User Satisfaction with AskColorado Continues

Most users of AskColorado, the statewide 24/7 free virtual reference service, continue to report being satisfied with the service, according to a user satisfaction survey conducted by the Library Research Service (LRS).

In the fall of 2008, 1,335 AskColorado users completed a pop-up survey after their virtual reference transaction. The survey asked users how helpful they found the virtual librarian, how satisfied they were with the answer to their question, and how likely they were to use AskColorado again.

The results indicate users are pleased with the service. Nearly 3 out of 4 users (74%) said the virtual librarian they worked with was extremely helpful or helpful, while 72 percent indicated that they were very satisfied or satisfied with the answer to their question. Most respondents (83%) said they were very likely or likely to use AskColorado again (see Chart 1). In addition, comments left by users often reflected their satisfaction. Many said they were impressed with the service and grateful for the help they received.

Virtual Reference: Colorado and the Nation
AskColorado, which marked its fifth full year of service in September 2008, has fielded over a quarter of a million sessions in English and Spanish since its inception. The service is staffed by librarians from 45 libraries throughout the state and 75 libraries in Colorado support AskColorado by providing monetary contributions and/or staffing. Thanks in large part to this service, 53 percent of public libraries in Colorado offer chat or instant-message reference service, compared with 22 percent of public libraries nationwide.1
“The librarian I was working with was very helpful even though my subject was broad, and she found exactly what I was looking for. This site is wonderful. Thank you.”

FF276_Image 1FF276_Image 2

Usage Trends
AskColorado fielded 39,870 sessions in 2008, which is lower than 2007’s total of 61,670. The reason for this decrease is due to the discontinuation of one “queue” that in 2007 generated 14,425 sessions. That queue, known as CoGov, was a pilot project between AskColorado and the web providers for the State of Colorado website. The pilot project was discontinued Jan. 1, 2008. Decreased traffic from the CoGov queue, in addition to technical logistics related to the discontinuation, resulted in lower total numbers for 2008. Although the total number of sessions was down, use by Spanish speakers grew.  The number of sessions fielded in Spanish increased during 2008, from 329 in 2007 (an average of about one sessions per day) to 591 in 2008 (an average of almost two sessions per day).

Chart 1
2008 AskColorado User Survey
Responses to Patron Satisfaction Questions

FF276_Chart 1

User satisfaction with the service appears to be on the rise. In 2008, respondents reported the highest levels of satisfaction for all three satisfaction questions in the four years the survey has been administered. More respondents reported being “very satisfied” with the answer to their question than in previous years (from 43% in 2005 to 51% in 2008) and the percentage of respondents who indicate future use is “very likely” has increased each year the survey asked the question, from 61 percent in 2005 to 70 percent in 2008.

“The librarian was not only helpful, but very friendly as well. I could tell that she was doing everything she could to help me. Thanks!”

Generational Divide
When satisfaction levels were compared to respondents’ age, an interesting discrepancy emerged. Respondents ages 60 and older were less likely to rate the service highly in terms of helpfulness and satisfaction. While more than half (53%) of respondents from this age group were satisfied or very satisfied with the answer to their question, one in three said they were not satisfied with the answer to their question – twice the rate of any other age group (see Chart 2). This may reflect a generational difference in respondents’ familiarity and comfort with instant messaging and virtual reference, among other factors. Although only 5% of survey respondents said they were 60 years or older, this generational divide may merit attention in the future.

Chart 2
Respondent Satisfaction with Answer to Their Question by Age Group

FF276_Chart 2

AskColorado and Schoolwork>
AskColorado is used by students of all ages. Three out of five respondents (60%) identified themselves as current students; of those, nearly half (45%) are middle school students, although high school and college students are also well represented. (See Chart 3).

“I got all my homework done on one trip to this site. I will be recommending this site toallmy friends and family.”


Chart 3
Respondent Distribution by Current Level of Study, Students


As the virtual reference model matures, AskColorado continues to improve its services with user satisfaction ratings at record highs in 2008. Use of the service by students at all levels, as well as the outcomes reported by all respondents, indicate that users rely on AskColorado for assistance with schoolwork as well as for answers to traditional reference questions. The results of this survey suggest that AskColorado is providing a valuable resource for Coloradans by offering one-on-one service for patrons 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Thanks for the help, it saved a lot of time searching meaningless websites.”

