Racial and ethnic diversity among librarians: a status report

Mary Jo Lynch
Director, Office for Research and Statistics
American Library Association

Note : This article was prepared for publication in the November 1998 issue of American Libraries as a special piece. Because of space constraints, it was not published separately but was put at the end of an article on, "Librarians' Salaries: Smaller increases this year." See pages 68-70 of the November 1998 American Libraries for the content which follows this note.

People often ask ALA, "What is the current racial/ethnic makeup of the librarian workforce?" Data became available this summer to answer that question about academic, public, and school librarians. The table on this page shows percentages by racial/ethnic category and by sex. To put these data in context, it is essential to describe the way they were gathered. Data on academic and public librarians were collected in a "supplementary question" included on the questionnaire for the ALA Survey of Librarian Salaries, 1998. That supplementary question asked the respondent to complete a table showing the five basic racial/ethnic categories as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Respondents were asked to report on full-time staff with master's degrees from programs in library and information studies accredited by ALA. The questionnaire went to a national sample of 1,267 public and academic libraries but there were restrictions on the universe from which the sample was drawn. Public libraries serving populations of less than 25,000 were not included. Nor were libraries in either category who have fewer than two professionals.

Percent ol Librarians by EEOC Category, Gender, and Library Type
EEOC Category Academic Libraries 1998 Public Libraries 1998 School Libraries 1994

American Indian/Alaskan Native




Asian/Pacific Islander





























The data for school librarians on that table comes from a totally different source. These data were collected from a national sample of schools by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in 1993-94 as part of the NCES School and Staffing Survey (SASS). Because of the way this survey was done, the term librarian is much less well defined. In the longer table from which the data were taken, the term librarian includes both full-time and part-time staff as well as persons with and without state certification and persons with and without master's degrees from programs accredited by ALA or NCATE.

Looking Backward

Can we compare these data to any older data in order to determine if the field is changing? The short answer is "no." NCES has never collected this type of data on school librarians before. ALA did conduct sample surveys of public and academic librarians in 1985 and again in 1991, but results of these surveys cannot legitimately be compared to the results in the 1998 salary for two reasons: the earlier surveys included both full-time and part-time and the earlier surveys did not specify the master's degree from programs in library and information studies accredited by ALA.

Looking Forward

What about the future? Will these data be collected again? It seems likely that both ALA and NCES will collect this type of data again in a few years. But there is a problem with future data collection: the Office of Management and Budget has revised the "Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity" (see http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/EOP/OMB/html/fedreg/Ombdir15.html). The new standards will be used in the 2000 decennial census and all Federal agencies must follow them not later than January 1, 2003. By that time, most non-Federal agencies will follow suit. The new standards are different in two ways: the categories are different and respondents will have the option of selecting more than one*.

It seems likely that the next time ALA or anyone else collects data on the race/ethnicity of librarians, the new categories will be used. Future reports on this topic may look different. But the table on this page is the best we can do to describe the current workforce.

* The new categories are as follows: American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, White.

Contact the Office for Research & Statistics for questions about content on this page.