Salary Transparency

Updated 03/2023

The MLS degree is a pretty poor return on investment. Although 73% of workers in the library science field hold an advanced degree, the average annual median wage for the field is a mere $50,000 (compared to the $81,848 median earnings by all master’s degree holders). According to the Colorado Public Library Annual Report, the 2021 average non-supervising librarian salary high was only $38,728. Before going into debt for this expensive piece of paper, I suggest trying to land a library job somewhere that offers tuition reimbursement, or seeking opportunities like ALA’s Spectrum Scholarship.

Colorado libraries (both school and public) are particularly notorious for tasking part-time library paraprofessionals with professional level work… and paying them less to do it. Wage transparency is one way we can hold employers in our field accountable – and it’s a legally protected activity in Colorado! Employers may not take adverse action against employees who discuss their wages with others. Employers are also prohibited from requiring that employees not disclose their wages. This protection extends to federal, state and local government employees.

Even with the many protections of Colorado’s wage transparency policies, it’s still usually up to individuals to advocate for themselves with the best information they can gather.

With that in mind, here is my salary history in public libraries.

Salary Summary

Current Salary: $27.59/hour; $57,400/year

Location: Colorado

Years of Library Experience: 7 (3.5 years at the professional level and 3.5 years at the paraprofessional level)

Salary History

Patron Experience Associate (Paraprofessional, PT)
Starting Salary: $18.00/hour
Denver Metro Area
I entered the field as a part-time paraprofessional while I pursued my MLS degree. I already held a Bachelor’s Degree in English/Elementary Education and had several years of classroom teaching experience. I had also worked through high school and undergrad and had cumulated five+ years of customer service experience in retail sales and retail banking. In addition, I brought a year’s worth of volunteer experience at my local library, where my duties ranged from shelving to outreach storytimes for local preschools.

My duties at this county library system consisted of many things the professional librarians did – storytimes (even outreach storytime visits), teaching computer classes, serving as the branch Person In Charge, etc. As far as I could tell, the only difference was that I was allowed less time to prepare for those things.

Storytime Specialist (Paraprofessional, PT)
Starting Salary: $19.00/hour
Denver Metro Area
We moved across the city and I transferred to a new independent library district, taking another part-time paraprofessional role while I completed my MLS.

I started off as a 20 hour employee. Despite the pay bump, I ended up making less money than at my first library job because part-time employees paid significantly more for benefits than full-timers. Fortunately I was soon promoted to full-time in…

Library Specialist Lead (Paraprofessional, FT)
Starting Salary: $20.50/hour
Denver Metro Area
I graduated with my degree and was promoted to a department lead in the beginning of 2018, but was strangely still in a paraprofessional pay grade, despite the department containing professional librarians. I had a wide range of duties including scheduling, a regular storytime, substituting for programs, managing the department volunteers and lots of project work. I received a stellar performance review rating and a 3.4% merit increase in 2019, thereby increasing my hourly salary to $21.20.

Youth and Family Services Librarian (Professional, FT)
Starting Salary: $23.50/hour; $48,880/year
Denver Metro Area
I became a titled librarian in 2019, moving to a third library system to do so. Because of my fall hire date, I was ineligible for a raise in 2020. After a hellish pandemic reorganization in which we had to re-apply for our jobs, I was offered my position once more at $24.85/hour in 2021. I received the standard 3% raise all employees received regardless of performance in 2022. When I left, my hourly wage was $25.60 or $53,250ish/year.

This library promised to pay my ALA/ALSC organizational dues but never did so. By the time I left, they weren’t paying for any non-supervisory staff professional memberships. At my initial time of hire, the library offered tuition reimbursement (with some length of service strings attached), but I hear this benefit has also gone away.

One nice thing about this system was the flat cost of benefits regardless of part-time or full-time status. After the reorganization, the library shifted towards replacing employee departures with non-benefited, variable hourly positions.

Youth Services Librarian (Professional, FT)
Starting Salary: $26.44/hour; $55,000/year
Denver Metro Area
I made a lateral move and returned to my second and favorite library system in 2022. Due to my start date, I received a prorated 4.36% merit increase in 2023, bumping my hourly salary up to $27.59 or $57,400ish/year.

This library system provides much more support for professional development and paid for my membership renewal right away. I’ve attended both out-of-state and in-state conferences on paid work time.

Speaking of professional development,  people in our field love to say that doing extra work (such as volunteering for professional committees) pays off. It is true that these activities help you make connections and grow as a professional, but in my experience, this extra work has never been considered during salary negotiations. In fact, I was specifically told by an HR department that they are not allowed to consider these additional professional activities when they determine salary offers. Just something to keep in mind when you consider how and where to invest your time and energy outside of your working hours!

I hope this information helps you in your library journey. Be sure to check out tools like Colorado’s Public Library Annual Report and the Interview Questions Repository from Hiring Librarians, too!