Library Staffing Survey 2023

Library Staffing Survey 2023

The State of Library Staffing | 2023 Unique Library Survey Results

Last month we asked librarians and library workers about the state of staffing in their library. Nearly 200 people responded to the brief survey, and the results shed some light on how libraries are doing in 2023.

We asked a few questions about hiring practices, vacancies, and general issues facing libraries in general. We compiled the results, and some of the statistics were expected, and some were eye-opening.

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About the respondents 

Our respondents represented a diverse range of positions, library sizes, and communities served. We had 190 anonymous responses from our client libraries, with lots of interesting results about the state of hiring and staffing among libraries in 2023.

About half of respondents worked in administrative positions, with a lot in circulation positions as well.

Most respondents worked in small libraries, with about a quarter working in medium-sized libraries*.

*Small (under 1 million); Medium (1-4 million); Large (over 4 million)

About half of respondents worked in suburban libraries, with rural librarians making up a large minority. 

Recruiting new talent

Last month we asked librarians and library workers about the state of staffing in their library. Nearly 200 people responded to the brief survey, and the results shed some light on how libraries are doing in 2023.

Most libraries are finding it difficult to hire new staff. 

45% of libraries are either finding it hard or very hard to hire new library staff, while less than 1 in 5 libraries is finding it easy or very easy.

Once hired, it is easier to retain staff. 

While staff burnout has been cited as an issue anecdotally across the industry, less than 30% of libraries report as struggling to hold onto talent within their library. Almost half of respondents classified staff retention as “Easy” or “Very Easy,” despite many respondents citing trouble competing with private businesses on salary and benefits when it comes to the hiring process.

The biggest hurdle to hiring new staff is lack of budget. 

3 out of 5 respondents cited budget as the biggest problem facing hiring new staff. Budget cuts have hit libraries everywhere, and many libraries are facing difficult decisions for hiring, as well as retaining staff.

A lack of qualified candidates is the second leading issue for libraries hiring new talent, with a lack of interest for open positions the third leading issue. Competition with other sectors is not necessarily a new issue for libraries hiring talent, but does remain a theme.

Half of libraries are not staffed enough

Half of libraries that responded indicated that they are not staffed enough to meet rising patron demands. Being squeezed from budget cuts from one side, and increased post-covid traffic on the other has created a genuine problem in the library industry.

Is your library one of the 50% that aren’t staffed adequately? What solutions has your library considered to address the looming crisis in your library?

Over 3/4th of libraries have an opening

Across the survey, the average library has 5 vacancies for staff at the time of the survey. The largest number of vacancies was 50 open positions, while 23% of respondents reported no open positions.

Free Job postings are the most popular way of hiring new staff

Free job postings were 2.5 times more popular than paid job postings. Free postings along with promotion of current staff combined for two-thirds of placements. Depending on the type of role libraries are hiring for, different sources of hiring are a consideration. Sites like LinkedIn and Indeed are popular for free job listings.

We asked respondents “What are the biggest challenges around staffing for your library?”

Is your library experiencing similar issues?



“Our funding is being cut”

“Finding qualified staff”


“Competitive pay”

“Filling vacancies in a timely manner”

“Hiring for part time-positions”

“Meeting growth”

“Staffing for weekend hours”

“Filling in for vacations and sick days”

At Unique, we solve problems. We have a number of tools that have helped libraries everywhere address their staffing shortages. Products under our Patron Services umbrella include Unique Phone, an innovative call answering service that can handle phone traffic for your library, so your staff can focus on patrons in the library. Unique Chat also alleviates stress on librarians by handling chat-based inquiries from patrons via an integrated web widget.

What clients are saying about Unique

Unique offers a number of tools that can supplement your library’s staffing. Contact us to learn more.

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