Special Presidential TF on the Status of Librarians Final Report

Background and process:

The Task Force on the Status of Librarians was appointed by ALA President Nancy Kranich (2000/2001) to address the concerns about status and related salary Issues that had been a recurring topic over the last twenty-five or more years. The task force membership was broadly representative of ALA units and included representatives of committees and units that had been involved in these issues or closely related issues for many years.

The task force was specifically charged with the following:

  1. to articulate those issues facing the profession that may be characterized as issues of status (e.g. comparable worth, public recognition of librarians);

  2. to recommend strategies for addressing those issues;

  3. to recommend specifically those strategies which should be followed by the American Library Association (as opposed to those which could/should be followed by other stakeholders); and,

  4. to define the scope of questions (financial, legal, organizational, research) which must be addressed by the Association in order to adopt those strategies.

The task force was asked to provide a report and recommendations for the Fall 2001 meeting of the ALA Executive Board.

The task force used diverse means to carry out its work. A web-based conferencing tool was used experimentally; several conference calls were held; meetings were held at the 2001 Annual Conference and at the 2002 Midwinter Meeting; and a listserv was used to facilitate discussion and share information and drafts. At our meeting at the 2001 Annual Conference, it became clear that the task force could not complete our work on such a tight time schedule and still offer opportunities for members to have input to its work. A request to extend the term of the task force was presented to the ALA Executive Board at their Spring 2002 meeting, and that extension was approved.

The task force discussions at the Annual Conference meetings centered on identifying and framing issues related to status. (The issues identified by the task force are included as Appendix A.) We were aware that the issues we defined were our own perceptions, and so the sharing of them with the membership and providing opportunities for input was seen to be critical. As a result of this recognition, the task force designed a Web site, which was executed with the help of the staff in the ALA Office of Human R and D R. Listserv and electronic newsletters were used to announce the Web site and to ask for member input. A bulletin board was included to encourage feedback and discussion. Mary Ghikas, ALA’s Senior Associate Executive Director, provided a background document that detailed the long history of ALA’s interest in status and salary issues, and this was included on the Web site as well. (The background document is included as Appendix B.)

While not a tremendous amount of feedback was received, the feedback that was received either directly via email or through the Web site was strongly positive. Those members responding were clearly glad to see that ALA was considering action in this area.

Early in its work the task force met with the ALA attorney, Paula Goedert, who explained the implications for ALA’s attention to salary and status issues. The task force spent a considerable amount of time discussing and understanding the differences between ALA’s current tax status [501©(3)] and other possible tax statuses [501©(6) primarily]. A document prepared by Ms. Goedert was particularly helpful in this regard.

Shortly after the 2001 Annual Conference, the task force became aware of the initiatives being put forward by the ALA President-Elect, Maurice (Mitch) Freedman in the area of salary improvement and pay equity. The chair of the task force contacted the Vice President and encouraged a close working relationship with the task force he was forming. As a result, the chair was included as an ex officio member of that task force and later made a full member. One of our other members, Michele (Mike) Leber, was also appointed to that task force.

As the task force moved from identifying issues to framing recommendations, it became obvious that if ALA were to undertake a major, high profile initiative to improve the status of librarians it was essential that ALA form an allied 501©(6) organization to carry out that initiative and related activities. Indeed the Freedman initiatives would make this even more critical. We therefore quickly came to consensus that this would be our primary recommendation, since the other recommendations would be hard to implement without it.

When we had drafted the recommendations, we included them on the Web site so that ALA members could see them and react. We also planned an open forum to be held at the 2002 Midwinter Meeting that would provide an opportunity for open discussion and debate. During the fall it became clear that a joint open forum, with the task force and the Task Force on Better Salaries and Pay Equity, would provide a broader discussion of the closely related topics of status and salary.

At the open hearing more than one hundred and fifty members came to hear reports on the work of the two task forces and to share their stories and provide input. There was clearly strong support for the work of the task forces and for the development of whatever mechanisms that would allow ALA to take on these issues.

At its meetings at the 2002 Midwinter Meeting, the Task Force on the Status of Librarians finalized its recommendations and provided a structure for its report. The task force also examined its charge to ensure that we had fulfilled its charge completely. We feel that our recommendations will enable ALA to effectively take on the advocacy required to improve the status of librarians and that the research agenda proposed will help to provide data to support activities that promote the status of librarians and other library workers. We are hopeful that our work and the work of our sister task force will help the profession move forward in this critical time.

While we have not recommended any action that directly requires a commitment of additional financial resources, we feel that ongoing activities, such as the current “@ Your Library” campaign, can be expanded to include advocacy for both libraries and their publics and librarians and other library workers.

