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Unions in Public and Academic Libraries
Encyclopedia of library and information sciences
  • Kathleen de la Peña McCook, University of South Florida
Document Type
Publication Date
  • Library Science,
  • Human Rights,
  • Academic Libraries,
  • Public Libraries,
  • Labor History and Studies,
  • and Teacher Unions and Education Politics
Unions contribute to a stable, productive workforce where workers have a say in improving their jobs. Librarians in public, academic and school libraries have organized in unions for better wages, working conditions and benefits. In 2006 taken as a whole, U.S. union library workers earned almost 21% more than their non-union counterparts. (1) A stratified sample of 3,418 public and academic libraries found the union advantage extends across all library sizes and types. Union membership varied by region from a high of 15.9% in the North Atlantic to a low of 1.9 % in the Southeast. This clearly demonstrates the power of unions to raise salaries in the predominantly female, underpaid library world. If wages and salaries are so much higher among unionized library workers, why is union membership overall, less than 20% of the workforce? There is no simple answer. The field is not monolithic. Academic librarians function in educational settings tied to the fortunes of their colleges or universities and usually when collective bargaining is in place to a faculty union. Public librarians work in the public sector in a variety of governmental structures city, county, district. The professional associations have not placed the betterment of library workers at the center of their agendas as have the American Federation of Teachers or the National Education Association, but have focused on the development of the institution. The largest association in the United States is the American Library Association, not the American Librarian Association. Nevertheless, many librarians have organized in unions or as part of larger unions. While these may not account for the majority of librarians, they do account for a large number and collective bargaining is an important aspect of the structure of the field’s human resource component.
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Citation Information
Kathleen de la Peña McCook. "Unions in Public and Academic Libraries" Encyclopedia of library and information sciences (2010)
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