For immediate release | September 28, 2012

American Library Association releases new data to update Diversity Counts report

Kansas City, Mo. — The American Library Association (ALA) released new data to update “Diversity Counts,” a comprehensive study of gender, race, age and disability in the library profession.

Using 2009-2010 American Community Survey analyses, new data reveals a small gain—from 11 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2009-2010 — in the percentage of racial and ethnic minorities working as credentialed librarians in the nation’s public, academic and school libraries. While credentialed librarians remain predominantly female and white, this new data provides a fuller picture of diversity within the profession today.

“Although the findings show some improvement in the diversity of the library workforce, we clearly have a long way to go,” stated Maureen Sullivan, ALA president. “To continue to serve the nation’s increasingly diverse communities, our libraries and the profession must reflect this diversity. We must continue to offer initiatives like ALA’s Spectrum Scholarship Program to recruit and educate librarians of color. We also must do the research necessary to discover effective ways to increase the numbers. This is a matter of urgency for all of us.”

According to 2010 U.S. Census data and new data for Diversity Counts:

  • Latinos compose 16.3 percent of the population, but just 3.1 percent of credentialed librarians and 9 percent of library assistants;
  • African Americans compose 12.6 percent of the population, but just 5.1 percent of credentialed librarians and 9.3 percent of library assistants;
  • Asian and Pacific Islanders compose 5 percent of the population, but just 2.7 percent of credentialed librarians and 5.5 percent of library assistants;
  • Native Americans were less than 1 percent of the population and just 0.2 percent of credentialed librarians and 0.7 percent of library assistants.

Additional trends revealed by the new data:

  • The largest portion of credentialed librarians are between the ages of 55-64 (34.8 percent)—2000 estimates placed the majority between the ages of 45-54;
  • More than a third—34.3 percent—of credentialed librarians are under the age of 45, an increase from 30.2 percent in 2000;
  • There was not a significant change in the distribution of credentialed librarians reporting a disability from 2000. The majority of credentialed librarians—96.3% in 2009-2010 and 95.9% in 2000—report that their work is not limited by a disability.
  • Public librarians were slightly more ethnically diverse than their counterparts in academic and school libraries, with nearly 15 percent indicating a race or ethnicity other than white;
  • And library assistants, a potential pipeline of future credentialed librarians, continued to show high rates of diversity, with 26.7 percent identifying a race or ethnicity other than white.

“Promoting excellence and diversity in the library field is one of the priority goals of the American Library Association,” according to Keith Michael Fiels, ALA executive director. “Over the last two decades, the association has made a major commitment to diversity scholarships, recruitment and education. Given the relatively weak improvement in diversity within the profession over the last decade, it is difficult to imagine where we would be without ALA’s efforts, but we’re going to need an even broader effort going forward in order to move these numbers. Library schools, employers, other associations, ALA chapters and the ethnic affiliates will all need to work together if we are going to accomplish our goal of a truly diverse library work force.”

The American Library Association’s diversity recruitment initiatives include the Spectrum Scholarship Program, which recently completed a $1 million fundraising initiative to support scholarships that allow students from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds to become librarians. Spectrum has provided nearly 800 scholarships to qualified applicants enrolled in an ALA-accredited graduate program in library and information studies or an AASL-recognized school library program.

The study was conducted by the ALA Office for Diversity, with assistance from the ALA Office for Research and Statistics, and by Decision Demographics, a research firm based in Arlington, Va. The study’s data tables and the introduction to the report are available on the Diversity Counts website. Additional information will be released next month.

For more information on the Spectrum scholarship program, please visit

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 60,000 members. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information.


Gwendolyn E. Prellwitz

Interm Director

Office for Diversity & Spectrum