Workforce

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 Survey1data, this Fast Facts compares the average academic librarian salaries in the West and Southwest region,2 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,3 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.

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

Over 500 registered employers use LibraryJobline.org 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 2008.4 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”5 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 BLS6
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.

Conclusion
Statistics from LibraryJobline.org 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.

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 assistants7 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 librarian8 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.

Conclusion
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.

Increased Library Staff Links to Higher CSAP Scores

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

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

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

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

287 Chart 1 copy

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

For elementary schools with at least 1 full-time endorsed librarian or 1 and a half FTE library staff, the percentage of third, fourth, and fifth grade students scoring proficient or advanced in reading was consistently higher than for schools with lower staffing levels—a 4 to 5 percent absolute difference and a 6 to 8 percent proportional difference (see Table 1).9

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

FF287_Table 1

**p ≤ .01

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

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

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

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

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

Endorsed Librarian Positions in Colorado Public Schools Trending Downward

As Colorado begins implementing new content standards that emphasize the acquisition of 21st century skills and the ability to understand information in new ways, “digital natives,” a demographic group born and raised in the information age and presumed to be tech savvy, demonstrate a surprising lack of discernment when evaluating information resources, according to a recent study of first-year college students at the University of Illinois in Chicago.10 Unfortunately, this comes at a time when school librarians are finding their positions being eliminated, despite being uniquely qualified as information specialists to help students develop information literacy as part of meeting the post-secondary and workforce readiness expectations of students in the state.

Data from the Colorado Department of Education reveals that the number of endorsed librarian positions (in full-time equivalents) in Colorado public schools is trending downward, with substantial losses over the last 2 school years. In 2007-08, the majority of endorsed librarians (278) were employed in elementary schools, and the following year that number dropped to 241. Similar declines were experienced at middle and high school levels (see Chart 1).

Chart 1
Number of Endorsed Librarians in Colorado Public Schools by Grade Level
2007-08 and 2009-10

288 Chart 1

Despite the fact that a greater number of librarians were employed at elementary rather than middle and high school levels in 2007-08, elementary schools were still the least likely to have an endorsed librarian on staff. This difference is a result of the greater number of elementary schools in Colorado, which proportionally have fewer librarians compared to the smaller number of middle and high schools in the state.

In 2007-08, only about a quarter (27%) of elementary schools had a librarian, compared to almost half (45%) of middle schools and more than a third (37%) of high schools. The percentage of elementary schools with a librarian fell from 27 percent in 2007-08 to 23 percent in 2009-10. Even more dramatic downward trends were experienced at middle and high school levels (see Chart 2).

Chart 2
Percent of Colorado Public Schools with Endorsed Librarian by Grade Level
2007-08 and 2009-10

288 Chart 2

Between 2007-08 and 2009-10, Colorado elementary schools experienced a net loss of 37 endorsed librarian positions. Similar patterns for middle and high schools account for the net loss of another 30 positions at middle and high schools. The reduced number of librarian positions at elementary and middle schools constituted a loss of 13 percent. At high schools, the proportional loss of librarian positions was slightly less severe at 9 percent (see Chart 3). Of course, the data does not reflect any reduced funding for K-12 education for the 2010-11 school year, which will likely result in additional library staff reductions.

Chart 3
Loss of Endorsed Librarians in Colorado Public Schools by Grade Level
2007-08 and 2009-10

 288 Chart 3

Over the past 2 school years (2007-08 through 2009-10), the net loss of 67 librarian positions out of 562 constitutes a loss of 12 percent of all endorsed librarian positions in Colorado public schools. If endorsed librarian positions continue to be lost at the rate of 67 a year, they will be extinct in Colorado public schools by 2025. Hypothetically speaking, that means that by the time children born today reach high school, they would not have the assistance of trained librarians to help them navigate the information environment—and just at a time when such skills are becoming more and more important to society and also as part of the very standards in which students are expected to be proficient.

More Job Seekers, Fewer Jobs: Findings from Library Jobline, Year Three

For the last 3 years, Library Research Service, a unit of the Colorado State Library, has provided a venue for libraries and library staff to meet in the job search. LibraryJobline.org is a database-supported website where job seekers can create personal accounts and libraries from throughout the state and nation can post job listings. This free service, available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, offers job seekers interactive tools to specify what they are looking for in a position and allows them to receive notifications when a related description is posted. Comparisons among the postings over the 3-year period reflect aspects of the current economic climate as well as reveal trends in the library field.

