Annoyed Librarian
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That Librarian Makes Too Much!

There’s one story about librarians that you don’t see very often: the complaint that they’re being paid too much. Fortunately, we have Hawaii to thank for finally bringing us one of those stories.

University of Hawaii administrators are asking the Board of Regents to approve a salary of $195,000 for the UH Manoa’s next head librarian, a pay level that’s being criticized as “out of line” and “appalling” by some librarians, their union and a state lawmaker who’s been critical of UH spending choices.

Naturally, the union is upset. Several librarians have told the associate director of the union that, “We’re being denied access to our financial well being and basic resources but they offer this kind of salary to our administrator?”

Apparently, “librarians are angered at the proposed high pay for the new librarian, since UH administrators have told rank-and-file librarians there’s no money for librarians’ merit raises or to buy new materials and supplies.”

I think the lesson here is that if you want to make more money as a librarian, don’t bother with the union and go be a library director.

Another librarian, a 22-year veteran of the system, is “appalled at the huge discrepancy between faculty and administrators’ salaries.” Because that’s something unique to Hawaii libraries? Don’t administrators always make a lot more than the nonadministrative staff?

The same librarian “said she found out Friday that her request for a $3,000 “special salary adjustment” which she applied for last May had been denied based on “lack of funds.”  She said other librarians of her rank and experience were making as much as $7,000 more a year than she was and so she applied for a small raise.”

Are rank and experience the only things relevant when negotiating salaries? Nope.

She’s the acting head of a collection replacing a retiree who made over $100,000, while she makes “less than $80,000” plus a $300/month stipend for replacing the retiree. That might be hard to live on in Hawaii. I wouldn’t know. But it doesn’t matter anyway.

One of the lessons so many librarians have yet to learn is that how much someone else makes, or how little you make, or how much you really want to make more money are completely irrelevant to your salary negotiations. What matters is how much the library wants you and is willing to pay.

Someone who’s been at a library for 22 years as a nonadministrative employee is never going to make anything near what a new library director is going to make. That’s just not how the world works. If you want more money, go get another job paying more money. If you can’t get that job, then you’re not underpaid.

Or you could try to get an offer with a higher salary from another library and ask your library to match it and hope they don’t say “Aloha.”

The Republican State Senator complaining about the proposed salary doesn’t seem very informed. He’s just looking for a excuse to complain. For example, university officials pointed out that the “salary is equivalent to that of deans or directors of other departments” His response?

“And the question is should the head of library services be equivalent to a dean in the first place?  I think they have different job descriptions and I think they have different responsibilities.”

The world of informed people know that university library directors are often deans or the equivalent, and depending on the size of the library might have significantly more responsibilities than some other administrators. As if he could tell you what a dean does anyway. Good grief.

Another critics is a “freshman engineering student,” who complains, “So that does seem like a little bit more than maybe is fair.  I can’t imagine she’s doing twice the work of upper-level people, upper-level librarians.”

I don’t even know how to respond to that. I can’t imagine she’s doing even half the work of the library’s custodians, but that’s not really the point, is it. 18-year-olds have such vast experience of the world it’s good to listen to their opinions, though.

What a sad waste of time for everyone involved. Librarians who think they’re underpaid would be better off spending their time trying to get better jobs than complaining that they aren’t paid enough or attacking other librarians who have been a lot more successful at salary negotiations than they have. Trying to make sure other librarians don’t make more money than you isn’t going to improve your salary.



  1. Then there’s the school librarian/media specialist who “just can’t read” urban lit so she lets a student read it for her to do her media specialist job. Evidence? She admitted this in the New Jersey Education Association magazine, look for the comment by Dee Venuto:

    So if she is letting her students do her work of selecting media, that librarian is overpaid, at a minimum. Actually, she may be in the wrong job since she admits in public in an NJEA magazine that she refuses to do her job and asks students to do it, leaving them having read materials including lengthy, vivid descriptions of a ménage a trois.

    If any among us announced in a trade magazine that we refused to do our jobs for which we were hired, would we have our jobs for much longer? Apparently, if you allow children to read inappropriate material, you do indeed get to keep your job–it likely helped that the ALA gave her award for not doing her job.

