Posted by: bluesyemre | October 22, 2020

Library Journal’s Placements and Salaries Survey 2020

Salaries and full-time employment are up, but so are unemployment and the gender gap; 2019 graduates faced a mixed job market even before the pandemic.

Library Journal’s annual Placements & Salaries survey reports on the experiences of LIS students who graduated and sought their first librarian jobs in the previous year: in this case, 2019. As such, we began to collect data in March 2020, just as COVID-19 was beginning to gain speed in the United States. Naturally, addressing the professional and personal upheaval resulting from the coronavirus took priority over responding, which likely resulted in somewhat lower participation in this survey than usual by both schools and graduates. Some may not even have seen the invitation in the rush to go remote. We would like to take a moment to express our support to all the members of our professional community as they continue to adapt to these challenging times, and to send our appreciation to those whose circumstances allowed them to participate in this year’s survey.

The experience of these 2019 graduates will be very different from next year’s respondents, the LIS class of 2020, whose members are graduating into an ongoing pandemic. Nonetheless, trends evident from the experience of 2019 graduates bear watching, and they both hold promise and suggest concerns.

Highlights include:

  • Salary levels and the prevalence of full-time appointments continue to improve.
  • However, unemployment levels for new graduates are also growing.
  • Gender salary disparity is no longer narrowing; substantial disparities were evident in this year’s results.
  • The trend towards more graduates working in LIS institutions seems to be reversing, with the proportion of graduates working outside LIS nearly tripling.
  • Continuing the trend begun last year, graduates noted that user experience/usability analysis is one of their top two primary job duties.
  • Unsurprisingly, LIS schools expect that 2020 graduates will face a challenging job search because of changes driven by COVID-19.

Thirty-six of the 52 U.S.-based American Library Association (ALA) accredited schools participated in this survey for the 2019 calendar year. These schools reported awarding degrees to 4,263 graduates. Five fewer schools (about 12 percent fewer) participated this year, which likely accounts for the 10.5 percent decline in total graduates when compared to 2018. Nearly 26 percent of 2019 graduates shared the outcomes and experiences of their job searches by completing the questionnaire. This response rate is down three percent from 2018.

As in prior years, most respondents describe themselves as female (77 percent). The proportion of male graduates was similar to last year (19 percent in 2019 and 20 percent in 2018). As we did last year, we offered more gender options represented about 3.4 percent of graduates responding to the survey, which was somewhat higher than last year (2.8 percent). These proportions are similar to those reported by the schools for their total number of graduates, although more people self-identified as the additional gender options than were reported by the schools. Because the nonbinary sample is too small to yield statistically significant results when compared to placements and salaries of other genders, gender comparisons shown in the tables are male to female only.

The 2019 graduates’ self-identification of race/ethnicity presents a different profile than last year. There is greater white/non-Hispanic representation (81 percent versus 76 percent in 2018) and a very reduced representation of Asian/Pacific Islanders (3 percent in 2019 and 9 percent in 2018). There was a similar representation of Hispanic/Latinx (5 percent), Black/African American (4 percent), and biracial/multiracial respondents (4 percent). Similar to last year, less than 2 percent identified as Native Alaskan/American Indian/First Nation or another race.

The age distribution also had many similarities to last year, with over half of respondents indicating they were between 26 and 35 years old (58 percent), yielding an average age of 34. Continuing what we’ve seen in previous years, most graduates were 35 or under (69 percent), while 13 percent were over 45. Continuing a trend noted last year, there was a slight decline in the percentage of graduates who said that they were pursuing their first career (53 percent).


Many indicators, such as salary levels and full-time appointments, are moving in a positive direction for the class of 2019, however there are also areas for concern, such as unemployment levels and increasing gender salary disparity.

For the seventh year in a row, there is an increase in the average full-time starting salary, with this year’s average of $58,655 being a 5.9 percent increase over 2018. Another positive trend we have been following for six years continued with graduates reporting high levels of full-time employment (86 percent, up from 80 percent last year) and permanent positions (94 percent, up from 91 percent last year).

