A NATIONAL RESEARCH STUDY ON
THE FUTURE OF LIBRARIANS IN THE WORKFORCE
Excerpts from the IMLS Request for Proposals
''There is a national need to identify the nature of anticipated labor shortages in the library and information science field that may result from the retirement of current workers over the next decade; to assess the number and types of library and information science jobs that will become available in the U.S. either because of retirement or of new job creation; and to determine the skills that will be required to fill such vacancies. There is also a need to develop effective approaches to recruiting and retaining workers to fill these positions. The primary focus of this research project is professional librarians (who possess master’s degrees in library and/or information science, or who fill positions designated as professional). However, consideration should be given to related occupations such as library technician (not requiring a master’s degree in library and/or information science) and faculty in graduate schools of library and information science (generally requiring a doctoral degree) in order to provide a more comprehensive perspective on the library workforce.' '
''The grantee will provide a report with data on current enrollment, current employment statistics, and existing projections of the occupational outlook for librarians for the next 10 years from the date of the report, by following the characteristics:
- State and locality ( reflecting regional differences within states);
- Type of library or librarian-employing organization (e.g., public, school, academic/research, special, other library-related); and,
- Functional specialization (e.g. youth services, reference, management, technical services, preservation, digital librarianship).
This report will include salary ranges correlated with each category as well as degree and/or specialized skills required for each. The grantee will provide a report that addresses the following questions, by each of the characteristics identified above, for the next 10 years from the date of the report:
- What job opportunities will exist for future librarians?
- What skills will librarians need in order to provide effective library services?
- Can graduate schools of library and information science educate sufficient numbers of librarians to meet projected needs? What, if any, changes in recruitment, curriculum, or employment incentives will be required to meet projected needs?
- What strategies should be pursued to address anticipated needs for recruitment, education, and retention of librarians?
The project involves a comprehensive data collection effort following a review of existing literature and data sources, as well as, utilizing an advisory group and panels to identify and discuss critical issues.''
The ongoing literature review focuses on identifying, analyzing and synthesizing research about librarians and other information professional education, recruitment, retention, and workforce environment. The review also includes research concerning employment of non-librarians and information professionals in libraries and library-related organizations and information professionals in other organizations. In addition, the review includes data sets that can be used to validate data collection results and establish trends. Such data sets includes numbers of librarians and other library workers employed, open positions, functional specialization, education requirements, competency requirements, career paths, demographics, and so on. Such data sets come from professional library and information science associations, Bureau of Labor Statistics
, National Center for Education Statistics
, US Census Bureau
, state agencies, and so on.
Study Advisory Groups
A National Advisory Board
has been formed and two meetings held. The list and affiliations of the Board is found elsewhere on the web-site. Special Panels
, by type of library, were formed under the direction of Sheila Creth. These panels prepared ongoing White Papers for the following types of libraries:
- Urban Public Libraries
- Rural Public Libraries
- Urban Public School Libraries
- Rural School Libraries
- University Libraries
- College Libraries
- Community College Libraries
- Business Libraries
- State and Federal Libraries
- Medical and Health Libraries
- Law Libraries
These White Papers and a list of authors are provided elsewhere on the website.
Survey of Libraries and Librarians
Because of the requirement that project results reflect regional differences within states, the library survey includes a census of all public and academic libraries, as well as, a sample of 6,000 school and special libraries each. However, each surveyed library will receive one-fifth of the data collection instruments where some questions are common to all libraries and some unique to one-fifth of the libraries. This design ensures that the reporting burden is minimized for each library and yet collectively obtains all needed information. An introductory letter is sent to the libraries about two weeks ahead of the web-based survey.
The Library surveys differentiate the type of library as a central or main library with branches; a single, independent library, or other type of library. If a library had branches, we ask the library to have the branches fill out the survey as well. The central library has some unique questions such as total expenditures, but both central and branch libraries are asked to respond to questions dealing with staff in their respective libraries. These and other questions are common to the five data collection instruments. Other common questions include such basic data as size of target population and number of visits accompanied with statements of trends over the past five years. The staff structure is measured by head count (not FTE) of librarians with a graduate degree from an LIS program accredited by ALA, other professionals working in a librarian capacity, other professionals working in another capacity, library technicians/paraprofessionals, non-professionals, and unpaid staff. A head count is also made by functional departments and number of professional employees who work primarily in each area. This includes eight areas such as administration, technical services, reference and research, etc. Both of the structure-related sets of questions are also accompanied with statements of trends. Other common questions deal with current vacancies and librarians who have left in the past 12 months, why they left, and their age and gender. Finally, we ask about their involvement as consortia recipients and providers of services, use of vendors and contractors, and whether their parent organization performs certain activities such as payroll processing, IT systems maintenance and so on. This information leads to a follow-up survey to determine additional workforce staff.
