Humanities Indicators
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Number and Training of Public Librarians

Well-trained public librarians play a crucial role in bringing the humanities to the American people. Librarians are involved in organizing cultural events, reaching out to students in local schools, and educating citizens of all ages in how to use the growing variety of information resources. An important measure of the vitality of the public dimension of the humanities is thus the quantity and quality of the librarians who serve the millions of people who visit the nation’s public libraries every year and rely on librarians to curate and provide access to an array of print and digital resources.

Findings and Trends

  • Throughout the 1995–2010 time period, the number of public library staff who held the title of “librarian” kept pace with population growth, holding in the vicinity of 16 librarians per 100,000 people (Indicator V-11a). Nonetheless, from 2009 to 2010 the number of librarians per 100,000 people dropped approximately 3.0% (from 16.2 to 15.7), the largest downtick observed over the previous 14 years.
  • Because the decline in librarians occurred against a backdrop of deeper cuts to library personnel generally, the proportion of all library staff who were librarians grew slightly, to 33.6% in 2010. Despite this development, the story of librarians’ share of staff positions over time is one of stasis, with the proportion having hovered near one-third over the entire 15-year period examined here.
  • Having grown steadily since 1995, the number of master librarians (recipients of a master’s degree from a program accredited by the American Library Association) declined 3.0% from 2009 to 2010, still leaving the count 20% higher than in 1995. In 2010, public libraries employed 31,986 (fulltime equivalent) of these professionals (Indicator V-11b). Master librarians accounted for more than two-thirds of the employed librarians throughout the 1995–2010 time period.
  • In 2010, for the first time in the previous 15 years of the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ annual census of public libraries, the proportion of libraries with a master librarian on staff surpassed 50%.[1]
V-11a: Public Library Staff Holding the Title of "Librarian," per 100,000 Population and as a Percentage of All Public Library Staff, Fiscal Years 1995–2010*

* Per 100,000 population values were calculated using the unduplicated population of libraries' legal service areas. All values presented are for the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Calculations were performed on all surveyed libraries, including those that did not meet Institute of Museum and Library Services criteria for public libraries.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Public Libraries Survey (1995–2005); and Institute of Museum and Library Services, Public Libraries in the United States Survey (2006–2010).

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V-11b: Master Public Librarians, Absolute Number and as a Percentage of All Public Librarians, Fiscal Years 1995–2010*

* All values presented are for the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Calculations were performed on all surveyed libraries, including those that did not meet Institute of Museum and Library Services criteria for public libraries.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Public Libraries Survey (1995–2005); and Institute of Museum and Library Services, Public Libraries in the United States Survey (2006–2010).

About this DataRelated Indicators
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Endnotes

[1] D. W. Swan, J. Grimes, T. Owens, R. D. Vese Jr., K. Miller, J. Arroyo, T. Craig et al., Public Libraries Survey: Fiscal Year 2010, IMLS-2013-PLS-01 (Washington, DC: Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2013), 36, http://www.imls.gov/research/public_libraries_in_the_us_fy_2010_report.aspx