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Colorado’s Library Job Climate: 2007-2010 Insights from

Over 500 registered employers use to post open positions. The site is managed by the Library Research Service, a unit of the Colorado State Library, and most of the jobs posted (89% in 2010) are located in Colorado. Jobseekers can tailor searches to their own qualifications and preferences and receive customized emails when new jobs of interest are posted. The database-driven site has also been gathering statistics on these job postings since 2007. This Fast Facts reports on these statistics for 2010 and outlines some of the trends in activity on the site over the past four years in an attempt to answer the ever-important questions jobseekers ask in these tough economic times: How many and what kind of jobs in our field are being posted, how much do they pay, and how many people are interested in them? It also highlights some disheartening trends that any astute jobseeker, within or outside of library work, has observed over the past 4 years: There is more competition than ever for fewer full-time, permanent positions, and salaries continue to stagnate.

Quick Look

  • Jobs posted since 2007: 1,788
  • Total MyJobline Accounts: 1,639
  • MyJobline users signed up to receive email notification of new posts: 1,114
  • Subscribers to Jobline RSS feed: 636
  • Twitter followers (@LibraryJobline): 124

295_Chart 1Number of Job Postings: Up Slightly from 2009 but Still Low
Total job postings rose 13 percent from 2009 to 2010, from 233 to 264, but they are still nowhere near pre-recession levels (Chart 1). Chart 2 shows a more detailed, monthly view of Library Jobline posts for January 2007 through February 2011. May 2008 was Jobline’s busiest month, with 106 jobs posted. 2010 was rather unsteady from month to month, with anywhere from 13 (in March) to 36 (in February) jobs posted per month. April, June, and October tend to be good months for job posts regardless of the year.

295_Chart 2

Job Views: More Jobseekers and Competition than Ever
The number of individual views of all Library Jobline posts increased dramatically from 2009 to 2010, from 416,030 to 728,024 views (Chart 3). This means an average of 2,757 people viewed each job posted. In contrast, there were 1,786 views per job in 2009 and 809 views per job in 2008.1 So, accompanying the slight increase in jobs posted in 2010 is more interest than ever in those jobs.

295_Chart 3

Hot Jobs
The three most popular job postings in 2010—in terms of numbers of views—were in the academic and special library sectors, a departure from the popular school library jobs most viewed in the past few years. The top three Hot Jobs of 2010 were:

  • Library Technician at Colorado Mountain College (3,438 views, full-time, starting salary of $34,490/year, MLIS not required)
  • Librarian at Front Range Community College (3,238 views, full-time, starting salary of $40,000/year, MLIS required)
  • Public Services Coordinator at USIS-Labat (3,147 views, full-time, starting salary of $55,000/yr, MLIS preferred)

Fewer Full-Time, Permanent Positions
Just over half (53%) of jobs posted in 2010 were full-time positions. This number reflects a steady fall in full-time job availability over the past four years. In 2009, 62 percent of Jobline postings were full-time, and in 2007, nearly three-fourths (72%) were full-time. National statistics confirm this trend: Library Journal’s “Placements & Salaries Survey 2010”2 notes that “part-time employment has become a way of life for many LIS graduates, and it has steadily risen from 16.3% in 2007 to 22.8% in 2009.” The study also notes that, nationwide, “permanent, professional placements continue to decline, from 75.8% in 2007 to 61% in 2009, while temporary placements increased once again (from 7.8% in 2008 to 10.6% in 2009) as did nonprofessional jobs (from 13.5% of placements in 2008 to 19.4% in 2009).”

Degree Requirements and Salaries
Of 2010’s Jobline postings, one-third (33%) required an MLIS, about one-tenth (11%) preferred it, and over half (56%) did not require it. For the first time since 2007, the average starting salary for a professional position requiring an MLIS dropped, decreasing from $24.50 per hour in 2009 to $24 per hour in 2010 ($49,920/year). Salaries for jobs either preferring or not requiring an MLIS have both risen since 2009, averaging $20 per hour ($41,600/year), and $16 per hour ($33,280/year), respectively (see Chart 4).

295_Chart 4

Beyond Jobline: State and National Salaries from BLS3
According to the national Occupational Employment Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average hourly wage for a professional Librarian position in May 2009 (the latest date for published statistics) was $26.76, placing Library Jobline’s 2009 and 2010 wages at the low end of the national spectrum. However, when comparing these figures, it is important to keep in mind that Jobline figures are starting salaries. The BLS national mean hourly wages for Library Assistants-Clerical and Library Technicians were $11.92 and $14.93, respectively, putting Library Jobline’s $16.00 per hour starting wage for a non-MLIS-required position on the high end of the national range. For Colorado specifically, the BLS reports higher average hourly wages than the national average: $29.58 for a Librarian and $15.22 for a Library Technician in 2009.

Statistics from reveal that the total number of Colorado library jobs available appears to be slowly creeping up from recession levels, but the number of full-time, permanent positions available continues to decline, reflecting a national trend over the past few years. Salaries for all types of jobs on the site have grown little over the past four years, and Colorado jobseekers also face more competition for local library jobs than ever before, based on the ratio of jobs posted to job views.