Quick Look at LibraryJobline.org
Since 2007:

  • 1,500 positions posted
  • More than 1,500 people have signed up for MyJobline accounts
  • 2 out of 3 registered users receive email notifications of new job posts
  • More than 1 out of 3 registered users subscribe to Jobline’s RSS feed

Number of Job Postings
As librarians are well aware, their profession has not been immune to the negative effects of the economic recession. This is evident simply from the decline in the number of job postings on Library Jobline. Only 233 jobs were posted during 2009—56 percent of the total posted in 2008 (418) and less than half (45%) of the 2007 total (523).

The sharp decline started in September 2008 and continued through most of the following year. By the last 3 months of 2009, however, the number of job posts matched those of the same period in 2008. Though still considerably fewer than the number of jobs posted in 2007, this may indicate the first signs of recovery (see Chart 1).

Chart 1
Library Jobline:
Number of Job Posts by Month
January 2007-December 2009
284_Chart 1

While the number of job postings decreased, the number of job post views increased by 23 percent (from 338,347 in 2008 to 416,253 in 2009).  Not only are fewer jobs available, but those looking for work face more competition.

In an increasingly competitive job market, job seekers and employers search for a variety of ways to distinguish the top candidates from the larger pool of applicants. Advanced education traditionally has been a way to do that. Surprisingly, the percentage of job postings requiring an MLS degree has decreased slightly in the last 3 years (from 35% in 2007 to 31% in 2009).  However, a notable increase in the proportion of postings preferring an MLS degree, from 12 percent in 2007 to 18 percent in 2009, suggests that the further education is still an advantage for job seekers (see Chart 2).

Chart 2
Library Jobline
Percentage of Job Postings Requiring ALA-MLS
2007, 2008, 2009
284_Chart 2

Reasons for the changes in degree preferences and requirements are unclear. Even so, it is obvious that the increase in the percentage of job posts preferring the degree is connected to the decrease in percentage of job posts that require and do not require the degree. The changes could simply be due to the level and types of jobs posted, which can vary from year to year (i.e. more shelving versus administrative positions, or an increase in positions that combine professional and non-professional duties).

Another noticeable shift has occurred in the ratio of full-time (40 hours per week) to part-time (less than 40 hours per week) job posts. Over the last three years, the percentage of full-time job posts has steadily decreased, dropping from 72 percent in 2007 to 62 percent in 2009. The same trend seems to be occurring nationwide, according to Library Journal’s11 latest report on the employment rates and salaries of recent MLIS graduates. In 2007, nearly 9 out of 10 (89%) MLIS graduates reported finding full-time jobs, but only 7 of 10 had similar luck in 2008.

Posts by Library Type
Overall, the proportion of job postings by library type stayed about the same as in previous years, with the majority of posts (58%) being for jobs in public libraries. Fewer than 1 out of 5 postings were for academic (19%) and special (17%) libraries, and just 1 of 10 were for schools (9%). Perhaps due in part to other avenues for advertising available positions, especially in school libraries, these proportions may not be an accurate reflection of the actual number of job openings (see Chart 3).

Although school library postings account for a small percentage of the positions posted on Jobline, they tend to garner considerable interest. The “Hot Job” of 2009 was for a teacher librarian with Denver Public Schools. This post was viewed more than 5,000 times. The next most popular post, for a management position with the Rangeview Library District, received 28 percent fewer views, with 3,663.

Chart 3
Library Jobline
Percentage of Total Job Postings by Library Type
2009
284_Chart 3

Salaries
For those lucky enough to find a job, salary is an obvious concern. Unfortunately, it appears that salary was not immune to the cutbacks visible in other areas. Although the average starting hourly wage of job postings12 saw a significant increase from 2007 to 2008 (4.3%), it declined by 2.4 percent during 2009.

Average Starting Hourly Salary of Jobline Postings
2007 – $17.68
2008 – $18.44
2009 – $18.00

Average Hourly Salaries
For Library Staff
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nationwide
May 2007 – $19.69
May 2008 – $20.40

Colorado
May 2007- $20.73
May 2008 – $21.39

Compared to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ librarian and library technician salary estimates13 for the nation and for Colorado, the salaries listed for Library Jobline posts are on the low end. This could be due to an uneven distribution of postings according to their level and salaries (i.e. more page positions than administration), skewing the average lower. Another factor may be that the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses actual current wages, rather than starting salaries, in its calculations.  Nevertheless, Library Jobline postings showed a higher percentage increase in average salary from 2007-2008 (4.3%) than did the nation (3.6%) or the state of Colorado as a whole (3.2%).

