Managers’ Salaries for Colorado’s Largest Public Libraries Fail to Keep Pace with Regional, National Trends

According to the ALA Survey of Librarian Salaries 2001, the status of compensation for library personnel in Colorado is mixed.

  • The salaries paid to senior management (i.e., director, deputy/associate/assistant director, department head) of the state’s largest libraries (i.e., serving 100,000 or more) are consistently lower than the norms for the West/Southwest region and the nation as a whole. The greatest deficiency is a gap of more than $7,000 between deputy/associate/assistant directors in Colorado ($65,073) and their regional peers ($72,133).
  • By contrast, directors and their most immediate subordinates for the state’s medium-sized public libraries earn, on the average, $6,000 to $12,000 more than their counterparts elsewhere in the nation. This competitive edge does not extend to department heads for those libraries; they earn almost $4,000 less than their regional peers.

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Job Outlook for Library Paraprofessionals in Colorado

How many jobs are there for paraprofessionals in public, school, and academic libraries in Colorado? What does the outlook for their employment look like for the rest of this decade? Data available from the Library Research Service (LRS) and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) help to answer these questions. According to the LRS’’s 2000 data files, all posted— or at http://www.LRS.org:

  • Colorado public libraries employ at least 307 and as many as 1,868 “”paraprofessionals.”” This particular sector of the library community demonstrates how difficult it can be to define and count people in this category of employment. Of those with the rank or title of librarian, 307 do not have master’’s degrees in library science (MLS) accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). In addition, public libraries reported a total of 1,561 “”other”” staff. This category includes library assistants and technicians, pages and shelvers, and miscellaneous other staff. It may also include some professionals or “”paraprofessionals”” in other fields such as human resources, marketing, and technology. These two categories together——non-MLS librarians and other staff——total 1,868.
  • The state’’s academic libraries reported 521 “”other”” staff (i.e., not librarians, contributed staff, or student assistants).
  • Colorado school libraries reported 1,130 FTEs of library aides.

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Librarians, Teachers, & Principals Agree: “Power Libraries” Lead to Higher Student Test Scores

Since 1998, selected Colorado school library media programs have been paired to encourage their mutual development. School library media specialists with “high performance” LM programs mentor “mini-grant” (or developing) schools. These LM staff, classroom teachers, and principals have made commitments to the improvement of their own LM programs. The high performance schools, in turn, take a fresh look at their own programs and recommit themselves to the support of those programs.

Recently, the Colorado State Library surveyed library media specialists (LMSs), classroom teachers, and principals at both high-performance and mini-grant schools to assess the impact of this program. While the samples are small, the message from the respondents is resounding. Librarians, teachers, and principals agree that Power Libraries in schools lead to higher student test scores.

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Growth in School Librarian Positions Fails to Keep Pace with Growth in Teacher Positions, 1993-98

From 1993 to 1998, growth in the number of school librarian positions failed to keep pace with growth in the number of classroom teacher positions. This was true at both the state and national levels, although the situation was more extreme for Colorado than the nation. This trend is an issue for concern because research has shown that professionally-staffed library media programs have a significant positive effect on academic achievement of students, as measured by standards-based tests like the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP).

Throughout the U.S., between 1993 and 1998, the number of school librarian positions grew a scant 3.3 percent. At the same time, the number of classroom teachers nationwide grew by 10 percent——more than three times the growth rate for librarian positions (see Chart 1 in full report).

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The Status of Salaries for School Library Media Specialists & Aides in Colorado, 1999

In 1999, the median salary for a full-time endorsed school library media specialist in Colorado was $35,750. This salary is on a par with what the state recommended for housekeeping supervisors and plumbing inspectors.

Half of these LM specialists earned between $28,900 and $41,900. At the low end, this salary range is comparable to state-recommended pay for traffic signal technicians and lottery sales representatives. At the high end, this pay level is comparable to recommended pay for food service managers.

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The Status of Library Media Center Staffing and its Effect on Student Achievement

The study How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards found that school library media centers are instrumental in students’ academic achievement, including getting higher CSAP scores. In addition to the library media center’s collection and funding, key factors impacting student performance include adequate staffing of library media centers and the professional role of the endorsed library media specialist as an educator and leader.

