November 23, 2017

Growing Equity Gap

Each year’s survey provides an opportunity to examine the health of the profession through multiple lenses, focusing on the experiences of individual subsets of graduates. Profession wide, women continue to dominate (representing 80% of the graduating class), and with that comes an inherent salary gap and glass ceiling. At the high end of starting salaries, women have yet to achieve salaries consistently as high as or higher than men’s. Men still command higher average starting salaries than women ($44,945 compared to $41,514). The gender gap widened this year with the national average for women’s starting salaries falling 8.3% below their male peers’, increasing from the 7.4% differential of 2008. Part of this may be accounted for by the large percentage of men who landed jobs in private industry (40% in 2009) at salary levels that were 24% above those of female colleagues. The gap is further compounded by the larger percentages of women who enter the field at lower-paying jobs, such as circulation, children’s services, and youth or teen services and take on nonprofessional positions.

While growth in salaries year to year was slow, women and men found starting salaries that were slightly better in 2009. Women, while still below the national average ($41,537 compared to $42,215), improved their lot by 1.5%, and men by 1.7% ($44,945, up $773 from 2008). However, women claiming minority status felt a stark departure in starting salaries, erasing all of the gains made in the previous years, with a 2009 average of $39,566 (9.2% below 2008). This downward spiral for minority women can be partially attributed to high placement in libraries and jobs with notoriously lower salary levels such as public libraries, and in roles that are more often given nonprofessional status, such as those in circulation and technical services.

In 2009, women achieved better starting salaries than their male counterparts in both special libraries ($43,858 over $41,006) and in school library media centers ($45,894 compared to $44,136). In fact, women seeking jobs in special libraries garnered a significant salary increase over the previous year’s levels (up nearly 15%), while the men were hit with a small decline in earnings (down by almost 3%). The increase was most noticeable in the Northeast, where women in special libraries made a solid leap of 23% from $37,850 in 2008 to an above-average $49,108 in 2009.

Both men and women experienced a reversal of fortunes in academic libraries, narrowing the gender gap to 2%. Men lost approximately 5.4% in earnings (dropping from $42,523 in 2008 to $40,347 in 2009), while women dipped just under 3% ($39,551 in 2009 compared to $40,749 in 2008). For women, this altered the trend between 2007 and 2008, when they gained 1.5% on their starting salaries in academic libraries, but for the men, the downward trend accelerated from a loss of 1.5% to 5.4% within the same time period. This downward trend speaks to the overall economic environment in which academic libraries found themselves in 2009, replete with hiring freezes and staff reductions. The 2009 grads also spoke of applicant pools of 200 to 300 for one or two available positions and of academic libraries seeking individuals with highly specialized skills including atypical foreign-language abilities (i.e., to speak and read Middle Eastern and little-known Asian languages) along with web design and knowledge of instructional technologies.

While they continue to lag behind their male colleagues, women experienced positive growth both in starting salaries and in placement in other types of agencies. In the Northeast and in the West, women reporting jobs outside of library and information agencies more than doubled over 2008 levels. The starting salaries in each of these regions also showed improvement, moving upward 6% ($43,199 compared to $40,586) and 2.6% ($52,365 compared to $51,000), respectively. In comparing nonprofit organizations to private industry and the ubiquitous “other,” women experienced strong salary improvement in the other category, gaining 4.5% to $42,665 (up from $39,977 in 2008) and surprisingly in nonprofits, with a 3.8% increase to $41,547 (up from $40,732 in 2008). However, in the category of other, minority graduates salaries took a serious hit, dropping more than 19% to $40,993 (down $9,783 from 2008), despite an increased level of placement in these same agencies (boosting upward from 12.8% of minority placements in 2008 to just over 20% in 2009).

Minorities lose ground
Graduates identifying themselves as minorities struggled in 2009 to achieve the same levels of earnings as they did in previous years. In 2009 approximately 10% of the graduates claimed minority status, remaining in the same range as previously (between 9% and 13% annually). Unlike the gains of previous years, when compared to all of the LIS graduates, the minority grads fell below the national starting averages ($40,475, 4.2% below $42,268). A strong gender gap between men and women was readily apparent in an $8,500 difference in starting salaries between the two groups (women’s starting average at $39,566; men starting at $48,151).

Minority graduates felt the best growth and highest level of salaries in school library media centers with an average start of $52,745. This was more than 17% higher than equivalent positions the previous year (when they started at $44,790), and 13.2% higher salary than received by all graduates entering school libraries in 2009. The only region in which the minority graduates experience positive improvements in salary and placements was in the Southeast. While salaries in general in the Southeast dropped slightly (declining 1.1% to $39,525), minority grads moved upwards 2.8% to $43,259 (compared to $42,084 in 2008), reversing the downward trend experienced between 2007 and 2008.

Minority placements in academic libraries grew from 25% of all minority jobs reported in 2008 to 31% in 2009. However, salaries in academic libraries did not keep pace and followed the overall pattern of decline, losing 15% from the high of 2008 ($37,539 compared to $44,182). A portion of this reduction can be attributed to 36% of the jobs accepted in academic libraries by minorities being nonprofessional positions with lower salaries (circulation, tech services, and interlibrary loan, for example).

On a bright note, these same graduates were able to negotiate higher starting salaries than all of their peers in both the Northeast and the Southeast (both regions that experienced salary compression in 2009). In the Northeast, minority graduates started 10% higher ($45,901 compared to $41,727), while in the Southeast they started out 9.7% higher ($43,259 compared to $39,440). In both instances, these grads obtained salaries that were higher than the overall national average for new LIS graduates in 2009 (a combined average of 5.4% higher than $42,268). However, in the Northeast starting salaries were significantly below those negotiated in 2008.

Author Information
Stephanie L. Maatta, Ph.D. (, has been on faculty at the University of South Florida School of Library and Information Science, Tampa
Stephanie L. Maatta About Stephanie L. Maatta

Stephanie Maatta, Ph.D. (, is an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University School of Library Information Science, Detroit