Where Does All the Money Go? Colorado’s Public Library Expenditures from 2000 to 2009

Public libraries must make tough decisions about how to allocate limited funds to best meet their communities’ needs. These decisions take into account the responsibilities of maintaining a relevant collection, acquiring current technologies, and having the staff available to assist patrons and maintain technology. Examining the trends of key expenditure categories can give some insight into how libraries in Colorado adjust their spending over time to meet their communities’ needs.

294_Chart 1

Library expenditures broken into three categories – collection, staff, and other operating expenditures    (all adjusted for inflation)—show how public library funds have been allocated throughout Colorado as a whole between 2000 and 2009 (Chart 1). Collection expenditures per capita have gone down 49 cents over the past decade (-7%).

Staffing remains the highest expenditure of public libraries; per capita staff expenditures have grown by 18% between 2000 and 2009. However, that increase is modest when compared to the 28% increase in “other operating expenditures per capita.” This category covers a wide variety of costs, including technology and the additional costs associated with independent library districts (e.g., building maintenance, human resources, and other expenses that may have been previously covered by city or county services).

“Other Operating Expenditures” are all expenditures other than those reported for Total Staff Expenditures and Total Collection Expenditures and can include binding, supplies, consultants, furnishing expenses, and technology expenses such as computer hardware, software, support, and networks including the Internet.

294_Chart 2

One factor that may be driving the increase in other operating expenditures is increased outlays for technology expenses. Between 2000 and 2009 the total number of public access computers per 10,000 served in Colorado public libraries more than doubled (Chart 2).

Libraries have increased the number of computers to accommodate the evolving needs of patrons as content is transferred to and purchased in digital formats. As the number of computers increases, libraries incur additional expenses for software, peripheral hardware, and other technologies associated with computers.

There were nearly 3 million more users of electronic resources at Colorado public libraries in 2009 than in 2001 (the first year this information was collected).

While the increase in the number of public access computers may account for some of the increase in other operating expenses, more data is needed to paint a clearer picture of what is driving the increases in this category and how libraries are allocating resources to meet operation and community needs.

Colorado’s Public Library Service Trends from 2000 to 2009

Colorado’s public libraries had another busy year in 2009. Library visits, circulation, and users of Internet computers reached record highs, and program attendance has risen considerably over the past decade. These four statistics are used to compute the Library Journal (LJ) Index of Public Library Service, a system that ranks the output measures of libraries nationwide so that their accomplishments may be recognized. Libraries with the top rankings within their expenditure group are honored as “Star Libraries.”4  This Fast Facts will assess how Colorado is doing on the data elements used in the LJ Index.

Library Visits
Colorado public library visits have risen from 22.6 million in 2000 to over 32.8 million in 2009. The sheer number of total visitors makes for busy libraries; the 6.62 visits per capita measure in 2009 tops the previous record of 6.55 visits per capita in 2004 (Chart 1). Overall, library visits per capita have increased by 22 percent over the past decade.

293_Chart 1

Total materials circulation has increased steadily since 2000, peaking in 2009 with over 63.3 million materials circulated. Per capita circulation has grown by 36 percent from 2000 to 2009 (Chart 2). Children’s materials circulation per capita, which traditionally makes up around one-third of total circulation, has seen a 19 percent increase. Non-children’s materials circulation has been more integral to the overall increase, rising by 46 percent over the decade.

Total circulation in 2009 was over 63 million. Children’s circulation alone reached 20 million.

293_Chart 2

Not only are Coloradans visiting the library and checking out materials, they have also been attending the multitude of programs offered by their libraries. In 2008, the total number of programs offered reached 78,682, or 16.14 programs per 1,000 served, a record high for Colorado’s public libraries.

In 2008 Colorado’s public libraries offered a record number of programs to their patrons.

The number of programs in 2009 was slightly lower (77,399, or 15.62 programs per 1,000 served). This decrease from the previous year can be attributed to a 12 percent drop in children’s programs, from 11.22 (2008) to 9.89 (2009) programs per 1,000 served (Chart 3).

In contrast, the number of adult programs per 1,000 served increased by 18 percent in 2009, and young adult (YA) programs went up by 12 percent. The 2009 statistics reflect a change in the definition of YA programs to include attendees between 12 and 17 years of age; in prior years YA programs included attendees between 14 and 17 years of age. Therefore, increases in the numbers of YA programs and program attendees reported and decreases in the number of children’s programs and attendees reported are likely due, at least in part, to this definition change.

293_Chart 3

From 2000 to 2009, there was considerable growth in the number of YA and adult programs per 1,000 served. The numbers of both of these types of programs approximately tripled during this time period. Children’s programs per 1,000 served increased by 17 percent from 2000 to 2009.

The greater increase in the number of adult and YA programs over the past decade, as compared with children’s programs, has shifted the overall proportions of programs offered in Colorado libraries. In 2000, children’s programs accounted for 82 percent of the total number of programs. In 2009, the proportion of children’s programs decreased to account for 63 percent of the total number of programs. Children’s programs are still a driving force in library programming totals, but YA and adult programs are becoming increasingly common.