    Click on my name for details.

    • outrage says:

      This is defamation of character. Dee should sue Dan for posting these falsehoods. I’m shocked Library Journal would allow such comments to stand.

    • I reported what she said herself, and I provided the link, and it’s her own statement, and it’s signed by her, and the link was to the NJEA publication where she made the statement. Defamation has to do with false statements, not with linking where a “media specialist” admitted she “just can’t read” the media, so she let’s her students do it. I quoted her accurately. I doubt the NJEA source misquoted her. Your “outrage” should be directed at the person refusing to do her job but still getting paid by the taxpayers.

      That said, a defamation suit may help bring more attention to a government employee who admits in a trade journal that she refuses to do the very thing for which her job is titled. She said that, not me, I’m just reporting that she said that.

      Note, it’s not a “media specialist” that is the problem, the problem is just this one person filling that job title who admits in a trade journal that she refuses to do that work for which she is paid. Taxpayer money should go to people who work, not people who admit they “just can’t” bring themselves to do their jobs.

    • Dan,

      I appreciate your point of view and my own views fall somewhere between yours and ALA. However, I do not appreciate you taking this blog post and turning it into a platform on your views on what materials are appropriate for children. This is suppose to be a discussion on salary discrepancy for librarians not about an individual who is not a representation of school media librarians as a whole. If you wish to discuss this issue please send AL the link and ask it to be discussed.

    • There’s a huge difference between can’t and won’t.

      I “can’t” read every book that’s on my library’s shelves. There are more than 40,000 volumes in the children’s area alone. There aren’t enough hours in a day to make that happen.

      However, if I “won’t” read your website, well, that’s a choice I’m perfectly happy to make.

    • Fair point, Me!, however, my comment was not about the reading material. The blog post is named, “That Librarian Makes Too Much!” Further, AL said, “There’s one story about librarians that you don’t see very often: the complaint that they’re being paid too much.” Based on that, I said what I said, and I believe it to be right on target for this particular AL post. To the extent that I discussed any books, that was merely concomitant to the underlying issue, namely, that this librarian makes to much.

      That said, I do have another post also directly on point of “That Librarian Makes Too Much!”, namely:

      “Highly Compensated Federal Librarians”


      Twenty-two federal employee librarians make more money than their own state governor! It likely has nothing to do with safe libraries, but it sure is interesting, and I try to make this blog interesting. Here, see for yourself:

      “New CRS Report Reveals More Than 77,000 Fed Employees Paid More than Governors of the State in Which They Work,” by Office of Senator Tom Coburn, U.S. Senate, 1 June 2011.


      So here I am contributing with a report from a US Senator, and on the very point of AL’s post.

    • Way Barra says:

      Blog pimpin’ ain’t easy.

    • The real "me" says:

      Pseudo Me!, this is what DK, the resident AL blog troll does all the time. He turns every post into how the next person he sees reading or looking at salacious material should be stabbed in the neck.

    • Even I, a measly little SLIS Master’s student, know that patrons’ requests for titles are a meaningful, necessary function of a library and its Collection Development Policy. A school librarian who has a lively dialog with her patrons is not skirting her work. In fact, she’s going above her position that might simply require her to assess all patron requests to add materials to the collection; this librarian is actually involving her patrons in conversations about which items are most desirable and is trying to provide those items.

      If a person has never been to Library School, and does not have that particular set of knowledge, it might be hard to justify allowing that person to have a valid opinion about how well the job requirements are being performed. As mentioned in some of the other comments, it is not the responsibility of the librarian to read every single book in the collection, nor is the librarian’s job to censor materials to anyone, including children. It IS the job of librarians to provide the Freedom to Read (and the Freedom to View).

      Although a school librarian must have a slightly different approach than say, a public librarian, in what she might choose or allow in a collection, the ultimate responsibility lies with the child’s parents to either provide censorship or to allow exposure.

