Do You Know How Much Library Workers in Your Area Make?  You Should.

By Qaddafi SabreeNLWD DCLA EVENT

For the typical American worker, discussions of salary and income can be a sensitive subject. Most of us would like to think that we’re being paid a fair wage for the knowledge and skills that we bring to our jobs. No one wants to be underpaid or undervalued. For this reason, it’s important that we are aware of what the typical salary range is for our respective positions.

In observance of National Library Workers Day, the DC Library Association (DCLA) organized a discussion on the salaries of library workers at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library on Tuesday April 14th. Christina Bailey, president of DCLA, served as the moderator during the discussion. The panel included:

  • Kenneth Despertt, Executive Board Member and Shop Steward for AFSCME Local 1808 (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees).
  • Aliqae Geraci, Chair of the Standing Committee on the Salaries and Status of Library Workers for ALA-APA (American Library Association – Allied Professional Association) via Skype from Cornell University.
  • Jennifer Porcari, Associate Director, American Federation of Teachers.
  • Elizabeth Cross, Economist for Occupational Employment Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Audrey Watson, Economist for Occupational Employment Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor.

The discussion focused on the salary ranges for library assistants, library technicians as well as librarians. Data was provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and state workforce agencies.

During the presentation, we were all happy to learn that the District of Columbia has the highest paid librarians in the country with the annual mean salary being $80,280. The national average is $58,110. This doesn’t come as a surprise considering the data shows that the federal government has the highest paid librarians of any other sector. Library technicians in the District of Columbia are also the highest paid in the nation with the average salary being $46,110 and the national average being $33,490. Library assistants are the outliers as Alaska pays the highest salaries at $37,500 with the District of Columbia coming in second at $32,790. The national average is $26,010.  The data provided is the most current and was published in May 2014.

Although library workers in the District of Columbia are doing well, it was mentioned that a lot of librarians were leaving the profession to pursue better opportunities as well as higher salaries. Ironically, as the traditional roles of librarians evolve with technology, many people who possess skills in other professions are being hired as information specialists, information managers, and knowledge managers. Consequently, there is currently a proposal to combine the standard occupational classification of librarians to include audio-visual and multimedia collections specialists. As a result, librarians could command higher salaries in the near future. Although it’s currently just a proposal, the occupation is slowly reflecting the proposed classification. For those of us who are at the beginning or middle of our careers, this information is useful when negotiating salaries and raises. It’s also an opportunity to expand our skillsets to reflect the coming changes. Skills that are part of the librarian’s DNA such as content management, metadata creation, and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) are all new names for skills that librarians are familiar with as part of the traditional job as we know it. This is especially true of cataloging librarians.

When performing a job search, one can find job titles such as those mentioned previously that read like that of a librarian. One of the discussant’s mentioned that when searching for a library job, the word librarian wasn’t used at all. However, all of the skills that were learned in library school fit the job description. This is something to keep in mind should you find yourself seeking a change in your work environment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is an excellent source for occupational information. As information professionals, we should all be aware of the average salary of library workers in our respective sectors as well as other sectors. DCLA organized an excellent discussion that can benefit everyone who has ever wondered whether they’re being fairly compensated. The information shared was invaluable and answered a lot of questions that many of us have about income and salaries.


Qaddafi Sabree is an Information Specialist at Howard University.


Editor’s Note:  Resources on salary information for library workers:

ALA-APA 2014 Salary Survey will be available online in the coming weeks.  Check the ALA-APA website for details.

Advocating for Better Salaries Toolkit, 2014