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Following the money in libraries

December 9, 2010

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About a year ago,  I heard a startling piece of information at the annual meeting of the Saxon Library Assocation (a state-level organization) in Leipzig. Public libraries in Saxony (Sachsen) spend around 10% of their budget on materials, and what I thought was an outrageous 67% on staffing. Saxony’s percentage is low for Germany, but most states hit around 12-13%. Equally bad, I thought. At the time, I made a mental (and thankfully, digital) note to look up numbers for the U.S. and write something about what felt like a revelation.
Finally finding a moment to do this and scratch it off my list, I was surprised to discover that numbers for U.S. public libraries look much the same. Per the 2008 IMLS statistics for public libraries, the average numbers for the U.S. are about 66% for staff and 13% for collections.

As an academic librarian, this makes my eyes pop out of my head. The 2008 ARL statistics show numbers that seem familiar to me: around 43% of the average budget of a research library goes toward materials, while 44% goes toward staffing.

As I wrap my brain around this, however, it starts to make sense. Public libraries are financially starved in most municipalities, while academic libraries are relatively well supported by most universities. Also, public libraries run more programming and fulfill other community roles that academic libraries can ignore.

Still, that only one in eight dollars goes toward collections seems too low. Would love to hear comments from those who know the history and present state of this issue better.

  1. Gerd Hacker permalink
    December 18, 2010 18:14

    Hi Dale! If you want to get a short impression of the development in Germany’s public and academic libraries in the last decade, you can look up the data of the “Dokumentenarchiv” of the Deutsche Bibliotheksstatistik (DBS) that can show the big differences between academic libraries – with a percentage of about 25 % of the complete budgets (including staff and any other costs!) that are used for acquisition – and little more than 10 % for new acquisitions in public libraries seem quite stable during the last ten years. ( )
    Some reasons for that differences, which are not so big as in the U.S. (40% vs. 13%), should be seen in the higher percentage of qualified library staff (professional libarians) in German libraries (about 70% in public libraries, some 80% I would presume in bigger academic libaries) compared with the U.S. practice of using nearly equal quantities of professionals, semi-professionals and non-professionals. The staffing costs should therefore be higher in Germany than in the US.
    In the last ten years the staffing costs in German academic AND in public libaries are slowly growing, even if the number of staff is declining in public and nearly constant in academic libraries. But this is a quite “slow” development – remember: “Öffentlicher Dienst” 😉
    The funding of new acquisitions is much more “volatile” compared with the staffing costs, and in the case of public libraries often used as “Einsparposten”. The funding of collection development is obviously declining in public libaries during the last decade, at least it’s percentage of the whole budgets. BUT: We have quite stable average prices for new books and media in the market segment, which is of interest for public library collection development. Last year this average price was about 17,50 Euro. If you compare this with the average prices of academic journals and monographs, e-journals and e-books you will find the big difference between this market segments…
    Last but not least you shouldn’t forget that a relatively high percentage of acquisitions in German university libraries is not bought for money, but acquired as “presents”. There are examples (UB Leipzig, SLUB Dresden …) for “present-rates” of 30 to 40 % Of course to organize this high quantity of “erbetene Geschenke” costs a lot of time of high qualified staff in the departments of “Erwerbung” and “Bestandsaufbau”.
    So far for this time…
    Leipziger Weihnachtsgrüße

    • Dale permalink*
      December 20, 2010 10:39

      Hi Gerd – Many thanks for the detailed and useful comment, which I will file under the category of “comments better and more substantive than my original post.” A colleague of mine here in Kansas is fond of saying that data tells stories, and that if one fixates too narrowly on a given number or metric, it blinds one to the broader story and context. This is certainly an example of when this pertains.

      One area where further research would be interesting concerns the staffing mix to which you allude. You are of course correct that German libraries use a higher percentage of professional librarians, but that is also due, as you know, to the structure of the profession in Germany and the existence of a class of librarians who hold only bachelor/diplom degrees. Libraries in the US and Germany, taken on the whole, produce work of broadly similar quality and type, so who does what concrete tasks and for how much money would be an interesting question to explore.