Library Jobs in Colorado: What Does Tell Us?

In 2009, began its third year of data collection2.  This Fast Facts examines and compares the data from job postings in 2007 and 2008 (Jobline’s first and second year), as well as the number of job postings by month in 2009, at the time of this writing.
Since 2007:

  • More than 1,300 positions have been posted
  • More than 1,200 people have signed up for MyJobline accounts
  • More than 2 out of 3 registered users receive email notifications
  • One out of 3 registered users subscribe to Jobline’s RSS notifications

Number of Job Postings 2007-2009
Due to the current economic recession, it is not surprising that job postings have recently decreased. The number of jobs posted in 2008 was down 20 percent from 2007 (see Chart 1).

Chart 1
Number of Job Postings by Month, 2007-2009
275_Chart 1

However, a sharp decline did not begin until September 2008. Prior to that, the number of job postings fluctuated, but overall, was similar to 2007. So far in 2009, postings have decreased even more. In February and March 2009, Library Jobline received the fewest number of postings yet for a single month. This may improve, as job postings have been seasonal in the past, with monthly totals peaking between May and August and lessening at the end of the year. As of June 2009, this trend does appear to continue as job postings have increased. However, despite the increase since March 2009, the monthly totals are still less than half of what they were in 2007 and 2008.

Job Postings by Library Type
The percentage of job postings by library type for 2008 changed very little from 2007 (see Chart 2). The minimal change indicates that all library sectors are affected by the decrease in job postings. As in 2007, well over half of the job postings were for public libraries (64%) and academic library job postings (20%) were a distant second.

Chart 2
Percentage of Total Job Postings by Library Type
2007 & 2008
275_Chart 2

Degree Requirements
The percentage of all jobs posted that required an ALA-acredited MLIS degree was, again, very similar in 2007 and 2008. However, among the different library types (academic, public, and special) there was a change between the 2 years. The percentage of postings requiring an ALA-MLIS degree decreased for all library types, except academic (see Chart 3). In 2008, the ALA-MLIS degree was required for 54 percent of positions posted by academic libraries, an increase of 6 percentage points from 2007. Public libraries had a slight decrease in MLIS requirements for jobs posted, which went from 36 percent in 2007 to 30 percent in 2008. Special libraries had the biggest change with job postings requiring the MLIS decreasing from 38 percent in 2007 to 24 percent in 2008.

Chart 3
Percentage of Positions Posted Requiring ALA-MLIS Degree by Library Type
2007 & 2008
275_Chart 3
Note: School libraries are excluded from this chart because degree requirements and credentials (i.e. school library endorsement) for librarian positions are often different from other library types.

Reason for Position Openings
When posting a job to, employers are asked to identify the reason for the job opening. Possible responses are resignation, new position, promotion, or retirement.  Resignations were the reason for nearly half (45%) of 2008’s posted positions.  Almost 1 in 4 (24%) positions posted were new positions. The percentage of jobs posted due to promotions or retirements was the same in 2008 (each 15%). Overall, the distribution of reasons for position openings in 2008 was almost identical to 2007. The largest changes seen between the 2 years were a slight increase (3%) in retirements, and a similar decrease (3%) in promotions, resulting in a position posted to 

Hot Jobs275_Image 1
So far in 2009, the most frequently viewed job has been a posting for a Teacher-Librarian position with Denver Public Schools. The posting has had 4,181 views to date. The most frequently viewed posting in 2008 was another Teacher-Librarian position with Denver Public Schools, which had 4,330 views. The percentage of school library job postings is so few (only 9 percent of the positions posted to Library Jobline are from school libraries, as seen in Chart 2), that when these positions do appear, they are heavily viewed. In addition, these position listings often include multiple job openings, which may further explain the large number of views for these postings. The most recent hot jobs can always be viewed at

The most substantial change during’s second year was the decrease in positions posted, going from 520 in 2007 to 418 in 2008. The economic recession is undoubtedly the main cause for much of this decline. As we move forward will likely continue to reflect the general health of the economy. Although the number of positions posted is lower, the number of users is increasing as more people search for jobs. The total number of visits to in April 2009 (17,155) increased by more than 2,000 from April 2008 (14,932), despite the fact that the number of job postings was less than half.  It will be interesting to see how time and different economic conditions affect the positions posted on Stay tuned.

