Are we talking enough about gender bias and discrimination in the library profession?

[Update: check out the growing LTG Summit Zotero Library]

Spoiler: the answer is NO.

I’m on the Advisory Committee of the upcoming Leadership, Technology, and Gender Summit taking place March 19-21, 2014 in Austin, Texas, following the Electronic Resources & Libraries conference. As we were thinking about how to define the event and write a problem statement*, I started looking for examples of how that conversation is playing out in libraries and discovered that there isn’t much out there.

A caveat: my searching wasn’t thorough, so I’ve likely overlooked some literature on the subject. I need to do more searching and hope that readers also suggest other things to add to this list. Please put your suggestions in the comments below or email me at

Below I include some relevant blog posts, articles, and one book that address the question, and for most I’ve provided quotes or brief summaries. I haven’t yet read everything in the list below, though I’ve read the shorter pieces and skimmed most of the longer ones.

Based on what I have found and some of the evidence-base research presented (e.g., bibliometric study, salary surveys), as well as the personal narratives and concerns expressed in blog posts, it seems to me that we are not talking enough about gender (and other forms of) bias and discrimination in our profession, or about the underrepresentation of women in library technology work, and ways to address these problems.

In the run-up to the LTG Summit, Advisory Committee members will be blogging about questions related to leadership, technology, and gender. So keep an eye on that website.

