UW: Top 10 in Research, Bottom 10 in Pay for UW Libraries & Press Staff

Our Libraries system sets our university apart from other institutions around the world. The UW Libraries collections hold over 9 million print volumes and over 1.3 million e-books. Our Libraries and Press staff have advanced degrees and expertise in a vast number of topics. And because of their dedication,  the research support, grants, tutorials, and other programs that are offered at our Libraries are unparalleled, and are a foundational pillar of our university’s success. 

And yet, our staff are some of the lowest paid research university libraries and press professionals in the country. Among median salaries across U.S. research institutions, UW Libraries professionals rank at 46th among 100. Accounting for the Puget Sound region's high cost of living compared to the rest of the U.S, UW Libraries professional salaries drop to 96th among 100. This has significant repercussions on the lives our staff can lead, and on the UW’s ability to live out its mission of equity, diversity and inclusion. 

During recent bargaining sessions, the University of Washington Administration expressed through their actions and statements that they are committed to keeping the “status quo.” However, status quo for many of our Libraries and Press professionals means: 
  • Enduring long commutes (and time away from family) due to locations of affordable housing vs. location of campus
  • Taking on a second or third job to afford student loan payments 
  • Forgoing saving money or buying property, while living paycheck to paycheck
We, students and community members, do not want the “status quo” to remain! In addition to the hardships outlined above, the UW Libraries and Press do not have a successful track record of retaining BIPOC staff. 

Due to the history of racism in this country, people of color were historically excluded from library associations and library work generally. Low paying positions keep historically marginalized workers, who are less likely to have generational wealth to rely on, out of library work. With the cost to enter the profession so high, staff who were born without generational wealth shoulder more of a burden when taking a position at the UW.

UW fails in its diversity aspirations. In just the last few years, several Black professionals resigned from the University Libraries. Turnover of library staff of color impacts students; the UW seeks a racially diverse student body, but do we see that representation in library staff? 

This matters to us as students and UW community members! Libraries staff working conditions are student learning conditions. Inadequate compensation for our Libraries staff is a form of underfunding the Libraries system. Underfunding the Libraries risks undermining the commitments the University made to steward the collections and materials that represent the cultural heritage of myriad communities. To maintain excellent collections, provide services, and support student learning, library workers must be able to thrive where they live and work. Overall, more than 66% of Libraries staff indicated that they had seriously contemplated leaving the UW. 

Higher salaries and better working conditions are ways to address retention, and advance equity, diversity, and inclusion at UW Libraries and UW Press! We demand the University of Washington provide a living wage to our Libraries and Press professionals.

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