Total attendance at Colorado library programs reached 1.87 million in 2009, an increase of more than 793,000 attendees since 2000. With the exception of dips in 2002, 2007, and 2009, total program attendance per 1,000 served has otherwise been on the rise over the past decade. YA program attendance per 1,000 served has tripled, adult attendance has more than doubled, and children’s attendance has increased by 27 percent (Chart 4).

293_Chart 4

Internet Users
During the past decade, libraries have steadily increased their capacity to deliver online content through public access Internet computers, and since 20045 the number of users of Internet computers has risen for five consecutive years. In 2009 there were 75 percent more Internet users per capita at Colorado libraries than there were in 2004 (Chart 5). Over half of that growth (58%) took place between 2007 and 2009. The recent surge in Internet users may also be due to the economic recession that began in December 2007.  During periods of economic decline, people often cut back on discretionary spending such as home Internet access, and libraries may serve as an alternate point of access for them.

293_Chart 5

Does Colorado Deserve a Star?
The LJ Index of Public Library Service for 2010 has announced that Colorado is currently home to eight Star Libraries (using 2008 data).  Over the past decade there have been upward trends in each of the output measures used to calculate these ratings. During a time when there has been vocal opposition of government services and libraries by proponents of budget and tax cuts, it is important to note that demand for library services is high, and Colorado’s public libraries have been successful in delivering these valued services.

Colorado’s Public Libraries: Mixed Success in the National Rankings, 2001 to 2008

In a November 2005 Fast Facts,6 the Library Research Service (LRS) posed the question, “One has to wonder: how long will Colorado remain one of the top 10 states for public libraries?” Each year, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) calculates states’ public library summary data for a variety of outputs, and ranks every state according to its performance on each output. Colorado’s per capita measures generally have been on the rise since 2001, but does this mean their national rankings have followed suit? The statistics reported here provide insight about the performance of all Colorado public libraries—from the smallest to the largest—in relation to public libraries across the country.

IMLS reports national and state library summary data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Findings are published on their website:

292_Chart 1* IMLS calculates statistics using imputed data for missing data, and an unduplicated population calculation that is distributed proportionally based on legal service area population. Therefore the IMLS per capita measures are slightly different than the same per capita ratios calculated by individual states.


Visits, Reference, and Circulation
According to IMLS data, total library visits per capita have decreased by 1.4 percent between 2001 and 2008 for Colorado public libraries. This loss caused Colorado to fall out of the top ten in national rankings in 2006, only five years after claiming the number one spot (Chart 1).  Even though Colorado’s total number of library visitors reached an all-time high in 2008 (30.7 million),7 the per capita measure rose only slightly and Colorado was ranked 13th in the nation. In 2001, Colorado ranked sixth in the nation for reference transactions per capita; however, the state fell in the rankings in subsequent years (Chart 2). After slipping to eleventh place in 2007, Colorado climbed back into the top ten (8th place) in 2008, while the per capita measure held fairly steady.

292_Chart 2* IMLS calculates statistics using imputed data for missing data, and an unduplicated population calculation that is distributed proportionally based on legal service area population. Therefore the IMLS per capita measures are slightly different than the same per capita ratios calculated by individual states.

Circulation statistics are a different story. Colorado’s per capita circulation has remained in the top ten, holding steady in sixth place since 2005 (Chart 3). According to IMLS, total circulation has increased by 34 percent (from 43.5 million to 58.2 million) between 2001 and 2008. The fact that Colorado’s ranking remains fairly steady, yet per capita circulation has increased from 10.40 to 11.98, indicates that circulation has been on the rise in other states as well.

292_Chart 3

* IMLS calculates statistics using imputed data for missing data, and an unduplicated population calculation that is distributed proportionally based on legal service area population. Therefore the IMLS per capita measures are slightly different than the same per capita ratios calculated by individual states.

Public Access Internet Computers
In 2002, reporting began on the number of public access Internet computers in public libraries. Since then, Colorado libraries have moved up in the national rankings for the average number of public access Internet computers per outlet (Chart 4). Colorado broke into the top ten for the first time in 2007 for the average number of public access Internet computers per outlet, and rose to ninth place in 2008.

292_Chart 4

Although the number of computers per outlet is on the rise, the number of computers per 5,000 population in Colorado has remained in the middle of the national rankings, never rising above 22nd place across the time period reported (Chart 5). These lower rankings may be due at least in part to Colorado’s rapidly increasing population compared to number of computers.

292_Chart 5* IMLS calculates statistics using imputed data for missing data, and an unduplicated population calculation that is distributed proportionally based on legal service area population. Therefore the IMLS per capita measures are slightly different than the same per capita ratios calculated by individual states.

It is unclear what is to blame for the declines in Colorado’s national rankings in library visits and reference transactions per capita, as well as for its relatively low ranking for public access Internet computers per 5,000 served. Such factors as budget cuts, reduction in hours, and population growth all may be somewhat responsible. However, Colorado’s high circulation and number of computers per outlet rankings demonstrate that its public libraries are among some of the best in the country in providing residents with these sought after services.

