Document 17: Janice Feye-Stukas and Janice Kirkland, "Do Libraries Pay Fair?" Library Journal 115, no 12 (July 1, 1990), pp. 36-39


   This article discussed the work of the ALA Pay Equity Committee which was created in 1984 as a temporary body and then made permanent in 1989. The article cited cases in states where pay equity issues in libraries had been challenged and compensation was increased. The authors argued that gathering data to protest pay inequity was time consuming, but once the data had been collected cases were much more easily argued and won. The article tied the issue of lower salaries for women to the female domination of librarianship: "As the percentage of women in the field has increased, the salaries have not." The authors even defined pay equity as "a policy that seeks to eliminate sex and race bias from the wage setting process." While not specifically mentioning the Feminist Task Force or the Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship, such groups as the Pay Equity Committee probably would never have come into existence without the efforts of FTF and COSWL.

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Salary discrimination won't go away by itself

Do Libraries
Pay Fair?

By Janice Feye-Stukas & Janice Kirkland with Margaret Myers

    "EXPERIENCE has taught me," wrote Melvil Dewey in 1886, "why the fairest employers, in simple justice, usually pay men more for what seems at first sight the same work."

This attitude from a library pioneer was typical of the 19th century, a time when it was taken for granted that women should work for less money than did men. Although the 21st century is now only a few years away, those working in professions where women outnumber men are still working for less money than people in professions where men outnumber women.

    In 1876, four out of five librarians were men; since about 1930 the reverse ratio has held steady. Now, only one librarian in five is male. As the percentage of women in the field has increased, the salaries have not; they have risen more slowly than, and stayed below, salaries in comparable, predominately male professions.

    The American Library Association has long been concerned with this situation. In 1984 ALA appointed a temporary Commission on Pay Equity; after several years of effort a permanent body to carry on the work of investigating and publicizing the issue of inequitable compensation was established. The new permanent body is the present Committee on Pay Equity.

    The 11 members of the Pay Equity Committee, both women and men, are charged with promoting visibility and awareness of the pay equity issue in libraries and with serving as an informational resource. They are also to "provide advisory support for pay equity litigation cases involving library workers."

The committee's activities include a book, Pay Equity: An Action Manual for Library Workers by Carolyn Kenady (Professional Reading, LJ, October 1, 1989, p. 123), distribution of sample pay equity policy language, and programs and poster sessions at many conferences.

What is pay equity?

    Pay equity is defined in Kenady's text as follows:

    Pay equity is a policy that seeks to eliminate sex and race bias from the wage-setting process.

    The goal of all of this work is to stimulate those working in libraries (the charge was expanded in 1987 to include library workers as well as librarians) to the need for local pay equity campaigns. In the process of stimulating others, the committee members have learned a great deal:

    • Pay equity is achievable; there are precedents, cases that have been won, to show that this is so. Other cases have ended in compromise but have achieved a recognition of the pay equity concept and their initial implementation will make it easier to go back later.

    • There are several proven methods for achieving equity, and these can be learned. The methods are not complicated: in fact, they are simple, reasonable, and straightforward. They are usually based on job evaluation.

    • Salary discrimination won't go away by itself; librarians and support staff, library administrators, and boards must plan and implement campaigns to raise salaries. The more who are involved, the more effective the effort can be.

It works in Minnesota

    Let's consider cases of libraries in which staffs have obtained equitable pay. The state of Minnesota provides one useful example: in 1980 the state passed legislation to eliminate sex bias in state employees' salaries. It was determined in a study that job classes filled mainly by women were paid significantly less

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than comparably valued job ciasses filled mainly by men. Most library positions in state government were filled by women, so librarians and library staff received pay equity increases along with other underpaid Minnesota stale employees.

    Finding that these equity corrections required only about four percent of the state's annual payroll to implement, the Minnesota legislature decided to extend the effort. In 1984, the state passed the Local Government Pay Equity Act that required all cities, counties, school districts, etc., to conduct job evaluation studies and identify job classes by gender, then document inequities and plan adjustments where necessary.