284_Image 1Salary and MLS Degree
While average salaries overall declined in 2009, the job postings requiring an MLS—though slightly fewer than in previous years—were offering higher average starting wages.  Positions with fewer educational requirements dropped below the average salary from 2 years before.

Most drastic was the drop in salary for job postings preferring an MLS. The decrease of 13.5 percent brought the average down by $2.70 from 2008 to 2009, settling at a significantly lower amount, even, than in 2007.  It seems that although more job postings preferred candidates with an MLS degree, they weren’t necessarily offering monetary compensation for it (see Chart 4).

Chart 4
Library Jobline
Average Hourly Salary14 by MLS Degree Requirement
2007, 2008, 2009
284_Chart 4

Conclusion
Without a doubt, the most significant change in Library Jobline’s third year was the drastically lower number of jobs posted—little more than half the number posted in 2008. At the same time, the number of job post views has increased considerably (23%). More people are looking for jobs, but there are fewer job openings, and salaries for those jobs available have decreased. The final months of 2009 saw the number of job posts return to late 2008 levels, showing the slightest signs of the beginnings of a recovery. Even so, Library Jobline stats show the library field still has a long way to go in climbing out of the economic slump.

Libraries and Librarians Feeling Effects of Economic Slowdown

The economic recession’s impact on libraries has become a hot topic in recent months. Prompted by editorials and news stories from around the country, the Library Research Service (LRS) undertook our latest 60-Second Survey, “Libraries and the Economic Recession.” The goal of this survey was to gather input from librarians in the field about how their libraries and careers have been impacted by the current economic situation. Nearly 500 people working in public, academic, school, and special libraries responded. The results indicate that while public libraries are seeing much of the increase in traffic and library use, employees in all types of libraries are feeling the pressures of the economic recession.

What is an LRS 60-Second Survey?
In the style of an online readers’ poll, the 60-Second Survey format is short and to the point. By definition, the survey can be answered in a minute or less. Narrow by intent, 60-Second Surveys capture the perceptions and knowledge of respondents on a single timely topic. The online surveys are distributed electronically via email, listservs, blogs, etc. Results are reported briefly on the LRS blog and in more detail in Fast Facts.

Increases in Library Use and Requests for Help
The first set of questions asked for respondents’ personal observations about increases in requests for assistance and increases in the use of library services.FF277_Image 1 copy

Computer use was a dominant theme in the responses. When asked if they were helping more patrons with selected library services, 70 percent of respondents said they had noticed an increase in requests for help using computers, while 66 percent reported more requests for assistance with job-seeking activities, such as filling out online applications or resume preparation (see Chart 1). These percentages were even higher among those working at public libraries, with 9 out of 10 public library employees identifying an increase in requests for assistance with computers and/or job-seeking activities.

“As a librarian in a large urban library system struggling to keep up with the sheer volume of customers needing help with technology, I have experienced the impact of the economic downturn firsthand – in particular with access to technology. Often my staff and I are helping multiple customers with few or no computer skills…”

Chart 1
Reported Increases in Patron Requests for Assistance with Library ServicesFF277_Chart 1Note: Chart details responses to the question, “In the last 12 months, have you had to help more patrons with them following services?”

Similarly, when asked whether they had personally noticed an increase in use of selected library resources in the last 12 months, 67 percent reported an increase in the use of public access computers. Sixty-three percent noted an increase in library visits, and 54 percent said they had seen an increase in the circulation of library materials (see Chart 2).

“Many people have come in to apply for jobs or apply for unemployment benefits that don’t know how to use a computer and helping them has been a strain. Also, many people have sad stories to tell and just need someone to listen.”
“There are more people coming into the library than ever before. We are getting patrons who tell us they didn’t know we existed, never needed us before. Now they need us for job information, computers, printers, and public assistance information. Most of our users have never needed public assistance. I have lots of pamphlets and information that I never see anyone take, but it needs [to be] constantly re-stocked. I have also seen an increase in very stressed-out people on the edge. I’m just hoping I still have a job next year.”

