A national study of library workers has highlighted the ongoing gender pay gap in a sector dominated by "low" ethnic, gender and age diversity.
The report undertaken by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) (ARA) has revealed that despite having a predominately female workforce at 78.1%, male library and information workers typically earn more than women, and are nearly twice as likely to occupy senior management roles than their female counterparts. Of those working more than 22 hours a week and earning £30,000 or more annually, 47% are men and 37.3% women.
The workforce also has lower ethnic diversity than the national UK Labour Force Survey average statistic, with 96.7% of workers identifying as "white", almost 10% above the national workforce average. The sector has an ageing pool of workers, with the highest proportion (at 55.3%), in the 45-to-55 age band.
“On the positive side, we have an expertly-skilled and highly educated workforce," Nick Poole, CILIP c.e.o., said. "Of greater concern are the significant gaps in pay equality and diversity which the results have highlighted. As the professional body for library and information workers, CILIP is calling for a National Library and Information Skills Strategy which will enable us to attract high-quality talent from diverse backgrounds into the profession and to work with employers to create knowledge-based jobs and opportunities to support their future growth”.
John Chambers, chief executive of ARA, said: “The results show that we have much to do to get our own house in order – not least on diversity and gender disparities. But it also shows that many highly-qualified people working in archives, records and information management are not well paid."
He added: “This survey shows, self-evidently, that [the government] should be doing more to ensure that the sector and its people get the investment and attention that is needed.”
Librarians and campaigners have argued that the disparities could be due to cuts reducing services and staff.
Ian Anstice, librarian and founder of Public Library News, told The Bookseller: “Part of the reason for the figures being skewed age-wise is that so few people have entered the library sector in the last few years. Why is simple: there have been very few vacancies as councils are shedding staff far more than they are taking them on. There may also be a secondary factor that those people starting out in life looking for a career are being put off by the bad news about library cuts and look for another job which they perceive as having a stronger future. The shame of this is manifold: working in public libraries is a fantastic thing to do, helping people and very varied."
Laura Swaffield, chair of the Library Campaign, agreed that cuts have affected staff entering the profession. She said: “This problem has been highlighted for decades. It's a shame in itself, and a shame because a wider range of staff would help a wider range of people feel at home in libraries. Of course, just now it's hard to encourage anyone to enter public librarianship, with jobs being stupidly slashed everywhere."
Former Waterstones boss and library campaigner, Tim Coates, said: "This is a sad but truthful description of a work force that got left behind 25 years ago. The training is wrong; the recruitment is misguided; the leadership is absent; the imagination is missing and the management is terrible. In any other walk of life no one would buy what they do - but because they can hoist a halo called 'librarians in public service' they still survive with miserable cuts to their funding from the public purse."
Library campaigner, Desmond Clarke, added: “These results are very worrying both in terms of the equality and diversity of the professional workforce but also that the pool of professional managers is ageing. Not mentioned is that there are even library authorities with no professionally qualified staff at all. This supports the decision of the Taskforce to give priority to workforce development.”
The survey received 10,623 responses across the public, private and voluntary sectors of the library, information and knowledge management sector and the organisers have said it is the “most robust and comprehensive of its kind ever undertaken in the UK, and possibly globally."