Font Size: 
Indicator V-11 Number and Training of Public Librarians
NOTE TO READERS: Please include the following reference when citing data from this page: "American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators,".
Back to Section V-B

Updated (6/27/2013) with data for 2006–2010.

See the
Note on Per Capita Library Statistics.

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. (See Indicator V-8, Use of Public Libraries, for information on the total number of visits nationwide, and Indicator III-1, Humanities-Related Employment, for the characteristics of the humanities workforce more generally.)

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 (Figure 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. But 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.

Figure V-11a, Full Size
Supporting Data Supporting Data

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. In 2010 public libraries employed 31,986 (fulltime equivalent) of these professionals (Figure V-11b). Master librarians accounted for more than two-thirds of the employed librarians throughout the 1995–2010 time period. IMLS’s annual census of public libraries found that in 2010, for the first time, the proportion of libraries with a master librarian on staff surpassed 50%.1

Figure V-11b, Full Size
Supporting Data Supporting Data


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,

Note on Per Capita Library Statistics

All of the per capita statistics in this section of the Indicators are based on the total unduplicated population of libraries’ legal service areas. A library’s legal service area is the geographical area that by state or local statute a library is mandated to serve. “Unduplicated” refers to the fact that the population figures have been adjusted to compensate for overlapping service areas. To simply add the populations of all service areas would be to double count those people residing in areas served by more than one library.

Back to Content

Back to Top
Skip Navigation Links.  

View figures and graphics: