Jul 01 2005
ALA, the ALA-APA, and former ALA President Mitch Freedman have campaigned to improve the employment status and salaries of library workers. Topics near and dear to all of our hearts, these are complicated issues that involve comparable worth or occupational leveling, salary equity, and economic development. Some myths work against library worker morale, and there are steps we all can take to be sure our work is recognized and that pay scales and benefit packages reflect our contributions to society.
The Campaign for America’s Libraries, a five-year effort launched by the ALA during National Library Week 2001, touts the value of libraries using the unified @your libraryTM brand. ALA claims to have reached 10,000 libraries in all 50 states with messages to increase awareness of library programming, increase library use and impact funding for libraries.
Maurice J. “Mitch” Freedman, director of the Westchester Library System in New York and 2001-2002 ALA President, used his presidential pulpit to bring attention to library salaries, established the Better Libraries Task Force, and continues to publish and speak out on these issues. Freedman and Dorothy Morgan, business manager of the Liverpool Public Library in New York and 2000-2001 president of the ALA Library Support Staff Interest Round Table, are being honored with the American Library Association- Allied Professional Association’s first Dynix-ALA-APA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Promoting Salaries and Status for Library Workers.
On January 27, 2003, the ALA-APA produced a presenter’s training manual: The Campaign for America’s Librarians: Advocating for Better Salaries and Pay Equity. The section called “Toolkit” is full of mobilizing messages, statistics, and resources to enable library workers of all types. There are sample letters to the editor, quotable quotes, answers to tough questions, and even some success stories. The section titled “Building the Case” indicates that, to obtain better salaries, librarians need to use several different strategies and tactics. Here is where things get more complicated.
Factoring the Facts
Multiple factors affecting salaries for librarians are national compensation data, the state of the economy in a given region, the cost of living, and the demand and supply of qualified candidates for job openings. Publications and resources from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are most informative and useful in thinking about equitable pay. The BLS National Compensation Survey publishes information on wage rates by occupation using a process called “point factor leveling” to determine the overall work level of jobs. The knowledge guide for librarian, museum curator, and archivist jobs is very similar to the one for professional education and professional medical jobs, but there is some bias in the guide for professional legal jobs.
Two points we may wish to clarify in future surveys: the knowledge guide for Professional Legal indicates jobs that “require a college degree and completion of specialized legal training” (p.5), while the statement for Professional Librarians only says a four year degree (p.6). The first section of knowledge points for librarians states: “Knowledge permits the employee to carry out recurring assignments while learning the establishment’s goals and needs” (p.32), while in the legal section it says: “Knowledge permits the employee to carry out assignments using well established principles, practices, and precedents” (p.26) - a statement that I think implies more judgment and responsibility.
Many of us, especially the new generation of librarians, would rightfully assert that little of what we do daily is the same old work. We are reinventing ourselves along with new technologies and new generations of customers. In the next round of analysis (2006), the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system will include 800 occupations. Perhaps we can have some career specializations for corporate, law, and health sciences librarianship added, along with more detail on the information literacy (teaching) components of most library jobs.
The March 2002 BLS Monthly Labor Review lists the hourly earnings for full-time workers based on the compensation survey for 2000. The highest paid are airline pilots and navigators, followed by physicians. In the 43 occupations with hourly earnings in the top 10%, 38 were in the professional major occupational group and 22 were teaching positions, including economics and psychology teachers. Librarians ranked 95, after editors and reporters and urban planners, but ahead of architects and computer programmers. Agricultural, private households, and federal government workers are not included in the National Compensation Survey.
Equal Pay For…?
Dr. Warren Farrell, who served on the National Organization for Women (NOW) board of directors, has recently published Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap - and What Women Can Do About It (AMACOM, 2005). He asserts that the myth that women only make 76 cents for every dollar a man makes needs to be revisited and examined in a new light. The April 15, 2005 review from “Business Wire” says that there are three startling truths in his research:
- Men don’t earn more money for the same work, but for different work - more hazardous, more technical fields, more traveling and moving.
- Women now earn more than men for the same work, but male doctors, lawyers, and accountants do earn more because they don’t work at their jobs in the same way. Men tend to work more hours, in private practice, or in big firms instead of nonprofits. Women in medicine tend to avoid specialties with uncontrolled hours (e.g., cardiac surgeon).
- Women who work 44 hours a week make twice as much as those who work 34 hours a week.
His research indicates that there are 80 fields where women earn more than men. High pay includes tradeoffs: less scheduling flexibility, less personal fulfillment, less safety, and less proximity to home.
What YOU Can Do
There is a promising note in a February 11, 2004 BLS press release on 2002-2012 employment projections. Jobs in the education, health services, professional, and business services sector are projected to grow twice as fast as the overall economy. Librarians should be able to capitalize on this period, and should negotiate the best starting salaries they can obtain. I made the mistake once early in my career of accepting one salary in a university unit when a colleague hired at the same time asked for - and got - $1,000 more a year than I did. Over the next five years, with across-the-board percentage salary increases, his annual income moved lot farther ahead of mine.
In areas with ALA-accredited schools, the job market will always be very competitive, and salaries may reflect that employers’ market. People tend to go to library school because there is one where they live, and they want to stay there when they graduate. Moving away for your first job may allow you to command a higher starting salary. Once you have the first two to three years of professional experience, you may be able to move back.
New SLIS graduates that have been successful in finding employment in Madison, WI have developed new specialties while they were students working in area libraries or information centers. Whether in digital library projects, web page accessibility, or geographic information systems, they have cutting-edge expertise. They can command higher starting salaries and have employment opportunities opened for them.
Don’t overlook or gloss over the fringe benefit packages associated with compensation offers, either. In 1996, SLA commissioned a publication by Ernst & Young, LLP, Unlocking the Door to Higher Compensation: Your Key to the Salary Maze. It still is a powerful information tool for negotiating equitable pay. Retirement and health insurance may not be priorities in a younger professional’s job search, but fringe benefits can make all the difference in the long run.
The Big Picture
One other thing librarians can do to improve their employment status and salaries is to become involved in community or state economic development campaigns. If public and school librarians can facilitate the development of higher-paying knowledge-based businesses, tax revenues will increase, property values will increase and governmental resources will grow. Make sure you know the information needs of the small business owners in your community. Help connect them to government resources, statistical reports and trends literature. Help the Chamber of Commerce with information packages that will encourage young families and entrepreneurs to move into your community. Demonstrate clearly the value of library services you provide to local decision makers. Everyone benefits when the economic base of an area grows at a stable, positive rate.
When searching for a new job, pay attention to employment projections and statistical information, compensation surveys and salary reports. Research the salary and benefits packages available to other workers in similar jobs in your employment region. Inform yourself on issues related to the cost of living and working conditions. If you are going to have to live in another community in order to afford housing costs, negotiate a higher salary to compensate for the time and commuting costs. Knowledge is power. If you put your knowledge to work, we can all achieve better salary equity.
Barbara J. Arnold is Admissions and Placement Adviser, Sr., UW- Madison School of Library and Information Studies. Barbara is currently working to put a conference program together for the Wisconsin Library Association Annual Conference in La Crosse on the efforts to develop a knowledge based economy in Wisconsin and advocacy for improving salaries for library workers in the state. Serving on an advisory committee for the Dean of the UW-Madison College of Letters and Science, she learned about the titles of and salaries paid to other people on the campus working in jobs similar to hers. She is looking into writing the justification for a title change for her position to Student Services Program Coordinator, which could lead to a raise. Knowledge is power.