However, the increase in the percentage of full time positions may be caused by a decrease in part-time positions available, because the percentage of graduates who reported being unemployed doubled from last year to 8 percent (also higher than the 6 percent we saw in 2017). Among those who are unemployed, the majority (79 percent) say they are currently seeking employment in the LIS field. Others are a student in another program (18 percent), taking time off for personal reasons (4 percent), and interning (2 percent). About one percent reported being furloughed. We cannot determine how COVID-19 affected the employment status of 2019 graduates, but we do know that many institutions were instituting hiring freezes and contemplating furloughs during this period.

Similar to last year, 14 percent of 2019 graduates report being employed part-time, however the nature of part-time employment is different than last year, with a substantially higher percentage of people reporting having only one position (65 percent versus 54 percent in 2019), and fewer holding two jobs (28 percent in 2019 versus 36 percent in 2018), for an average of 1.4 positions.

One striking change is where 2019 graduates are employed. Last year, about nine out of ten graduates reported being employed in the LIS field. In 2019, this has decreased to about seven out of ten graduates (69 percent). Accompanying this trend is a rapid increase in graduates saying they are employed outside the LIS field (23 percent in 2019 and 9 percent in 2018).

Of those working in LIS-related positions, more than half (57 percent) report being employed in a LIS organization of some type, a sharp decline from last year. Some 12 percent say they are working in a LIS capacity but in some other type of organization, which is similar to last year.

In a decline from last year, less than half of employed 2019 graduates who are working said they work in either a public library (28 percent) or an academic library (19 percent). Those working in private industry (17 percent) grew by about 50 percent over last year, while those at K-12 schools decreased slightly (to 9 percent). Other graduates report working in other academic units at a college or university (5 percent), a government library (4 percent), non-profit non-library institution (3 percent), archives/special collections (3 percent), special library (3 percent), or other governmental agency (3 percent).

The majority of graduates express satisfaction with their current placement (72 percent). Continuing the pattern we saw last year, graduates working in non-library settings expressed higher satisfaction (80 percent) than those in a LIS institution (76 percent), although the difference between these two levels is not as great as last year. This year, graduates who work outside the LIS field were less likely to report being satisfied than last year (42 percent versus 53 percent).


Similar to last year, a substantial number of graduates (47 percent) are pursuing a second career, and nearly one in five graduates had never worked in a library before entering their LIS program.

Nonetheless, more than half the graduates (59 percent) remained with an employer or position they held prior to joining their masters program or while attending their masters program. This was particularly true for graduates working outside the LIS field. For some of these graduates, earning the masters degree while staying in an existing employment situation resulted in a raise (26 percent), a promotion (21 percent), or moving to professional staff (14 percent).

We also asked graduates if they were interested in pursuing another advanced degree in the future since a second degree can influence career trajectory. A small group were definitely planning to pursue an additional degree (7 percent) and 24 percent said they were probably pursuing this. More than two-thirds said another advanced degree was not a part of their future plans.


2019 graduates who are working full-time have average annual earnings of $58,655, a 5.9 percent increase over last year. The median is $53,000. The average hourly rate is similar to last year at $19.87, which translates into an annual full-time salary of more than $41,000, the same as last year.

The news on gender salary disparities is not encouraging, as substantial disparities were evident in this year’s results, reversing the trend towards a narrowing salary gap that had emerged in 2017. In 2019, male graduates employed full-time reported an overall average salary of $70,132, versus the average of $56,357 for female graduates, representing a differential of more than 24 percent. The overall gender differential has markedly increased from 2018 (10 percent), 2017 (12 percent), and 2016 (about 18 percent). This disparity is not just the result of one very high-paying position for a male graduate, since the differential is evident at high levels in the Midwest (51 percent), Canada/International (46 percent), Pacific (30 percent), and South Central (20 percent) regions.


The 2019 graduates described their work and setting very differently than what we heard in the first two years this question was asked. In both 2017 and 2018, more than two-thirds called themselves librarians working in a library, while this year, only 59 percent said they were a librarian working in a library. Similar to previous years, 4 percent said they were a librarian who wasn’t working in a library. The difference was made up by similar level of self-described “non-librarian” graduates working in a library (18 percent) or outside of one (19 percent).