      Another interesting facet for me would be average salary. As we have discussed in the past, salaries for professional librarians are much higher in the US on the whole than they are in Germany, which would seem to indicate that our staffing costs should be higher, or at least that the higher average salary would offset our lower percentage of professional staff. A line librarian in the US earns as much as (or more than) a library administrator in Germany, and our administrators earn salaries that a librarian in Germany will never see. Even at smaller academic institutions, directors routinely earn $130-150K.

      I see a dissertation topic here, or at least a solid round of Diplom or Bachelor theses.

  2. Gerd Hacker permalink
    December 20, 2010 15:03

    Sorry for answering your comment in German, Dale! Today I am too tired to translate my analysis of library statistics into bad English… Well…

    Wenn man sich die Deutsche Bibliotheksstatistik genauer ansieht, kann man feststellen, daß in deutschen ÖBs 2009 insgesamt 878,1 Mio. Euro ausgegeben wurden, davon (wie unten in der Tabelle zu sehen) 516,4 Mio. Euro für Personal und nur 97,4 Mio. Euro für Erwerbungen. Die Prozentsätze ähneln den amerikanischen offenbar schon.

    In WBs wurden dagegen insgesamt 834,5 Mio. Euro ausgegeben, davon (wie unten in der Tabelle zu sehen) 484,9 Mio. Euro für Personal und 301 Mio. Euro für Erwerbungen. Das Verhältnis von Personal- zu Erwerbungsausgaben ist also nicht ganz so unausgeglichen wie bei den ÖBs, die aber dafür offenkundig deutlich höhere „sonstige“ Kosten (v.a. bestimmt für Gebäudekosten, Miete etc.) in ihrer Etatplanung haben als die WBs, die ja oft als Teil einer Universität nur für den Gebäudebetrieb aufkommen müssen, nicht so oft für Mieten!

    (Eine Tabelle als Bild krieg ich hier nicht eingefügt, leider… Deshalb also als Liste!)
    ÖB / 2009:
    Gesamtzahl Stellen: 11.385
    davon Stellen für Fachpersonal: 7.497 (= 66%)
    Gesamtkosten Personal: 516,4 Mio. Euro
    Durchschnittliches Jahresgehalt pro Vollzeitstelle: 47.993 Euro
    Zum Vergleich: Gesamtkosten für Erwerbung: 97,4 Mio. Euro

    WB / 2009:
    Gesamtzahl Stellen: 11.844
    davon Stellen für Fachpersonal: keine Angabe
    Gesamtkosten Personal: 484,9* Mio. Euro
    Durchschnittliches Jahresgehalt pro Vollzeitstelle: 40.945 Euro
    Zum Vergleich: Gesamtkosten für Erwerbung: 301,0 Mio. Euro

    ÖB / 2005:
    Gesamtzahl Stellen: 11.777
    davon Stellen für Fachpersonal: 6.690 (= 62%)
    Gesamtkosten Personal: 500,1 Mio. Euro
    Durchschnittliches Jahresgehalt pro Vollzeitstelle: 42.467 Euro
    Zum Vergleich: Gesamtkosten für Erwerbung: 88,9 Mio. Euro

    *Diese Zahl ist mit großem Vorbehalt zu genießen, da zahlreiche WBs hier keine Angaben machen. Von daher ist das Durchschnittsgehalt in der folgenden Spalte viel zu niedrig, da die Angaben zur Stellenzahl in der Regel gemacht werden…
    Wohl aus diesem Grund fehlen die Personalkosten als Gesamtangabe auch regelmäßig in der WB-Gesamtauswertung, während sie in der ÖB-Statistik jeweils gemacht werden.
    Interessanter ist da die Zusammensetzung des Personals nach den Laufbahnen:
    einfacher/mittlerer Dienst (Magaziner, Bibliotheksassistenen, FAMIs): 5.775 Stellen
    gehobener Dienst (Diplom-Bibliothekare): 4.618 Stellen
    höherer Dienst (wiss. Bibliothekare, Master LIS): 1.458 Stellen

