ALA's Office for Literacy and Outreach Services and ALA-APA Find Out What Rural Librarians Think About Their Salaries

Contact: Satia Orange / Jenifer Grady

ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services

312-280-4295 / 2424 /
For Immediate Release

August 7, 2007

ALA’s Office for Literacy and Outreach Services and ALA-APA

Find Out What Rural Librarians Think About Their Salaries

CHICAGO – Rather than assume based on salary and cost-of-living comparisons, the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) asked the constituents served by the American Library Association Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS) their thought about their salaries. The results were insightful and sometimes surprising. The Rural Libraries Salary Survey was conducted by ALA-APA for a panel discussion at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The program was entitled, “Rural and Small Libraries vs. Small Salaries.” ALA-APA and OLOS shines light on a long-overlooked area of librarianship - the low salaries and status of library workers in small and rural libraries.

Respondents were from inland Alaska to the Carolina coast, from the Pennsylvania hills to the plains of Wyoming. The vast coverage explained the differences in what respondents considered “rural.” The first question of the survey asked how respondents defined rural, and the responses could be categorized as isolated, agrarian or sparsely populated, depending on the location.

Answers to the question about how respondents feel about rural library staff salaries, we were struck most by the commonalities: pay inequity, low professional status, lack of qualified staff, high employee turnover and a concern about the effects of the new minimum wage on rural economies.

However, the survey leaves readers with hope. Many rural library workers have successfully advocated for improved status and salaries. The techniques used were reflective of the advice given in the Better Salaries and Pay Equity Toolkit (ALA-APA, 2007) and The Small but Powerful Guide to Winning Big Support for Your Rural Library (OLOS, 2007): educate patrons, city officials and boards about the value of library staff, use clear advocacy messages, consult national and local salary surveys, seek outside funding and be patient.

The panel featured Judy Rule, director of Cabell County (W.Va.) Public Library, who was successful in raising salaries, improving benefits and increasing staff satisfaction in a state with the lowest salaries in the nation and severe budget constraints. Amy Grasmick, director of Kimball (Vt.) Public Library, explained that Vermont is so small that only the capitol city qualifies for E-Rate funding and that almost all funding is from local sources. Grasmick was on the committee that created Increasing Public Library Compensation: a How-to Guide for Vermont Libraries. Jenifer Grady, director of ALA-APA, presented library staff salaries from a national perspective and the Rural Libraries Staff Survey results. The panel was moderated by Carol Barta, Chair of the ALA Committee on Rural, Native and Tribal Libraries of All Kinds.

The results of the Rural Library Staff Salary Survey may be found on the OLOS Web site and comments are welcome: . OLOS and ALA-APA thank all of the respondents.