Non-MLS Reference Salaries in Academic Libraries Lag Behind Peers

Library staff who help patrons have a great impact on public perception of the library. The positions of associate librarian, technical assistant, clerks, and various other non-MLS staff are vital to several library services (see full report for position definitions). Many libraries, including academic libraries, use non-MLS staff to support reference areas. At every position level, non-MLS reference staff help patrons with questions and conduct searches, according to the ALA-APA Non-MLS Salary Survey. Their direct contact with the public puts them in a liaison position between patrons and library services. They may be a patron’s first or only contact with library staff. Despite the training and knowledge needed to properly assist in a reference area, many non-MLS reference positions in academic libraries earn less than their peers in others areas (e.g. Cataloging, Adult Services, etc.)

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Earnings of Library Staff in Mountain West Low Compared to Workers in Similar Jobs

According to the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System, librarians maintain library collections, provide patron assistance for locating materials and reference information, and organize collections. Library clerks, on the other hand, compile records, shelve materials, and issue/receive materials. Librarians and library clerks perform work similar to that of professional and clerical staff in other fields such as education, public administration, computer assistance, and accounting. However, library personnel receive lower hourly wages compared to many of these occupations.

This report examines the hourly wages of librarians and library clerks in the Mountain West division which includes Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

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Salaries of Academic Librarians in the West & Southwest Region

The salaries of academic librarians, like many in the library field, are affected by their position, the type of library they are working in, and where their library is located. The ALA Survey of Librarian Salaries 2005 reports average salaries for each of these influencing factors.

Most average salaries for the West and Southwest region, which includes Colorado, were lower than the national averages (see Chart 1, in full report). Librarians at four-year colleges consistently earned salaries lower than the national average at every position with the exception of Librarians Who Do Not Supervise. The position to have the greatest salary difference between the regional and the national averages was Deputy/Associate/Assistant Director at a four-year college. They earned an average of $44,460 in the region and $49,927 nationally; a difference of $5,467.

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Special Library Salaries in Mountain Region Lag Behind Nation

Money is always a hot topic in any profession and librarianship is no exception. Salary information is always interesting to note because of the wide ranges in pay—from different types of libraries to different types of positions. Since 1967, the Special Libraries Association (SLA) has conducted a salary and workplace survey that focuses on that sector of librarianship in both the United States and Canada. In 2005, there were a little over 3,000 completed surveys (a 35% response rate). Over half of the respondents were located in the southern states and, of the respondents from the United States, about 3 percent were from the Mountain area.

In 2005, the overall average salary for the “Mountain” region—which includes Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming—was $56,524. The gap between the Mountain region and the United States as a whole was largest, by far, for administration/management positions. Average Mountain region salaries consistently lag behind the national average for all position types (see chart in full report).

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Salaries of Librarians and Other Professionals Working in Libraries

Questions about library staff salaries are some of the more frequently posed to the LRS staff. To help answer these questions, we consulted the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) and the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) produced by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The data is gathered and reported using the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System. The SOC combines library workers from all types of library settings under the broad occupational categories of Librarian, Library Technician, and Library Assistant.

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Librarian Jobs in Colorado Public Libraries, 1990-2004

Is there a librarian shortage or surplus? This is a debatable question. Studies such as the LRS’s Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado describe the high number of librarians who are expected to retire in the next five years. In regard to the profession of librarianship, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that “Employment of librarians is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations over the 2002-12 period. However, job opportunities are expected to be very good because a large number of librarians are expected to retire in the coming decade, creating many job openings. Also, the number of people going into this profession has fallen in recent years, resulting in more jobs than applicants in some cases.”

Ask a graduating LIS student and you might hear a different story. An article written by Rachel Holt and Adrienne Stock for Library Journal examines what they call the “Entry Level Gap.” They mention the relative scarcity of entry level jobs for new graduates. Additionally, they point to a more disturbing trend in the field—the “growing tendency of libraries to hire individuals for staff positions who are not MLS librarians at all.”

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The U.S. Labor Market for Library Workers, 2002-12

Librarian retirements are at what some believe to be an all-time high. Many in the field are also concerned about the apparent extent to which library jobs are being restructured and, sometimes, eliminated. In this seemingly unstable climate, several questions come to mind:

  • How many jobs are there for library workers generally—and librarians in particular?
  • How many of those jobs will be vacated in the foreseeable future?
  • How many library jobs will be created or lost?
  • Are there enough people to fill the library positions that will be available?
  • How well (or poorly) are these jobs compensated?

Data that can help decision-makers begin to address these questions are available in Occupational Employment, Training, and Earnings Data accessible via the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. (See http://data.bls.gov/oep/noeted/empoptd.jsp.)

BLS defines 3 library occupations—librarian, library technician, and library assistant (clerical). For definitions of these occupations, see the full report.

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Librarianship in Colorado School Libraries

In the recent study, Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado, library workers from all types of libraries from around the state were asked about their careers, their workplaces, and their attitudes about librarianship. Included in the study were school librarians, who were defined as librarians with a library media endorsement, Master of Library Science degree, or equivalent and working in a Colorado school library. This issue of Fast Facts reports the responses of the 110 school librarians who participated in the study.

Highlights from School Librarian Respondents

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 indicated they were 45 or older.
  • Almost half indicated they plan to retire in the next five years (45%).
  • One in 3 have more than 20 years library work experience.
  • Nine out of 10 said they had some experience working or volunteering in a school or library before pursuing a library credential.
  • More than 3 out of 5 identified a love of books or reading as a factor making librarianship an attractive profession.
  • More than 2 out of 3 said misconceptions about librarianship discouraged a career in the profession.

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Librarianship in Colorado Academic Libraries

Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado, a recent study conducted by the LRS, asked 1,241 respondents from around the state about their jobs, their libraries, and their career plans. This issue of Fast Facts examines the data provided by the 91 academic librarian respondents—defined as those having a Master of Library Science degree (MLS) or equivalent and working in a Colorado college or university library.

Highlights from Academic Librarian Respondents

  • More than 1 in 3 were under 45.
  • One in 3 have more than 20 years experience working in a library.
  • Two in 3 worked or volunteered in a library or school prior to pursuing a library degree.
  • More than 4 in 5 indicated they had served in a professional leadership role(s) in the last five years.
  • More than half said service to others and/or intellectual challenge made librarianship an attractive profession.
  • Nine in 10 cited “low financial compensation” as a factor discouraging potential librarians.
  • Almost 1 in 2 indicated that salaries or benefits had been frozen or cut at their workplace in the last year.

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Librarianship in Colorado Public Libraries

In a recent LRS study, Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado (3Rs), 1,241 respondents from all types of libraries were asked about their careers, their workplaces, and their attitudes about librarianship. This issue of Fast Facts explores the responses from the 245 public librarian respondents—defined as librarians with a Master of Library Science degree (MLS) or equivalent library credential and working in a Colorado public library.

Highlights from Public Librarian Respondents

  • One in 7 said they plan to retire in the next 5 years.
  • One in 4 was 55 or older, within 10 years of the traditional retirement age of 65.
  • Nearly 2 in 3 indicated “service to others” as a leading factor in making librarianship an attractive profession.
  • 4 out of 5 said “low financial compensation” was the leading factor discouraging potential librarians from pursuing a career in librarianship.
  • Approximately 1 in 3 had their salary and/or benefits frozen or cut in the last year.
  • More than 1 in 5 experienced staff cuts at their workplace.

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