Fast Facts Reports


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Program Attendance at Public Libraries is on the Rise

Public libraries provide a wide range of programs for their communities, engaging, educating, and entertaining library patrons with everything from computer training to language classes to gaming. This important service has grown in recent years, with public libraries in the U.S. increasing the number of programs they offer by 33 percent between 2004 and 2008,1 according to national data. Expanding program offerings has paid off, as program attendance has also substantially increased. During the same 4-year period, annual program attendance in U.S. public libraries increased by 22 percent (see Chart 1).

Colorado Public Libraries

  • Between 2004 and 2008, Colorado mirrored the national increase in the number of programs offered at 33 percent
  • Colorado’s program attendance has increased even more than the national totals, with a 33 percent increase between 2004 and 2008

298_Chart 1
How Program Attendance Relates to Use of Other Library Services
It is certainly good news that program attendance has increased, but some may wonder how much other library services are being used. The answer is that other library services are being used regularly. In fact, as the number of program attendees increased, circulation and reference questions also increased based on 2008 data (see Chart 2). For example, libraries in the top quartile (i.e., in the top 25% of public libraries in terms of program attendance per 5,000 served) circulate more than 3 times as many items as libraries with fewer than 695 program attendees (bottom quartile, or the bottom 25% in terms of program attendees per 5,000 served). This does not mean that one service causes the others to increase, but there is a positive relationship between these services. Libraries that have higher program attendance have higher circulation and more reference questions.

298_Chart 2

Note: Each bar represents a quartile of U.S. public libraries with program attendance per 5,000 people served.

There are significant, positive correlations between the number of program attendees and both service outputs discussed. In other words, as library programming attendance increases, other services increase, and these relationships are meaningful. Circulation has a strong relationship with program attendance, with a correlation of 0.41.2 The correlation between program attendance and reference is lower, at 0.20, but this is still a significant relationship.

More programs are being offered than ever in public libraries across the U.S. Attendance for these programs is steadily increasing and where program attendance is highest, use of other library services also increases. There are several possible reasons for the positive correlations between program attendance and use of other library services. Perhaps library programs are sparking an interest in attendees, causing them to seek out materials in the collection on the same topics or ask reference librarians for more information. Or, reference librarians may be promoting programs if their topics relate to the patrons’ reference questions. Regardless of the cause, it is important to note that libraries with higher program attendance also have higher circulation and more reference questions.

2010 Academic Librarian Salaries: West and Southwest Region Offers Competitive Pay

At a time when unemployed academic librarians worry about the prospects of finding a job, many employed librarians face cuts in pay or hours and wonder how their salaries compare to those of other librarians in similar positions across the country. Using the 2010 American Library Association-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) Salary Survey3data, this Fast Facts compares the average academic librarian salaries in the West and Southwest region,4 which includes Colorado, to the salaries of academic librarians in all regions. These regional comparisons are broken down by type of academic institution and job category,5 so that a total of 18 comparisons are presented.

The ALA-APA Salary Survey is a national survey conducted to ensure librarians, and those who hire librarians, have accurate and timely salary data. Information about the methodology, as well as additional data and findings, can be found in the 2010 ALA-APA Salary Survey.

University library directors in the West and Southwest region are the highest paid academic librarians. They averaged a yearly salary of $140,456 in 2010 (see Chart 1).

297_Chart 1

That figure is 16 percent more than the average reported for university directors in all regions, and 97 percent more than the national average salary of a director at a two-year college. Similarly, university deputy, associate, or assistant directors in this region were the highest paid librarians in their job category. Their average salary was 14 percent higher than those in all regions.

The West and Southwest region also has the highest average salary for department head/coordinator/senior manager positions; this position at a two-year college has an average salary that is 26 percent higher than the national average (see Chart 2). Yet that same position and region also has the lowest average salary at a four-year college, making 17 percent less per year, compared with all regions. The manager/supervisor of support staff category in the West and Southwest follows this trend, with those at two-year colleges making the highest average salary in this category, and those at four-year colleges making the lowest average salary. In fact, four-year colleges pay the lowest average salaries in every job category except beginning librarian.