The Impact of the Recession on Public Library Use in Colorado

During the latest recession (December 2007-June 2009), many Coloradans found that an old friend could serve them well in times of financial crisis: the public library. It is a place where those who are casualties of a bad economy can turn for much-needed information, community, and help, whether they are looking for a job, returning to school, starting a business, or simply trying to “get by” through economizing and doing things for themselves. Many public libraries reported higher usage patterns during this time, and these observations were confirmed by an analysis of library visits, circulation, program attendance, and public Internet computer use in Colorado public libraries before and after the onset of the recession. This Fast Facts shares the results of this analysis.

Who determines when a recession has occurred?
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is the organization responsible for identifying recessions in the United States and determining their start and end dates. NBER is a private, non-profit, non-partisan research organization.
Good public library service is not just a quality of life issue; it is an economic issue as well. – Paula J. Miller, Executive Director Pikes Peak Library District

Library Visits
In 2006 and 2007—before the recession’s onset—visits per capita for Colorado public libraries serving legal service area (LSA) populations of 25,000 or more8 was fairly static, but trending downward (-2%) (see Table 1). For the same interval, at resort libraries,9 this statistic reached a peak (13% in 2006) and then dipped (-6% in 2007). After the recession began (2008 and 2009), visits per capita at larger libraries increased by at least 5 percent each year, while visits per capita at resort libraries recovered to pre-recession levels.

Table 1
Visits Per Capita & Percent Change from Previous Year, 2006-2009

291_Table 1Circulation
Between 2006 and 2007—before the onset of the recession—circulation of library materials at libraries serving 25,000 or more was actually trending downward (see Table 2). Once the recession took hold in 2008, however, demand for this basic library service saw an uptick (5% over 2007), and rose by an even larger percentage in 2009 (7% over 2008). For resort libraries, during the same periods, similar patterns occurred, only more exaggerated. In 2007, for instance, the decline in circulation per capita was at a rate 3 times that of larger libraries (-7% vs. -2%). The reverse was equally true: Circulation per capita for resort libraries increased as the recession deepened at twice the rate seen for larger libraries (10% vs. 5% in 2008, 17% vs. 7% in 2009).

Table 2
Circulation Per Capita & Percent Change from Previous Year, 2006-2009
291_Table 2

Program Attendance
Immediately before the recession hit, program attendance per 1,000 served at libraries serving populations of 25,000 or more was trending downward (-5% from 2006 to 2007) (see Table 3). The year the recession hit, this statistic increased at a double-digit rate (12%) and maintained that higher level as the recession wore on. As with circulation per capita, resort libraries experienced even more dramatic trends for program attendance per 1,000 served. Just before the recession’s onset, this statistic dropped at twice the rate for larger libraries (-11% vs. -5%). As the recession settled in, program attendance per 1,000 served at resort libraries rose by 7% in 2008 and 17% in 2009.

 Table 3
Program Attendance Per 1,000 Served & Percent Change From Previous Year, 2006-2009
291_Table 3

Internet Computer Use
For the years covered in this study, comparable statistics on Internet computer use were not available from a critical mass of libraries serving populations of 25,000 or more; but such statistics were available for most of the state’s resort libraries. While Internet computer use per capita saw steady, but modest, gains from 2006 to 2008, the percentage increase in demand for these services as the recession deepened in the national psyche (2009) reached double-digit levels (see Table 4).

Table 4
Internet Computer Use Per Capita & Percent Change From Previous Year, 2006-2009*
291_Table 4
*Internet computer use per capita could not be analyzed for libraries with 25,000+ LSA populations because of a high prevalence of missing data and outliers.

Public Library Use Before and After the Onset of the Recession
The recession’s impact on public library use is illustrated most dramatically when examining the percent increase for each of the usage statistics from the year prior to the recession’s onset (2007) to the final year of the recession (2009). This may be due at least in part to the fact that Colorado entered the recession late (third quarter of 2008), as mentioned earlier. In most instances, percent increase for each of the 2 groups of libraries—those serving populations of 25,000 and more and those serving resort communities—was in the double digits.

For libraries serving populations of 25,000 and more, visits per capita increased by 11 percent from 2007 to 2009 (see Chart 1). Similar increases were seen for circulation per capita and program attendance per 1,000 served. Circulation increased by 13 percent and program attendance by 12 percent during this time period. In contrast, visits and circulation decreased by 2 percent and program attendance by 5 percent from 2006 to 2007 (just prior to the recession).

 Chart 1
Percent Change from 2006 to 2007 (Pre-Recession)
and 2007 to 2009 (Recession)
Libraries with 25,000+ LSA Population
291_Chart 1

For libraries serving resort communities, visits per capita increased by 6 percent from 2007 to 2009, while circulation per capita, program attendance per 1,000 served, and Internet use per capita all had double-digit percentage increases during this time period (see Chart 2). Circulation increased by 28 percent, program attendance by 24 percent, and Internet computer use by 13 percent. In contrast, visits (-6%), circulation (-7%), and program attendance (-11%) all decreased during the time period just prior to the recession and Internet use remained relatively static.

 Chart 2
Percent Change from 2006 to 2007 (Pre-Recession)
and 2007 to 2009 (Recession)
Resort Libraries
291_Chart 2


Clearly, the recent recession had—and, due to the sluggish recovery, continues to have—a dramatic impact on public library use in Colorado. When their communities needed them most, public libraries were there to offer the space, information, and assistance Coloradans needed to cope with psychological stresses, strained family budgets, changing retirement plans, and unemployment and under-employment. In addition, Coloradans who needed it were able to take advantage of libraries’ resources and programs to gain new skills to become more competitive in the job market, and to become more entrepreneurial out of sheer necessity.