      Non sequiturs aside, the salary of any librarian should reflect her experience and responsibilities. Do we question the salaries of say, attorneys, doctors, or university deans? Not usually. We might huff in complaint when we receive the bill, but we know that these types of salaries reflect the commitment to knowledge of a particular field, and so it is with Library and Information Science.

      As with many jobs, a boss is likely to pay you as little as they can, for as long as you will allow them. Hence, the good advice of seeking another position if you are dissatisfied in the current one.

    • Dan,

      But for the purpose of this discussion your example is terrible. Yours is an example on whether her behavior/job performance is appropriate. That isn’t a question of salary discrepancy between a librarian and an administrator.

  2. It’s just Dan trolling again making a totally irrelevant comment in order to find another way to attack librarians. He apparently can’t help himself. Responding to him just makes it worse.

    • I was clear that I was speaking about a single librarian who said what she said in a trade journal and who therefore is clearly overpaid, an issue AL raised. I did not “find another way to attack librarians.” Participating in discussion on the point of AL’s posts has nothing to do with trolling, which is what you have done, as you have not discussed what AL has said at all, you simply falsely attacked another commenter. As such, I won’t feed your trolling further as, typical for you, it will continue on and on.

    • Dan relies on the “I’m just the messenger” to deflect criticism. That means he doesn’t actually believe or back what he is saying here since he just delivers the message like the postman delivers a letter. It means he has no investment in the words he is writing or the positions he is taking. He is just a guy repeating something someone else said. “I’m just the messenger” is a flag of surrender. It means he can say vile things and act like he doesn’t have any dirt on him.

      If he is posting things that he won’t defend because he’s “just the messenger”, how is that not trolling, sock puppetry, or just plain spam? Why do Annoyed Librarian posts have more links from Dan in the comments than in the actual post itself? Why is Library Journal acting as Dan’s virtual Tumblr account for the baseless propaganda he spouts?

  3. I think there are two issues here. Sure, administrators are always paid more than workers, but that doesn’t excuse not providing sufficient funds for materials and supplies. The librarians may or may not deserve higher salaries, but the students undeniably deserve to be served by a fully functional library with all of the materials and supplies necessary to operate effectively.

  4. NotZeus says:

    Librarians are Goddesses. How dare these puny human animals question our salaries?

  5. “Hanselman said librarians are angered at the proposed high pay for the new librarian, since UH administrators have told rank-and-file librarians there’s no money for librarians’ merit raises or to buy new materials and supplies”

    Maybe the problem isn’t that the librarians should have been given raises, but that they shouldn’t have been lied to about why they were not given raises. If the university decided that their positions did not merit higher pay, they should have said so, instead of claiming they did not have money they clearly did have.

    AL claims that librarians aren’t overpaid because “what matters is how much the library wants you and is willing to pay”. That’s true in a practical sense, if you’re an employee negotiating your salary, but it doesn’t mean librarians aren’t worth more. The fact that employers are willing to pay administrators twice as much as workers doesn’t actually mean their work is worth that much money. It just means administrators are good at selling themselves, particularly as compared to the average public service librarian.

  6. $195,000.00 doesn’t seem like much compared to the $800,000 salary of the president and chief executive of the New York Public LIbrary reported in a November 19, 2006 New York Times article.

  7. MedLibrarian says:

    I enjoy reading the Annoyed Librarian blog, and often the comments are a really great part of the enjoyment. However, if I am going to keep having to read through junk links from the same person’s blog on unrelated topics I might just have to stop reading the blog. AL should do something about unrelated spammy comments.

  8. Law Librarian says:

    I think many public and school librarians are grossly underpaid, especially in libraries requiring dual degrees, but that’s irrelevant to this story. The University Librarian is undoubtedly drafting and administering budgets of millions of dollars, making staffing decisions, determining policies that affect thousands of people, and reporting to university administration and trustees. I think this is person is actually underpaid. Compare her salary to that of the head of athletics or the head football coach – I’ll bet they make a lot more than she. (I haven’t checked this; I’d love to be wrong.) But that’s the way it usually goes. Is it wrong? Yes. But that’s how America values people and their roles.

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