Book, Newspaper, and Periodical Prices, 2004-2010

During times of a slowing economy and the tightening of city, state, and national budgets, it is important to prepare for how to best meet the needs of library patrons. Studying trends in library material price changes helps to anticipate the challenges of collection development. Libraries face ever-increasing prices for materials and on a yearly basis the prices go up and down, but the overall trend is a steady increase in prices.

The 2008 Book Prices Fast Facts includes data from 2004 to present and is compiled from the book wholesaler Baker & Taylor and its subsidiary, YBP Library Services. Past data has been compiled from Bowker’s Books in Print.

Trade paperbacks are leading price increases with a 20.2 percent change between 2004 and 2007. Continuing this trend, prices would increase approximately 4 percent per year (see Chart 1).

268_Chart 1Source:; Bogart, D. (2008).3 Note: 2008-09 based on trend analysis.

During this same period, audio book prices experienced the second highest increase with a change of 13.1 percent. Although audio book prices tend to fluctuate up and down along with audio book sales, overall prices are trending up 2.5 percent per year (see Chart 1).

The desire to provide library patrons with materials on multiple platforms is increasing the sales of electronic books (e-books). Prices rose drastically with an increase of 37.8 percent between 2005 and 2006 following an average sales increase of 34.5 percent between 2004 and 2006. YBP Library Services believes that e-book prices have stabilized with market demand. Future price increases are expected to be less volatile, likely following print book pricing trends.4

Newspapers and Periodicals
While the material price of international newspapers has remained steady, the cost of shipping has brought about a recent sharp increase in the absolute price (see Chart 2). The number of U.S. newspapers is slowly decreasing and the price change has been relatively small. Increasing popularity of the online news format is forcing some newspapers to keep prices low, or move to online only formats, in order to stay competitive.5

Periodical prices rose 39.2 percent between 2004 and 2008. However, prices may increase around 6.7 percent in both 2009 and 2010 (see Chart 2). According to The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac, 53rd Edition, periodical publishers are looking for better ways to price periodicals because libraries are having difficulty affording print and online versions of journals.6

268_Chart 2

Source: Van Orsdel, L., & Born, K. (2008);7 Bogart, D. (2008)8

Interlibrary Loan Among Academic Libraries – Ups and Downs in Colorado

Interlibrary loan (ILL) in Colorado academic libraries is headed in 2 different directions, per figures reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).9 Two types of items are involved in ILL: returnable items and non-returnable items.

Returnable items are materials the lending library expects to be returned, such as books, sound recordings, audiovisual materials, and microfilm reels. Non-returnable items are materials that do not need to be returned, such as photocopies, print copies from microfilm, electronic and full-text documents.10

Comparing National and Colorado Interlibrary Loan Data

  • Trends identified in Colorado are also occurring nationally, although not to the same extent in most areas
  • Nationally, non-returnable items loaned decreased by 5.3 percent (more than 3 times Colorado’s decrease)
  • Returnable items loaned increased by 34.0 percent nationally, which is just over half that of Colorado’s growth of 64.7 percent
  • Non-returnable items borrowed nationally decreased by 1.6 percent, much less than Colorado’s decrease of 18.4 percent
  • Returnable items borrowed nationally increased by a notable 40.8 percent, but Colorado’s increase of 107.4 percent is substantially larger

Colorado’s academic libraries experienced an interesting combination of changes in interlibrary loan traffic between 2000 and 2006. A large increase in interlibrary loans for returnable items occurred, while interlibrary loans for non-returnable items decreased (see Chart 1).

  • ILL for returnable items increased 83.0 percent, from 156,842 to 287,000
  • ILL for non-returnable items decreased 10.7 percent, from 188,896 to 168,693

266_Chart 1

Interlibrary loan can be further divided into items provided and items received. Provided items are materials loaned by the academic library via ILL and received items are materials borrowed by the academic library via ILL.

Items Provided (Loaned)
Between 2000 and 2006, items provided by Colorado’s academic libraries had a slight decrease for non-returnable items and a significant increase in returnable items (see Chart 2).

  • ILL for non-returnable items provided decreased from 86,184 to 84,879, a drop of 1.5 percent
  • ILL for returnable items provided rose from 89,599 to 147,529, an increase of 64.7 percent

266_Chart 2

Items Received (Borrowed)
A larger change was seen among items received by Colorado’s academic libraries between 2000 and 2006. The decrease was sharper for non-returnable items received than that of items provided and the number of returnable items received more than doubled between 2000 and 2006 (see Chart 3).

