Salaries in Classified Ads? Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the American Library Association's policy on salaries in classified job advertising?

A. The ALA governing Council in 1993 voted that all Association units publishing classified job advertisements should list salary ranges for positions when available. The following language is published in the "Advertising Policies" section of American Libraries magazine, and C&RL News: "A salary range is requested for all job recruitment ads per ALA guidelines. The ALA-Allied Professional Association endorses a minimum salary for professional librarians of not less than $45,282 per year." The ALA JobLIST online career center also requests salary information for each new job ad as it is created.

Q. What is the history behind ALA's position on salaries in classified ads?

A. Policy adopted by the ALA Council in 1978 "as one way to combat historically lower salaries for women and minorities" required ALA publications to refuse to publish ads from institutions that would not agree to include a salary figure or range. In 1993, the Office for Library Personnel Resources (now the Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment) did an exhaustive study of the issue, and the policy was then changed to "treat the requirement for salary ranges in classified job advertisements for positions as a guideline rather than as a mandatory requirement." The policy was also adjusted to read "available salary ranges shall be given for positions listed in any placement service provided by ALA and its units . . . . All ALA and unit publications printing classified job advertisements shall list the salary ranges for open positions where available."

In 1996 the issue resurfaced during an ALA Executive Board meeting. To address concerns raised by the ALA Membership Committee, American Libraries and the Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment agreed to add an educational component to the salary policy, and a letter was drafted to be sent to all employers who ran ads without salaries. The letter included a customer thank-you, a statement of ALA's policy, and a request that the advertiser help ALA in its goal of improving librarian salaries and preventing discrimination by including a salary in future ads.

Q. Why was the policy modified to accept classified ads without salaries?

A. The 1993 study of the issue concluded that the 1978 policy was censorious and itself discriminatory based on these findings:

  1. Neither equal employment opportunity law nor affirmative action regulations require employers to advertise salary ranges.

  2. Advertising salary ranges is not a universal recruitment practice in the library field or other fields.

  3. No other associations questioned have a similar policy.

  4. There is no evidence that failure to advertise salary ranges contributes to discrepancies between male and female salaries.

  5. Establishing salary ranges is only one method of salary administration and is not inherently superior to other methods of salary administration.

The study concluded by recommending that the old policy simply be abolished entirely. However, the study also acknowledged that such a policy had "symbolic value" and ultimately the resolution presented to Council by the Publishing Committee recommended modifying over abolishing.

Q. What does ALA have to lose by refusing to accept classified ads without salaries?

A. Advertisers who opted not to include salary information prior to 1993 included a majority of academic libraries and many public libraries and state libraries. The absence of these ads not only limited the opportunities the Association presented to those who expect the ALA to offer the widest range of available jobs in the field, but also forced ALA to refuse to advertise some of the most prestigious and high-paying positions in the profession.

Q. To what extent is ALA prepared to take on job discrimination as a legal issue?

A. The Association once maintained a Standing Committee on Review Inquiry and Mediation (SCRIM), but this committee was disbanded in 1991 because the Association did not want to be in the business of policing employment practices and making itself liable to litigation. If ALA is blocking advertising by certain institutions based on suspicions of what their refusal to advertise salaries means, the same institutions would need to be blocked from membership or other forms of participation in the Association, making ALA vulnerable.

Q. What should job seekers do if they believe an employer is discriminating by offering lower salaries to women and minorities?

A. They should proceed under the advice of an attorney and/or file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Q: Why can't ALA refuse to list salaries in ads that are below minimum or insert a disclaimer stating that the salary is below the ALA recommended minimum?

A. Advertisers who are purchasing space have a right to publish their ads without editorial comment. By advertising with ALA, they do agree to abide by laws and by ALA policy, which states that "ALA is committed to equality of opportunity for all library employees or applicants for employment, regardless of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, individual life-style, or national origin: and believes that hiring individuals with disabilities in all types of libraries is consistent with good personnel and management practices." Salaries in general are a much bigger issue for the Association as whole, and the ALA-APA, HRDR, American Libraries and C&RL News work together to ensure that the minimum salaries listed online are kept up to date when new information is received by any of these units from state and regional library associations, although in recent years there seem to be very few associations establishing minimum recommended salaries. ALA JobLIST provides a link to ALA-APA's site on its homepage, under a label of "Salary Resources." When the print classified ad sections are large enough, American Libraries and C&RL News magazines publish ALA-APA's current recommended minimum salary and a link to the ALA-APA list of state and regional minimum recommended salaries.

Q. Can ALA help me negotiate a better salary?

A. In 2001 ALA created a separate the American Library Association Allied Professional Association to advocate for improving salaries. In fulfillment of that mission, it publishes the free Advocating for Better Salaries and Pay Equity Toolkit which is full of guidance for individuals and groups that are negotiating and case studies of successful libraries. In addition, ALA-APA hosts negotiation workshops at each ALA Annual Conference and publishes articles periodically in its monthly newsletter, Library Worklife to help you negotiate.

Mary Pergander wrote in her "Working Knowledge" column in American Libraries, September 2006, "Make the Ask": "There are many books, websites, and other resources that carefully describe how to negotiate salary and benefits. Learning these techniques is just doing your homework. What is more subtle, and has perhaps a bigger impact on your success, is doing the inner homework of what you believe you are worth, and building the confidence to ask for it with conviction. This is not bravado, guts, or aggression. It is the quiet assurance in the pit of your stomach that what you want for a salary is an accurate depiction of what you are worth to the employer." She added, "There are library systems and situations in many parts of the country where this might not be possible. I do not wish to appear to make light of or underestimate the real suffering that can occur in these cases. Still, I believe many of us are suffering in cages of our own making, never realizing we have the key to open the door to new earning power if we learn to 'Make the Ask.' "