Chart 2
Reported Increases in Patron Use of Library Services
FF277_Chart 2Note: Chart details responses to the question, “In the last 12 months have you personally noticed an increase in use of the following resources at your library?”

Impact on Library Jobs
The second set of questions in the survey asked respondents how the economic recession has impacted their jobs. To determine which staff-related cost-cutting measures libraries were taking, the survey asked respondents to identify any cost-cutting measures they had experienced in the last 12 months. The largest percentage (36%) indicated that none of the selected measures had been taken at their library. Nearly 1 in 3 (32%) said their job duties had increased or changed in the last 12 months, and almost 30 percent said salaries or benefits in their current job had been frozen or cut (see Chart 3).

“We are serving people in our community who had never before used any of our services. They are surprised to see how much we have to offer. They did not expect the level of technology, variety of programs, or the up-to-date collection to be available in their hometown public library.”

Chart 3
Respondents Reporting Selected Cost-Cutting Measures at Work
FF277_Chart 3Note: Chart details responses to the question, “Which, if any, of the following has happened to you in the last 12 months?”

“Not only are we seeing an increase in overall visitors, we notice an increase in highly educated people with very limited library skills. Upper middle class new users who are making the decision to use ‘prepaid’ public library services when they used to meet those needs through video rentals, bookstores, home Internet, etc.”

When asked how the current economic recession has changed their career plans, 2 out of 5 (40%) said their plans had not changed. One in 4 (25%) said they would retire later than planned; 39 percent claimed they would stay in their current library job as a result of the recession. Responses to these job-related questions indicate that although libraries were seeing changes, a large percentage of respondents were unaffected and had not changed their career plans.

“As a solo librarian in a small library, I have lost my total budget and now must rely on donations and free books for acquisitions. Additionally the part-time assistant position has been cut so I must pick-up those job tasks as well as other tasks created by lost positions in other parts of the organization.”

Additional Training
The final set of questions asked respondents whether they felt the need for additional professional training. When asked if they could use training for their own professional development, 44 percent identified stress management as an area in which they could use assistance, 31 percent said dealing with difficult patrons, and 29 percent chose computer skills/software training (see Chart 4).

Chart 4
Respondents Identifying Areas of Training for Their Own Professional Development
FF277_Chart 4Note: Chart details responses to the question, “As a result of the current economic downturn, do you feel a need for additional training in any of the following areas for your own professional development?”

Finally, respondents were asked whether they would benefit from additional professional training in order to better serve patrons. Nearly half (46%) said they could use training on identifying available assistance/social programs for patrons. Thirty percent said they would benefit from training on how to help job seekers, and 18 percent selected training on how to instruct patrons on basic computer use. Almost another half (44%) chose “none of the above.” Those working in rural libraries were more likely than their counterparts in urban or suburban libraries to say they would benefit from additional professional training (see Chart 5).

Chart 5
Professional Training Needed to Improve Service to Patrons
FF277_Chart 5Note: Chart details responses to the question, “To better serve patrons, do you feel a need for additional professional training in any of the following areas,” arranged by the community type respondents selected.

Conclusion
Media stories about the economic recession’s impact on library use and services are largely focused on public libraries. While this 60-Second Survey is not a comprehensive look at how the recession is challenging libraries, it does provide a snapshot of the changes employees at all types of libraries have witnessed with their patrons and experienced for themselves. Survey results and the anecdotal evidence provided by respondents in their open-ended comments demonstrate how the economic situation has influenced the way patrons use libraries and in many cases increased the stress of librarians.

Library Jobs in Colorado: What Does Libraryjobline.org Tell Us?

In 2009, LibraryJobline.org began its third year of data collection15.  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.

LibraryJobline.org
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 LibraryJobline.org, 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 LibraryJobline.org. 

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 http://www.LibraryJobline.org/stats/hotposts.php.

Conclusion
The most substantial change during LibraryJobline.org’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 LibraryJobline.org 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 LibraryJobline.org 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 LibraryJobline.org. Stay tuned.

What I Learned About the Value of an MLIS Degree: An LIS Student’s Perspective

“I am torn between not recommending and recommending pursuing a MLIS degree… While I value my degree and what I have learned, entering the profession has been disappointing and frustrating.”

“The job market is extremely glutted, while at the same time people outside of the profession are seeing less and less value in paying for a professional librarian. It’s a really terrible job market right now, yet ALA and library schools are doing absolutely nothing to address these very serious problems.”