  • ILL for non-returnable items received decreased from 102,712 to 83,814, a drop of 18.4 percent
  • ILL for returnable items received rose from 67,243 to 139,471, an increase of 107.4 percent

266_Chart 3

Why the ups and downs?
A likely reason for the decrease in non-returnable ILL requests is the increasing availability of electronic full-text databases offered by academic libraries. The ease, convenience, and immediacy of downloading a full-text article when needed could decrease the need for copied articles to be sent from one library to another.

Anne K. Beaubien, in her ARL White Paper (2007), suggests that ILL requests have increased in the past few years because there has been “an increase in discovery tools, such as indices, search the Web, and Google Books that [have] augmented people’s awareness of publications.”11 With the increased knowledge of what is available, it is possible that students, faculty, and staff are increasingly utilizing ILL at academic libraries.

The larger increase in Colorado’s ILL, as compared to the national increase, could be related to Prospector, a service provided by the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries. Prospector is the unified catalog of 23 academic, public, and special libraries in Colorado and Wyoming.12 Fifteen of the 23 participating libraries are academic libraries. The accessibility of searching the catalogs of 23 libraries across the state could account for Colorado’s larger increase in ILL for returnable items.

Rose Nelson, Systems Librarian for the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries, said, “I think one of the benefits of having a union catalog where most of the libraries run the same ILS, such as in the case of our INN-Reach system, is that patron placed holds are a seamless process; which in turn, increases ILL usage.”

She also attributes the increase in ILL usage to the statewide courier service. “[T]his coupled with Prospector is much of the reason ILL usage is so high in Colorado.”13

It is known that Colorado’s ILL usage for non-returnable items is going down and ILL usage for returnable items is clearly going up. However, it is not known for sure what is causing these trends in ILL in Colorado. Increased full-text options, Prospector, and the statewide courier service are all strong possibilities. – The First Year

In January 2008 the Colorado State Library Jobline celebrated its first anniversary at its new home, The new Library Jobline, unlike the original website, is database driven and gathers detailed information about job postings. This new interface allows both employers and job seekers to customize their use of the site. In addition, it allows for the compilation of data about job vacancies, including number of postings, library type, educational requirements, and reason for the position vacancy. This report examines some of this data based on the 552 jobs posted to Library Jobline in 2007.

Features of

  • Customizable email & RSS notification of new jobs
  • Searchable job postings (current and archives)
  • Map of job locations
  • Hot Jobs – list of the most viewed posts

Jobs by Type of Library
Of all library types, public libraries posted the most job openings on Library Jobline with nearly 2 out of 3 listings (61%). This is not particularly surprising, given that public libraries employ more staff than any other library type.14 Academic libraries were a distant second with fewer than 1 in 5 of the jobs posted (17%), followed by special (9%), school (8%), and institutional (5%) libraries. Seven postings indicated more than one library type (see Chart 1).

257_Chart 1

Postings from school libraries comprised a smaller percentage (8%) on Jobline than public, academic, or special libraries, in spite of being the second largest employer of library staff. This relatively low proportion can be attributed to school library postings being more likely to include multiple positions in one listing and school districts’ tendency to post job vacancies internally or on school job websites (e.g., Nevertheless, school library positions are some of the most searched on the Jobline. As of this writing, the most viewed job post in 2008 was for a Teacher-Librarian position at Denver Public Schools.15

Jobs by MLS Degree Requirements
A master’s degree was required at varying levels among different library types. Public, school, and special libraries required an ALA-accredited MLS degree for about one-third of the jobs they posted. Academic libraries required the degree most frequently, with nearly half of positions posted indicating the degree was required. However, special and public libraries were much more likely to prefer an MLS degree than were academic libraries. For all 3 of these library types, more than half of the jobs posted either required or preferred a master’s degree (see Chart 2).

