April 19, 2018

Placements & Salaries 2014: Renaissance Librarians


“Luck, patience, and positive attitude” were the keywords for members of the 2013 graduating class. Once again graduates reported both positive experiences and challenges in the search for employment inside and outside of the library and information science field. The overall average starting salary improved 2.6%, moving above $45,000 for the first time, to $45,650. Other pointers toward an improving job market were revealed in a decline in the rate of unemployment, dropping to 4.3% of those reporting employment status, and an increase in the rate of permanent professional positions, 69.6% of the job placements in 2013, up from 61.2% in 2012. The length of the job search appeared slightly shortened with an average search of 4.2 months, ranging from 3.6 months in the Southwest to 4.7 months in the Southeast. Graduates most frequently searched for three months, though some continued to seek out a professional position as long as 20 months after graduation. This year responses were received from 2,023 participants, representing 44.3% of the reported graduates among the 40 programs providing data.

salary stat graphic: Average starting salaries +2.6%, unemployment 4.3%While placements in school libraries continued to comprise a smaller portion of the total placements compared to previous years, jobs in school media centers improved in number of placements and starting salaries, notably in the Southeast. Positions in digital content management, user interface design, and user experience continue to offer opportunity and growth.

Regionally, graduates accepting jobs in the West continue to enjoy the highest entry salaries, starting at approximately $55,631 (up by 2.2%); however, those landing in jobs in the Midwest saw the best salary increases, growing by 5% from $42,227 in 2012 to $44,555 in 2013. Other positive indicators included salary improvements among children’s librarians ($41,938, up approximately 14.6%) and archivists ($41,656 up approximately 12%). Salary improvements were driven by the continued upward growth of wages in positions outside of library and information science, especially those in private industry, increasing from $47,489 in 2012 to $56,327 in 2013.

Some of the gains were counterbalanced by flat starting salaries among academic librarians, which held steady at $42,458 nationwide (down a slim $141 from 2012) but were noticeably down 13.7% in the Southwest ($41,720 in 2012 compared to $35,988 in 2013). Graduates identifying as members of a minority group struggled to maintain the salary highs enjoyed by the previous year’s class, losing momentum and rolling back 16% from an average starting salary of $52,931 in 2012 to $44,473 in 2013. Men who entered jobs in the Southeast also experienced a similar reversal of fortunes, decreasing from $49,229 in 2012 to $43,409 in 2013 (a loss of 11.8%).

Job Titles & Responsiblities to watch:  Business Data Analytics, Digital Archives, Digital Content Management, Digital Forensics, Electronic Resources Management, Learning Resources Librarians, Instructional Designer, Project Manager, User Experience DesignerDigital drives

The dynamic nature of the LIS professions was clearly evident in the responses from the 2013 graduating class. While job titles did not vary from 2012 reports, a merging of responsibilities and an increasing number of jobs outside of LIS suggested new and exciting ways of using skills learned during MLIS programs. Roles such as social media management, digital asset/digital content management, and project management appeared for a second year across the array of identified positions and in all types of library and information agencies. Individuals were as likely to be engaged in data analytics in academic institutions as private industry; digital content management was common in archives and public libraries.

User interface designers and user experience specialists found themselves working for academic institutions, private industry, and LIS vendors. While the average starting salaries decreased slightly, dropping from $72,860 in 2012 to $70,026 in 2013, this group of graduates negotiated the highest level of wages of the graduating class: 53.4% higher than the average starting salary of all LIS grads. Among other roles, these graduates described their positions as bearing responsibility for front-end design of systems and for testing and research related to the user interface and interactions.

Average Salary Table for Starting Library Positions 2009-2013. For a screen-readable version, clink linkDigital content management jobs are still a small component of the overall job market—3.4% of all reported placements. However, jobs in this specialty were found through the United States and internationally with the highest concentration (21.3%) in the West. Salary levels were approximately 5.3% lower, averaging $46,917 in 2013 compared to $49,571 the previous year; however, they were still slightly higher than the overall average of $45,650 for starting salaries in 2013. Digital content management positions appeared in a variety of settings, most frequently in academic units within and outside of the academic library, private industry, and archives (48.9% of the jobs fell into one of these three areas). Metadata, analytics, and standards research were among the featured skills used to describe the job; web design and maintenance were often a component of the position.

Rearranging roles

The traditional library and information science roles were not immune to the dynamics of a changing marketplace. New public and academic librarians spoke about their jobs in terms of “roving” positions; they changed their role based upon the needs of their organization, working circulation one day and providing literacy instruction the next. They emphasized they were not “just a reference librarian or just a cataloger” and were expected to be able to transition among roles as needed. Grads were quick to suggest broader descriptions of their roles. For example, they felt “user services specialist” encompassed their responsibilities more accurately than being pigeonholed as adult services librarians or reference librarian, especially those who carried responsibilities in multiple departments. Similarly, interlibrary loan staff preferred the description “resource sharing” or “e-resource librarian” to incorporate all the materials and resources under their oversight.

In an era of redefining and evolving job titles and responsibilities, there is a noticeable change in the types of positions being identified by new graduates. While on the surface it appears that many traditional jobs are disappearing, in reality many roles are being subsumed into other positions. Collection development, for example, made up less than 1% of the reported job titles; yet, primary responsibilities in collection management and maintenance appeared in 22.2% of the jobs described by the grads. Similarly, cataloging comprises 3% of the job assignments but is included in 9.8% of the identified job responsibilities. Both collection development roles and cataloging appear across all types of libraries and archives and are described as components of digital collections and e-resource management in addition to standard library functions. Cataloging, in particular, was frequently linked with metadata and digital and archival processing when grads described their daily job functions. Both collection development ($47,375 in 2013) and cataloging ($39,148) experienced better than average salary growth compared to prior years’ reports—up 11.4% and 6.2%, respectively.

Salaries of Reporting Professionals by Area of Job Assignment table; for a screen readable version, click linkTeaching is trending

Another evolving area of responsibility for LIS grads is instruction and training. While a traditional role for many library and information specialists, especially in academic and school libraries, instruction has become a component of library services in a variety of employment contexts. New public librarians as well as academic librarians described efforts in digital literacy education, digital content development for e-learning, and tutoring. Individuals employed with LIS vendors, private industry, and nonprofit agencies also engaged in training and instruction. Approximately 22.4% of the reported jobs included instruction, education, or training as a component of their day-to-day activities; 4.2% of the reporting grads indicated instruction was their primary area of responsibility. Two of the new job titles appearing in the 2013 list are learning services specialist and connected learning coordinator. Among other functions, instruction included authoring resources, creating learning objects, preparing standards and guidelines, and fostering instructional design.

This article was published in Library Journal's October 15, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Stephanie L. Maatta About Stephanie L. Maatta

Stephanie Maatta, Ph.D. (es7746@wayne.edu), is an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University School of Library Information Science, Detroit