PLA releases first Staff and Diversity Survey report

For Immediate Release
Tue, 08/23/2022


Sara Goek

Data & Research Project Manager

Public Library Association

(CHICAGO) - The Public Library Association (PLA) today published the 2021 Public Library Staff and Diversity Survey report. The national survey updates information on beginning librarian and library director salaries; documents traditional and emerging staff roles; explores staff diversity, recruitment, and retention efforts; and captures information about public library equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) goals and activities. The survey is the second in a rotating series of three national surveys exploring public library roles, services, and resources to provide actionable data for decision-making and advocacy.

Key findings include:

  • Virtually all (95%) public libraries report they engage in at least one type of EDI activity. More than a quarter (27%) of public libraries have formal EDI plans, and 25% report they have dedicated EDI staff roles. 
  • “Traditional” library staff roles, such as youth and adult services, are the most common, but the prevalence of roles that incorporate social media and digital outreach (74%), workforce and small business development (18%), and social work (8%) illustrate a growing range of programs and services in public libraries. 
  • In 2021 the median annual salary of a public library director reported was $79,022, and the median annual salary of a beginning librarian was $41,864.  When viewed with historic PLA salary data, beginning librarian salaries have been virtually flat, and library director salaries have not recovered to pre-Great Recession levels.
  • More than a quarter (27%) of all public libraries report they lost staff positions in the prior 12 months. City (32.7%) and suburban (33.2%) libraries were slightly more likely to have lost staff positions than town/rural libraries (21.1%).
  • Staff demographics of the library sector do not reflect those of the U.S. population. Not all libraries or local governments, however, collect data on staff representation, and not all libraries were able to accurately report it. About 92% of libraries report using at least one strategy for hiring staff from underrepresented groups.

“Equity, diversity, and inclusion are priorities for me as PLA President and for PLA and ALA as organizations,” said PLA President Maria McCauley. “This new data provides an important baseline and insights that public libraries can apply in recruiting, developing, and retaining the staff that drive our essential services to all in our diverse communities. We cannot measure progress on our goals without understanding where we stand today.”

The report includes not only a summary of the data collected, but suggestions of possible starting points for action and additional resources that libraries may find helpful, such as the new Cultural Proficiencies for Racial Equity: A Framework and the Advocating for Better Salaries Toolkit.

PLA invited all U.S. public library administrative entities to complete the survey in fall/winter 2021. In total, 773 libraries completed the survey, a response rate of 8.4 percent. The survey results were weighted to account for differences between responding libraries and the universe of all U.S. public libraries.

Learn more about the survey results in a free webinar on October 4. Public libraries can freely access their own responses and contribute to future PLA surveys through the Benchmark platform. To read the full 2021 report and explore other PLA data resources, please visit


About the Public Library Association
The Public Library Association (PLA) is the largest association dedicated to supporting the unique and evolving needs of public library professionals. Founded in 1944, PLA serves nearly 9,000 members in public libraries large and small in communities across the United States and Canada, with a growing presence around the world. PLA strives to help its members shape the essential institution of public libraries by serving as an indispensable ally for public library leaders. PLA is a division of the American Library Association (ALA). For more information about PLA, contact the PLA office at 1 (800) 545-2433, ext. 5PLA, or