“The MLIS reflects our earlier vision and mission but may not address the present and future as well as it should.”

After hours of skimming responses to the Library Research Service’s MLIS value survey1, I suppose a bit of self-doubt was inevitable.

As a student only a few months away from my own MLIS, the stress of exams and projects is gradually being replaced by another, more nebulous anxiety: the fear that I won’t be able to find a professional job, especially once the bills for my student loans start showing up in the mailbox. More than that, will the job translate into a rewarding career and a decent lifestyle? Here, directly from the folks in the trenches, were words that spoke to my anxieties, and they weren’t exactly comforting.

Click the Download Report button at right to continue reading this Fast Facts.

Is it Worth It? The Perceived Value of an MLIS Degree

Would you recommend getting an MLIS to a new graduate? This question, recently posed on libnet (a Colorado-based library listserv), prompted an immediate flurry of thoughtful responses. The number and intensity of the responses inspired us to launch the Library Research Service’s inaugural 60-Second Survey, “The Value of an MLIS to You.” Distributed primarily via listservs and blog posts, the survey response was tremendous. There were almost 2,000 responses, including respondents from each of the 50 states and 6 continents. But, the respondents didn’t stop at just answering the questions. More than 1,000 of them left over 56,000 words worth of comments further explaining their thoughts and feelings about the value of a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree. Clearly, librarians feel passionately about this topic.

In the style of the online reader poll (à la CNN), the survey was short and to the point. With a single purpose, to capture librarians’ gut-reaction to “is an MLIS worth it,” respondents were asked just 7 questions, including the 2 key questions: (1) Do you feel your MLIS degree was/is worth the time and money invested in it? and (2) If asked today, would you recommend pursuing an MLIS degree?

The survey found that overall, librarians are satisfied with their MLIS degree and would recommend it to others. Nine out of 10 (89%) said they felt the degree was worth the time and money they invested in it. Only slightly fewer (86%) said they would recommend the degree to others. Perhaps not surprisingly, those who stay in librarianship are most apt to value their MLIS. An astonishing 95 percent of librarians that received their degree 16 or more years ago felt their degree was worth it. They were also the most likely to recommend the degree to others (89%). Those who graduated in the last 5 years were the least likely to feel their MLIS had value, with 81 percent indicating the degree was worth it and 82 percent indicating they would recommend it to others. Still, more than 8 out of 10 recent grads thought the MLIS worth the investment.

There are undoubtedly many reasons for this gap in the perceived value of the degree between MLIS graduates. Based on the comments, newly minted MLISers were concerned about job availability, adequate compensation, and paying off student loans. Whereas many of the respondents who had had their degree for a longer period of time commented that their MLIS was valuable in their career. However, they also expressed concern that the profession had changed considerably from when they were new MLIS recipients and they pondered the value of the degree, as well as the future of the librarianship in the age of Google. (For more on the comments, see Fast Facts no. 270).

Non-MLIS respondents had a very different opinion about the value of an MLIS degree with only 58 percent saying it is worth the time and money invested in it. Given that they chose not to pursue an MLIS, this attitude seems quite logical. Many non-MLIS respondents commented that there was no financial or other benefit to getting an MLIS. Frequently these respondents said they were in a community or institution that did not pay more or promote staff based on MLIS status. In addition, some respondents didn’t find value in the degree because they felt the work done in libraries could be done as well—or better—by paraprofessionals.

This survey was conceived with the intention of quickly measuring the opinions on the value of an MLIS degree. Because the respondents to this survey were a self-selected group, there is no way to generalize the results to apply to all librarians or the profession as a whole. In other words, this was not setup as a scientific study with a representative sample. Based on the distribution of people and library jobs in the United States, we received more responses from the West (38% of U.S. respondents) and Northeast (37%) than would be expected, and fewer from the Midwest (12%) and South (13%). However, there were no significant differences between regions in responses to most of the questions, and in particular to whether they would recommend the degree.

It seems clear that librarians find their MLIS degrees valuable and they would recommend the degree—and by implication the profession—to others. The overwhelming response to this quick survey suggests that there is room for further study into the value of an MLIS. There are larger issues, as well as subtleties, that need to be explored.

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LRS is part of the Colorado State Library, a unit of the Colorado Department of Education. We design and conduct library research for library and education professionals, public officials, and the media to inform practices and assessment needs. We partner with the Library and Information Science program at University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education to provide research fellowships to current MLIS students.

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