When listing jobs, school libraries were given the option of “MLS required,” but not the option of “preferred education” because of the unique educational and licensing requirements for endorsed “school librarian” and “teacher-librarian” positions. These positions require a Colorado Department of Education school library endorsement, which includes a teacher license as well as a library science education.16

257_Chart 2

Reason for Vacancies
Employers posting to Library Jobline were asked the reason for the job vacancy. Of those who responded to this query, nearly half said the opening was created by a resignation (46%). Far fewer indicated they were trying to fill openings created by promotions (17%) or due to retirements (12%). A surprising and heartening 1 in 4 jobs listed were new positions (25%). Such a high rate of new openings suggests a continued demand for librarians in the Internet age (see Chart 3).

257_Chart 3

New Jobs and Spanish-Language Skills
Spanish-language skills were important in new positions posted on Library Jobline. A third of new jobs indicated a preference for such abilities (33%). This contrasts with a preference for Spanish skills in 1 out of 5 vacancies for existing jobs (20%). Given the changing demographics of Colorado, this increased demand to serve the Spanish-speaking public makes sense. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2006 American Community Survey indicates that the number of Spanish-speaking Coloradans age 5 and older jumped from 363,723 in 2000 to 545,112 in 2006, an increase of 50 percent.17

Library Workforce Trends
The first year of the new Colorado State Library Jobline gives us a brief glimpse into the types of jobs being posted for library staff. Notably, there continue to be new jobs created in the field, a master’s degree still seems to be relevant, and the desire for Spanish-speaking employees appears to be desirable in new positions. The real power of the new Jobline site, though, lies a few years down the road. As we harvest more information over time we will be able to follow trends in the job market and view a more complete picture of how the library workforce landscape is changing.

For more information on posting a job or viewing current job openings, see

AskColorado Customer Satisfaction High as Usage Continues to Increase

AskColorado, the statewide 24/7 free virtual reference service that started in September 2003, is a collaborative project among libraries of all types throughout the state. Through the efforts of over 350 librarians from public, academic, school, and special libraries, the service provides online answers to Coloradans—any age, anywhere, anytime. Since its inception, AskColorado has steadily increased both in number of user sessions and customer satisfaction levels.

According to AskColorado usage statistics, the number of user sessions increased substantially during the first 3 full years of service (see Chart 1). In 2006, AskColorado librarians answered questions during more than 52,000 online reference sessions—almost twice the number of sessions as in 2004 (27,892).

When asked about the growth of the service, Kris Johnson, the AskColorado coordinator, commented, “Usage continues to grow, this is clear. This may be due to more people knowing about the service, or the fact that we now have more librarians available online at any given time to take calls, or both.”

255 Chart 1

Customer Satisfaction
Findings from both the 2005 and 2006 surveys indicate a majority of respondents found the virtual librarian helpful and were satisfied with the answers to their questions (see Chart 2 and Chart 3). In 2006, 3 out of 4 respondents (74%) found the virtual librarian to be helpful, and a similar proportion expressed satisfaction (72%) with the answers they received from the AskColorado librarians. This represents a significant increase from 2005 to 2006 in the customer satisfaction with the service.

The reason for the increased satisfaction is undoubtedly due to a combination of factors. According to Kris Johnson, “We’re getting better about communicating online, we’re becoming better searchers, our patrons are having a more realistic understanding of what our service can provide.” Johnson continues, “Perhaps our patrons are having a more difficult time finding information on their own and turn to us. After all, librarians are known as information experts. Any or all of these reasons could apply.”

255_Chart 2

More About the AskColorado Surveys
To measure AskColorado’s success serving its patrons, an annual customer service and outcome based evaluation survey was created to ask a sample of users for their reaction to the service.  In 2004, following the first year of service, two surveys were administered to users of the service; a pop-up customer satisfaction survey and an outcome survey e-mailed to those who agreed to take this follow up survey. The outcome survey also contained demographic questions. The two surveys were revised and condensed in 2005 to create one pop-up exit survey. Therefore, the data comparisons in this Fast Facts contain only 2005 and 2006 information.
“I am very impressed. As an IT specialist, I understand how difficult it can be to implement a sophisticated system such as this. It worked like a charm. I was quickly connected with a local librarian who helped me research my topic. I had been Googling for hours to no avail, but your librarian found a relevant link in under 5 minutes. Great job!” – AskColorado User

255 Chart 3

“Sometimes I need a quick answer to a question about finding where and in what form I will find a source for research in my history classes.  Your service and your librarians, who often are an encyclopedia in and of themselves, have helped me ‘learn’ how and where to find information while I am completing my project. The library is a complicated place for those of us just learning and technology seems to change constantly.  It is hard sometimes to keep up. Thank you for your help and especially at being there at hours when the main library is closed.” – AskColorado User

