Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa
Te Rau Herenga O Aotearoa

Are librarians paid fairly?

We were recently asked on Twitter if we think librarians are paid fairly.  I’d love to tweet a one-word reply, but the honest answer is that it’s complicated and depends on a whole range of factors-from where a librarian works to their skillset and qualifications.

In general however, the answer is no – librarians are not paid fairly.   Based on Strategic Pay data purchased by LIANZA at a national level, we see librarians in entry level roles being paid 1.5% less than other local government and 6.7% less than the general market.  This gap increases as librarians move into more senior roles with those at the top of the pay scale seeing a gap of up to 18% with similarly graded roles on the general market.  

And this assumes that position grading is correct – a tendency by decision makers to devalue the librarian skill set means often the position descriptions are not graded at a level that correctly reflects the complexities of the role.  This means the actual pay gap is much larger than that indicated by our data.

For school librarians, the picture is even worse.  School librarians are classified as support staff by the Ministry of Education which means that they are paid on the same scale as handymen and cleaners.  In many cases this doesn’t recognise the qualifications that many librarians bring to their roles, nor does it recognise the significant contribution that a qualified librarian can make to the literacy levels and educational achievements of students.   By forcing school librarians to compete with other operational expenditure (toilet paper anyone) for their budget in many cases we are keeping them at minimum wage and limiting their development.  We’re also hurting our students.

What was a surprise is that the gender gap in libraries is limited – men and women are paid about the same (until you get to those pesky senior roles) where males are paid 2% more than their female counterparts.  Of course, this is what you’d expect to see in the pay conversation about a profession that is made up of 82% women.

Joanna Matthew-September 2017.

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