We have heard patrons comment that the library is the best deal for families on a budget. – Eve Tallman, Director, Mesa County Public Library District

As current American Library Association president Roberta Stevens (2010) concluded in a recent Washington Post commentary:

Here’s a message to elected leaders as they balance budgets: Today’s libraries are [“a strategic investment.” They are] an essential service and provide resources to ensure a competitive workforce. All of us—parents, families, seniors and businesses large or small—must speak up to keep libraries open and available…The resources in your local library have the power to change the world; but the doors must be kept open.10

Colorado School Library/Media Center Salaries: Mixed News

The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) has released fall 2009 staffing statistics for schools statewide. On the whole, average annual salaries for school librarian/media consultants and assistants11 have improved considerably in the last 5 years. This salary growth has librarians/media consultants in Colorado schools earning slightly more than the national average, but not all of the news was positive. Library/media assistants’ annual salaries still fall well behind those for similar positions nationwide.

Librarian/Media Consultant Salaries
CDE reports school librarian/media consultant salaries based on full-time equivalence by level of education. As expected, average salaries increased with higher levels of education such as master’s and doctorate degrees, reaching nearly $60,000 and just over $70,000, respectively, in 2009. For all college degrees, average salaries increased by a considerable percentage: 6.8 percent for doctorate, 10.7 percent for master’s, and 10.4 percent for bachelor’s. In contrast, librarian/media consultants without a bachelor’s degree were the only group to see a decrease in salary, earning only 76 cents for every dollar they made in 2004 (see Chart 1).

Librarian/Media Consultant
CDE and the National Center for Education Statistics, the collectors of state and national data about school staffing in the state and nation, define a librarian/media consultant as someone who “develops plans for and manages the use of teaching and learning resources, including the maintenance of equipment, content material, and services.” This definition does not include endorsement status; i.e., the librarian as defined in this data set may or may not have a school library endorsement and/or teacher certification.

Chart 1
Colorado Department of Education
Average Annual Salary of Colorado School Librarian/Media Consultants by Education Level
2004 & 2009

290_Chart 1

Average Annual Salaries for Librarians in Elementary and Secondary Schools Nationwide
Bureau of Labor Statistics
May 2009: $57,950
May 2004: $48,870

Colorado school librarian12 salaries seem to be on pace with national averages. In May 2009, the national annual wage for librarians working in elementary and secondary schools was $57,950, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This was an 18.6 percent increase over the $48,870 school librarians earned 5 years before.

Library/Media Assistant Salaries
Similar to librarian/media consultants, school library/media assistants in Colorado have seen a notable increase in salaries (around 10%) in the last 5 years, regardless of education level (see Chart 2). Unlike the previous group, however, Colorado school library/media assistants are well behind the national salary average of $28,960 for library technicians, which BLS defines as assistants who may have a certificate or associate’s degree.

Library/Media Assistant
Assists in the maintenance and operation of a library/media center by aiding in the selection, ordering cataloging, processing, and circulation of all media and/or serving as specialist, etc.

Chart 2
Colorado Department of Education
Average Annual Salary of Colorado School Library/Media Assistants by Education Level
2004 & 2009

290_Chart 2
Average Annual Salaries for Library Technicians (Assistants) in Elementary and Secondary Schools Nationwide
Bureau of Labor Statistics
May 2009: $28,960
May 2004: $24,090

According to CDE’s figures, even library/media assistants with higher degrees earn considerably less (for example, a third less for those holding a bachelor’s) than the national average for library technicians. In fact, the discrepancy between Colorado and national salary averages for library technicians or assistants has grown wider from 2004 to 2009. While the national average salary increased by 20 percent over those 5 years, Colorado salaries increased by only half that amount.

Overall, Colorado school librarian/media consultants and assistants have seen notable increases in their salaries in the last 5 years. For consultants, that increase has kept them in the ballpark of national salary averages for school librarians, but Colorado school library assistants continue to earn much less than the nationwide average.

Challenged Materials in Colorado Public Libraries, 2009

As part of the Public Library Annual Report administered by the Library Research Service, Colorado public libraries indicate whether they have received challenges to their materials or services. In 2009, 20 of the 115 public libraries in the state reported at least 1 challenge. Nineteen of the libraries completed a follow-up survey to provide more details about those challenges.

In total, Colorado public libraries reported 48 challenges in 2009, the lowest number in more than a decade. No title was challenged more than once, and just one of the Colorado challenges (And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson) appeared on the American Library Association’s list of top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2009.

What is a challenge?
The American Library Association defines a challenge as “an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.”
Challenges in Colorado
In 2009, Colorado public libraries reported the fewest challenges in more than a decade.