Status Issues

Issues of status and salary are frequently spoken of synonymously, and indeed they are closely related. But to see the two as the same is to overlook that the status of a profession leads to many issues other than salary levels and that salaries are determined by many factors other than the status of a profession. Indeed salaries are related to status; in fact salaries are probably more an indicator of status and a result of low status rather than a cause of status.

In its discussions, the Task Force identified a number of issues related to status and salaries or factors that some members feel may cause librarians to suffer from low status and low salaries. We recognize that these are not well documented and that there has been little research to support its perceptions. These are shared in order to provide a catalyst for discussion, and it is hoped that many of our colleagues will share their reactions to them.

The Task Force was not charged with carrying out a prolonged research process to verify its perceptions but only to provide recommendations that might overcome the problems of low status and related salary issues.

  • While libraries are seen as a social good and community asset, there is not an understanding of the librarian’s role in delivering these. Library customers do not differentiate between the types of staff in libraries, seeing the person behind the circulation desk, the person behind the reference desk, and another service staff as equal. Libraries may exacerbate this problem by staffing service points with various levels of staff. To the public, therefore, there is not a clear sense of what values a professional librarian brings to the information transaction. In many other professions the roles of professional (lawyers, doctors, nurses) are clearly differentiated from those of supporting staff (paralegals, medical technicians, licensed practical nurses). This is not to say that the role of these supporting staff is not extremely important. It is only to say that the roles of librarians and supporting staff are different, but that the difference is not easily perceived by the library customer.

  • In many occupations, supply and demand within the labor force affect salaries to some degree. If this is true for the library profession, one could expect that when there are more librarians than positions, salaries will be deflated or flat; at times when positions outnumber available professional librarians, salaries will be increased because of the more competitive environment. Were this the case, this might lead to salary differences within the profession as shortages of one specialty resulted in escalation of salaries in that specialty without affecting overall salary levels. In academic libraries, area studies librarians and science/technology specialists may serve as examples of this.

  • Status may be related to position titles. “Librarian” is a title that carries with it much of the public perceptions of that role developed over the last century. There is a perception that librarians who opt to enter the corporate world in positions requiring the same competencies, but with a different job titles (information specialist, information officer, knowledge manager, etc.) enjoy higher status and higher salaries than librarians in more traditional roles.

  • For some time now, many regional and state associations have set recommended minimum salaries for librarians. Since these lack the force of law or statutory requirements, these locally recommended salaries have failed to bring about higher salaries except in a limited number of instances.

  • The services that librarians offer are provided without direct cost to the end user. Are there any professions that enjoy high status and high salaries where the product or service is provided without cost? While providing access to information without regard to the user’s ability to pay is a value of the profession, at least that part of the profession supporting the non-profit world, does this value work against the increase of status and salary for librarians, and if so, how might this be countermanded?

  • The lack of a widely recognized certification program, requiring some evidence of the continued growth and development of professional knowledge and competency, may put librarians at a disadvantage both in status and salaries relative to the many professions that require evidence of continuing professional development for continuance in or advancement within the profession.

  • The lack of widely recognized and supported measures of the impact of librarians on library services and therefore on the economic and societal benefits gained by their presence (not just the presence of a library) has led to low status and depressed salaries. Research either to develop measurement tools or to measure economic benefit has been insufficient.

  • The placement of libraries, and therefore librarians, within organizations has been inconsistent. This placement within organizations directly contributes to status and establishes the peer groups in which libraries and librarians will be compared and measured. In city and county governments, whether libraries are grouped with critical service providers, educational and cultural organizations, or recreational services will affect how they are viewed and with whom they are compared. In academic institutions, if librarians have faculty status and libraries report to academic officers, it is more likely that status and salary issues will be comparable to faculty status and salary issues. If they report to administrative officers, they are more likely to be compared with professional groups within the overall administrative hierarchy. If they report to information officers, they are more likely to be compared with other information professionals, especially computer professionals. No matter which of these pertains, however, there is no assurance that ultimately supply and demand will not determine the status and salaries of librarians, in much the same way that liberal arts faculty customarily have lower status and/or salaries than their colleagues in business and engineering schools.

  • The public’s lack of a clear understanding of the role of librarians has led, on more than one occasion, to the appointment of non-librarians to significant positions within libraries that should be held by librarians. The appointment of non-librarians to positions that require a professional knowledge of information and information services is an all too frequent occurrence.

The Task Force does not pretend that it has defined or described every issue related to the status of librarians, but the issues articulated reflect a cross section of those issues. We would welcome your adding to these or anecdotal or other information related to them.


