February 17, 2018

Placements & Salaries Survey 2009: Overview

By Stephanie Maatta

LJ‘s annual placements & salaries survey shows graduates having hard time in job market, with some successes and satisfaction.

Placements & Salaries Survey 2009

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Library Salary and Placements Survey Overview

Fewer Full-Time Jobs | Pockets of Good News

“It’s a recession, baby!” was the common refrain among the LIS graduates of 2008. This was a record year for the number of graduates participating in the annual survey, with 2,089 respondents, representing approximately 31.7% of the approximate 6500 LIS graduates. They had stories to tell, providing evidence of both hard times in the job market, and some successes and satisfaction. 

Average Starting Salary, 1998-2008, Library Journal Placements & Salaries Survey 2009Even before the bloodletting of 2009, 2008 graduates were hit hard. Job searches averaged almost five months, and unemployment postgraduation rose to 5.9% in 2008, compared to 4.7% in 2007. Average starting salaries dipped slightly overall, dropping 1.8% to $41,579, after 18 years of increases, while placements in part-time and nonprofessional positions rose. Part-time placements increased from 16.3% of the placements in 2007 to 18.3% of 1,817 grads reporting jobs in 2008, after holding steady for two years. Likewise, 13.5% of the 2008 graduates either remained in or found non-professional positions compared to 11.3% in 2007.

The decreasing salaries, declining number of full-time positions overall, and the increase in part-time jobs and unemployment in 2008 appear to be the precursor to what will undoubtedly be a seriously depressed job market for graduates in 2009, with widespread hiring freezes and budget cuts across all types of libraries and information agencies.

Ups and Downs - Part-Time, Nonprofessional, Full-Time Placements, 2007/2008 - Library Journal Placements & Salaries Survey 2009Fewer Full-Time Jobs

While the total percentage of grads reporting they got jobs appears to have held steady between 2007 and 2008, the status of those jobs is more telling. In 2007, 87.9% of the graduates reported employment, including both full-time and part-time placements, compared to 2008, when 87.3% of graduates reported employment of any sort. The noticeable difference is in the percentage of full-time placements; 89.2% of the 2007 grads reported full-time employment while 69.8% of the grads were employed full-time in 2008.

There also appears to be serious decline in the total number of jobs reported in some types of libraries and information agencies (full-time and part-time combined), with special libraries declining by 36% compared to 2007, public libraries dropping by 21.4%, and other agencies declining by 11.3%.

2008 Placements by Library Type - Library Journal Placements & Salaries Survey 2009In a few exceptions, academic libraries, government libraries, and library cooperatives had improved full-time placements compared to 2007, ranging from an increase of 13.4% for academic jobs to 43.8% with library cooperatives. In general, however, the total number of overall placements in government libraries and co-ops remains low.

Following regional patterns of unemployment and economic instability of the past year, starting salaries in the Midwest ($39,047, 3.1% below 2007) and the Southeast ($39,694, 4.5% below the previous year) declined after several years of forward momentum. Starting salaries in the West, while consistently higher than other regions, also fell 4.2% to $48,593, after averages above $50,000 in 2007. Average starting salaries for graduates who sought jobs in other types of agencies outside of libraries also declined by 8.3% from $51,349 in 2007 to $47,934 in 2008, with jobs in the private sector suffering as much as placements in public agencies.

Indicative of a struggling economy, full-time placements in public libraries declined by 12.5% in 2008, and salaries inched up less than 1%. Men in the Southeast were hardest hit by falling public library salaries, tumbling 6.7% to an average of $34,680. Yet a contra-indication was that public libraries in the Midwest, an area struck hard by climbing unemployment, had the best growth rate in placements (12.9% from 2007 to 2008) though salaries remained flat, while the Northeast had a significant drop in reported positions (approximately 29% fewer) despite 2.5% growth in public library salaries.

Jobs in special libraries also disappeared, with approximately 36% fewer full-time positions reported in 2008, and salaries were on average 7.3% lower than last year. The Midwest in particular experienced a cooling down period for special library salaries, slipping 10.7% to an average of $35,778 (and 16.2% below the average starting salary for all 2008 graduates).

Approximately 42.3% of the graduates who responded to questions about employers indicated that they returned to their current employer upon graduation, down slightly from 2007 (43.8%). While it is difficult to determine whether they received promotions or moved into new positions upon earning the master’s degree, more graduates indicated they held nonprofessional positions when returning to a current employer (20.1% in 2008 compared to 16.75% in 2007). The increase in nonprofessional positions speaks to the decision by grads to take a job of any sort rather than face unemployment.

Average Starting Salaries for 2007 and 2008 - Library Journal Placements & Salaries Survey 2009Pockets of Good News

Amid a challenging job market, green shoots and mustard seeds appeared. LIS graduates reporting minority status continued to experience positive salary growth, gaining an average of 2.5% from 2007 ($43,928 in 2008 compared to $42,831 in 2007); their starting salaries averaged 5.3% higher than those for all graduates in 2008. While salaries in the rest of the United States declined, the graduates finding positions in the Northeast negotiated better than average salaries starting at $43,854 – 3.2% higher than in 2007 and 5.2% higher than the national average of $41,579 for LIS graduates in 2008.

Other positive notes indicate that academic libraries continued to experience growth in full-time numbers (as mentioned above, they are up approximately 13.4% from 2007), though salaries held steady, rising by less than 1% to $41,151 from $40,911. Academic library salaries benefited from the second year of increased earnings in the Northeast (up 5.5% in 2007, and another 4.3% in 2008), though salaries for similar placements in the Southeast plummeted by almost 9%.

After several years of concern over falling salaries, graduates entering children’s and youth/teen services finally experienced growth. While still below the overall average starting salary for the 2008 graduates, children’s librarians earned 3.7% more than their peers in the previous year ($39,486 vs. $38,029). Graduates seeking opportunities in youth/teen services fared even better: salaries rose 5.7% to $38,104 from $35,929 in 2007. However, echoing a similar pattern in public libraries overall, the number of jobs for both children’s librarians and youth/teen service positions declined, though the drop may be artificial due to the number of graduates who report dual roles in children/youth services and adult services.


Author Information

Stephanie Maatta, Ph.D. (smaatta@cas.usf.edu), is Assistant Professor, University of South Florida School of Library and Information Science, Tampa

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