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Running to stay in place
While new roles offered higher compensation opportunities as well as excitement, that growth did not extend to the full range of new librarians. Overall, starting salaries were flat, and placements decreased in school libraries. The overall average starting salary growth was lackluster, holding steady at $44,503, $62 less than in 2011. (Though this varied widely by region, as is explained in more detail below.)
Small signs of improvement were uncovered in a declining rate of reported unemployment among LIS grads, dropping a full percentage point from 6.8 percent in 2011 to 5.8 percent for the current class. The average length of the job search held steady at just under five months, ranging from 4.3 months in the Midwest to six months in the West. Graduates most frequently reported a job search lasting approximately three months, though some continue to search out LIS placements as long as 18 postgraduation.
Specialties by the numbers
As indicated by new job titles and redefined roles, the LIS professions are evolving. Reference and information services, for example, have slowly decreased from the highs of the early 2000s, when reference librarians comprised 25 percent to 27 percent of placements. In 2012, these positions made up 13.1 percent of the reported placements, drifting downward even further from 14.7 percent in 2011. For public libraries, the news is positive, as placement in children’s and youth services continues to rise—from a combined 7.1 percent in 2011 to 11.1 percent in 2012. The number of children’s librarians rose from 4.1 percent of reported placements in 2011 to 7.5 percent in 2012, while those reporting their jobs as YA/teen services went from 3.1 percent to 3.5 percent. Adult services librarians, meanwhile, are seeing their growth in salaries: they reported a 6.2* percent improvement in starting salaries, increasing from $37,765 in 2011 to $40,130 in 2012.
Approximately 10.1 percent of the graduates accepting jobs in academic institutions took positions in academic units outside of the library. Some work in campus technology initiatives, while others provide information services—data management and research—for academic departments, such as music or medicine. Working outside of the academic library improves earning potential, with nonlibrary salaries averaging $50,802 compared to $42,599 annually in the library. The salary differential appears to be driven by the focus on data science and technology.
One area of distinct concern is school library specialization. Placements in school libraries plummeted from 13.5 percent of the reported jobs in 2011 to 8.9 percent in 2012. This was particularly noticeable in the Midwest, where the placement rate dropped from 40 percent of the reported school library positions in 2011 to 21.7 percent in 2012; in the West, similar placements fell from 17.5 percent to 7.6 percent between 2011 and 2012. Some graduates noted that there were issues related to the reciprocity of school media endorsements among states, requiring additional certification and coursework when moving out-of-state and complicating the job search process. Others reported that school districts were downsizing or eliminating the school media position altogether. On a positive note, however, school media salaries improved by nearly two percent, rising from $44,515 in 2011 to $45,376 in 2012. Across the board, school media specialists noted that their jobs revolve around direct instruction of information literacy skills and the use of technology along with collection management and acquisitions. Like many of the other job categories, phrases such as “digital initiatives” and “e-learning” were used to describe the school librarian’s changing role in the elementary and secondary school environments.
Placement in organizations other than library or information agencies held steady at 20.6 percent of the reported jobs. This encompassed government agencies at the state and federal levels, nonprofit organizations, and corporate environments. The trend in other organizations is data collection and analysis. Some of the intriguing roles include working for political campaigns and lobbyists, gathering data about issues, and report writing. Nonprofit organizations hired library and information science graduates to work in prospect research (identifying possible sources of donations and funding), grant writing, and community outreach and public relations.
* Because of an error in calculations, some percent change figures in this article have been corrected as of December 13, 2013.