Are Our Numbers Rising or Falling?

How should we interpret the statistics we hear? Most of the profession is retiring, there are fewer people going to library school, people of color aren’t going to library school, there are lots of jobs available, there are no jobs available, salaries are low, salaries are adequate? I’m (again) coming to the conclusion that it depends. Where you are (geographically and in your professional life), who you are, what you read and who you are asking are only some of the variables influencing the answers. ALA-APA and Library Worklife will be continue to report, collect, analyze, and question the statistics that we take for granted. I invite your feedback or your own analysis of this and other data.

I received a call last week from an LW reader who wanted to know where the statistics came from that were used in the article I wrote with Tracie Hall called “The World Is Changing: Why Aren’t We? ” about recruitment of people of color to the profession. The statistics from the US Census Bureau revealed a sharp decline in librarianship overall from 1990 to 2000 (-10,656 librarians), and an even greater decline in numbers of librarians of color.

I promised to follow up with additional data, and called Denise Davis, Director of the Office for Research and Statistics. Denise pointed me to an article by Mary Jo Lynch, written in 2004, called “Retirement and Recruitment: A Deeper Look.Library Worklife will continue to publish articles about how to analyze the statistics about how many of us are entering and leaving the field, but I wanted to point out this article because it illustrates the need to examine even tried-and-true data with the benefit of new information.

Briefly, in the 1990 census, 197,089 people wrote that they were librarians. However, matching librarians with people with masters degrees (although there is no way to say that they were all in library science) whittled the number to 87,409, or less than half. In 2000, the number of masters-degree-holding census-takers who identified themselves as working as librarians had increased to 106,228. That’s a full 21.5 percent increase. So that’s one interpretation for the trend of librarians who are working in the field.

When we look at students in library school, we get a similar mixed impression. The Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) reports each year the number of students in ALA-accredited library schools (as well as a host of other statistics about faculty and non-ALA-accredited schools). In the 1991 report of statistics from 1990, all 59 schools participated in the survey and in the 2001 report of statistics from 2000, all 56 schools participated.

We see that although schools closed, there was an increase of 19.12 percent in enrolled students, though the increase is mostly seen in part-time programs. There were 11,020 students enrolled in 1990 and 13,127 in 2000, but there was a 24.13 percent increase in part-time enrollment, compared with a 9.47 percent increase in full-time enrollment. The increase is seen even if full-time equivalents are counted. Enrollment was up for every ethnic group and for both genders, but one must study actual numbers and percentage of total to see that the changes do not approximate the percentage that each group represents in United States society.

There were 484 more masters degrees awarded in 2000 than 1990, a change of 11.02 percent. However, the number of male recipients dropped by 1.33 percent, while the number of women rose 14.91 percent.

When we factor in ethnicity, we see that there was a 61.90% jump for Asian Pacific male librarians awarded degrees, but it was the difference between 21 and 34 men. For White men, the number declined by 59, or 7.40%. The numbers of Black men and women awarded degrees rose 6.90 percent and 98.92 percent respectively, which would be impressive, but we see that Blacks (men and women) represent 2.93 percent of the total masters degrees awarded in 1990 and 4.43 percent in 2000.

Now it’s 2005. What has changed? None of these statistics deny or allay any of the rumors or the concerns that we all should have about the need to improve our numbers on every count, but it does say, at least to me, that we have to be willing to dig deeper to see if additional information or a new perspective is available. And perhaps someday we can answer some of the “why” questions.

The following tables are for ALA-Accredited Library Schools Masters Programs.

Enrollment (numbers and FTEs)
Fall 1990
Fall 2000
% change
Total Enrolled
11,020
13,127
19.12
Total, Full-time
3,769
4,126
9.47
Total, Part-time
7,251
9,001
24.13
Female students, Full-time
2,799
3,051
9.00
Male students, Full-time
970
1,075
10.82
Female students, Part-time
5,941
7,305
22.96
Male students, Part-time
1,310
1,696
29.47
Female students, Part-time (FTEs)
2,635
3,342
26.83
Male students, Part-time (FTEs)
619.63
751
21.20


Enrollment by Ethnicity and Gender
1990
1990
2000
2000
% change
Male
Female
Male
Female
Male
Female
American Indian
5
17
21
44
320.00
158.82
Asian Pacific
38
183
64
247
68.42
34.97
African-American
64
270
118
470
84.38
74.07
Hispanic
66
176
111
242
68.18
37.50
White
1682
6613
2011
8051
19.56
21.75
International
89
281
128
288
43.82
2.49
N/A
373
729
318
1014
-14.75
39.09
Total*
2317
8269
2771
10356


Enrollment, Ethnicity by Percent of Total
% 1990
(n=11020)
% 2000
(n=13127)
American Indian
0.20
0.50
Asian Pacific
2.01
2.37
African-American
3.03
4.48
Hispanic
2.20
2.69
White
75.27
76.65
International
3.36
3.17
N/A
10.00
10.15
Total*
96.06
100.00


Degrees and Certificates Awarded
1990
2000
% change
Total
4393
4877
11.02
Men
1054
1040
-1.33
Women
3339
3837
14.91


Degrees and Certificates Awarded by Ethnicity
1990
2000
% change
American Indian
17
14
-17.65
Asian Pacific
90
128
42.22
African-American
122
216
77.05
Hispanic
115
267
132.17
White
3,377
3,576
5.89
International
205
140
-31.71
N/A
232
536
131.03
Total*
4,158
4,877


Degrees and Certificates Awarded

Male

1990

Female

1990

Male

2000

Female

2000

% M
% F
American Indian
4
13
3
11
-25.00
-15.38
Asian Pacific
21
69
34
94
61.90
36.23
African-American
29
93
31
185
6.90
98.92
Hispanic
44
71
42
225
-4.55
216.90
White
797
2580
738
2,838
-7.40
10.00
International
51
154
57
83
11.76
-46.10
N/A
56
176
135
401
141.07
127.84
Total*
1,002
3,156
1,040
3,837
3.79
21.58
4,158
4,877
*Discrepancy between totals by ethnicity and totals by gender noted in source.

Bibliography

Library and Information Science Education Statistical Report 1991, ed. Timothy W. Sineath. Sarasota, Fla.: Association for Library and Information Science Education, 1991.

Library and Information Science Education Statistical Report 2001, eds. Evelyn H. Daniel and Jerry D. Saye. Reston, Va.: Association for Library and Information Science Education, 2001.

Article revised 10/5/06.