Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

A Rosier View

Librarians have had a hard time lately, what with the MLS being called the worst master’s degree for jobs and all that. For those despondent about such claims, take a look at this article and the infographic it points to. You’ll probably feel better, at least if you don’t think about it much.

The infographic seems to work from the same sort of data as that Forbes article that called the MLS the worst master’s degree for jobs, but both the article and the infographic paint a rosier picture.

For example, it points out that the average librarian salary in the US is $56,547 a year. Forbes probably compares that to what even its journalists make and finds amusement in the fact. How could one even live on that, they would chuckle.

The infographic takes a “glass is half full” approach and points out that average is “certainly more than what librarians make in the rest of the world — $14,624 in Brazil, $23,135 in the UK and $33,487 in Australia.”

However, the infographic gives the source of the UK figure, which is also conveniently at That site doesn’t list an “average” salary, but gives the median UK librarian salary as £24,729, which comes to about $38,000 in current exchange rates.

The equivalent page for US librarians lists the median pay as $42,885, which isn’t that much higher than the UK average.

It also lists the reported range of librarian pay from $25,133 to $66,423 to get that median. It’s not clear where that range comes from, since there are definitely librarians making more than $66,000, but don’t worry about that.

Anyway, back to the rosy view. The average hourly earnings are supposedly higher by age group for “all occupations.” For example, the 25-54 year old group of librarians averages $23.22 per hour, while “all occupations” average $19.76 per hour.

Wow, that’s almost $4 more per hour! If you want to make it sound even better, that’s 17.5% higher!

That sounds good, right? Pretty positive? Something’s nagging at me, though, something that just seems a little off.

Oh, yeah, it’s the comparison to “all occupations.” I’m pretty sure most of “all occupations” don’t require a bachelor’s degree, much less a master’s degree.

About 31% of Americans over age 25 have a bachelor’s degree, and about 8% a master’s degree. The percentages probably differ some if we just include those who are employed or looking for work, but probably not that much.

But I guess it’s good to know that librarians on average make over $3 more per hour than a population where the vast majority doesn’t even have a college degree.

Wait, I’m getting away from the rosy view again.

So back to the rosy view. Guess what? “Workers in this occupation tend to be older than workers in the rest of the economy.” Pay attention to the boldface. You know what that means? You do, don’t you. If not, you can probably guess.

That’s right! “A large number of librarians are likely to retire in the coming decade.”

And you know what that means? According to, “This seems to be the right time to enter the profession” because of so many impending retirees!

Wait, haven’t we heard that before? Oh yeah, we’ve been hearing that for the last decade at least. It’s the “librarian shortage” all over again. Did the ALA put them up to this? This is a prank, right?

Or a conspiracy by the library schools desperate for tuition dollars?

That’s the only way it makes sense.



  1. miss.smith says:

    What’s the situation like in Canada? Is it similar there?

  2. Love that the infographic says “librarian’s” where it should say “librarians.”

    • Sarah K says:

      Yep. In my admittedly-pedantic mind, that casts doubt on everything that followed. If you didn’t proofread the text, how are we supposed to trust that you got all the figures correct?

  3. mildred says:

    Do not go to library school do not go to library school listen to the annoyed librarian.

  4. monsturd says:

    Question –

    My information science degree will be paid for through a research assistantship. With everyone saying “don’t go to library school” is that the case still if it will cost me nothing to get my degree?

    • That’s a good question and the answer is probably that it won’t hurt you since you’re getting the degree for free but it might not necessarily help you either. There are jobs out there but the market is terrible for entry level and has been for years now. If you’re going to get the degree then make the most of your time in school. Do an internship. Network. Make yourself known. Brush up on your technology skills and whatnot to make yourself more desirable.

      Of course after doing all of that you might still not get a job, and if you do get a job it might be part time, low pay, no benefits, etc. That’s just the nature of the profession right now.

      So while you might be getting your tuition paid for free you should sit and ask yourself if you’re willing to pay in other ways. You’re investing time that could be spent pursuing a more marketable degree. You may lose money “paying your dues” in a low-paying job out of library school for a couple of years with no guarantee of full-time employment. The long-term career prospects aren’t great since a lot of places are cutting back on professional librarians and the places that aren’t cutting usually only have openings when someone retires or dies. And the pay ain’t great.