    In 1988, the Minnesota Office of Library Development studied the first 67 of these reports to see how library employees under local governments had been affected by the act. They found that "female-dominated library jobs across the board were inadequately compensated in relation to comparably valued male-dominated jobs within the same jurisdiction," with inequities ranging from ten percent to more than 200 percent. The process of correcting inequities in Minnesota continues.

More than California dreaming

    In the California State University system, librarians were placed on the same salary schedule as teaching faculty in 1984; this was achieved

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through collective bargaining, by including librarians in the faculty bargaining unit so that they shared the benefits of the faculty contract.

    However, CSU librarians, unlike their teaching colleagues, are still required to work a 40-hour week without the flexibility to pursue research and publication. The CSU experience provides a reminder that once salary equity is achieved, there may still be questions of fringe benefits and comparative responsibilities to be resolved.

Not quite made in Vermont

    The city of Burlington, Vt. found bias errors in the results of its first pay equity study in 1983; these errors left women workers, including library workers, dissatisfied. The structuring of the questions for such a pay equity study is most important. As poll takers know, the kind of answer you get often depends on how the question is phrased. Burlington required a second study in 1986 to correct the skewed evaluations of the first study. This is a good example of the importance of monitoring every phase of a pay equity campaign. It is not advisable to launch a campaign and assume that it will proceed on a straight track by itself, without continuing efforts by the affected employees.

How did they do it?

    The key to most pay equity campaigns lies in job analysis or evaluation, which provides the basic ammunition for all efforts at comparison between library salaries and salaries in better-paid fields, it takes only a few committed individuals to begin the process. Once they have comparative data, they can use it through whatever channel is potentially most effective: the library administration, the union, the local governing board, the state legislature. In approaching library administrators, it helps to remember that they also are part of a generally underpaid profession. Most administrators are fully conscious of pay disparities at their own level as well as at the levels of those they supervise.

    Helen Josephine of Arizona State University, Tempe has estimated that of the three strategies for achieving pay equity--litigation, legislation, and negotiation--the first is slow and the second and third offer better chances of success. She recommends a six-step action method:

    1. gather data;

    2. do a job analysis by assigning point values to each job (described in the "Job evaluation" chapter in Kenady);

    3. find current salary data;

    4. compare male- and female-dominated jobs by points:

    5. calculate salary trend lines; and

    6. estimate adjustments needed for pay equity.

    Helen Lewis of the University of Connecticut stresses that in doing a job analysis, the same factors--such as skill, responsibility, and educational requirements--must be used to evaluate all jobs, and the factors must be based on accurate job descriptions.

Starting a pay equity campaign

    No librarians or library workers in an unexamined employment situation, where there has been no effort made toward achieving pay equity, need to be told that they are underpaid. That is painfully apparent with each perusal of a checkbook or bank statement. What they need to hear is that they can do something about it, and they can. The ALA Committee on Pay Equity is exploring avenues for training in pay equity techniques, possibly including a series of regional workshops on how to start a local campaign.

    Many librarians will argue that there are higher values in life than the value conferred by the cash price of a commodity in the marketplace. While this is certainly true, it is also true that the energy we spend convincing ourselves that money doesn't matter is energy that could be expended working for those higher values.

    Those who staff the nation's libraries are the guardians of its cultural heritage; this is no small task. When a nation underpays those guardians, what value is it placing upon that heritage? The purpose of libraries, as stated in the ALA's mission statement, is "to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all."

What value is implied for learning and access to information, when persons charged with enhancing the former and ensuring the latter are penalized by continual financial sacrifice because they choose to carry these responsibilities?

    The major satisfaction to be derived from the achievement of pay equity is not primarily one of compensation, and not primarily one of fair remuneration for both sexes, as vital as those are. The major satisfaction in achieving pay equity in libraries is in seeing that the society recognizes and values the work we do.


