Public Library Association (PLA) Releases First “Public Library Staffing and Diversity Survey Report”

Of Public Library Announcement:

The Public Libraries Association (PLA) today released the 2021 Public Library Staff and Diversity Survey Report. National survey updates salary information for entry-level librarians and library managers; documents traditional and emerging staff roles; explores workforce diversity, recruitment and retention efforts; and captures information about public library equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) goals and activities. The survey is the second in a rolling series of three national surveys exploring the roles, services and resources of public libraries to provide actionable data for decision-making and advocacy.

Key findings include:

  • Virtually all public libraries (95%) report engaging in at least one type of EDI activity. More than a quarter (27%) of public libraries have formal EDI plans, and 25% report having dedicated EDI staff roles.
  • “Traditional” library staff roles, such as youth and adult services, are the most common, but the prevalence of roles that incorporate social media and digital outreach (74%), workforce development and small business (18%) and social work (8%) illustrate a growing range of programs and services in public libraries.
  • In 2021, the median annual salary for a reported public library manager was $79,022 and the median annual salary for an entry-level librarian was $41,864. Considered with historical salary data from the PLA, salaries for entry-level librarians have been virtually flat, and salaries for library managers have not recovered to pre-Great Recession levels.
  • More than a quarter (27%) of all public libraries report losing staff positions in the past 12 months. Urban (32.7%) and suburban (33.2%) libraries were slightly more likely to have lost positions than urban/rural libraries (21.1%).
  • The demographics of library industry staff do not mirror that of the US population. However, not all libraries or local governments collect data on staff representation, and not all libraries were able to report it accurately. About 92% of libraries report using at least one strategy to hire staff from underrepresented groups.

“Equity, diversity and inclusion are priorities for me as PLA President and for PLA and ALA as organizations,” said PLA President Maria McCauley. “This new data provides an important baseline and information that public libraries can apply to recruit, develop and retain the staff who provide our essential services to all in our diverse communities. We cannot measure progress towards our goals without understanding where we are today.

The report includes not only a summary of the data collected, but also suggestions for possible starting points for action and additional resources that libraries might find useful, such as the new Cultural Competency for Racial Equity: A Framework and the Advocacy for Better Wages Toolkit.

PLA invited all U.S. public library administrative entities to complete the survey in Fall/Winter 2021. A total of 773 libraries completed the survey, representing a response rate of 8.4%. Survey results were weighted to account for differences between responding libraries and the universe of all US public libraries.

Read more about the survey results in a free webinar October 4. Public libraries can freely access their own responses and contribute to future PLA surveys via the Reference Platform. To read the full 2021 report and explore other PLA data resources, please visit


Direct to full text: 2021 Public Library Staff and Diversity Survey Report
46 pages; PDF.

Filed under: Associations and organizations, Data files, Libraries, News, Public libraries

About Gary Price

Gary Price ([email protected]) is a librarian, writer, consultant and frequent speaker based in the Washington DC metro area. He received his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards, including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program Alumnus of the Year. From 2006 to 2009, he was Director of Online Information Services at Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy that supports enterprise product and business model teams with just-in-time fact finding and insight.

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