Formats Challenged
Although books and videos account for a lower percentage of total challenges than in previous years, they continue to be the most challenged formats, with books accounting for 1 out of 2 challenges (52%) and videos 1 out of 4 (27%). Challenges to periodicals and computer services increased from previous years, rising from 3 percent in 2008 to 8 percent in 2009 (see Chart 1).289_Chart 1

The target audiences of challenged materials have varied over the last few years.  In 2009, well over half (56%) of challenged materials were aimed at adults, while a quarter were directed at children. The previous year, challenges to children’s materials spiked to 44 percent, but challenges in 2009 (25%) were closer to the average from previous years. Challenges to adult materials in 2008 were also unusual compared to previous years with a notable dip (39%), although the 2009 and 2005-2007 percentages were nearly identical. In contrast, the percentage of challenges to young adult materials in 2009 was more consistent with the previous year, coming close to 1 in 5 (19%) (see Chart 2).

289_Chart 2

The drastic increase in challenges to children’s materials in 2008 likely is a result of multiple challenges to three different books: Little Monkey’s Peeing Circus by Tjibbe Veldkamp, Mommy Laid an Egg: Or, Where Do Babies Come From? by Babette Cole, and Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah Brannen. These 3 items—the latter of which appeared on ALA’s 2008 list of top 10 most challenged books—constituted a third of the Colorado challenges to children’s materials in 2008. The 2009 challenges did not reveal any items that resulted in such widespread objections.

Results/Actions Taken
Seven out of 10 challenges (71%) resulted in no change in the item’s status at the library, compared to almost 9 out of 10 (88%) with no change in 2008. The percentage of challenges not pursued by the patron beyond the initial complaint stayed about the same as the previous year, but that of items removed from the collection or moved to another area of the library increased substantially, from 1 and 4 percent, respectively, in 2008 to 13 and 10 percent in 2009 (see Chart 3). The reason for these increases could be recoding of survey responses. For example, some entries reported the result of the challenge as “other,” then explained that a book was reclassified in the adult, rather than young adult, section of the library. Such a response was re-coded as “moved.” Reasons for the notable decrease in challenges resulting in “no change” are unclear.

289_Chart 3

Reason for Challenge
The top 3 reasons for challenges in 2009 were the same as in 2008:  sexually explicit (19%), offensive language (16%), and unsuited to age group (15%). Since LRS began conducting the follow-up survey, these reasons have been consistently cited among the most common criticisms. Challenges based on complaints of nudity dropped from nearly 1 in 5 (19%) in 2008 to just 1 in 10 in 2009, and objections to the portrayal of homosexuality in library materials also decreased, from 1 out of 10 (11%) to just 1 in 30 (3%).289_Table 1


For More Information on Challenges and Intellectual Freedom

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.13 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.

Increased Library Staff Links to Higher CSAP Scores

Known links between higher school library staffing levels and better CSAP scores are confirmed by a recent examination of 2007-08 data on school libraries and 2008 data on students scoring proficient or advanced on CSAP reading. In addition, better-staffed school libraries are also associated with reduced percentages of students receiving unsatisfactory CSAP scores, thereby helping to close the achievement gap.

Endorsed Librarian Staffing
For purposes of this study, the term “librarian” refers to an individual endorsed by the state of Colorado as a School Librarian, a Teacher Librarian, or a Media Specialist. Total FTE includes support staff.

Elementary schools with at least 1 full-time endorsed librarian averaged better CSAP performance than those with less than 1  full-time endorsed librarian. More students earned proficient or advanced reading scores and fewer students earned unsatisfactory scores where there was a full-time endorsed librarian (see Chart 1). Elementary schools with librarians averaged 68 to 72 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced and 9 to 11 percent scoring unsatisfactory. Schools without librarians averaged 64 to 68 percent scoring proficient or advanced and 12 to 13 percent unsatisfactory (see Chart 1).

Chart 1
CSAP Reading Performance by Librarian Staffing
Grades 3 to 5, 2008

287 Chart 1 copy

Total School Library Staffing
In addition to full-time endorsed librarians, total library staff in full-time equivalents (FTE) makes a difference in CSAP reading scores.

For elementary schools with at least 1 full-time endorsed librarian or 1 and a half FTE library staff, the percentage of third, fourth, and fifth grade students scoring proficient or advanced in reading was consistently higher than for schools with lower staffing levels—a 4 to 5 percent absolute difference and a 6 to 8 percent proportional difference (see Table 1).14

Table 1
Percent of Students Scoring Proficient or Advanced in Reading on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) by Library Staffing Level
Grades 3-5, 2008

FF287_Table 1

**p ≤ .01

Schools with more librarian staffing also tended to have a lower percentage of students scoring unsatisfactory in reading—a 2 to 3 percent absolute difference and a 15 to 25 percent proportional difference (see Table 2).  An even stronger pattern in scores was seen in schools having at least 1 and a half FTEs (ideally, at least 1 librarian and support staff)—a 2 to 3 percent absolute difference and a 17 to 27 percent proportional difference.