    Janice Feye-Stukas, Library Consultant. Library Development and Services, Minnesota State Library Agency, is immediate past chair of the American Library Association Pay Equity Committee; Janice Kirkland, Librarian-Coordinator of Bibliographic Control, California State University. Bakersfield, is a committee member; Margaret Myers, Director. Office of Library Personnel Resources, is ALA staff liaison for the committee. Maurice J. Freedman, Director, Westchester Library System, New York, is current chair of the committee

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"‘To every obstacle oppose patience, perseverance, and soothing language’"

Countering the Critics

    IT WOULD BE unrealistic to believe that equity can be achieved easily and smoothly; it would be a rare and fortunate campaign indeed where this was the case. Ordinarily, those planning a pay equity effort should be prepared to encounter delay and indecision, conflict and compromise, in varying degrees at various stages of the process. Some common criticisms they may hear are given below.

The "Let 'Em Be Plumbers" Argument, or why don't women take men's jobs instead of asking for pay equity? Leaving aside the fact that most women librarians joined the profession because of a preference for books over pipewrenches, and that changing fields requires expensive retraining, there are other objections to such a suggestion. There are few openings in many of the highly paid male fields, so that a transition process would go very slowly. If some women took men's jobs, some men would have to take women's jobs, and how many men would want to retrain to take lower-paying positions?

The Market Wage Argument, or wages are higher where there is a shortage of workers and lower where there is a surplus, so pay inequities are normal. This argument is flawed for a number of reasons. Wages rarely go down because there are too many applicants; a large percentage of vacancies are filled from within the organization rather than on the open marketplace; shortages in women's fields usually have little effect on raising pay. There are current shortages in cataloging and children's services but salaries are not rising significantly in those areas.

The "Get Off My Coattails" Argument, or we worked hard for what we have. Some largely male blue-collar unions spent many years of struggle, strike, and confrontation for the high wages they enjoy, and now feel that pink-collar groups such as library workers want the same thing easily through pay equity. The truth is that even where men have not been unionized, their wages have historically been and still are higher than women's, so their higher remuneration is not simply a matter of effort.

    A second fear is that pay equity efforts will freeze or reduce men's wages so women can catch up. Any pay equity program should state at the outset that the male wage is the chosen standard and will not be negatively affected, while the female wage is the discriminatory wage that will be raised by the use of a separately allocated amount of money.

The Job Evaluations Are Faulty Argument, or pay equity studies are invalid because job evaluations in different states produce different rankings for jobs with similar titles. Actually, findings have shown that regardless of the job evaluation method used, rankings for similar jobs are surprisingly similar. This is in spite of the fact that studies may differ in everything from the composition of the evaluation team to definitions and values of job characteristics. There is no need for evaluations to be identical, however, and they would be less credible if they were, since librarians in one state do not have jobs identical with those of librarians in another state.

The DOOMSDAY Argument, or pay equity will destroy the economy. This threat is often used in one form or another about many programs for social reform. Actually, pay equity is reasonably economical --the State of Minnesota program averages only two to four percent of the annual payroll--and brings benefits on which it is difficult to put a high enough price. Who can assess the increased job satisfaction of those equitably paid for the first time, or evaluate the link between job satisfaction and productivity?

Other obstacles. Among the snags that a pay equity program may hit, the following are only a few examples: library administrators may be in sympathy with the effort but ambivalent about actively supporting it because of knowledge that higher administration will not like it. A governing board may offer with one hand and take away with the other, e.g., by saving money in unguaranteed benefits equal to the raises actually paid. A partial agreement may raise the pay of far fewer librarians or library workers than the original organizers had hoped would be the case. One tactic to use when faced by such roadblocks is to point out that the longer wage-based discrimination goes unresolved, the more expensive it will be to eliminate in the future.

    The long-term results of a pay equity campaign will be worth the effort of overcoming the obstacles. What after all could equal the joy of librarians in a Canadian publishing house who learned recently that they have been elevated to the pay level of the company's truck loaders as a result of numerically evaluating job-specific attributes? It is only fair to note at the same time that librarians employed by the Province of Ontario were rated as equal to engineers and received a sizable increase in pay (Wall Street Journal, March 9, 1990, quoted in Library Hotline, April 2, 1990).

    Librarians and library workers now striving for pay equity may find it helpful to consider the advice of Thomas Jefferson in a letter to William Short, March 18, 1792: "to every obstacle oppose patience, perseverance, and soothing language."

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