Customer Outcomes
In both the 2005 and 2006 survey respondents were asked to indicate the outcome(s) of their visit to AskColorado (see Table 1). The same 5 outcomes top the list each year, with research for homework or a school project having the strongest showing overall (ranking first in 2006 and second in 2005). Similarly, identifying a new source of information rose from 2005 to 2006. Obtaining a specific fact or document was the number 1 outcome in 2005 and fell to third in 2006. Obtaining information for work and learning how the library can help respondents were the fourth and fifth most popular outcomes, respectively, in both years.

255 Chart 4

Respondents were told to choose all outcomes that applied. Therefore respondents could choose more than one answer.

“This is the best site!  I have always found what I needed at this site and the people who helped me were great!!  This site is a life saver thanks again!!!!!” – AskColorado User

Between 2005 and 2006 survey respondents were increasingly using the AskColorado virtual reference service in order to conduct research for homework and school projects, as well as other traditional reference services. The increase in usage of the service, as well as a rise in customer service ratings, indicates that AskColorado is growing in both popularity and customer satisfaction.

“Thank you. You guys so helped me and helped me stay up on my grades thank you I will be coming to this site more often when I need help!!!!” – AskColorado User


Statewide Courier Saves Libraries Thousands in Shipping Costs Each Year

During the months of October 2006 and February 2007, 27 public, academic, school, and special libraries in Colorado collected statistics on the number and format of items sent via the statewide courier service, operated by the Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC). The study was undertaken to determine the cost-effectiveness of the courier service.

Without the presence of a statewide courier, Colorado’s libraries would need to find alternative methods of transferring items between library systems—most likely they would need to ship materials using a standard shipping company, i.e., the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), Federal Express (FedEx), or United Parcel Service (UPS). For the purposes of this study, we collected data for items sent on the courier by the libraries, rather than received, because in using the standard shipping methods mentioned above the sender nearly always incurs the cost (COD being the exception). Statistics were collected during specified weeks in October and February—some libraries participated in data collection during only one of these periods, while others participated during both. Statistics for all libraries were annualized.

251 Image 1Based on the data collected, the courier proved to be extremely cost-effective. During the study period, participating libraries were charged $3,389 for their participation in the courier. Estimates for the cost of sending materials via a shipping company were made using average weights for each type of item (e.g., books, DVDs, audio tapes). For each shipping company, the least expensive option within its services was chosen. The most economical alternative shipping method—USPS—was more than 3.5 times more expensive than the courier, at $12,098. Shipping the same materials via Federal Express or UPS would cost even more, with both of those services topping $20,000 (see Chart 1).

251 Chart 1

Additionally, courier service is more convenient than standard shipping methods, and undoubtedly saves staff time and packaging costs. When using the courier, library staff place all courier-delivered items in a bin with a label directing courier staff how to route the item. For any of the alternative methods, items need to be more carefully packaged in boxes and protective wrapping. This savings of time and materials increases the courier’s cost-effectiveness even more.

Statewide Usage
There were too few participating school and special libraries to even attempt extrapolating their data on a statewide level, but participation from public and academic libraries was sufficient to attempt an estimate. This study had a relatively small number of participants, and they were a self-selected (volunteer) group, making it impossible to assume a representative sample and difficult to extrapolate numbers of items moved on a statewide level.

Making extrapolation even more difficult is the fact that different libraries use the courier in very different ways. For example, Grand County Library District, which serves a population of around 14,000 people, has the courier stop at all 6 of its locations, and uses the courier for intra-library loaning of items (materials sent between Grand County libraries), as well as inter-library loans (materials sent to other library systems). Meanwhile, Aurora Public Library, which serves nearly 300,000 people at its 7 branches, has the courier only stop at one location, and uses it only for inter-library loans. These two library systems, serving quite different populations, have very similar courier usage numbers.

This suggests that extrapolating exclusively on the basis of population served (or in the case of academic libraries, enrollment) or solely on number of courier stops may produce an inaccurate number. Because no single method recommends itself, extrapolations were made using both methods (see Table 1).

