Understanding employment in the librarian sector

Understanding employment in the librarian sector

Librarian, by Joachim S. Müller

If you’re a librarian, you’re somewhat curious about the broad picture of our profession: How many librarians are there? Where do they work? Which sectors are growing? How will the job market change over time?

For broad-scale questions, it’s helpful to analyze broad data. A few months ago, a friend suggested that I take a look at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2013 data on employment. You can find this immense Excel file here: just select “All Data” and “XLS” to download. It’s around 75MB and 450,000 rows long, so prepare yourself: if you haven’t yet learned filters and pivot tables in Excel, stop right now and read the short CIJ handbook on data journalism here — it’s an easy and effective introduction to simple data manipulation in Excel.

How Many Librarians are in each State? 

The BLS categorizes American librarians as:

Naturally, more populated American states have more library folk: California has 28,000; New York has 26,000; Texas has 20,500; Illinois has 18,500; and Ohio has 18,300. And also quite sensibly, small or dispersed-population stands have under 1000 librarians and assistants, including North Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii, Delaware, and Montana. (I’d love to analyze librarian:population ratios and plot them on a map, but I haven’t gotten that far; if you can do that with BLS and Census data, please consider writing a post for us!)

The top five states for total library staff in 2013 are below:

Top States for # of Librarians California NY Texas Illinois Ohio






Library Assistants






Library Science Teachers






Library Technicians






Grand Total






Note that California and Ohio have a 2::1 ratio of assistants::librarians, while New York, Texas, and Illinois all have a 1::1 ratio. To me, this suggests a high number of unskilled positions relative to the number of skilled positions.

New MLS Placement Rates compared to Total Librarians

It’s interesting, then, to contrast the 2013 placement rates for newly minted MLS librarians with the total number of employed librarians. You can find placement data here. Although only 80% of library schools responded to the Library Journal, the ones who did reported graduating over 6100 librarians in 2013. Roughly matching program location and librarians within a state, I find:

  • California: 600 graduates seeking to enter a workforce of 9200 established librarians (SJSU, UCLA). The yearly graduate numbers are high, but SJSU’s program includes many online/out of state folks.
  • New York: 400 grads to 11,000 existing librarians (CUNY).
  • Texas: 800 graduates to 10,000 librarians (UNT, UT Austin, TWU).
  • Illinois: 300 graduates to 6500 existing librarians (UIUC).
  • Ohio: 230 graduates to 5770 existing librarians (Kent State).

Of the 6100 MLS graduates in 2013, all of 1500 found library placements. According to the Library Journal, these were in the following subfields:


This generally matches official data from prior years. It suggests about a 1::22 ratio, where every year we add one more MLS graduate to a workforce of 22 employed librarians (6100:: 136500). That’s a 4% increase in supply each year, which may not be matched by demand… and hence there’s a falloff of people out of the labor market each year as a proportion of graduates are not placed.

Salaries of New and Established Librarians

While we’re at it, I’ll throw in a chart of librarian salaries, by state and role. The Library Journal has some stats, critiqued by the Annoyed Librarian. But the char below is directly from the 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics data on all librarians:

Statistics on Librarian Salary, by State and Role

This is a rough sketch, and Library Journal has years and years of data and thoughtful blog posts about it on their website, so please check out their great numeric data.

Update in November 2014: When I wrote this, I wanted more subjective data: full vs. part-time placements, percent in debt when they graduate, and results five or ten years out. I’ve actually got a lot of that data now, due to a recent survey of almost 400 young MLS graduates on Facebook, so do check out the link for more!


  1. Pingback: Results from the Facebook Survey of Recent MLS Grads 2014 – The Dumpling Cart

  2. Pingback: Should I Go to Library School? – The Dumpling Cart

  3. Pingback: Why talking about librarian pay doesn’t help us get better salaries – Paper Humans

Thoughts? Leave a note here!