Placements & Salaries 2012: Types of Placements

Specifics related to type of agency and job responsibility likewise offer other images and measures of professional achievement.
As with overall trends, specifics related to type of agency and job responsibility likewise offer other images and measures of professional achievement. Public libraries, for example, while hard-hit by economic pressures, experienced modest growth in the percentage of overall placements. In 2010, public libraries lost jobs due to hiring freezes, early retirements, and attrition, dropping to 22.8% of the overall placements (compared to 24.2% in 2009); placements in 2011 in these same types of libraries recovered and comprised 25.5% of the overall placements. Surprisingly, however, in areas where strong placements might be anticipated, such as children’s services, there were declines. In 2010, children’s librarians made up 7.3% of the jobs with an average starting salary of $35,211; these same children’s librarians made up 4.1% of the overall placements in 2011, reversing the gains made between 2009 and 2010. On the slightly brighter side, children’s librarian salaries were 5.4% higher than the previous year, averaging $37,229, though this remains somewhat lower than the overall average of $44,565.

Meanwhile, school library media specialist positions were another area of serious concern in 2011. Graduates reported the reduction or outright elimination of library media positions in public school districts across the United States and that in many areas specialty educators, such as school librarians, music teachers, and art teachers, were hired at the last minute after other budget decisions were finalized, occasionally after the new school year officially began. School librarians comprised 13.5% of the overall placements in 2011, down from 15.4% in 2010. The decline was most readily apparent in the Southwest, where placements fell from 17.1% in 2010 to 9.7% in 2011. Salaries among new school librarians contracted by approximately 2% in 2011, averaging $44,515 and losing $900 from the previous year. The mild positive note was the 9.6% increase in salaries for school library media specialists in the Midwest ($44,404 in 2011 compared to $40,150 in 2010). New school librarians emphasized the need to know the hiring cycle for school systems as well as ensuring that teaching credentials were current.

Special libraries recovered a slim margin of the losses from 2010, with placements improving from 5.1% in 2010 to 6.1% in 2011, helped along by an increase in filled positions in the Midwest and the West. Salaries for special librarians also underwent recovery, with new graduates earning $45,659 in 2011, regaining the decline of 2010 ($41,791) and exceeding the levels of 2009 ($43,090) by 5.6%. Graduates seeking jobs in special libraries looked toward archives and special collections as having comparable job functions and also considered positions in academic special libraries, such as academic law libraries, as viable options. The job functions in special libraries ranged from traditional roles related to reference and archival functions to emerging roles in digital curation and digital content management. As in public libraries, these new information professionals—not all describe themselves as librarians—enjoy the challenge of having multiple responsibilities and exposure to numerous units within their places of employment.

Likewise, public librarians suggested that multitasking is the new norm, while assignment to one specific department or function is becoming less common and making it more difficult to describe their job with a single title or job focus.

Graduates reported slightly more jobs in administration (directors, managers, coordinators, etc.), comprising 4.3% of the reported placements in 2011 (compared to 3% in 2010). More important than the numbers of placements, administrative salaries expanded by 20.2%, from $39,072 in 2010 to an average of $48,979, well above the overall average for salaries in 2011 (9% higher). Noteworthy, however, is the indication that not all of the administrative jobs were in libraries, but spread among nonprofit organizations and private industry as well as libraries. Administrative jobs were reported in academic units outside of the university library as well as administration in government agencies; while they were not traditional library-related jobs, they required that graduates use the leadership and management skills developed through their degree programs.

Reference/information services were one job type that exhibited major changes in numbers, job function, and salary. Reports of reference as a primary job function declined from 23.8% of the placements in 2010 to 14.7% in 2011. This drop, however, can be deceiving; reference is one of the jobs that graduates describe with multiple functions, including combined with instruction, collection development/maintenance, or administration. Graduates indicated that they needed to exhibit skills related to teaching as well as respond to reference queries during job interviews; they also had to be prepared to work within a learning or information commons environment where the focus is on the students’ individualized needs. Not surprisingly, nearly half (47.1%) of the new reference librarians were hired by academic libraries in 2011, followed by public libraries (32.6%). Reference service is also one of the functions that solo librarians frequently point to as integral to their day-to-day responsibilities. A small cadre (approximately 1%) described conducting targeted searches and research analysis for clients, and performing the same types of services as reference librarians. Reference skills and duties are also encompassed in jobs related to electronic and digital services, including data management and development of scholarly repositories. However, while numbers may have drifted off the highs of previous years, the reported average salary for reference librarians has increased by 10.8%, to $45,690 in 2011 (slightly higher than the national average for all new graduates).

Eye on the “other”

Jobs in other sectors outside of LIS, including private industry, were up once again, increasing to 18.3% of the reported placements in 2011. The grads found themselves spread among nonprofit agencies (17.3%), private industry (30%), and other types of agencies, such as law, retail, or finance (52.7%). This offers good news about making ends meet but can prolong the frustration of finding a job that matches the master’s degree.

The graduates employed in nonprofit agencies were among the winners in salary increases in 2011, which came as a surprise, with an average annual rate of $43,093. This is a 27.5% salary differential between 2010 and 2011. Among the various roles that the LIS grads played in nonprofit organizations were impact analyst, prospect research analyst, and community relations coordinator at agencies such as the American Red Cross and AmeriCorps, as well as in museums, archives, and not-for-profit health-care agencies.

The largest proportion of the nonprofit placements were located in the Northeast (36.7%), featuring slightly better than average salaries ($45,071). By comparison, placements declined in private industry, dropping from 9.4% of reported jobs in 2010 to 5.4% in 2011. Annual salaries in private industry followed suit, coming in at an average of $51,897 compared to $56,526 in 2010 and a high of $58,194 in 2008. However, the private sector also held some of the highest paying jobs, ranging from $100,000 to $180,000 annually. User interface design, analytics, software engineering, and digital asset management were among the most frequently identified roles in private sector jobs, with graduates landing in biotech firms, hospitals, high-tech companies, advertising and marketing, and publishing. Like the nonprofits, graduates in the Northeast claimed the largest proportion of private sector jobs (37.5%), mirroring the trend of 2010 (32.6%); however, the highest salaries in private industry were obtained in the Midwest ($53,217 compared to the average salary for all private industry placements of $51,897 and $50,148 in the Northeast).

Finding employment outside of the LIS professions became a delicate balancing act for many. Besides jobs in nonprofits and private industry, the graduating class also found employment in an array of “other” agencies but often using the skills learned during their master’s degree programs. These included working with medical records; public radio and television; fundraising and grant writing; and local, state, and federal government agencies as well as in other academic units within institutions of higher education. On the flip side, they also felt obligated to accept positions as clerical and secretarial employees, food service workers, and retail clerks in order to meet the monthly bills and pay the rent, and they expressed serious frustration in not finding employment reflecting their academic achievements. However, salaries did not completely mirror the disparity among the status of the positions, with an average starting salary of $47,604. While some graduates reported annual salaries well below the national average, salaries in the other agencies were boosted up by the types of positions the grads obtained, including jobs related to information and communication technology, e-commerce, and publishing.

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