“When a school includes an endorsed librarian in its staffing, the librarian’s role is a strong part of the teaching and learning in that school.  Students benefit from the collaborative teaching of information problem-solving, inquiry, and critical thinking skills that the librarian and classroom teachers provide.  These skills ensure that students are effective users of ideas and information, helping to close the achievement gap and to prepare the students for life-long learning.” – Nance Nassar, School Library Senior Consultant, Colorado State Library

Table 2
Percent of Students Scoring Unsatisfactory in Reading on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) by Library Staffing Level,

Grades 3-5, 2008
287_Table 2
Relative impact and relationship to the achievement gap
Elementary schools with better-staffed libraries have a significantly higher percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in reading and a significantly lower percentage of students scoring unsatisfactory. Based on the proportional differences reported above, the evidence indicates that library staff can have a positive impact on all students. In addition, the fact that proportional differences associated with unsatisfactory scores are so dramatic suggests that a well-staffed library can be especially important for the neediest students. These results indicate that school library staffing can play an important role in narrowing the achievement gap.
These findings come from the third Colorado study of the impact of school libraries and librarians on academic achievement, and the second one to examine their impact on student performance on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) tests. The findings about library staffing levels in this latest study are consistent with those of the two previous studies. Students tend to perform better on achievement tests where school libraries have more full-time equivalents (FTEs) of staffing, especially at the librarian level. Between 2000 and 2009, similar findings have been generated by studies in 17 other states (Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin) as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. Many of these studies also present evidence that the relationships between library staffing and test performance cannot be explained away by other school or community conditions. More recent studies in Indiana and Idaho suggest some of the day-to-day dynamics of school life that may account for these relationships. In Idaho (the latest of these studies), higher test scores tended to be earned by students whose principals felt that their schools did an excellent job of teaching information, communication, and technology (ICT) literacy. In turn, such self-assessments were more likely at schools where principals valued as essential (or at least desirable) several policies and practices associated with fully credentialed librarians:
  • Flexibly scheduled access to the library,
  • Collaboration between the school librarian and classroom teachers in the design and delivery of instruction,
  • Provision of in-service professional development opportunities to teachers by the librarian,
  • Appointment of the librarian to key school committees,
  • Regular meetings between librarian and principal, and
  • Addressing the instructional role of the librarian during teacher hiring interviews.

Credentialed librarians were 2 to 3 times more likely to report engaging in most of these activities at least weekly than others deputized to run the library.

The Future of the Book, Part 2: Beyond the Bathtub, Personal Preference Among Many Factors Influencing Format Choice

With the emergence of more and more electronic reading devices, many people are discussing what this new reading method means for print formats. The Library Research Service’s (LRS) recent 60-Second Survey: The Future of the Book asked respondents what they thought of electronic and print formats and how those formats might change their reading habits in the future. Many respondents (71%) also left comments, which were analyzed according to 6 themes that emerged addressing various influences on format (see the first in this Fast Facts series, The Future of the Book, Part 1: Cost and Technological Advantages of Paper and Electronic Formats, for more information on the comment analysis).

This Fast Facts takes a closer look at what survey respondents said about the existence of multiple formats, the role content plays in determining format, the emotional and aesthetic aspects of paper books, and the influence of time and generation. Also analyzed are their responses to some of the survey questions, with particular attention paid to how the type of library where respondents work and whether they own an e-reader affected their responses.

Chart 1
60-Second Survey: The Future of the Book
Library Circulation in 10 Years
Percentage of Types of Materials

FF286_Chart 1

Multiple Formats
When asked what they thought about the future of the paper book, almost two-thirds (63%) of survey respondents reported that books would never disappear, and about 1 out of 10 (11%) foresaw their eventual demise after more than 100 years. In the meantime, paper books are left to compete with the growing number of electronic books appearing on the market.

Almost half (46%) of survey comments suggested that multiple formats for reading would coexist successfully in some way, citing electronic books as an alternative to, rather than replacement of, paper. In fact, when asked what they thought libraries would circulate in 10 years, 2 out of 5 respondents (43%) answered an equal number of physical and electronic resources, the most popular response. Nevertheless, the trend toward incorporating more electronic materials is apparent. Forty percent of respondents predicted that libraries would circulate more electronic than physical resources or only electronic materials in 10 years, with less than half as many (16%) anticipating circulation of more physical resources  (see Chart 1).

“Like all communication formats, change is constant and new formats continue to evolve. Different formats work for different audiences and purposes. Paper will continue to work best for some types of reading and some audiences, although eventually some form of e-book will be the predominant format.”

Owning an E-Reader and Multiple Formats
As might be expected, owning an e-reader influenced what survey respondents thought about the future of library circulation.  Although a plurality of respondents from each camp (41% e-reader owners, 44% non-owners) agreed that libraries would circulate about the same amount of physical and electronic materials, the more telling numbers are in the responses to “more electronic” or “more physical” materials.  Respondents who owned e-readers (46%) were more likely than non-owners (38%) to anticipate higher circulation of electronic materials, while double the percentage of non-owners (17%) as owners (8%) predicted higher circulation of physical materials.

Library Type and Multiple Formats
The type of library where respondents work also affected their views on future library circulation. Public and school library staff gave similar responses to the types of materials libraries would circulate in 10 years, with half anticipating an equal number of electronic and physical materials. In contrast, only a third of academic librarians expected to circulate an even number of each format.

Instead, the majority of academic librarians (55%), more than any other type, predicted more electronic materials, while just under a third (30%) of public and school librarians said the same. Special librarians’ predictions were split more equally, with nearly half (46%) expecting to circulate the same amount and slightly fewer (44%) anticipating more electronic materials (see Chart 2).