One data collection instrument provides more detailed information about library operations. It also establishes information about support for continuing education, with trends in such expenditures. Fringe benefits are explored for indirect fringe benefits of paid time off (e.g., holidays, sick leave, etc.); value-added compensation (e.g., retirement funds, medical and life insurance, etc.) and who pays these benefits; and other benefits such as childcare, flexible hours and so on. These questions provide a means of correlating operational data with the sizes and structure of library staffs. For example, an increase in the number of licensed products available through the library might be positively correlated with an increase in librarians and a decrease in non-professional staff. The types of fringe benefits could be correlated to the size of library staff. That is, larger libraries may provide more fringe benefits. Smaller libraries may spend more per staff member on internal, formal training. Answers to these questions will help us to better understand these kinds of relationships.
A second data collection instrument examines specific services provided by the library. It is determined for each service, if it was provided five years ago and currently, the level of service provided now (core, extensively used, often used, etc.), and trend in level of service. Many of the questions ask about perception of trends over the past 5 years. These questions provide a means of correlating trends in services with trends in staff size, structure and expenditures. For example, indicators of an increase in access to the electronic library collection might be correlated to an indicator of reduced in-library visits, number of physical processing staff, or an increase in reference and research staff.
The third instrument deals with detailed functions performed in the library such as technical services (e.g., physical processing, preservation, etc.), user services (e.g., circulation, reference and research, ILL, etc.), and support functions (e.g., management, accounting, etc.). For each detailed function it is determined if it was performed five years ago and now, the proportion of the function performed by in-library staff, and trend in proportion performed by in library staff. Many of the questions are about perception of trends over the past five years. These questions provide a means of correlating indicators of trends in functions performed with trends in staff size, structure or expenditures. For example, a decrease in the amount of cataloging being performed by library employees might be reflected by a shift in number and type of librarians and other professionals employed.
The fourth instrument involves competencies required by library staff. The competencies are defined as knowledge, skills and abilities of staff. The competencies somewhat follow functions performed in the library such as collection management skills, knowledge of cataloging principles, and general competencies such as communicating effectively in writing. For each competency, it is determined if it was applicable to the library five years ago and now, the competency is rated in its importance, and the trends in importance is established. These questions provide a means of comparing how changes in librarian competencies are correlated with trends in the number and type of librarian positions to be filled or with the number of employees who have left the library in the past year. For example, the increased importance of computer systems knowledge might be correlated with an increase in number of other professional staff working for the library. We will use the responses as indicators of the need for changes in library school curriculum and other training courses.
In the fifth survey, the library is asked to provide detailed staff information by having its employees complete a staff questionnaire. Large libraries are given the option of asking a specified number of employees to be sampled. All staff are asked demographic questions, their position in the library, department primarily assigned, primary level of employment, salary or wage, and fringe benefits. Professional employees are also asked about their degree, recent continuing education taken, professional affiliations, and librarians are additionally asked about their career paths, how well their education prepared them, and about other issues. These results are projectable to national totals through the headcount data provided in the common set of questions.
- A survey of information industry employers of LIS professionals (survey of 1,000 library agencies, consortia, vendors/contractors, publishers, consultants, etc; web survey with PDF mail option)
- Census survey of graduate and other schools offering library and information science education (census survey of graduate LIS schools, and baccalaureate LIS programs and LIS programs in community colleges; web survey with PDF mail option)
- A survey or organizations (survey of 5,000 organizations to update the 1981 Study of Information Professionals; mailed. hard-copy survey with link to web survey and PDF mail option)
- A survey of informatics programs in universities and colleges (census survey of identified informatics programs; web-based with PDF mail option)
- Interviews with library funders (informal interviews with a representative sample of individual funders with responsibility for providing funds for libraries, including Board members, city/ county officials; college and university presidents/provosts, school principals and school district superintendents, corporate CEOs or VPs, etc.)
- A survey of high school, college/university and career counselors (survey of members of the American School Counselor Association and of the National Career Development Association; web survey with PDF mail option)