Volume 27, Number 1, Spring 2005

Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado

“Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado,” issued in September 2004 by authors Nicolle Steffen, Keith Curry Lance, Becky Russell, and Zeth Leitzau, reports on a survey of 1,241 Colorado librarians and other library workers conducted during the last quarter of 2003. Respondents came from every type of library and every corner of the state. Because the survey dealt with a variety of issues related to the status of librarianship, the returns were not limited to those planning imminent retirements.

Key retirement findings included:

  • More than 20 percent of responding Colorado librarians expect to retire within the next five years. Of all responding school librarians, about half indicate plans to retire within five years—more than three times the proportion for public librarians and almost five times the proportion for academic librarians.
  • Many librarians who responded to this survey are not waiting until age 65 to retire. Almost 30 percent of those who expect to retire within the next five years are ages 45 to 54.
  • Retiring librarians will take with them substantial administrative skills. Of responding librarians planning to retire within five years, three out of four are supervisors, two out of five are generalists, and one out of five is an administrator.
  • Of these prospective retirees, one out of five expects his/her job to be combined with another or eliminated. Almost one out of five expects to be succeeded by someone with less education.
Key retention findings were:
  • Respondents without immediate retirement plans, especially in non-metro areas and among school librarians, expect their successors to have less education. Librarians responding from the Eastern Plains are more likely than their counterparts in other regions to expect their jobs will be eliminated altogether when they leave.
  • Of all library types, responding academic librarians are least likely to limit themselves to jobs in Colorado, when considering their futures. The comparatively small number of academic librarian positions in the state and the severe state funding cuts being experienced by higher education institutions must contribute to this fact.
  • Responding librarians ages 30 to 44 are more likely than other age groups to choose to leave librarianship. So, the introduction of new, younger librarians into the field’s work force is no guarantee for the future.
Key recruitment findings included:
  • Of responding library and information science students, four out of five are ages 30 to 54, indicating that for many librarianship is a second career.
  • Library paraprofessionals who responded from the Mountains/Western Slope regions are more likely to consider pursuing library degrees than their Front Range counterparts.
  • Responding paraprofessionals say they would be encouraged to pursue an LIS degree or credential, if financial aid was available, class locations and schedules were convenient, online classes were available, and their work schedules were more flexible. Non-metro residents among these paraprofessional respondents are more than twice as likely to be discouraged by inconveniently located educational institutions as their metro counterparts (45 percent versus 20 percent respectively). Online courses may be part of the solution. Non-metro paraprofessionals were half again as likely to be encouraged by access to online classes as their metro counterparts (74 percent versus 49 percent respectively).
The report makes recommendations for action by three groups—state leadership organizations, library decision-makers and individual libraries, and library educators, librarians, and library job seekers.

Read the full text of the report online.