Paying Up

Paying Up

We’ve all been there, that awkward part of the application and job interview where wages are discussed. If you’re like me, you entered your first grown-up job not knowing how or when to negotiate a higher salary. As a result, you accepted whatever they were willing to pay and were happy about it. However, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more, even if the answer is likely “no.” Being compensated adequately is a problem many librarians face, so let’s look at the data and see what’s going on.

According to the following table illustrates the average salary, monthly, weekly, and hourly wages for librarians in each state of the U.S.A.:

What Is the Average Librarian Salary by State


Annual Salary

Monthly Pay

Weekly Pay

Hourly Wage































Rhode Island

























New York










North Dakota




















New Mexico





South Dakota















New Hampshire








































South Carolina





New Jersey























































West Virginia






























North Carolina















As you can see the amounts vary considerably. Many are below what is considered a living wage. This is primarily due to limited funding, which, as we all know, is something universally felt on a daily basis. That’s the downside, but the upside is that our librarian career prospects are growing. The pay will also vary depending on the type of library you choose to work in. According to the ALA, “Salaries for library professionals vary depending on a number of factors including the type of library (i.e. public, school, academic, etc.), the population of community served, region of the country, years of experience, etc. In general, salaries are usually higher in academic libraries (vs. public), large metropolitan areas (vs. rural).” Knowing what the demand will be for your type of librarianship in the future can definitely help guide in your career decisions today. Thankfully, a great tool created by Pearson can show you the job landscape in 2030. It’s easy to use, and even though you also get to see how old you’ll be in 2030 (my least favorite part), it’s still interesting and informative. Click View the Landscape to see info about individual jobs, or click View the Research to see where all the data came from. If you enter the job title of librarian, it shows slightly elevated growth in demand.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published a simpler chart illustrating librarian wages:

Quick Facts: Librarians and Library Media Specialists
2021 Median Pay $61,190 per year
$29.42 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2021 138,400
Job Outlook, 2021-31 6% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2021-31 8,000

Considering that most positions prefer an advanced degree, it’s interesting how low the pay is. Like teaching and social work, this job is unlikely to make you wealthy. However, I can’t think of any librarians who went into the career hoping to strike it rich. This kind of work is, in a sense, its own reward, though it would be ideal if the monetary aspect of that reward were adequate to support oneself.

The ALA addressed this issue by linking to the 2021 Factsheet published by the DPE (Department for Professional Employees) website. There the librarian profession is explored in depth, including wage disparities. According to this factsheet, there are institutional, regional, and gender-based reasons for the vast wage difference. For example, larger, well-funded institutions (universities and corporations) often have higher salaries than rural, smaller community libraries. That is expected, as it wouldn’t make sense for a small library to have more funding than a massive one. According to the factsheet, though, there is a wage disparity between women (especially women of color) and their male counterparts. This isn’t exactly news, as gender-based wage disparities have been an issue for centuries. With these issues in mind, how can a librarian seek a wage increase?

According to The Cut, a subsidiary of New York Magazine devoted to helping people improve their lives, the following are a few ways to ask about getting a raise:

1. Be thoughtful about your timing.

If your manager is having a bad day/week, maybe now isn’t the best time to bring up a possible raise. Wait until things calm down, or they calm down, then ask to speak with them privately. Make sure you indicate the conversation is a positive one, though, as this will reduce their anxiety about what you need to discuss.

3. If you’ve been doing excellent work for a year since your salary was last set, it might be time to ask.

Some companies give annual raises, usually based on performance. However, you may need to broach the subject for those who don’t. If your work has been excellent for at least a year, your boss is pleased, and you’ve shown your worth, then you’re probably safe to ask for a raise. On the flip side, if your work hasn’t been as exemplary as is preferred, it may be time to ask how to improve rather than ask for a larger paycheck. Once you’ve made the improvements, shown steady growth, and your manager is happy with you, you’ll be in a better place to bargain for that well-deserved bump in pay.

4. Know your company’s raise and budget cycles.

If you know your company has been having financial trouble, it’s unlikely that raises will be given to anyone. In a situation like this, you can obviously ask for a raise if you want to, but it may be more prudent to wait as the answer will likely be no.

5. Know what your work is worth and start by researching online.

The phrase “know your worth” is key here. Research your role and similar roles in similar institutions/regions, and get an average amount of those salaries. It can be difficult to find this information, but the above charts can be a great starting point.

6. Factor in your company’s salary structure.

It’s important to know what your company policies are regarding raises. Some have stricter policies, so you’ll want to check into this before requesting a meeting to discuss said raise.

7. What to say when you ask for a raise.

Keep it short, sweet, professional, and to the point. Have a clear list of why you deserve a raise and the amount you feel you should be earning. Keep in mind the answer may be no.

8. Know what to say if the answer is “no” or “maybe.”

If the answer is no, you can certainly ask, “Can you tell me what you think it would take for me to earn a raise in the future?” The manager will likely have some pointers for you or may ask for some time to think of pointers for you. Either way, be gracious and professional.

It isn’t easy to ask for higher wages, but if you prepare and state your case, you may have a good chance of getting the pay you deserve.