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The Future of Human Resources in Canadian Libraries

December 12, 200612 December 2006

Literacy, Libraries and Publishing

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This report summarizes almost three years of research into the human resource situation of Canadian libraries, including a literature review, telephone interviews, focus group sessions, a mail-in survey of 461 library administrators and managers, and an internet survey of over 2,200 librarians and 2,000 paraprofessionals. The goals of the project are to assess the library sector’s readiness to address human resource changes “and to illuminate potential strategies that can be used by libraries in planning their own human resources”. The report emphasizes eight interrelated human resource factors: recruitment, retirement, retention, rejuvenation, repatriation, re-accreditation, remuneration, and restructuring.

The most common reasons for entering the librarian profession relate to “the core values of librarianship, including an appreciation of books, learning, and research and an interest in serving the public good”. Since current users and staff often share these values, the report recommends that “efforts to recruit to the profession could be targeted to library users and other library staff, and should entail an educational component highlighting the core values of librarianship”.

A demographic profile of library personnel shows that a large majority of both professional librarians and paraprofessionals are female and that visible minorities and Aboriginal Canadians are underrepresented in Canadian libraries.

The median annual income of full-time librarians is $60,000, while the median annual income of full-time paraprofessionals is $37,500.

About one-half of both professional librarians and paraprofessionals have more than 15 years of career experience. The report indicates that, “with two in five current librarians and over three in ten current paraprofessionals predicted to retire by 2014, the library community would be well-advised to begin investigating their institutional demographics and planning for the future”. In particular, “efforts to groom the next generation of leaders and managers need to begin now”.

Job satisfaction, which is relatively high among both librarian and paraprofessional staff, is the most important factor in staff retention. The two most important factors in job satisfaction are respectful treatment and opportunities to grow and to learn new skills. However, relatively low staff turnover limits opportunities for promotions.

The report finds increased stress levels among librarians in the past five years, thanks to four main factors: an increase in workloads; an increase in the difficulty of tasks performed; the need to perform a wider variety of tasks; and the need to perform more managerial functions. For some librarians, there are other important and changing characteristics of their roles, including workplace re-engineering, functional area integration, downsizing and increased centralization.

There is a strong and increasing need for information technology skills among librarians. The report indicates that many libraries are addressing this need through training programs. For libraries, the competencies and needs that are hardest to fill include leadership, management, flexibility, innovation, technology and overall workloads.

The report indicates that “perhaps one of the most recurring and reliable themes uncovered in this study is that of the need for librarians to perform managerial functions and to assume leadership roles”, something for which many librarians were not prepared through their education. As a consequence, the report recommends that library schools “place a greater curriculum emphasis on managing, business, and leadership skills”. The report also finds a need for more hands-on learning experiences.

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