were looking for voter support for maintaining or expanding services. Cortez Public Library was hoping to double their operating budget to bring them “up to average compared to other public libraries in the state.” While they will retain current funding, failure of the referendum means that their “services will stay the same for the next few years.”

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Pricing Trends for Public Library Print Materials

Colorado’’s public libraries have recently been faced with new challenges concerning the management and maintenance of their collections. Following significant wholesale and jobber price increases in the early and mid-1990s, prices paid by public libraries for books, periodicals, and other information resources have continued to rise. The Library Research Service (LRS) has continued to monitor these trends and is using this information to assist libraries in planning for materials expenditures in the future.

Recently reported pricing figures indicate that future materials costs for public libraries will be highly dependent on the origin and format of the items in question. Figures from the Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac and the annual periodicals pricing report in Library Journal show that while these prices have continued to rise, the rates of increase have slowed in recent years and vary significantly between specific media. adds budget calculators

  1. Enter your library’s current budget and population.
  2. Estimate growth in the population.
  3. Choose a year through 2008.
  4. Click “Calculate” and receive an estimate of funds needed to maintain buying power adjusting for inflation and population growth.

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

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