Chart 2
60-Second Survey: The Future of the Book
Percentage of Library Materials Circulated in 10 Years
Predicted by Different Types of Librarians

FF286_Chart 2

Content is King
A number of respondents emphasized that the information itself is more important than how it is packaged; nevertheless, the nature of that information can influence its presentation. Nearly 1 out of 5 (18%) comments indicated that content may be the most influential factor in dictating the preferred format for various genres and types of materials.

“If a book contains something that interests a significant number of people it will be published and ‘read,’ regardless of format, and regardless of whether ‘reading’ actually means reading, viewing, listening, or participating, or all four.”

Two survey questions addressed the topic of content driving format choice. Respondents noted which format they currently used to read fiction, non-fiction, and textbooks and then indicated their anticipated use in 10 years. Only 1 format showed little change: audio use of each type of material was expected to increase less than 1 percent.

In contrast, respondents indicated that their use of electronic formats to read fiction, non-fiction, or textbooks would escalate anywhere from 3 to 6 times the current percentages, while paper use would decrease accordingly. Paper was still the preferred format in the future for fiction and non-fiction, but a closer balance between it and electronic use supports the likelihood that multiple formats will coexist.

Within the predicted changes, the number of respondents who expected to read textbooks electronically jumped significantly, from 1 in 10 now to nearly 6 in 10 (59%) in a decade. Fiction and non-fiction saw substantial, though less dramatic, increases in anticipated use of electronic formats (from 5% to 22% and 11% to 37%, respectively) (see Chart 3).

Chart 3
60-Second Survey: The Future of the Book
Percentage of Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Textbooks
Read Electronically Now and in 10 Years

FF286_Chart 3

Owning an e-reader influenced whether respondents thought they would read fiction, non-fiction, and textbooks electronically in the future, though the discrepancy was least obvious in the latter category. In 10 years twice as many e-reader owners (65%) as non-owners (32%) anticipated reading nonfiction electronically, with nearly the exact opposite being true for paper format (see Chart 4).

Chart 4
60-Second Survey: The Future of the Book
Non-Fiction Format in 10 Years by E-Reader Owners and Non-Owners

FF286_Chart 4

Responses and comments indicated that survey respondents thought news or informational reading was most likely to lead the way in transitioning to electronic text, while pleasure reading would remain in print. One rationale suggested by respondents was that electronic textbooks could offer enhanced searching and reduced costs for students and revised editions would be simpler to produce. When it came to defending fiction in print format, respondents often cited more emotive reasons.

Emotional and Aesthetic Appeal of Paper Books
One out of 4 comments addressed the unique emotional or aesthetic appeal of paper books. Although not asked directly about it in the survey questions, these comments revealed a heartfelt, personal attachment to paper books for a variety of reasons.

“Who wants to read their kid a bedtime story using a Kindle? And what e-reader can simulate the experience of looking at a large hardcover art book with high-quality reproductions? I just don’t see how e-readers supplant the paper book in areas such as this.”

Frequently noted was the comprehensive sensory experience of reading, which includes holding, feeling, and smelling a paper book, and hearing the turning of the pages. Equally common was a reference to the pleasure of “curling up with a good book.” For many respondents, the comfort and familiarity of reading paper enhanced the enjoyment of the activity.

“The times, they are a-changing. The book in some form will always be around. We just may not recognize the form our grandkids or great-grandkids call a ‘book.’”

In addition to the emotional aspect, paper books also boast certain aesthetic qualities that e-readers have yet to mimic satisfactorily. For example, many respondents claimed that the superiority of print illustrations ensured that coffee table, art, and children’s books would remain in print rather than finding success in an electronic format.

Time and Generational Influences
Just over 1 out of 10 (12%) survey comments indicated that the emotional attachment or aesthetic preference could be a generational phenomenon that would fade with time, affecting format prevalence. This almost inevitable “change over time” has occurred before, most obviously in format changes for music and movies, some of which resulted in near complete transitions and others that were shorter lived. While paper books offer more durability to survive the e-reader invasion, some respondents predicted that their use eventually would be restricted to museum displays and collectors’ items.

“Electronic materials will continue to rise in popularity, and will eventually take on some format that we can’t even imagine now. Regarding a time frame, it won’t happen overnight. We’ll have time to prepare and adapt. Relax.”

A few respondents remarked that with constant developments and the unveiling of new devices, it was nearly impossible to predict how e-readers would look and function in a few years. Despite the uncertainty, younger generations are already accustomed to using electronic technology. Most comments predicted that the transition to electronic formats would coincide and accelerate with baby boomers’ retirement and tech-savvy youngsters’ emergence as a driving force in the market and the economy.

The debate over electronic versus print books continues to raise a variety of questions and opinions. Despite some conflicting views, however, a significant percentage of survey respondents agreed that in the future, multiple formats will coexist in some way and libraries will circulate an increasing number of electronic materials. The type of content may prove to be the most influential factor in determining format. Many foresee informational reading transitioning to electronic text and pleasure reading remaining in print, as numerous respondents feel an emotional tie to paper books. Generational differences also could impact format prevalence, but only time will truly tell how and why paper or electronic formats prevail.


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