Status, Promotion, Salary

If you are interested in a career in Academic Librarianship, you may have heard the phrases, tenure track and faculty status. What does that mean in the context of employment and how does it affect salaries and professional opportunities? Academic institutions classify librarians and their work differently. Depending on the institution, this can range from librarians being employed as tenured faculty to librarians employed as academic staff.

Often, tenure-track librarians are expected to do research and publish results in peer-reviewed journals as part of the promotion to tenure process. This may not be true for academic staff librarians.

As you apply for work in different academic settings, it is important to determine how the institution classifies librarian employment and status, because that will help you know what you need to do to advance in your career in that setting.

Tenure vs. non-tenure - What are the fundamental differences?

The following tables illustrate the differences between the two major university library systems in the state of California. As of June 2016, the UC system (research intensive - R1) employs librarians as academic staff without a tenure process, whereas the CSU system (teaching-focused) employs librarians as faculty on the tenure track.

The requirements for research and publication for community college librarians differ by institution. At many community colleges, a successful history of service and instruction are the primary criteria by which librarians are promoted. Promotion and salary advancement are structured and depend on years of service and rank. For example, many California community college librarians may earn tenure after four years of full-time employment. Keep in mind, however, that published research may provide an edge in the hiring process at community colleges, and check out the promotion requirements when you apply for or consider accepting a position.

Note: This comparison is meant to present an example of some differences you may encounter. There are, of course, exceptions, such as an R1 university library where the librarians are tenured/tenure-track faculty (University of Colorado, Boulder).

Librarian Status

Research 1 ( University of California, Stanford, etc.) Teaching (California State University, Florida State, etc.)
Academic staff, a special status. No faculty status or tenure process for promotion Faculty status, on tenure-track.
Must achieve career status in a certain number of years Must complete a full, satisfactory dossier in 6 years time to earn tenure
Every two years, progress is reviewed Internal progress review has specific schedule deadlines
Review process never leaves the library Tenure review begins in the library, moves to campus faculty level, and then culminates with the provost and president for final review


Professional Achievement

Research 1 (University of California, Stanford, etc.) Teaching (California State University, Florida State, etc.)
Attending national conferences and being involved in committees is sufficient Occasional attendance at conferences is useful to build relationships for research possibilities
Occasional presentations and publications are nice but not necessary Presentations and publications (particularly peer-reviewed journal articles) are absolutely necessary
Equal monetary support distributed among all librarians to go to conferences Point-based system of distributing travel funds to librarians (untenured library faculty receive more funds)


Salary Comparison

Research 1 (University of California, Stanford, etc.) Teaching (California State University, Florida State, etc.)
Lower base. ($48,504 from a 2014 job announcement for UC-Riverside) Moderate base. ($57,000) Source:
Steady increases every 2-3 years No increases until tenure is achieved
Specifically set $$ amount for each rank for all UC librarians Range is very broad and not applied the same across the CSU libraries


Additional Reading

Want to know more? Check out the following articles!