    Ein FAMI mit der durchschnittlichen Entgeltgruppe E5 bekommt ca. 27.500 Euro Brutto-Jahresgehalt (netto bleiben: 17.650 Euro).
    Ein Diplom-Bibliothekar mit durchschnittlicher Entgeltgruppe E10 bekommt ca. 39.000 Euro Brutto-Jahresgehalt (netto bleiben: 22.807 Euro).
    Ein wiss. Bibliothekar mit durchschnittlicher Entgeltgruppe E14 bekommt ca. 48.200 Euro Brutto-Jahresgehalt (netto bleiben: 27.100 Euro).
    Dabei habe ich immer mit Stufe 3 der jeweiligen Entgeltgruppe gerechnet. Die bekommt man jeweils nach drei Berufsjahren auf der selben Stelle.

    Wenn ich diese sehr vagen Zahlen einmal zusammenbringe ergibt sich folgendes Bild:
    FAMI: 5.775 x 27.500 Euro = 158.812.500 Euro
    Dipl.-Bibl.: 4.618 x 39.000 Euro = 180.102.000 Euro
    Wiss.Bibl.: 1.458 x 48.200 Euro = 70.275.600 Euro
    Gerundet addiert komme ich damit auf geschätzte (Fach-)Personalkosten in Höhe von insgesamt:
    409,2 Millionen Euro pro Jahr
    Das ist zwar deutlich weniger als die oben in der Jahresstatistik genannten Gesamtkosten für Personal in WB (ca. 485 Mio. Euro), doch arbeiten natürlich auch gerade in UBs eine Menge Studentischer Hilfskräfte und sonstiges Personal, so daß der von mir nur grob geschätzte Betrag relativ realitätsnah zu sein scheint.
    Andererseits habe ich keine Erklärung für den insgesamt deutliche höheren Durchschnittswert in der ÖB-Statistik, der immerhin rund 7.000 Euro mehr Jahreseinkommen bedeuten würde. Erfahrungsgemäß arbeiten aber in ÖBs deutlich weniger Bibliothekare im höheren Dienst, der Anteil von FAMIs ist noch höher als in WBs… Das wären wirklich Fragen und Probleme für eine Diss. oder doch auch nur für eine Bachelor-Arbeit!

    Wenn Du Zeit findest, Dale, kannst Du Dich ja mal mit dem Durchschnittseinkommen amerikanischer Bibliotheksangestellte beschäftigen. Gibt das die amerikanische Statistik her?


    • Dale permalink*
      December 21, 2010 13:37

      No worries, Gerd. I can understand your desire to write in German, but I do have to say that your previous comment in English was fabulously well written. I’m responding in English since it makes it more accessible to others. Well, and I’m a bit lazy today.

      I did some quick searching–a pressing project and the approach of Christmas limit my time–to find some numbers on salary. I suspect that the methodological irregularities in the German data to which you allude are all the worse in the American data, not least because the data pool is much larger and we tend toward chaos and iconoclasm in all things. For academic libraries, there are two data sources on salaries, ACRL and ARL. ACRL gathers its data in cooperation with College and University Professional Association for Human Resources and publishes an annual set of statistics. For 2008-2009, the Administrative Compensation Survey shows that academic library directors earn on average $133,000, associate directors $94,000, and various department heads from $61,000 to $76,000 depending on activity managed. The Mid-Level Salary Survey Report shows librarians earning on average from $38,000 (a starting cataloger) to $58,000 (systems librarian), with most jobs clustered in the low- to mid-$50K range.

