Strategies for Salary Negotiations

Whether you’re negotiating your salary before accepting a new job or seeking out a raise after years of service, salary negotiations are difficult. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the 2016 median pay for MLIS degreed librarians in the U.S. was $57,680, but that means half of all librarians make less than that. If you think you deserve a raise, make sure that you go into the negotiation room knowing your numbers, and not just the number you want to walk away with! The more information you bring, the better your chances of getting something out of the negotiations. So before you approach your boss (or soon-to-be-boss), make sure you know:

  • The cost of living in your area
  • The salary range for similar positions
  • The average salary for libraries in your area
  • Your competitive market value

Determining your competitive market value in your area can assist greatly in salary negotiations. It is based on your experience and skills compared to other people who hold similar jobs. Websites like and can be a start in discovering what others have reported being paid. Your state’s library association may also publish reports regarding more state-level salaries.

If you’ve been offered a job, don’t immediately accept what is offered. Ask for a day or two to review the terms of the contract and then request for a slightly higher salary. If you ask for 5% more and they only offer you an extra $1,000, you’re still walking away with a bigger payday.

If you’re trying to negotiate for a raise, prepare to show your worth by knowing how you contribute most to your team. By showing your value in addition to having hard numbers about salaries, you may be more likely to successfully negotiate a raise. Do you have skills that make you stand out? Make sure your employer knows about them and how they benefit the library. The more unique your skills, the more room there may be to negotiate.

When you go into negotiations, know what you’re negotiating for and have a strategy prepared, but also understand the other party’s perspective. Keep an open-mind and remain calm while discussing why you should be paid more. By remaining positive in your negotiations and genuinely listening to what the negotiator says, you may walk away with more than if you come in with a list of demands.

Timing can also be key in asking for more money. If the library recently underwent budget cuts, asking for more money may seem shortsighted. If you’re receiving a glowing annual review, then it might be a good time to ask for a raise. Also remember that compensation for a job goes beyond your salary. If the library is unable to increase your pay, perhaps they’d be willing to add in an extra day of vacation, a flexible schedule, or a paid trip to a library conference. You won’t know what an employer may be willing to give you until you ask.

When negotiating a salary, whether for a new position or for a raise, make sure you’re prepared with all the reasons why you deserve more money. By having facts, numbers, and information about your worth, you can be confident that you’re making the best argument for yourself.

Additional Resources:

ALA-APA Salary Surveys (last conducted in 2016) – access to results requires a subscription to ALA-APA Library Salary Database

ALA-APA Advocating for Better Salaries Toolkit

Bureau of Labor Statistics for Librarians

Library Worklife Newsletter – Salaries