297_Chart 2

For the job category “librarians who do not supervise,” the highest average salary is for librarians in the West and Southwest region in two-year colleges (see Chart 3). Similarly, beginning librarians at two-year colleges in this region make the highest average salary of all academic institutions in this job category.

297_Chart 3

In 2010, the West and Southwest remained a competitive region for academic librarian salaries. Academic librarians in the West and Southwest received higher salaries than the national average in 11 of the 18 comparisons reported here. This was particularly the case in two-year colleges; academic librarians in the West and Southwest who worked in this type of institution reported the highest average salaries in each job category except director/assistant director.

Web 2.0 and Colorado’s Public Libraries: 2010 Update

In spring 2010, the Library Research Service (LRS) repeated its observational study, first conducted in 2008, of U.S. Public Libraries and the Use of Web Technologies.6 The 689 libraries included in the study were selected as a random sample of public libraries across the country, broken down into 5 population groups and including all 114 public libraries in Colorado. LRS staff members visited the libraries’ websites—if they had one—to see what the libraries were doing with their web presences. The second round of the study led not only to comparisons between Colorado libraries and their counterparts across the country, but also to updates of what changed in the two years between studies.

Web Presence, Online Account Access, and Chat Reference
In general, Colorado results mirrored those of libraries nationwide. The percentage of libraries maintaining a website and offering patrons online access to their accounts showed minor increases over 2008 numbers, as the majority of libraries already provided these services. In 2010, at least 9 in 10 Colorado public libraries serving more than 10,000 people had websites and online patron account access – about the same as the percentages nationwide. The smallest Colorado libraries (those serving fewer than 10,000) are noticeably ahead of their peers nationwide in these two areas, with 8 in 10 maintaining a website and 6 in 10 offering online account access, compared to 7 in 10 and less than 5 in 10 (45%), respectively, nationwide. The ability for small Colorado libraries to maintain their own websites is undoubtedly supported by Plinkit, a turnkey website hosting solution managed and maintained centrally in Colorado by the State Library.

Another collaborative effort that has allowed Colorado public libraries to surpass the national average is AskColorado, a statewide chat reference service mananaged by the State Library. At least half of all Colorado public libraries, and all of those serving more than 100,000, provide chat reference – a much higher percentage than libraries nationwide (see Chart 1). At the time of the study only one Colorado library with chat reference did not use AskColorado. The service remains the most common form of online reference for Colorado libraries, more popular even than email.

296_Chart 1

Social Media and RSS Feeds
While some of the older, more basic web technologies such as blogs and email reference appear to have stagnated in rate of adoption, more interactive tools continue to grow in popularity. An excellent example is Facebook, and social media in general. In 2008, just 5 percent of Colorado public libraries were experimenting with any kind of social media, and those efforts were limited to MySpace and Flickr. None had ventured onto Facebook. Two years later, 1 in 3 (34%) had an account, about the same percentage as libraries nationwide. That increased to 3 in 4 libraries serving more than 100,000 and 1 in 2 libraries serving 10,000-24,999 (see Chart 2). Flickr and Twitter are becoming more common as well, but MySpace—once the most popular social media site for libraries—is now the least used. Colorado libraries’ social media presence reflects that of libraries nationally, with Colorado libraries just edging ahead in use of Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube.

296_Chart 2

In addition to social networking sites, a growing number of Colorado libraries are making use of another tool that requires more user participation: RSS feeds. RSS feeds allow library users to sign up for regular announcements or updates of content from their libraries’ websites, including blog posts and new additions to the catalog. More than 1 in 3 (36%) Colorado public libraries use RSS feeds in some way, up from 13 percent in 2008. The greatest growth came in libraries serving 25,000-99,999, from less than 1 in 10 to 1 in 2. All but the largest Colorado libraries are considerably ahead of the national sample in offering RSS feeds.