      What perhaps makes these numbers impossible to compare with the German numbers is the sample size of 1,329 institutions. Given the differences in academic structure between the US and Germany, I would estimate that there are only about 400-500 US libraries that would fall into the category of wissenschaftliche Bibliothek in Germany. The rest are liberal arts colleges, community colleges, etc., where salaries are–with some notable exceptions–notoriously lower than in larger academic libraries. Sorting that out would indeed be the stuff of dissertations.

      The ARL statistics swing too far in the other direction. Since ARL only gathers data from 126 of the largest (and thus best funded) libraries, their salary survey lacks input from other institutions such as my current employer. Their most recent publicly available Salary Survey shows, among other things, that the median salary is $64,000. Additionally, 86% of directors earn in excess of $150,000, with 12% earning in excess of $250,000. There are many more analyses offered in the full report, but again, ARL is a subset of research libraries, and not indicative of the profession as a whole.

      What both the ACRL and ARL statistics cited here have in common is that these numbers are given only for professional staff.

      For public libraries, data is collected and analyzed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and published annually. The IMLS collects data for both professional and support staff positions. Their FY 2008 report shows that public libraries had a total FTE employment of 145,243.5, and spent 65.7% of their $10,724,925,000 in expenditures on salary. That works out to $48,514 per capita, but it surely does not tell the whole story. For one, in the US employer-provided benefits are not included in one’s salary figure, so if my salary is, say, $60,000, my employer likely has an outlay of around $80,000-90,000 by the time they have paid their portion of my Social Security, my health insurance premiums, contributed to my IRA or retirement plan, etc.

      Step one in any serious US/Germany salary comparison would be to ferret out the myriad differing details of compensation so that one could be sure that one is comparing apples with apples. Of course, in this regard, exchange rates are useless, since salaries are intended for domestic use and only have meaning relative to the cost-of-living index in a given country. Step two would be to normalize the data somehow, or to collect one’s own, so that the library and position types being compared make some sort of rough sense. For any library researcher adept with figures and with better knowledge than I of macroeconomics, it’s a topic for the taking.

      At the end of the day I think I can safely assert, based on the data we do have, that library directors in the US make a ton more than they do in Germany. In general, I think our salary scale covers a much greater spectrum than it does in Germany, with the top earners making far more than a Herr/Frau Direktor/in and our bottom earners making literally starvation wages. This reflects a general economic trend in the US, one of which I am no great fan.

  3. Gerd Hacker permalink
    December 21, 2010 16:35

    Thanks a lot, Dale, for your quick research, done during work for pressing projects and some minutes before Xmas-duties are going to overcome everyone of us…
    I think the money question we ‘ll have to follow after all that stuff is over and we find some time for it in 2011!
    Just a quick reply on top salaries in the few “very big” German academic libraries:
    The directors of the National Library, of the two Staatsbibliotheken in Berlin and Munich, and of some few very important State Libraries (for example the SLUB Dresden or the SuUB Hamburg) get some more Euros than most of the directors of ordinary university libaries. This large group of “ordinary directors” (Leitende Bibliotheksdirektoren) has all the same salary, which doesn’t depend on how old or big the library is. They are getting the group “A 16”, which means about 67.000 Euros a year (Brutto! So they have to pay for their health insurance and so on for themselves. After tax they earn (netto) about 54.000 Euros.
    The directors in Frankfurt (DNB), Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Hamburg get obviously more, because they have salary groups of the “B”-Scale (B 6, B 5 oder B 4). The best paid German librarian seems to be Mrs. Niggemann in Frankfurt (B 6), which means some 98.000 Euro (Brutto!), and about 74.000 Euros (netto) after taxes… Well, every German librarian in this kind of top positions should know English better than me, so he could climb the rest of the scale after having changed his German position for an ordinary ARL-Library-Position for professional immigrants.

  4. K.D. permalink
    July 12, 2012 15:33


    I am an American English teacher with a Masters in Student Development Administration- I was just offered a position as head librarian for a private International school in Stuttgart Germany. I would really appreciate some support navigating through appropriate contract expectations (in particular regarding salary). Please email me if you have a moment for a quick dialogue.

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