Each year we ask graduates to review an array of duties in LIS, and name which is the primary duty for their job. In 2019, we see some changes from 2018, which mirrored what we saw in 2017. The top of the list continued to be reference and information services (9 percent) and the 2018 newcomer user experience/usability analysis (7 percent) returned in second place. However, there were some notable changes in the remaining top five; children’s services (7 percent) moved up to third, archival and preservation (7 percent) moved into fourth, and administration and adult services (both just over 6 percent) tied for fifth position. While administration had been in the fifth spot in 2018, adult services was not this high on the list. In addition, school librarian/school library media specialist (just under 6 percent) dropped from third to seventh. Among graduates who identified their work as outside the LIS field, top duties were user experience/usability analysis (37 percent), data analytics (14 percent), and administration (12 percent).

Graduates were also asked to indicate all the duties that were part of their jobs, and half identified reference/information services as one of their assignments. Other frequently mentioned assignments were collection development/acquisitions (40 percent), outreach (33 percent), patron programming (32 percent), public services (31 percent), and circulation and reader’s advisory (both 30 percent). Among those employed outside the LIS field, assignments seem to be more focused, since fewer items are identified by each respondent. The top assignment is administration (23 percent), followed by data analytics (18 percent), budgeting/financing (16 percent), information technology (14 percent), outreach and records management (both 13 percent), and data curation/management and communications, PR and social media (both 12 percent). Only 10 percent of graduates feel their job is in an emerging area of LIS practice, which is lower than last year (16 percent).


Prior work experiences or education may affect graduates’ educational experiences and their professional placement after graduation. In prior years we asked whether they had worked in a library prior to starting their program. This year we changed the question to better understand a graduate’s library work experience, so we asked if they had worked in a library prior to beginning their masters program (14 percent), while completing their masters work (29 percent), or both (39 percent). Nearly 80 percent of graduates had some library experience before they began their job search. While the change in the question means results are not directly comparable to prior years, the results do appear consistent, since the percentage of graduates who didn’t work in a library or who did so while completing the program is about 46 percent, compared to about half last year.

What we learned by asking this question in a new way is that graduates who worked in the library during their degree program seem to benefit, since they also account for the largest portion of full-time placements after graduation. Another indication that gaining library work experience may be beneficial for attaining a placement after graduation is that among unemployed graduates, more than a third had no library work experience. However, library work experience does not appear as important among those who gained placements outside the LIS field, since more than half of these graduates did not work in a library before or during their graduate studies.

This year, about a quarter of the graduates held an advanced degree before they started their LIS masters program, which is similar to 2017 but below the uptick we saw last year. The7 percent dual-enrolled in another graduate or certificate program—such as a JD, PhD, or second masters—while they were working on their LIS degree exhibited a similar pattern, closely matching 2017.


Graduates earned their degrees through many different delivery options. Online programs continue to be highly utilized. More than half (55 percent) completed their degree via fully online instruction, which was somewhat less than last year (59 percent), but still substantially higher than 2017’s 49 percent. More than a third (35 percent) of graduates learned through a mix of online and on-site courses. Fully on-site instruction accounted for about 10 percent of graduates’ experience.

Graduates shared the LISmasters program experiences or activities that they found most helpful when seeking job placement. The top four were unchanged from last year; gaining internship/practicum/field experience (57 percent), and technology skills (e.g., database searching, HTML coding, or other Internet-oriented skills) (48 percent) accounted for the top two positions. The next two experiences were both identified by 41 percent of graduates as being the most helpful or important; subject specialization knowledge (such as cataloging or reference) and networking with professionals working in their area of interest.

Graduates were asked whether they had participated in internships during their time as a LIS student. Most (60 percent) reported participating in one or more internships as an LIS student. Nearly a quarter completed two or more internships.

We also asked what the programs required beyond coursework. Creating an e-portfolio (47 percent) and completing an internship (37 percent) were the most common; completing a formal project (20 percent) and taking a comprehensive exam (16 percent) were also mentioned.


This was the second year that graduates were asked about their access to and evaluation of soft skills training through their LIS graduate programs. Soft skills help a person interact more effectively with other people, augmenting hard skills such as disciplinary knowledge and learned skills directly related to accomplishing work duties. Employees with soft skills are often more successful in the workplace. The survey focused on six soft skills: conflict resolution, cultural competency, customer service, design thinking, ethics, and leadership.

