Hourly Wages of Colorado Library Workers

During the spring and early summer of 2004, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) conducted a Job Vacancy Survey in the Denver metropolitan area. The report of that survey’s results includes hourly wage statistics for all jobs, including 3 types of library workers: librarians, library technicians, and library assistants.

According to those statistics, hourly wages average $23.78 for librarians, $13.42 for library technicians, and $10.46 for library assistants. These wage rates translate into full-time salaries (based on a 40-hour week and a 52-week year) of approximately $49,500, $27,900, and $21,800, respectively (see Chart 1 in full report).

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Diversity of Colorado Library Workers: Professional Self-Perceptions and Portents for the Future

Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado—a recent LRS study—was based on a survey of more than 1,200 library workers statewide in Fall 2003. While the sample for this study could not be obtained randomly, their answers to questions about how library workers themselves perceive librarianship as a profession are intriguing. The ethnicity and gender demographics of these respondents also offer some hope that, in the near future, Colorado librarians will become more diverse, like the patrons they will serve.

Predictably, 9 out of 10 respondents to the library worker survey were White (89.8%) and female (90.3%). Each of the other three major racial groups—American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Black/African-American—represented less than 2 percent of the respondents. Hispanic respondents (who could be of any race) constituted more than 5 percent (5.1%) of the total survey response (see Chart 1 in full report). Suffice it to say, that there is little diversity in gender or ethnicity among Colorado library workers.

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Librarian Among Top Colorado Jobs Requiring Master’s Degree Through 2012

According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), librarian is among the state’s top jobs requiring a master’s degree through 2012. Employing a projected 2,720 Coloradans in 2012, librarian ranks fifth on projected employment behind physical therapist, market research analyst, educational counselor, and mental health counselor.1

Rounding out the top 10 master’s-degreed jobs will be speech pathologist, environmental scientist, substance abuse counselor, instructional coordinator, and rehabilitation counselor (see Chart 1 in full report).

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Colorado Public Library Paraprofessionals Experienced, Well-Educated Good Candidates for Future Leadership, but They Need Incentives

Colorado’s public libraries boast a wealth of experienced, educated paraprofessionals, according to responses to Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado, a study recently released by the Library Research Service. Many of them could be in line for credentialed librarian leadership positions in the near future.

For the purpose of consistency in the study, public library paraprofessionals were defined as individuals without an MLIS or library media endorsement who are working in a library. Surprisingly high levels of education and experience were reported by those who are neither planning on retiring in the next 5 years nor currently enrolled in an MLIS program.

In public libraries throughout the state, paraprofessionals prove to be very well-educated. Nearly all of those who responded to the survey (99.7%) have at least a high school education. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of them (65%) have at least a bachelor’s degree, and three-quarters (76%) have an associate’s degree or higher (see chart 1 in full report).

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Downward Trend in Colorado School Library Staffing, 2000-02

Recent trends in library staffing for Colorado public schools are cause for concern. Changes in the numbers of school librarians and library aides between 2000 and 2002, and particularly their changing educational composition, suggest that school librarianship in Colorado is being de-professionalized. Because research links the presence and involvement of professional school librarians with higher CSAP test scores, this trend is an alarming one.

Net Loss in Number of School Librarians
Between 2000 and 2002…

  • There was a net loss of 14 school librarian positions.
  • While 17 additional librarians with bachelor’s degrees were added, 31 librarians with master’s degrees were lost.

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National Averages Outstrip Colorado Public Librarian Salaries

Gains in librarian salaries at Colorado’s larger public libraries (i.e., those serving populations of 25,000 or more) have lagged behind salary gains for their counterparts nationally over the last two years. Colorado’s public librarians also earn less than the national average for some types of positions, according to the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual salary survey.

The ALA survey found librarian salaries nationwide gained 4.2 percent from 2001 to 2002 and 3.6 percent from 2002 to 2003. In Colorado, the average year-to-year gains for public librarians’ salaries were 1.1 percent in 2002 and 3.0 percent in 2003.

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Projected Job Openings in Colorado Libraries

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) projects growth in jobs available in libraries in the coming years. Annual growth in librarian positions in the state is expected to be 1.9 percent, in library assistant positions, 2.8 percent, and for library technicians, 3.2 percent. (Definitions of these terms can be found on page 2 of the full report.) The number of openings in libraries is smaller in number than in some other types of employment, but the annual percentage change is promising for job-seekers in libraries. Expected openings due to replacement needs are higher than openings due to growth, except for library technicians. This suggests current librarians are reaching retirement age and will need to be replaced. See Table 1 in the full report for a summary of these findings compared to growth projected for other professions and jobs with similar requirements. While these projections do not take into account the recent economic downturn, there is not yet any reason to expect the relative positions of these occupations to be dramatically different.

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No Increase in Number of School Librarians in Colorado

Results from the 2002 Colorado School Library Survey show no increase in the number of endorsed school librarians serving Colorado children. This is disappointing in light of the study How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards (Colorado, 2000) which found that strong school libraries staffed by endorsed and licensed school librarians contribute to measurable improvement in student achievement.

The 2002 survey did have good news about how school library staff is spending time. An important finding from the above-mentioned study was that test scores rise when school librarians and teachers work together. This year’s survey shows that school library staff are working collaboratively with classroom teachers and administrators at all grade levels.

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One Out of Four Colorado Public Schools Has No Librarian

The latest data on libraries in Colorado public schools indicates that endorsed, professionally-trained school librarians are not available to students in all schools.

  • More than 25 percent of the state’s public schools have no librarian at all.
  • The shortage of school librarians is especially acute in elementary and combined schools. Almost 30 percent of elementary schools and almost 40 percent of combined schools (e.g., junior/senior highs, K-12 schools) report no librarian.

The numbers are even higher for schools with librarians on only a part-time basis (less than 20 or 30 hours per week).

  • One-third of all schools are staffed with librarians less than 20 hours per week, and over 36 percent, less than 30 hours per week.
  • Of elementary schools, more than 37 percent have librarians on staff less than 20 hours per week, and over 39 percent, less than 30 hours per week.
  • The majority of combined schools have no or only part-time librarians. More than half report librarian staffing of less than 20 hours per week, and almost 58 percent, less than 30 hours per week.

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Earnings of Library Staff in the Mountain West Low Compared to Workers in Similar Jobs

“Nobody goes into library science to make money.” Nobody knows the truth of this truism better than a library staff member on payday.

Professional librarians are required to earn master’s degrees in library and information science. Yet, librarians earn much less than many others in professional and technical fields that do not require such high educational qualifications (e.g., purchasing agents, elementary and secondary school teachers, managers of service organizations). Consider the average hourly earnings of those in some of the other professional and technical fields most closely akin to librarianship (see Table 1 in full report).

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