In a previous post, I mentioned that so many people say they didn’t become a librarian for the money. And I said that I did. Because if the institution I’m working at wasn’t paying me, I wouldn’t be working there any more. And librarianship is more steady and realistic and lucrative than my “dream jobs.”
That post was almost two years ago, when I had just started off as a professional librarian. At that point, I didn’t want people to keep saying that I wasn’t working “for the money” because I very certainly was and am.
Now, it’s been two years. I have more years as a working professional “under my belt,” more years as an administrator, and more years as a supervisor. And I’ve come to realize that yes, librarians themselves tone down the financial aspects of their jobs. Their institutions, however, seem completely incapable of understanding what library labor looks like – and how such labor should be compensated.
Let’s start with myself. When looking at early career librarian salaries, many would say I have little to complain about. And I do complain very little about my salary. But if one looks at my job duties…well…I’m not making what other people in similar positions are making. I am the systems librarian, which means I am in charge of the integrated library system (ILS). The ILS is an enterprise system. As the manager of the ILS, I am doing work similar to that of an Enterprise Systems Manager. According to Glassdoor, the average salary of an Enterprise Systems Manager is $94,668 annually (as of October 2017). I am making nowhere near that salary, more than $25,000 less.
Then, I have staff members who do IT support as well as significant data analysis. Their duties fall less neatly into a single category, but here are similar positions. The lowest-paid equivalent position would be IT Support, which Glassdoor notes has a salary of $52,369 annually. For the data analysis pieces of their jobs, they could either be considered equivalent to a Data Analyst, which on average makes $65,470 annually, or a Business Intelligence Analyst, which makes a whopping $79,613 annually. Just as I am making significantly less than my IT equivalent, my staff are not making the same as their IT and corporate counterparts.
Now, I am in no way happy that my staff is making so much less than their labor is worth. But I am in a particular funk about what our institution expects our circulation staff to do, and for how much money. When I worked circulation at a public library, my $12.00 an hour made sense: I was one of the least trained, with the least amount of responsibility, and I was seasonal (spending the rest of my time out of state at college). The circulation staff at my current institution are expected to manage the institution’s electronic course reserves (and perhaps to a standard higher than most of our peer institutions do not hold). The work they do is very much equivalent to what an Electronic Resources Librarian ($63,506/yr) does, with a healthy smattering of legal understanding (a paralegal gets on average $52,351 per year). Now, our institution keeps salaries locked down, but we all talk – and I am quite sure that they aren’t close to the paralegal salary.
So, what does this rant mean?
- Academia’s administrations and HR Departments do not know what library workers do, and use their ignorance to press down wages and salaries.
- Academia as a whole does not pay market rate for their employees. I understand fully that they aren’t (necessarily) money-makers, but academia needs to understand what can be expected of their workforce (and therefore the whole institution) on the money they have.
- Librarians and library staff are in the business of information. Find and share salary information and job descriptions; and then go to your administration and show the equivalencies between your jobs and corporate jobs: “This is the work I’m doing, and this is what it’s worth in the market.”