Similar to last year, graduates noted that their LIS programs provided opportunities to learn about five of these soft skills, and levels were higher across the board: ethics (96 percent), cultural competency (83 percent), leadership (82 percent), customer service (80 percent), and design thinking (75 percent). Customer services saw the greatest increase in availability. Opportunities to learn about conflict resolution were less common than last year, dropping from nearly half to only 44 percent.

Graduates who had access to learning about each soft skill tended to rate these skills as useful at similar levels to last year: ethics (86 percent), cultural competency (76 percent), and leadership (75 percent). There was less—but still a reasonable level of—enthusiasm for customer service (67 percent) and design thinking (62 percent). There was much less enthusiasm for what they learned about conflict resolution which, at 38 percent, was even lower than last year.


Graduates who did not return to a previous employer or a position they previously held were asked about their job search approach and experiences. On average, graduates began their job search about 5.5 months before graduation. Mirroring last year, 30 percent of job searches were initiated four to six months before graduation. Searches began one to three months before program completion for 23 percent. Similar to 2018, 13 percent began the search a year or more before graduation. Only 13 percent waited to graduate before beginning their search.

Forty-six percent of job-seekers secured their new professional position before they graduated. For those who didn’t find their position before graduation, there was an average of 4.2 months past graduation before placement. Just under a third of these job seekers took six months or more to find a job. These measures exhibit a slight trend, suggesting that job-seekers found jobs more quickly than they did last year.

Among all graduates employed full-time (whether with a previous or new employer) only 26 percent relocated to take their position.

Each graduate was asked to list up to three resources they found helpful during job-seeking. The responses represented general employment sites (i.e. Indeed, Linked In), trusted partners (ALA job list), and other organizations’ resources including professional associations (i.e. SAA), local, state and federal (i.e. government job websites, university job sites and listservs, and

The top five resources were (31 percent), ALA JobList (25 percent), campus job boards/online discussion lists (19 percent), LinkedIn (17 percent) and city/state/regional websites (12 percent). The next five resources were association job boards (11 percent), Archive Gig (10 percent), institution/employer websites (8 percent), HigherEd Jobs (8 percent) and, tied for 10th place, networking/networking events and word of mouth.

This rank order was very similar for those who were employed in a library science institution. Indeed and LinkedIn were much more important resources for those who were employed outside the LIS field and somewhat more important for those doing library work outside of a library.


The specific support each LIS program offers for graduates as they build their career path varies by school, but common features include providing information about available positions and resources for conducting an effective job search. More than a quarter of the schools offer formal mentoring programs that range from pairing alumni professionals with students, to career advising staff, to semester long extra-curricular programs that help students learn about completing job applications, the interview process, and building personal networks.

On average, each school made students aware of 401 job opportunities in the last year. The most prevalent tool LIS schools use to help students become aware of job opportunities is through listserv announcements (92 percent). Half the schools also use social media. Other strategies are posting announcements on bulletin boards or in student areas and through student groups or other student activities (both 47 percent). In a decrease from last year, only 22 percent of the schools indicated that they have a formal placement service or center. Other specific strategies they use include career programming, career fairs, career support groups, university career resources, and highlighting external resources such as the ALA Joblist and Handshake. Overall, LIS schools felt that the time it took to help with placements was the same as last year, and that they did not change their use of resources.

Compared to previous years, LIS schools report that some of the job positions available were new types of positions or job titles. Particular titles they cited included head of metadata and discovery, reproducibility librarian, research metrics librarian, bioinformationist, social media librarian, data science librarian, user experience specialist, and scholarly communication for research infrastructure.


We asked the LIS schools how they expected the pandemic to affect their ability to support their 2020 graduates’ job search. Half the schools expect there to be effects, including needing to spend additional time supporting new graduates in Spring 2020, as well as those who graduated in December 2019; helping graduates with searches during hiring freezes that are happening throughout the industry; extending career support for an extra year beyond the normal time frame; shifting to more virtual career support, increased focus on internship opportunities; and increasing mentor programs. As employers are forced to re-imagine their businesses and institutions, schools must help graduates find creative ways to envision their career goals and their preferred work environment.

Suzie Allard ( is Professor of Information Sciences and Associate Dean of Research, University of Tennessee College of Communication & Information, Knoxville, and winner of the 2013 LJ Teaching Award.

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