Librarians and Other Chicago Government Departmental Salaries

As aldermen Ed Burke and Brendan Reilly propose that CPL employees forego a scheduled raise to keep the libraries open six days a week, here’s a look at public library salaries in context.

Chicago Public Library


Via the Beachwood Reporter, it seems that Ed Burke and Brendan Reilly have asked the city’s librarians to forego a 3.5 percent raise in order to keep the libraries open six days a week, all part of the fight between City Hall and AFSCME, the union that represents library employees:

“We strongly urge you and your members to put on hold the pay raise for AFSCME library employees which, it should be noted, is one of the largest of any public employee pay raises,” they wrote.

It’s not too surprising that City Hall is looking to cut the library budget, since library systems around the country have been cut back during the recession—the NYPL recently fought off a proposed $40 million budget cut. But to put the salaries in context, I used current employee salaries from the city’s data portal to calculater the average and median salaries for each department. Part-time jobs are included, like library page, foster grandmother, and student interns, so the average salaries are lower for some departments than you might guess (the fire department, for example, has fewer low-paid employees than the police department, which has many $15k/year crossing guards under its payroll). The CPL, whose main employees are required to have a master’s, do in fact come in near the bottom (the average salary for the 328 librarians is $71,743; the median is $73,932).

And keep in mind that the library is funded in part by property taxes, which were funneled into TIF districts at an increasing rate during the previous decade.

I think a fair deal would be for AFSCME to agree to forego the raise if Burke offers to replace one of his police bodyguards (2009 cost: $600,000) with a librarian. If I could have public employees designated to follow me around, I could definitely use a librarian. Though admittedly I’m a heavy CPL user, with at least a couple books checked out at any given time. And a heavy supporter, through my regular, impressive fines (“I don’t check books out… I lease.” —Maria Bamford).

Fire Department: $87,481/$83,148
Water Management: $79,631/$74,880
Transportation: $77,436/$73,216
Fleet Management: $77,010/$84,032
Police Department: $76,401/$77,238
General Services: $72,386/$84,032
Law: $73,146/$67,224
Health: $71,651/$67,296
Aviation: $67,792/$70,408
Streets & San: $67,450/$65,894
Revenue: $60,292/$56,040
City Council: $55,139/$52,980
Public Library: $51,327/$54,564
OEMC: $49,785/$56,208
Family & Support: $41,113/$47,424


Photograph: mark.watmough (CC by 2.0)



3 years ago
Posted by mathnerd

Aldermen Burke and Reilly are not asking all of the librarians to forego their cost-of-living increase, they are asking *all* of the library staff.

The average salary for all library workers appears to be $51,328, while the median salary of all workers appears to be $54,564.

3 years ago
Posted by jlaforest

Great article! Not a bad salary, but not living in luxury by any means.

3 years ago
Posted by cornishen

To those stating that this is not a bad salary, please factor in the cost of the masters' degree that allowed that average librarian to even qualify for the job. Can't think of a lot of other jobs that require an MS and give such 'value' to the rest of society. And before the 'we don't need libraries crowd' weighs in - the whole point of this discussion is that many people DO think we need libraries and that's the crux of the argument. When did American society take such a wrong turn in the assertion that if an institution functions as a safety net to assure that everyone has access to important human needs such as information it must be a form of Socialism and should be dismantled?

3 years ago
Posted by ChicagoChristopher

What you don't point out, and I had to search because it doesn't come up as one of the default available departments, is that the "Mayor's Office" (do a special filter) has 72 employees and so many assistants it almost makes your brain blow up. Seriously, this seems like major overkill and a huge waste. If Rahm is looking for efficiency I think his own office needs a check up. Most of the salaries are VERY generous throughout the city government. Admittedly you're focusing on the library, but this is a trove of data needing to be mined by your magazine. For example, a "Painter" in Streets and San makes $80,000 a year! Not to mention the $70-80k truck drivers and the crazy generous pensions they all make.

3 years ago
Posted by mrsdarcy

The objections to people in city jobs earning a middle-class salary astound me. It is this group's disposable income that fuels so many other businesses. Cut or freeze middle-class wages, and disposable income shrinks, resulting in fewer dollars supporting local businesses, potentially resulting in small businesses in the private sector becoming less profitable or closing doors altogether...leading to loss of jobs. Society is a web of interconnectedness, and we are deluding ourselves if we don't realize that the erosion of middle-class America is a very serious problem for society as a whole.

3 years ago
Posted by juzam

What everyone seems to overlook is that all the Aldermen voted a salary increase for themselves and their support staff.

Why don't they take a 3.5% cut in their spending budget to fund cuts to libraries and mental health institutions. This would be the most altruistic solution and would directly impact and serve the constituents that they were elected to support.

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