Magazine article American Libraries

Reaching 65: Lots of Librarians Will Be There Soon; Numbers Reveal Need for Major Recruitment Efforts. (Statistics)

Magazine article American Libraries

Reaching 65: Lots of Librarians Will Be There Soon; Numbers Reveal Need for Major Recruitment Efforts. (Statistics)

Article excerpt

From the Los Angeles Times in April '2001 to the New York Times in August, several recent news-paper articles have noted the shortage of librarians All note that libraries--especially public libraries--are having a hard time filling positions that require the master's degree in library and information studies (MLS). Journalists have interviewed librarians who mention several reasons for the problem, the chief ones being low salaries, competition from the private sector, and an increasing number of retirements.

Different estimates are given for the number of librarians who will retire in the near future, but no one really knows, as retirement is an individual decision that depends on many factors. What we can estimate is the number of librarians who will reach age 65--the usual age of retirement--over the next 30 years. Such data is available now from the 1990 Census of Population files and will be available in about a year from the 2000 census. ALA recently asked Decision Demographics of Arlington, Virginia, to tell us how many librarians would reach age 65 in each of the next 30 years. They computed the numbers through analysis of the 1990 Census Public Use Microdata File.

It is important to note that publicly available results from the decennial census report on what people say they do. In the 1990 census, 197,000 people said they were librarians, and this figure is often used in articles on the retirement problem. But in working with Decision Demographics on a project involving the demographics of various occupations, we learned that fewer than half of those 197,000 had the master's degree or higher. Specific degrees are not reported in the decennial census, so we do not know how many have the MLS itself. But possession of a master's degree or above in another field seems a reasonable surrogate for the MLS. In 1990, the number of people who said they were librarians and also said they had a master's degree or above was 87,409.

This lower figure seems more reasonable than the higher figure when compared to the total number of librarians reported to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in 1990 in the statistical reports for academic, public, and school libraries (academic: 26,101 + public: 21,305 + school: 49,909 = 97,315). …

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