In the future, the job market will change and libraries can play a role to shepherd our communities through it successfully. An article from the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis (ISEA) in May 2017 reported that “job automatic will hit certain metropolitan areas significantly harder than others” (Chen, 2017). Chen was referencing a study done by the University of Oxford that addressed the impact of technological advances on the workplace.  In reporting their results, Frey and Osborne (2013) estimated that “around 47 percent of total US employment is in the high risk category” for probability of computerization (p. 44). Their model predicted that “most workers in transportation and logistics occupations, together with the bulk of office and administrative support workers, and labour in production occupations, are at risk” (p. 44). In addition, the model they used found that employment in service occupations were susceptible to these technology changes. What does this mean for Idaho?

In analyzing the related data, the ISEA report (2017) noted that among the metropolitan areas they considered, the groups of occupations that would contribute the most to automation were in areas of office support, food preparation and serving roles, and sales occupations. While not among the highest hit, the data in the Check (2017a) article shows the Boise metropolitan area with the potential to have approximately 60 percent of jobs facing automation risk by the year 2035. Chen’s follow-up article (2017b) noted that the data show education level factors into the amount of risk. Specifically, “higher educational attainment is associated with a lower chance of job automation” (2017b). Where a job requiring a high school diploma is at slightly less risk than a job that does not require a high school education, a 4-year degree decreases risk further, and the least risk of impact by automation would be felt in jobs utilizing advanced degrees. An Idaho Department of Labor presentation on the outlook for Idaho industries and occupations suggests that Idaho is preparing for these changes.  As shown in the graph below, Department of Labor predicts that by 2024, 61% of Idaho workers will have an education beyond high school.

Idaho Dept of Labor chart on Workforce Education by 2024

Beyond education, though, what jobs will Idahoans have to choose from?  The Idaho Department of Labor identifies the top four hot jobs – those that are numerous, fast-growing, and well-paying – for 2014-2024 as software developers, lawyers, management analysts, and accountant and auditors. The Idaho Department of Labor presentation also shows that current projections mean we may not have the workforce to fill all the new positions available. The very important question for us is this: How will Idaho libraries contribute to our best Idaho future?

The answer is, we already are. Libraries are an important factor in the talent pipeline — the pool of individuals who fill the jobs in our industries. Libraries are building early literacy skills to prepare kids for school and learning. They are teaching information- and digital- literacy skills to support students in thoughtful problem solving. Libraries provide maker spaces and STEM activities to build skills and encourage exploration of up-and-coming fields of study. Libraries are the anchors that aid in attracting and retaining individuals in our communities by contributing to economic development and vibrant environments in which families visit, live, and work. From helping individuals to apply for jobs to finding resources for their retirement planning, libraries are an essential component in Idaho economic future. Now, the questions get turned.

A Call to Action:

What is your library doing to actively prepare your community for the future job market? How are your public and school libraries collaborating to improve the opportunities for our future workforce? We must all be prepared to communicate this to our stakeholders at any time. What will your message be?


Chen, J. (2017a, May 3). Future job automation to hit hardest in low wage metropolitan areas like Las Vegas, Orlando and Riverside-San Bernadino. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Chen, J. (2017b, June 26). Automation expected to disproportionately affect the less educated. Retrieved from

Frey, Carl B. and Osborne, Michael A. (2013, September 17). The future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerization? University of Oxford. Retrieved from

Idaho Department of Labor. (nd). Labor market projections for Idaho industries and occupations: 2014-2024. Retrieved from