We hear a lot of talk about libraries borrowing from the business world: Internet cafés, self checkout stations, books shelved at the front of the shelf for easy access (instead of the back to protect them from dust), people are even free to walk among the books without an escort. We do not say much about the other side of the street, but there is plenty of action there too.
Oxford University Press has analyzed 120 years of census data and showed some trends in librarianship. This is pretty interesting data with lots of graphs and charts! View it here!
The U.S. Census first collected data on librarians in 1880, a year after the founding of the American Library Association. They only counted 636 librarians nationwide. Indeed, one respondent reported on his census form that he was the “Librarian of Congress.” The U.S. Census, which became organized as a permanent Bureau in 1902, can be used to track the growth of the library profession. The number of librarians grew over the next hundred years, peaking at 307,273 in 1990. Then, the profession began to shrink, and as of 2009, it had dropped by nearly a third to 212,742. The data enable us to measure the growth, the gender split in this profession known to be mostly female, and to explore other divides in income and education, as they changed over time.
We examined a number of socioeconomic trends over the duration, and focused in on 1950 the first year that detailed wage data were recorded, 1990 at the peak of the profession and 2009 the most currently available data.1 We looked at data within the profession and made comparisons across the work world.
Have you guys seen this TED talk? Ad-man Rory Sutherland discusses how modest solutions can often have a greater impact than the big expensive ideas and strategies. He emphasizes incentives for behavior change instead of trying to twist people’s arms. He also says that because people in power often have big budgets, they then deploy big budget solutions because they need to spend the money. So he wants to see a group of people with a lot of power but not that much money (oh, does that sound like some of our library budgets recently?). Very funny guy, take a look if you’ve got 12 minutes…