Sunday, June 29, 2014

Statistical Analysis - Library Assistants

I attended PLSA Quarterly a while ago and while there saw a presentation of some information gathered as part of a survey on the future of the workforce in SA public libraries.

I remember one particular conversation after that presentation with another Librarian who was, possibly significantly in the case of this conversation, older than I am - for reference, I'm 30. We were discussing information that suggested many of the younger staff in public libraries do not intend on staying in libraries for very long. My own interpretation of 2011 Australian Census data shows an interesting trend that might well support this.

There are three library related ANZSCO occupations - Librarian, Gallery, Library and Museum Technician and Library Assistant. There is no Library Officer occupation listed, my best guess based on raw numbers is that these are included with Library Assistants.

The patterns for Librarians and Technicians are very similar, generally speaking the older age brackets have increasingly high percentages of the jobs until a drop-off around the expected retirement age. Library Assistants are a different story - they peak twice. The number of very young Library Assistants 15-24 seems quite reasonable, however beyond this numbers drop and don't start to climb again until age 40, from here on in they stay quite high until retirement age arrives.

But what happens over time? Unfortunately there are only two data sets, 2006 and 2011, available to me. Between the two censuses the Library Assistant population dropped by nearly 400.

Please note that the x axis scale has changed for this table - while not consistent with the rest of my analysis (both what you have seen and not) I wanted to emphasise the trends to make them clearer.

In my last post relating to this analysis I noted a sideways shift in this chart for Librarians between 2006 and 2011 suggesting that these might be predominantly the same people five years later. Library Assistants show this same trend - except for that early career peak. While the numbers there have dropped, especially at either end, that peak is still in the same place it was last time. Young Library Assistants numbers are quite good into the early twenties but they drop away sharply before thirty. This takes us back to the conversation I opened with, and from here on my opinions are based on anecdotal and observational evidence.

In the conversation that I mentioned at the head of the post I was discussing the number of young library staff indicating they intend on leaving the industry with another Librarian. They suggested that it might be largely explained as those wishing to start families. Based entirely on observation, most young female library staff I have known who have started to work in libraries have not left - they have taken maternity leave and returned quickly. There are exceptions and a small part of this drop may be accounted for this way but I don't believe it explains much of it. My experience working in libraries and talking to other young people working in libraries throughout Australia suggests something else is responsible for much of this drop.

Several young library staff I have spoken to enjoy working in libraries and see them as immensely worthwhile but they are often ambitious and see little prospect for advancement or even, in the case of trainees and those on graduate programs, retention. Looking at the trend in the rest of the graph, who can blame them? As time passes I've seen many of these young people move on to areas which they believe have better prospects. Of those who have stayed, the prevailing opinion remains that opportunities to advance are severely limited.

Prospects are not hopeless, and a little over half of these staff do stay. All the same we have a concerning trend here. If we want to change this trend and retain more young staff - through analysis we can see the rest of the Library Assistant (and Technician. And Librarian) population isn't getting younger and will eventually retire - we must act.

There's more to this that I'm still teasing out and I will eventually share what I find. Much of this analysis is for a presentation at the Intelligent Information Pop-up Symposium.

Should you have any opinions stories of your own I'd love to hear them - feel free to comment here or, if you prefer to share your story confidentially, contact me via a direct message on Twitter.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Librarianship - the statistical analysis begins!

I'm going to try to revive this blog... it's been a while. Hopefully more crafts and more books and library musings. I'll start with that one as I'm working on some things that are taking up a lot of my out-of-work time.

I'm doing some information-gathering to put together a presentation that I'll be giving later in the year - my topic centres around new library graduates and the future of the professional workforce. It's a huge topic so I won't be able to cover all aspects but I'm finding some things that I really want to talk about that I haven't heard presented before. Mostly thus far I'm analysing census data and talking to people who've graduated in the last five (or so) years. Some of the output, should it be of interest to you... it's appeared on Twitter but I haven't been able to talk about it much due to the whole character limitation thing. Here 'librarians' are defined as people who have had their profession from the census put into the 'librarians' unit group in ANZSCO.

The average age of librarians is roughly consistent across the country and it doesn't surprise me at all to see that many are at the older end of the workforce, that's consistent with the experiences of people I've talked to. Tasmania, ACT and the Northern Territory are a bit different but I strongly suspect that the low populations in these three places strongly contribute to this.

This graph I found especially interesting. 'Information and organisation professionals' is the ANZSCO minor group that librarians fit within (used for the census, explanation here). This includes a number of other occupations including archivists, curators, records managers, economists and statisticians. First off, across the minor group there is a much more even age spread with a slight bias towards workers in their twenties and thirties, second, while information and organisation professional age stayed roughly the same between censuses librarians clearly aged with it. A suggestion, perhaps, that we're mostly looking at the same people five years later rather than seeing much movement in and out of the profession.

I plan on extracting more census data over the next couple of weeks. Firstly I want to extract data on the Librarianship and Information Management qualification field to see how that compares. Secondly, although my focus is on professional librarians I want to chart information on the other two library occupations in ANZSCO - Library Assistant and Gallery, Library and Museum Technicians. The latter is a little broad as although there is a Library Technician listing in ANZSCO the tool I'm using to extract data, Australian Bureau of Statistics' TableBuilder Basic, doesn't have listings to that level.

I'll share that information and some thoughts when I have it - and if you're not the library type or the data type, don't worry, there will be blog posts on other topics soon.

Edit: updated the first chart as the scale on the horizontal axis labelling was out of whack.