The Task Force on the Status of Librarians recommends the following:

  1. That ALA significantly broaden the definition for the allied 501©(6) professional organization approved by Council at the 2001 Annual Conference for the purpose of certification so that this allied organization can undertake a variety of activities to support the profession broadly related to the status and salaries of librarians and other library staff members; and that ALA consider moving some activities currently underway in the existing 501©(3) organization related to status, salary, and other professional issues (including divisional activities related to these issues) to this new allied organization so that they can more fully and overtly be undertaken.

  2. That ALA or its allied organization undertake a national campaign to educate the general public about the role of librarians in developing and managing library and information services tailored to meet the specialized needs of specific communities. This campaign should attempt to distinguish the role of librarians from the very valuable roles played by other library staff. ALA should re-energize some of the activities that were intended to be part of the Decade of the Librarian but which ceased because of funding priorities. Whenever possible, this campaign should be integrated with other ongoing campaigns and priorities, such as the current “@Your Library” campaign.

  3. That ALA, as much as possible, attempt to consolidate the many disparate activities related to status and salaries underway within ALA itself and its affiliates and chapters and in other library and information associations in order to leverage resources and energies. At the least this should be directed at facilitating communication and information exchange between these units and organizations, but collaborative efforts are highly desirable and should be encouraged. Examples of these include the Committee on Pay Equity, ACRL’s Academic Librarians Status Committee, LAMA’s Human Resource Section’s Economic Status and Staff Welfare Committee, many of the professional development and career development committees in the divisions, and of course some of the activities of the Office of Human Resource Development and Recruitment. Activities related to status and salaries would be strong candidates for inclusion in a 501© (6) organization.

  4. That ALA develop or encourage the development of quantitative and qualitative measures that can be applied in a variety of types of libraries to demonstrate the economic, educational, social, and cultural value that professional librarians bring to their communities. The task force is mindful that some studies have already been undertaken to measure the impact of libraries on their communities, but this work generally ignores the specific value that an appropriately educated professional librarian adds to the value of libraries.

  5. That ALA study the impact of certification on salaries and perceptions of status as librarians apply for and receive certification under the existing and any new certification programs within ALA. Data about applicants for certification should be gathered and follow up surveys should be carried out in three to five year increments to determine long term implications for certification on salaries and status.

Membership of the Task Force:

At-Large Members:

Yvonne Chen

June L. DeWeese

Janice H. Dost

Michele M. (Mike) Leber

Raymond H. Markey

Connie L. Martinez

Jeanne Franco Martinez

Maureen D. Pastine

Janice D. Simmons-Welburn

Bessie Condos Tichauer

Thomas L. (Tom) Wilding (chair)

J. Linda Williams

Liaison Members:

Leslie Burger, Public Awareness Advisory Committee

Julie A. Cummins, Executive Board

Marva L. DeLoach, Committee on Pay Equity Liaison

Wanda V. Dole, Committee on Research and Statistics

Dottie R. Heibing, Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment Advisory Committee

Claudette Shackelford McLinn, Committee on Minority Concerns and Cultural Diversity

Sarah Barbara Watstein, Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship


Mary W. Ghikas

Lorelle R. Swader

(8 March 2002)

Appendix A

Background: ALA—Structure and Related Activities

  • ALA is a 501©3 educational association. ALA’s defined purposes are primarily public (not professional) purposes. ALA membership has, from the Association’s beginnings, been open to any interested individual or organization on payment of dues.

  • The recruitment, training and utilization of library personnel have, nevertheless, been a continuing ALA interest. Past ALA activities related to the status of librarians or other library workers have been focused in several, arguably related, areas:

    • Personnel Education and Utilization. As early as 1923, an ALA committee presented a suggested scheme for graded library service. There has been regular ALA activity in this area. In the 1920s, the ALA Committee on Salaries published a report comparing the salaries of teachers and librarians; ALA cooperated with the Bureau of Public Personnel Administration, Institute for Government Research, on a survey of library personnel (
      Proposed Classification and Compensation Plans for Library Personnel); and, in 1927 the ALA Committee on Schemes for Library Service issued a report based on that study.

In 1937, ALA Council created a “board” on salaries, staff and tenure, which became the Board on Personnel Administration in 1944. It was concerned with classification and pay plans, staff welfare and tenure, problems of civil service and merit systems. This Board released its
Position Classification and Salary Administration in Libraries in 1951 and Personnel Organization and Procedure in 1952.

ALA Council received and approved the “Library Education and Manpower” policy in 1970. It was reapproved, with removal of sexist language, as the Library Education and Personnel Utilization Policy in 1976. Significant revisions to the 1976 policy are currently being recommended by a task force resulting from COPE1 (the Library Career Ladders task force).

