February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Public Librarians: Lots of Work, Little Pay, Lousy Bosses | SLJ’s Job Satisfaction Survey

Children and young adult librarians frequently describe their jobs as veering out of control. That’s easy to understand, given the slew of competing responsibilities, such as outreach, marketing, fundraising, grant writing, collection development, program planning and implementation, building maintenance issues, serving on several reference desks, and “on top of all the paperwork, the bureaucracy/political wrangling.”

To make matters worse, writes a library veteran, “I’m endlessly being asked to do more with no responsibilities taken away. We feel obligated to offer more services to patrons all the time.”

In addition to their dissatisfaction with funding and increasing workloads, public librarians are unhappy with their salaries. “I have been working as a librarian for 12 years now and finally broke the 30K mark. I’d like to earn enough for more than gas money.”

Many also describe a public library culture mired in red tape and run by administrators who value tradition over innovation: “I’m dealing with an antiquated, close-minded, controlling library culture,” wrote one children’s librarian. The term “micromanager” appears freely throughout the comments: “I was unprepared for the fact that I am not able to make professional decisions…. I am micromanaged.” For children’s and young adult librarians, it’s their own administrators, they believe, who respect them the least, second only to community leaders.

On the plus side, public librarians reported better opportunities for advancement—probably through seeking positions as youth coordinators in larger systems or entering library administration—than did school librarians (see Getting Ahead, chart above).

What were public librarians the least prepared for? Behavioral issues. And not just out-of-control kids and teen gang members—although these were mentioned—but also rude and unruly adults.