Thursday, April 12, 2007

Women in Theological Librarianship

An article in the online edition of The Chronicle tells more of the unhappy story of Sheri Klouda, the faculty member fired from the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary because she is a woman. Her story is not unique in the history of theological education, and it got me to wondering about the status of women involved in theological librarianship. Even in theologically conservative institutions, the library is often viewed as a "safe place" for a woman faculty member because the librarian often has a different status from "regular" teaching faculty. (Faculty status is a different, old thorn in theological librarianship -- take a deep breath and keep reading.)

So, as a profession, how are we doing when it comes to women serving as directors and faculty members in theological libraries? How do we compare to national statistics for librarians in general, or teaching faculty in theological institutions? The Devil is in the details, or, as Mark Twain said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics." Coming up with statistics to compare proved to be more difficult than I anticipated.

My guess is that the American Theological Library Association has demographic information about its members, but I am not aware of anywhere where that information is published. Necessity being the mother of Invention (and Forebearance being the neighbor of Necessity who closes her window whenever Invention starts crying at night), I took a look through the 2006 ATLA Proceedings where, in the back, one can find an institutional member list that also identifies the CBO (Chief Bibliographic Officer) for each member library. While this is not the most scientific method for determining the sex of all you theological library directors out there, it was fairly simple and did not require any attending physicians. Here's what I found:

   ATLA institutional members = 259
   Male CBOs = 155 (60%)
   Female CBOs = 104 (40%)

By this point, Invention had finally quit crying and fallen asleep, so I gave up trying to find numbers for all theological librarians or theological librarians with faculty status -- if you know where to find those numbers, let me know.

The next hurdle was counting the number of male and female directors in the American Library Association, and I could not readily find that number either. ALA's 2006 Diversity Study gave me counts for all librarians:

   Credentialed librarians in 2000 = 109,958
   Male librarians = 19,463 (18%)
   Female librarians = 90,495 (82%)

The same diversity study also provides numbers just for the credentialed librarians involved in higher education:

   Higher education librarians in 2000 = 25,152
   Male librarians = 7,578 (30%)
   Female librarians = 17,574 (70%)

But nothing in the report provided numbers for just the directors of the libraries. There is, however, an article in v.11 of Library Administration and Management (1997) by William Fisher entitled "The Question of Gender in Library Management". He provides demographics for directors of both public and academic libraries:

   Total number of library directors = 17,954
   Male directors = 4,196 (23%)
   Female directors = 13,758 (77%)

To this horde of statistics, I can add two more sets of numbers: From the American Research Libraries' 2005-2006 Annual Salary Survey I found:

   Directors responding to the survey = 112
   Male directors = 49 (43%)
   Female directors = 63 (57%)

(Are some of you not filling out your surveys?) And from the Association of Theological School's 2006 Fact Book (Table 3.1):

   All ATS faculty = 3,696
   Male faculty = 2,862 (77%)
   Female faculty = 834 (23%)

Well, what a mess of numbers, and no neat way to correlate them all. I did find it interesting that my unscientific count of ATLA CBOs was the only category of librarians where males outnumbered females. Compared to ALA's 2000 numbers for all librarians, this looks suspect; compared to ATS's numbers for theological faculty, this might be seen as encouraging. I do think this is an area where, as a subcategory of the library profession, we would do well to provide ourselves with more available demographics. As much as I love my profession, I have to admit that Sheri Klouda probably would not be happier if she was a librarian, but she probably would not have been fired, either.

1 comment:

penguinn said...

You might try contacting ABHE (Association for Biblical Higher Education) for more statistics on "theological librarians." This will give you info on undergraduate institutions of bible/theology. I am currently a librarian in a Bible College and Theological Seminary, and I can nod my assent to the reference about librarians and their "faculty status" - esp. if they are women. I have developed, over the last 6 years I've been here, the opinion that if the acceditating agencies didn't require it - it wouldn't be labeled "faculty status. " AND just because it is given faculty status (i.e. attend faculty meetings) that never guarentees that they will be fully treated as such and included in committees, councils, etc. where they should be a part. That hasn't happened here.

I could be more aggressive in trying to push the envelope to get that done, but it will also take some educating and changing of mindsets and that, I don't think in some cases, will ever happen.