Librarians Fight for Higher Salaries

Originally printed in the NMLA Bulletin 35, no. 7 (Nov./Dec. 2005): 4 . Reprinted with permission from the author.

A salary survey conducted by the New Mexico State Library staff in the summer of 2005 found that workers employed by the State Library are severely underpaid. The 2005 study, titled “Pay Inequity at the New Mexico State Library: Study and Recommendations,” can be found online at: www.stlib.state.nm.us/files/NMSLSalaryReport.pdf

The pay inequity study reports that in the last year and a half there has been a 30% turnover rate in Library staff and since July 2002 there has been a 50% turnover rate. This rate of turnover at the State Library is more than double the rate of turnover throughout state government. The study also reports that high turnover rates at the State Library have cost the State of New Mexico nearly one million dollars since 2002.

A startling fact documented in the study is that 35 State Library staff members meet the basic qualifications for food stamp eligibility, and 3 of these employees have master’s degrees. The study states, “Given that most State Library employees work in Santa Fe with its high cost of living, many of these people. seek additional jobs in order to meet basic expenses and to maintain a reasonable quality of life.”

The study also found, “New Mexico State Library salaries are the lowest in the library profession statewide, and among the lowest for state libraries nationwide.” Among the recommendations included in the pay inequity study is the request to move all librarian classifications to the midpoint of the current salary scale, at a cost of $243,731.

State Librarian, Richard Akeroyd, has been very supportive of staff efforts to improve wages at the Library. Since his arrival at the State Library in 2003, he has worked within the constraints of State government to try to bring about salary equity for State Library employees. The survey reports, however, “The administration of the Library has exhausted all of the accepted procedures offered by New Mexico State Personnel Office and those of the Department of Cultural Affairs for well-deserved salary increases.”

While State Librarians and State Library employees have long been aware of these difficult salary issues, getting political recognition for salary improvements outside of the agency has been difficult.

Stuart Ashman, Secretary of the Department of Cultural Affairs, was called to task on November 17th by Senator Luciano “Lucky” Varela, Chair of the Legislative Finance Committee. During a budget hearing for the Department of Cultural Affairs, Senator Varela admonished Secretary Ashman for discouraging employee participation in the budget hearing process and strongly suggested that a plan be developed to address the severe pay inequities at the State Library.