Overall Results
Disregarding size, at least half of all Colorado public libraries maintain websites that provide online access to patrons’ accounts, a search box, and chat reference services. About a third use RSS feeds or Facebook, but beyond that, implementation of various Web 2.0 technologies drops to just 1 in 4 libraries or less. National estimates follow a similar trajectory, but Colorado libraries maintain a higher percentage of use for all technologies except MySpace and SMS reference. The same is true when considering the percentage of patrons served by libraries using these tools.

The majority of Colorado public library jurisdictions serve communities of fewer than 10,000 people and are less likely than larger libraries to experiment with Web 2.0 tools. As a result, some Web 2.0 technologies were relatively uncommon on library websites overall; nevertheless, they reached a much larger estimated percentage of patrons.7  All but 2 of the technologies included in the study (text reference and MySpace) reach at least 1 in 3 Colorado library patrons. For instance, just 1 in 3 libraries use Facebook, but 2 in 3 Coloradans are served by a library that has a presence on the social networking site (see Chart 3). When looking at the percentage of patrons served, chat reference again presents a noticeable gap between Colorado and the nation. Nearly 9 in 10 (88%) Colorado patrons have access to a library that offers the service – twice the estimated percentage of patrons nationwide (44%).

296_Chart 3

Early Adopters
By rating all libraries on an index of the number of web technologies adopted, LRS staff identified which were “Early Adopters” (i.e., the top 20 percent of each population group from the national sample). A growing number of Colorado libraries are performing better in regard to this measurement; nearly 1 in 10 (9%) scored half the possible points on the index, whereas in 2008 no libraries in the state reached that benchmark. When compared to non-early adopters, Early Adopters demonstrated higher inputs and outputs in areas traditionally measured to indicate library success, such as visits and circulation (see Chart 4). Additionally, Colorado Early Adopters reported having more librarians and staff and higher revenue. In fact, Early Adopters had higher numbers in all but one measure included in the study—print volumes per capita. Although not all of these differences were statistically significant, more were significant in 2010 than in 2008, supporting previous observations of a trend in tech-savvy libraries being more successful. Interestingly, Colorado libraries that were not Early Adopters reported more electronic users and computers per capita than Early Adopters nationwide, indicating that in some areas, all Colorado libraries are ahead of the curve.

296_Chart 4

Since 2008, Colorado public libraries have shown minor increases in their adoption of basic web technologies, such as maintaining a web presence and offering online access to patrons’ accounts. Chat reference remains a popular feature of Colorado library websites, thanks to statewide service AskColorado, but likewise showed relatively small growth. At the same time, use of social media sites and RSS feeds has skyrocketed. While the Colorado results reflected those of the national sample, libraries in the state tended to be ahead of libraries across the country in most areas. A higher percentage of Colorado libraries, compared to the national sample, use each of the technologies included in the study except MySpace and SMS reference. Furthermore, libraries that utilize these tools reach an even greater percentage of patrons than do libraries nationwide. Colorado Early Adopter libraries—those using more web technologies—reported higher numbers for all but one of the measures typically used to indicate library success. For more details, including results from the national sample, see the Closer Look Report U.S. Public Libraries and the Use of Web Technologies, 2010, on the LRS website

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 2008.8 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”9 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 BLS10
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.”11  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 200412 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,13 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),14 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 more15 was fairly static, but trending downward (-2%) (see Table 1). For the same interval, at resort libraries,16 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.17

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 assistants18 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 librarian19 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


  • Public Library Statistics & Profiles
    Dive into annual statistics from the Colorado Public Library Annual Report using our interactive tool, results tailored to trustees, and state totals and averages.
  • School Library Impact Studies
    School libraries have a profound impact on student achievement. Explore studies about this topic by LRS and other researchers in our comprehensive guide.
  • Fast Fact Reports
    Looking for a quick rundown of library research? Check out our Fast Facts, which highlight research and statistics about various library topics.


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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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