      If you’re willing to toss the dice on all of those then sure, go for it. As the old saying goes it’s good work if you can get it. The getting is just really difficult for everyone right now.

    • Like Andrew said, take some classes that interest you. Although a good idea may be to try to narrow down whether you are interested in academic, public, or special. It sounds like you have some experience with academic, and some with special with the multimedia lab and the film archiving, but maybe you should consider trying to do an internship at a public library, or if this isn’t possible try seeing if you could do a job shadow. Many public libraries are really happy to help library students. And, as Andrew said again, you already have a leg up having some previous library experience.

      Just a comment on public libraries though, (I have both a public library and and academic library job) public libraries are very interesting, dealing with the patrons can be VERY frustrating but also really rewarding. I get different questions every day there. I love it, with academic libraries, they tend to be several of the same questions each day, which is nice, but not always particularly rewarding, especially when some of the students are pulling the last minute, my 10 page paper is due tomorrow crap. But to reiterate, I love both jobs!

  5. One of the biggest things is that you should be willing to move. This may or may not be possible for you right now. Then again, there are a lot of careers that you have to be willing to work the part time job, or maybe you get in at the non professional level and when something opens up you go for it. Its not just libraries that you have to be willing to “pay your dues” besides, having a degree has never been a guarantee that you will find a full time job with good pay and good benefits. No one went into this field hoping to make it rich…

    • monsturd says:

      Thank you for both of the replies! Right now I am holding onto my somewhat decent job (with full benefits!) while I’m in school and plan on staying for the duration, so I have a little bit of an edge in that sense. Also, I have 2 years of academic library experience in a multimedia lab at the University, as well as a year in a film archive. I am running into the problem of not knowing exactly where to focus my attention – trying to choose something interesting while at the same time not putting myself in a corner when it comes to jobs. Any advice there?

    • Any experience in libraries before you get your degree is good experience. You already have a major head start on people going straight from undergrad to library school. Take classes that interest you and see what you like. I’ve yet to have a job interview where I was asked about specific coursework that I took while getting my MLS. All they cared about was that I had the degree.

  6. The salary figures quoted are simply junk. For 2012, the minimum starting salary for a first year librarian in Australia was USD$55,000 and the average for experienced librarians is at least USD$80,000. All this article proves is that the information on payscale is out of date rubbish. I strongly suggest that any considering Librarianship should consult the relevant professional organisations about salary/conditions (such as ALIA for Australia), rather than relying on internet sources.

    • Joneser says:

      This is, of course, based on full-time hours (40/wk, presumably). What about the many many jobs which are part-time, often without health insurance and other benefits – a legacy of two decades of cost-cutting (except when it comes to administrative salaries).

  7. monsturd says:

    I have been very interested in collections, specifically media collections, but I realize that puts me in a bit of a corner. Recently I’ve been a little more interested in health/science information (for a while I considered going into public health and specializing in epidemiology), so I don’t really know about the path to take there. Also this ties in with the debate over what the MLS, MS, MLIS all mean in the long run. Is “information science” somehow more marketable than “library science”?

    • Well, you could look into getting a health sciences degree, I know there are some library programs that specialize in that. Its a good question about whether the MLS, MS, or MLIS is more marketable. I haven’t really noticed much of a difference; but I haven’t looked either.

      Anyone else know about this one?

    • If you’re interested in Health Science then, as c said, you might be better served getting a degree in that area and then picking up the MLS at a later date. A lot of specialized librarians have two degrees.

    • Don’t get a full degree unless it is something you really want to do.

      Take a community college course at most. You do not need another degree chock full of survey courses that never provide any content that you can really sink your teeth into. Check out some of the Medical Library Association’s education links on their homepage:

      It’s a bit difficult to figure out, but you need to find out what courses count for credit towards getting your Consumer Health Information Specialization. Then you find those courses on the Education Clearing House section of the website and try to locate them.

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