Tulane librarians underpaid, administrators acknowledge

Rohan Goswami, News Editor

A photograph of the reference desk on the ground floor of Howard-Tilton Memorial Library.
A photograph of the reference desk on the ground floor of Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. (Leah Baron)

Tulane University librarians are underpaid relative to peer institutions and national rates, administrators said at a university Senate meeting on March  7. This assessment aligns with responses to the Tulane Hullabaloo’s Dec. 21 compensation survey.

Dennis P. Kehoe, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, professor of Classical Studies and chair of the Senate Library Committee, presented a report to the Senate that acknowledged, amongst other things, that “[t]he relatively low salaries of librarians and staff at Tulane makes it difficult for the library to recruit new staff.”

“When adjusted for cost-of-living differences,” the report continued, “Tulane’s salaries fall even farther behind.”

Administrators at Howard-Tilton Memorial Library conducted a survey of “peer” institutions — including the University of Kentucky, the University of Virginia and Clemson University — which indicated that many public institutions pay librarians at higher rates than Tulane.

David Banush, dean of libraries and academic information resources, fielded clarifying questions from several Senators on how Tulane compares to peer institutions.

According to Banush, amongst fellow G14 institutions — generally highly selective, elite universities from across the United States — Tulane ranked “around number 12, 13” in librarian pay.

Banush observed that Tulane spends more money than “anyone” on collection fees — for databases and subscriptions — as opposed to staffing expenditure.

Responses from a December 2021 survey sent to Tulane faculty and staff indicated that library staff had considerable alarm over their compensation.

Compensation has been a key issue for many Tulane employees given rates of inflation and cost of living in Orleans Parish.