  • Annoyed Librarian. “Do Men Get Library Jobs More Easily Than Women?” Annoyed Librarian, Library Journal, December 14, 2011.
  • ———. “How to Conduct Yourself at ALA Conferences.” Annoyed Librarian, Library Journal, November 27, 2013.
  • Bell, Steven. “The Best Man for the Job Is a Woman | Leading From the Library.” Library Journal. Accessed December 5, 2013.
    • About gender and leadership qualities
  • Bourg, Chris. “We’ve Come a Short Way … and Don’t Even Think About Calling Me ‘Baby’.” Feral Librarian, December 3, 2013.
    • Inspired by conversations about planning the LTG Summit, presents quotes from 1904-2013 about women and technology showing we’ve still got a long way to go.
  • ———. “Feeling Grumpy About Gender This Morning.” Feral Librarian, March 4, 2012.
  • DeLong, Kathleen. “Career Advancement and Writing About Women Librarians: A Literature Review.” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice 8, no. 1 (March 14, 2013): 59–75.
    • Quote: “Evidence shows the number of women in senior leadership roles has increased over the years. From the 1930s to the 1950s it was the natural order for men to be heads of academic libraries, particularly major research libraries. Research studies of the decades from the 1960s to the 1980s provide evidence of a shift from the assumption that various personal and professional characteristics could be identified to account for differences in the number of men and of women recruited into senior positions in academic libraries. Despite this, women remained vastly under-represented in director positions in academic libraries.”
      “The results section concludes with a review of sources that pertain to writing about women library leaders. This emphasizes that the professional lives of women librarians are largely unknown, as is the importance of their contribution to the development of libraries and librarianship. These sources were included to highlight the critical importance, but lack of material that speaks to writing about women and their professional lives and experiences.”
  • Deyrup, Marta Mestrovic. “Is the Revolution Over? Gender, Economic, and Professional Parity in Academic Library Leadership Positions.” College & Research Libraries 65, no. 3 (May 1, 2004): 242–250.
    • Author examines stats on “gender, professional, and economic parity among academic library directors” and found “women now hold the majority of library directorships and that women’s economic compensation in some cases exceeds that of their male counterparts”
  • Fialkoff, Francine. “Editorial: Gender Matters.” Library Journal, February 15, 2008.
    • Women in libraries benefitted from the women’s movement, but there’s still work to do.
  • Fister, Barbara. “Encoded: Gender, Technology, and Libraries.” Library Babel Fish, Inside Higher Ed, March 8, 2012.
  • Håkanson, Malin. “The Impact of Gender on Citations: An Analysis of College & Research Libraries, Journal of Academic Librarianship, and Library Quarterly.” College & Research Libraries 66, no. 4 (July 1, 2005): 312–323.
    • Women authors are more numerous now than in 1980, but differences still exist between female and male authors. “There may be a gender bias in LIS publishing, even though female authors have become more numerous.”
  • Harris, Roma M. Librarianship: The Erosion of a Woman’s Profession. Information Management, Policy, and Services; Variation: Information Management, Policy, and Services. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex Pub. Corp., 1992.
  • Holland, Adam. “BackTalk: Gender Bias in Libraries?” Library Journal, January 15, 2007.
    • About the possibility of gender bias against men in the profession.
  • Maatta, Stephanie L. “Inside the Library Gender Gap.” Library Journal, October 10, 2008.
    • There are more women than men in libraries, but pay differentials favor men. “Government libraries was the one agency where women dominated the salary game with average starting pay 22% higher than men, earning $46,540 compared to $38,138.”
  • ———. “Placements & Salaries 2013: Geography, Gender, Race, and More.” Library Journal. Accessed December 5, 2013.
    • On pay differentials. “While the gender gap is wide, the salary differential between women and men remained stationary at 14.5 percent. Some of this gap is evidenced in the types of positions that women accept compared to men.”
  • Park, Taemin Kim. “D-Lib Magazine: Its First 13 Years.” D-Lib Magazine 16, no. 1/2 (January 2010). doi:10.1045/january2010-park.
    • Quote: “The proportion of male authors in D-Lib was much higher than reported in other authorship studies. Overall, 74% of all authors are male, although women authors increased to 40% during the latest two years of collected data (May/June 2006-May/June 2008). That male predominance in digital libraries is much higher than in other fields of library and information science might account for this pattern. The high ratio of male authors in the Magazine is not surprising because digital library research tends to be federally funded and conducted by scholars from the computing disciplines (Mischo, 2005). It may also conform to the pattern of membership in the digital community. Previous reports on gender ratios in LIS journals show a high proportion of female authors. Buttlar’s study in 1991 using 16 library periodicals showed that 48% of authors were male, as did Terry’s CRL study in 1996. Analysis of one of the most respected journals in information science, JASIS, reported 60% male authors in the period 1970-1990 (Al-Ghamdi, et al., 1998). Women contributed 53% to 65% of the papers at the ACRL Conferences in the early years 1978 to 1992 and up to 68% to 71% for the last six conferences (Fennewald, 2007).”
  • Posner, Miriam. “Some Things to Think About before You Exhort Everyone to Code.” Miriam Posner’s Blog, February 29, 2012.
    • On structural discrimination, why women and people of color aren’t coding, and the need for diversity.
  • Pritchard, Sarah. “Feminist Thinking and Librarianship in the 1990s: Issues and Challenges.” Feminist Research in Librarianship, March 27, 1999.
  • Sweeper, Darren, and Steven A. Smith. “Assessing the Impact of Gender and Race on Earnings in the Library Science Labor Market.” College & Research Libraries 71, no. 2 (March 1, 2010): 171–183.
    • Using 2003 National Survey of College Graduates, examines earnings in the library science labor market and assesses the impact of gender on the income attainment process.
  • Tennant, Roy. “Digital Libraries: The Gender Gap.” Library Journal, August 15, 2006.
    • There are more men in library tech than women. Roy says “We need to create welcoming, fostering, and supportive environments for our female colleagues.”
  • ———. “Fostering Female Technology Leadership in Libraries.” The Digital Shift. Accessed December 5, 2013.
    • Libraries have a gender imbalance in tech positions. Offers suggestions for changing the culture in tech orgs. Note the comments.
  • ———. “Gender in Tech Librarianship.” The Digital Shift. Accessed December 5, 2013.
    • About how surprised he was at learning that women librarians experience discrimination.
  • Terry, James L. “Authorship in ‘College & Research Libraries’ Revisited: Gender, Institutional Affiliation, Collaboration.” College & Research Libraries 57, no. 4 (July 1, 1996): 377–383.
    • “Between 1989 and 1994, representation by academic librarians and authors affiliated with library schools increased, collaboration became predominate, and for the first time the number of primary women authors equalled that of men. Considering all coauthors, female authors outnumbered men. Women, however, were underrepresented among authors affiliated with library schools and among academic administrators.”

* We’ll be using the Open Space Technology meeting format, which requires a powerful problem or theme statement.