Highlights

  • More than 1 in 3 public schools have either no library media specialist or one who works less than half-time. For elementary schools, that proportion is 2 out of 5.
  • Statistics from 2000 indicate a trend to staff LM centers with the equivalent of 1 full-time person, moving away from more than 1, as well as less than 1 full-time equivalent.
  • Almost 1 in 5 public schools is staffed by less than 1 full-time LM center employee. In addition, close to a quarter of elementary schools have less than 40 hours a week of such staffing.
  • The total LM center staff-to-student ratio dropped 24 percent in the last six years from 5 per 1,000 students in 1994 to 3.8 in 2000. However, LMS-to-student ratios remained relatively stable, going from 1.4 in 1994 to 1.7 in 2000.
  • Fewer LM center staff can mean that library media specialists are spending less time in the role of teachers and leaders, and as reported in How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards, this can adversely affect student academic achievement and ultimately lower CSAP scores.

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The Status of Library Media Center Support of Student Achievement

How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards, a.k.a. the second Colorado Study, found that well-staffed, well-stocked, and well-funded library media (LM) programs are an essential component of successful schools. This issue of FAST FACTS examines the status of school library media services that support student achievement.

Highlights

  • Two out of 5 public schools have either no library media specialist or one less than half-time. That proportion is almost half for elementary schools.
  • The same proportions of all schools and elementary schools have less than one staff member dedicated to the LMC.
  • Since 1994, LMS staffing relative to enrollment has dropped more than 10 percent and total staffing more than 25 percent.
  • During the same interval, the size of LMC collections and annual spending on them has dropped by one-third. Relative to total per pupil spending, expenditures on LM collections have dropped by half.
  • While more and more information is available electronically, the limited number of networked computers in most schools does little to compensate for shrinking collections.

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Trends in Library Paraprofessional Employment

The outlook for paraprofessionals in the library field is favorable in Colorado and most of the region. While employment opportunities are expected to grow faster than average for technical assistants and library assistants, wages remain low (see full report for occupation definitions).

In 1994, average wages for Colorado library technicians and assistants were $10.75 and $9.20 per hour, respectively. By 1998, a technical assistant in Colorado earned an average wage of $11.24 for an increase of only 4.6 percent in a four-year period. A library assistant’s mean wage in 1998 was $8.71 for a LOSS of 5.3 percent! The average annual wage for technical and library assistants in 1998 was $23,390 and $18,110, respectively.

Highlights

  • While wages remain low, the average paraprofessional in Colorado earns more than staff in the surrounding states.
  • Demand for technical assistants is high in Colorado.
  • A significant undersupply of library assistants is estimated to occur through 2006.

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A Salary Comparison of Library Agencies

One could say that comparing the salaries of public, academic, school and special librarians is like comparing football with hockey. A full-time school librarian works ten months out of a year. A special librarian can be anyone from a Ph.D. in a Fortune 500 company to a law librarian in a small town firm. In addition, each type of library survey has many differences. The data collected for public and academic librarians breaks them into categories of jobs (e.g., director, branch manager, cataloger). Public school data includes data by enrollment figures and per pupil expenditures. But there are two ways to logically compare these distinct types of positions: how beginning librarians are paid and how much salaries change for all professional levels from the previous year.

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Librarians, Teachers, & Librarian/Teacher Ratio in U.S. Public Schools: State Variations & Trends, 1989-95

A consistent finding inresearch about school libraries is the importance of cooperation and collaboration between “librarians”1 and teachers in fostering high academic achievement among students. The extent to which such teamwork is possible, however, depends on the accessibility of these personnel to each other. Presumably—within reason—the higher the number of librarians relative to the number of teachers the better.

National Parameters. In 1995, public schools nationwide employed an average of only two librarians for every 100 teachers—Wyoming (2.03), Alaska (1.99), and Colorado (1.98) were the most typical states in this respect. Arkansas and Montana topped the list at approximately 3.5 (3.60 and 3.45, respectively) librarians per 100 teachers. California ranked lowest on this statistic, with less than 1 librarian for every 100 teachers (.39 per 100).

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