  • Library Personnel Administration/Relations—In 1971 ALA Council established the Staff Committee on Mediation, Arbitration & Inquiry “to provide assistance to the membership in problems ranging from personnel concerns to status and intellectual freedom.” Over the next decade and a half, a number of issues arose, including (a) imbalance between available resources and potential demand, (b) lack of clarity regarding the basis for decisions, (c) the danger of raising member expectations that could not, in fact, be met. In the late 1980s, a special committee appointed by ALA President Regina Minudri recommended that the focus shift from arbitration to mediation and inquiry, that relevant ALA policies be gathered and reviewed, and that SCMAI members receive regular briefing from legal counsel.

In 1989, the Standing Committee on Review, Inquiry and Mediation (SCRIM) replaced SCMAI. SCRIM developed a policy document (approved by the ALA Council in 1990) and procedures. It received and acted on twelve cases between 1990-1991. Discontinuation of funding was recommended by COPES in the spring 1991, noting resource issues. In fall 1991, based on consultation with legal counsel, the ALA Executive Board voted to recommend to Council that SCRIM be abolished.

  • Salaries—The ALA Pay Equity Commission was established in 1984 by ALA President E.J.Josey. The Committee on Pay Equity, a standing committee of Council, was established in 1986. In 1989, ALA Council voted to encourage state associations to consider minimum salary guidelines, and to publish lists and sources of salary surveys.

  • Public Recognition—This issue has taken different forms. In the political arena, ALA has fought for appointment of librarians to key leadership positions—beginning with Putnam’s appointment as Librarian of Congress at the end of the 19th century and more recently with IMLS. (The current director of IMLS is a librarian, but his predecessor was not). In 1991, ALA Council adopted a statement on the “Decade of the Librarian.” The resolution called for ALA to “shift its major focus from libraries to librarians” and outlined key strategic directions—expanded recruitment and scholarship support, education, creation of a more diverse workforce, competitive compensation (by providing decision-makers with appropriate information and librarians with appropriate tools), “repositioning” librarianship and increasing public recognition for librarians. More recently, the Campaign for America’s Libraries has sought to focus attention both on libraries and librarians.

  • Recruitment—ALA history and Placement Center statistics (maintained for the past 30 years) show a constantly changing relationship between available jobs and job seekers. Neither vacancies nor applicants are evenly distributed between sub-specializations or between geographic regions.

  • ALA has mounted several recruitment efforts, notably the “Each One Reach One” campaign of the late 1980s and the Spectrum Initiative of the late 1990s. The Spectrum scholarship/recruitment program has been “institutionalized,” based on a combination of Endowment funding (scholarships) and ALA operating budget. While the 1980s campaign was a general recruitment campaign, the Spectrum program is specifically focused on recruitment for diversity.

  • Outsourcing and Privatization—Privatization surfaced as an issue within the Association with the 1980s attempts to “streamline”—and downsize—the federal government. ALA has acted in the public policy arena, urging Congress to bar further contracting out of federal libraries, and, more recently, in the ALA policy arena, to oppose “the shifting of policy making and management of library services from the public to the private sector.”

  • Competencies—Definition of “competencies” has been sporadic and has tended to focus more on specialized competencies defined by ALA divisions (e.g. for children’s librarians) than on “generalist” competencies. Discussion related to competencies has tended to occur in relation to the MLS curriculum and accreditation. A task force was appointed following COPE1 in 1999 to define “core competencies” for the MLS generalist. That task force is expected to deliver its final report by the end of 2001.

  • Certification—At the 2001 Midwinter Meeting the ALA Council authorized establishment of the 501(c)6 related organized to enable certification within post-MLS specializations. Certification had long been considered by groups within the Association. In the mid-1990s, three divisions (PLA, LAMA, ASCLA) proposed development of the post-masters certification on Public Library Administration. The ALA Committee on Education was asked to develop a “framework” for such consideration. The 501(c)6 structure—as presently authorized—is narrowly drawn, focusing solely on certification.

In addition to ALA activities, several ALA divisions have standing committees or special task forces directly or indirectly involved with questions of “status:”

AASL—Competencies for Library Media Specialists in the 21st Cent. (TF)

AASL—Professional Development Committee

ALCTS—Education, Training, and Recruitment for Cataloging

ACRL—Professional Development

ASCLA—Library Personnel and Education

LAMA—Certified Public Library Administrator Certification (TF)

LAMA—Code of Professional Ethics for Library Managers

LAMA—Human Resources Section (HRS)—Economic Status and Staff Welfare

PLA—Workload Measures and Staffing Patterns

RUSA—Professional Competencies (ad hoc)

YALSA—Professional Development