In October 2006, the American Library Association (ALA) released "Diversity Counts," a comprehensive study of gender, race, age and disability statues in the library profession. To complete the study, the American Library Association worked with Decision Demographics, a research firm in Arlington, Virginia, to analyze available U.S. data for the industry of “library.” Diversity Counts used 1990 and 2000 Census data to develop estimates for the distribution of gender, race, age and disability status within the library profession.
In many ways, Diversity Counts provided a benchmark for the initiatives of the American Library Association, documenting the state of the profession before the launch of several diversity recruitment initiatives—most notably the Spectrum Scholarship Program begun in 1997. It also served as a call to action, demonstrating progress within the profession, but confirming the continued need to invest time and resources into the recruitment of a more diverse workforce.
Since its release, Diversity Counts has been used by many researchers, program managers, and advocates as a tool to demonstrate the need for increased diversity recruitment within the profession. As the American Library Association and other programs have continued their work and embarked on new initiatives, there has been a regular and steady call to continue the work of Diversity Counts to help document the diversity of the profession.
Updating Diversity Counts
To prepare this update to Diversity Counts, the ALA Office for Diversity once again worked with Decision Demographics to analyze available U.S. data for the industry of “library.” Decision Demographics’ analysis of data provides reliable estimates of the gender, age, race and disability status for those who indicate participation in the library profession.
To update Diversity Counts, the Office for Diversity worked with Decision Demographics to identify a new data set for analysis. For the original report, Decision Demographics analyzed samples from the 1990 and 2000 decennial Census, specifically information collected from the long form questionnaire sent to one-in-six households in the 2000 Census.
Beginning in 1994, the Census Bureau began developing what became the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS was designed to replace the decennial Census long-form questionnaire and as part of its development a large test sample of the ACS was fielded in 2000 for direct comparison to the 2000 Census. The Census Bureau’s evaluation report of this test concluded that the “ACS would provide a reasonable alternative to the decennial census long-form sample.” In 2005, ACS was fully implemented after applying improvements identified in the 2000 test and tests samples fielded in subsequent years.
Today the ACS has fully replaced the decennial long-form questionnaire both in Census Bureau reports as well as in the demographic data user community.
Unlike the original Diversity Counts report, for this report Decision Demographics used American Community Survey data from 2009 and 2010 to develop averages for this period. Decision Demographics advised utilizing averages from two years of data to provide a rich enough sample from which to extrapolate percentage distributions for gender, race, age and disability status.
As with the original Diversity Counts, following Decision Demographics’ analyses of the 2009 and 2010 American Community Survey data, ALA applied the gender, race, age and disability distributions to reliable data for library staffing provided by two federal government agencies. Distributions were applied to data reported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (for public libraries) and the National Center for Education Statistics (for public K-12 and academic libraries).
For public and academic libraries, ALA used data from 2010 surveys conducted by IMLS and NCES; for public K-12 schools, ALA used data from 2007-2008 surveys conducted by NCES, the most recent data available. As in the original report, information for credentialed librarians (or state certified library media specialists for public K-12 libraries) and library assistants is reported.
A Note Regarding Interpretation and Analysis
In the interest of providing as informed a discussion as possible, it is important to recognize some of the limitations for interpreting and analyzing Diversity Counts.
The United States Census Bureau has provided a caution for comparing 2010 American Community Survey data with Census 2000, especially in regards to age and sex and race. The ACS question on race was revised in 2008 to make it consistent with the Census 2010 race question. Any changes, compared with Census 2000, may be due to demographic changes, questionnaire changes, differences in ACS population controls, and/or methodological differences in population estimates.
For the purposes of this report, most analysis will compare the whole of 2009-2010 data to the whole of 2000 data, noting changes in distribution of the wholes for each given data set. This report will not explore changes in a given population (e.g. the number of Hispanic academic librarians in 2000 to the number of Hispanic librarians in 2009-2010) as such an analysis may be misleading.
One noticeable change in this iteration of Diversity Counts versus the 2006 (and the 2007 revised) reports will be the reporting of gender, age and disability data for libraries by type—public, academic, and school. In consultation with Decision Demographics, the decision was made to not report this level of specificity due to concerns for the validity of the sample. The data for academic, public, and public K-12 school libraries can become too small to accurately derive characteristics such as gender and age. Decision Demographics advised against compiling three years of data or seeking other solutions to provide a larger sample as those may introduce issues of sample validity. The report does provide information on race and ethnicity by type of library as advised by Decision Demographics.
Finally, it is important to remember that the information provided in this report is based on an analysis of samples from larger data sets. Findings for 2000 and 1990 were also based on small samples of larger data sets. Especially when reporting on smaller populations within those samples (e.g. Native Americans, males in racial and ethnic categories, etc.), the numbers become more subject to sampling and may therefore be less accurate.
While it may be tempting to take the numbers as definitive or near definitive (e.g. “There are 572 African American male credentialed librarians”), these numbers may be subject to the limitations of the sample used. Instead of attaching expectations to specific numbers within the data, it may be more accurate to explore trends from year to year, to see if there are consistencies in the growth or change in the population (e.g. “African American males continue to constitute a very small number and percentage of the larger credentialed librarian population”).
While these smaller numbers may seem to create challenges for our analysis, their inclusion is still important and necessary. If nothing else, the reporting of small populations within our profession demonstrates a continued need to recruit in these areas to help eliminate their under-representation both in these reports and, more importantly, in the profession.
Diversity Counts: 2009-10 updated tables