251 Table 1

Using these estimations, it is expected that public libraries ship somewhere near 2 million items on the courier each year and save between $600,000 and $1 million annually, when comparing courier cost with USPS. Again, this savings jumps dramatically if the alternative shipping method were either FedEx or UPS (see Chart 2).

251 Chart 2

Extrapolated in the same manner, it is projected that academic libraries in Colorado ship around 400,000 items on the courier (see Table 2) and in the process save more than $200,000 over USPS costs, while spending less than $100,000 on courier service (see Chart 3).

251 Table 2

251 Chart 3

It is highly probable that courier usage is increasing. Prospector, the unified catalog of 23 libraries in Colorado and Wyoming, which uses the courier as its shipping method, has seen a dramatic rise in use over the past few years. According to their statistics (found at, they fulfilled 129,719 requests between library systems in 2003. For 2006, that number nearly tripled, to 377,632. For the first three months of 2007, 116,546 requests were fulfilled; at that pace, Prospector will reach 466,184 requests fulfilled for the year. The courier is involved twice with each of those requests—once to move it to the requesting library, and again to return it to the owning library.

Again, given the diversity of the libraries on the courier, and the small, volunteer nature of the participating sample, these estimates are just that—estimates. Any number of factors could affect the true annual totals in either direction. For instance, the 2 largest public libraries in the state—Denver Public Library and Jefferson County Public Library—both participate heavily on the courier, moving large numbers of materials via Prospector. However, neither of them participated in this study, so their data could not be used to aid in the extrapolations.

Without a more comprehensive study, an exact number of items moved by the courier each year cannot be pinpointed. In addition to the problems inherent in attempting to extrapolate for public and academic libraries, insufficient data is available for school and special libraries as well as community courier stops to attempt an extrapolation. However, it is safe to say that millions of items are being sent among Colorado libraries each year using the statewide courier, and the savings provided to these libraries is tremendous. Combined public and academic libraries alone would spend over 250 percent more using USPS, the least expensive alternative.

Salaries of Staff Working in Archives

The ALA-APA Non-MLS Salary Survey, the Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) A*CENSUS18 survey and the U.S. Department of Labor–Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) all have salary information and occupation definitions for positions in archives (see sidebars). The definition in the ALA-APA Non-MLS Salary Survey includes most of the tasks mentioned in the other two resources, stating that a staff member working in archives or special collections “manages and maintains collection; identifies and appraises records, authenticates, describes and documents, facilitates access and use, preserves and conserves, and exhibits collection.”

Position Definitions–Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Archivists – Appraise, edit, and direct safekeeping of permanent records and historically valuable documents. Participate in research activities based on archival materials.
  • Librarians – Administer libraries and perform related library services. Tasks may include selecting, acquiring, cataloguing, classifying, circulating, and maintaining library materials; and furnishing reference, bibliographical, and readers’ advisory services. May perform in-depth, strategic research, and synthesize, analyze, edit, and filter information. May set up or work with databases and information systems to catalogue and access information.
  • Library Technicians – Assist librarians by helping readers in the use of library catalogs, databases, and indexes to locate books and other materials; and by answering questions that require only brief consultation of standard reference. Compile records; sort and shelve books; remove or repair damaged books; register patrons; check materials in and out of the circulation process. Replace materials in shelving area (stacks) or files.

Table 1
Available Salary Data for Positions in Archives249 Table 1

Salaries of those working in archives vary from more than $56,000 to less than $27,000, depending on the position (see Table 1). For example, according to the ALA Survey of Librarian Salaries, the average salary for an MLS Librarian is $56,259 (regardless of library type) whereas a non-MLS Archives and Special Collections Clerk (in an academic library) earns on average $26,424 annually.

Position Definitions–Society of American Archivists
1. An individual responsible for appraising, acquiring, arranging, describing, preserving, and providing access to records of enduring value, according to the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control to protect the materials’ authenticity and context.
2. An individual with responsibility for management and oversight of an archival repository or of records of enduring value.

The training and education needed to be a professional archivist is usually similar to that of a librarian. However, according to the BLS, archivists typically earn $8,260 less annually than librarians. There is a larger difference in the salary data collected from professional associations. The SAA’s A*CENSUS survey found that the average annual salary of archivists is $46,544, this is $9,715 less than the ALA average for librarians.

The 2006 ALA-APA Non-MLS Salary Survey asked participating public and academic libraries to provide salary information specifically for Library Technical Assistants and Clerks. In archives, the average annual salary for Library Technical Assistants was $34,651 and Clerks earned $26,640 in public libraries (see Chart 1). The survey results indicate that both positions earn less in academic libraries. Library Technical Assistants in academic libraries earned an average salary of $31,149 which is $3,502 less than those in public libraries. Clerks in academic libraries earned almost $400 less than those in public libraries.

Chart 1
ALA Average Annual Salaries of Library Technicians and Clerks in Archives and Special Collections

249 Chart 1

Associate Librarians of Archives and Special Collections are non-MLS positions which may perform managerial and administrative duties, according to the ALA-APA Non-MLS Salary Survey. Of these Associate Librarians in public libraries, 128 reported their education levels. Eight reported they had a master’s degree; however, of the 45 in academic libraries who reported their education levels, 12 had master’s degrees and 3 had doctoral degrees.

The average annual salary of Associate Librarians of Archives and Special Collections is $30,329 in public libraries and $40,445 in academic libraries. When these salaries are compared to the SAA & BLS average annual salaries, Archivists (MLS) earn between $16,215 to $10,521 more than Associate Librarians (non-MLS) in public libraries and $6,099 to $405 more than those in academic libraries (see Table 1).

Both MLS and non-MLS positions in archives may perform similar tasks at different professional levels. However, salaries for positions in this field range widely. Average annually salaries for non-MLS positions are less in academic libraries than public libraries. While the BLS data suggests that an archivist earns more than 20 percent less than the average annual salary of a librarian.

Position Definitions–American Library Association

  • Archives and Special Collections (non-MLS positions)  Manages and maintains collection; identifies and appraises records, authenticates, describes, and documents, facilitates access and use, preserves, and conserves, and exhibits collection.
  • Associate Librarian (non-MLS degreed)  Provides assistance to patrons including topical research and material location. Assists patrons with the use of library resources and equipment. Screens the collection for outdated or used materials following established guidelines. May perform managerial and administrative duties.
  • Library Technical Assistant  Provides basic assistance to patrons referring patrons to Librarian professional assistance. Locates materials and information for patrons. May complete routine copy cataloging. Assists with special programming.
  • Clerk  Performs routine duties required the use of a variety of forms, reports or procedures. Provides basic patron assistance: sets up computer stations, locates materials, provides information. Maintains departmental or area records. Performs miscellaneous clerical duties such as filing, typing, sorting, or photocopying.


  • Grady, J. & Davis, D. (2006). ALA-APA Non-MLS Salary Survey: A Survey of Library Positions Not Requiring an ALA-Accredited Mater’s Degree. American Library Association – Allied Professional Association.
  • Grady, J. & Davis, D. (2006). ALA Survey of Librarian Salaries. American Library Association – Allied Professional Association.
  • Society of American Archivists. (2005). A*CENSUS. Available at: .
  • U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2001). Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System. Available at:

Non-MLS Reference Salaries in Academic Libraries Lag Behind Peers

Library staff who help patrons have a great impact on public perception of the library. The positions of associate librarian, technical assistant, clerks, and various other non-MLS staff are vital to several library services (see full report for position definitions). Many libraries, including academic libraries, use non-MLS staff to support reference areas. At every position level, non-MLS reference staff help patrons with questions and conduct searches, according to the ALA-APA Non-MLS Salary Survey. Their direct contact with the public puts them in a liaison position between patrons and library services. They may be a patron’s first or only contact with library staff. Despite the training and knowledge needed to properly assist in a reference area, many non-MLS reference positions in academic libraries earn less than their peers in others areas (e.g. Cataloging, Adult Services, etc.)

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Salaries of Academic Librarians in the West & Southwest Region

The salaries of academic librarians, like many in the library field, are affected by their position, the type of library they are working in, and where their library is located. The ALA Survey of Librarian Salaries 2005 reports average salaries for each of these influencing factors.

Most average salaries for the West and Southwest region, which includes Colorado, were lower than the national averages (see Chart 1, in full report). Librarians at four-year colleges consistently earned salaries lower than the national average at every position with the exception of Librarians Who Do Not Supervise. The position to have the greatest salary difference between the regional and the national averages was Deputy/Associate/Assistant Director at a four-year college. They earned an average of $44,460 in the region and $49,927 nationally; a difference of $5,467.

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