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Best Cities for Librarians

Best Cities for Librarians

Even in today’s digital world, libraries still provide an important place for people to discover, learn, and build community. Key to the utility of libraries is the librarian. In their role, librarians are experts in the materials contained within their libraries and can often point patrons in the right direction when searching for useful materials. Librarians also are responsible for determining what resources to obtain for their collections, educating students on information literacy, maintaining library systems, and more.

In this study, AdvisorSmith examined 339 U.S. metropolitan areas to determine the best cities for librarians. There are approximately 135,690 librarians employed in the United States, and the average salary for these librarians is $61,920. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 6% growth in the number of librarian jobs from 2018-2028, which is about the same as the average job growth across all occupations.

Our study took into account average annual salaries for librarians in cities across the country, along with the costs of living and the availability of jobs for librarians in each city to find the best cities for librarians in the country. We also determined the top 10 small, midsize, and large cities for librarians.

Top Cities for Librarians by City Size

We broke down our analysis by city size, determining the best small, midsize, and large cities for librarians. Cities with over 500,000 residents were considered large cities, midsize cities had between 150,000 and 500,000 residents, and small cities had less than 150,000 residents. The graphic shown above lists the top 10 cities of each size for librarians.

Many of the top cities for librarians hosted major colleges or research universities, which were a large source of employment for librarians. These employers tended to pay higher salaries to librarians and also featured rich employment opportunities for this career. Western and Great Plains states (except for Texas) had little representation in the top 50 cities for librarians.

Best Cities for Librarians

1. Ithaca, NY

Located in the Finger Lakes region of the state of New York, Ithaca is a major college town of approximately 30,000 residents. Ithaca is home to the Ivy League school Cornell University as well as Ithaca College, a private liberal arts college, both of which employ substantial numbers of librarians.

The average salary for librarians in Ithaca is $70,200, well above the national average. Additionally, Ithaca has 362% more librarians on a per capita basis compared with the national average. The cost of living index in Ithaca is 103, which means it is slightly higher than the national average.

2. El Paso, TX

Nestled on the far western edge of the state of Texas, El Paso borders the Rio Grande River, the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, and the state of New Mexico. Important industries in El Paso include natural resources and manufacturing. The city sees over 300 days of sunshine a year on average, making it one of the sunniest in the nation. El Paso is home to the University of Texas at El Paso and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, which both provide jobs for librarians.

Librarians in the El Paso area earn an average salary of $70,200, while benefiting from the low cost of living which is 10% below the national average. El Paso has 16% more librarians on a per capita basis compared with the national average.

3. Clarksville, TN

Northwest of the Nashville metro area is Clarksville, which is located along the Kentucky border at the junction of the Red and Cumberland Rivers. Clarksville is home to Austin Peay State University, along with the army base Fort Campbell. The city also has numerous breweries, distilleries, and wineries.

The librarians in Clarksville earn an average salary of $70,390, far above the national average, and this salary is enhanced by the low costs of living, which are 10% below the national average.

4. Columbus, GA

Situated on the Chattahoochee River on Georgia’s western border with Alabama, Columbus is home to Columbus State University, a public university. Just south of the city is the U.S. Army base Fort Benning. The city is known for the longest urban whitewater rafting course in the world, with rafting tours available on the Chattahoochee River.

Librarians in Columbus earned an average salary of $66,890 and benefited from a cost of living that is 10% below the national average.

5. Hagerstown, MD

Hagerstown is a midsize city in the northern portion of Maryland near the Pennsylvania and West Virginia border. It is located to the northwest of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Hagerstown is an important transportation hub for parts of all three states. Several notable libraries in Hagerstown include the Washington County Free Library, the Washington County Law Library, and the Old Washington County Library.

Librarians in Hagerstown earned an average salary of $73,170, and there were 56% more librarian jobs on a per capita basis in Hagerstown compared with the national average. The cost of living in Hagerstown was about 2% above the national average.

Top 50 Cities for Librarians

The table below shows the top 50 cities for librarians in the United States, along with supplemental data showing the average annual salary, the total number of jobs, and the location quotient for librarians in each city. The table also shows the city’s size classification and the cost of living index value for each city.

RankCityCity SizeTotal JobsAverage Annual SalaryLocation QuotientCost of Living
1Ithaca, NYSmall210 $73,460 4.62103
2El Paso, TXLarge340 $70,200 1.1690
3Clarksville, TNMidsize80 $70,390 190
4Columbus, GAMidsize110 $66,890 1.0189
5Hagerstown, MDMidsize150 $73,170 1.56102
6McAllen, TXLarge400 $62,320 1.6287
7Danbury, CTMidsize90 $76,780 1.29106
8Charlottesville, VAMidsize270 $69,970 2.56105
9Lansing, MIMidsize310 $63,740 1.5689
10Anchorage, AKMidsize170 $81,770 1.05114
11South Bend, INMidsize200 $60,880 1.5888
12Hartford, CTLarge870 $73,140 1.61106
13Bloomington, INMidsize150 $60,370 2.3393
14Washington, D.C.Large 4,310 $84,630 1.47124
15Iowa City, IAMidsize170 $62,310 2.0595
16Auburn, ALMidsize80 $63,330 1.5494
17Elizabethtown, KYMidsize60 $61,920 1.1189
18Syracuse, NYLarge620 $62,530 2.1997
19Grand Forks, NDSmall80 $61,970 1.7793
20Trenton, NJMidsize280 $74,230 1.27108
21Ann Arbor, MIMidsize360 $66,430 1.75100
22New Haven, CTLarge520 $71,950 1.99111
23Waterbury, CTMidsize90 $70,460 1.51105
24Bellingham, WAMidsize90 $77,040 1.03112
25Battle Creek, MISmall60 $58,480 1.2186
26Lubbock, TXMidsize150 $61,180 1.190
27Champaign, ILMidsize260 $54,650 2.8291
28Durham, NCLarge590 $64,570 2.02101
29Brownsville, TXMidsize160 $59,300 1.2589
30Albany, GAMidsize70 $59,230 1.2789
31Dover, NHMidsize110 $63,280 2.28102
32New Bedford, MAMidsize80 $70,130 1.35106
33Gainesville, FLMidsize150 $65,700 1.1298
34Shreveport, LAMidsize220 $57,630 1.3487
35Binghamton, NYMidsize100 $63,310 1.0994
36Virginia Beach, VALarge800 $67,430 1.14101
37Columbia, SCLarge460 $61,260 1.393
38Albany, NYLarge680 $65,370 1.62102
39Mankato, MNSmall60 $63,500 1.397
40Lexington, KYLarge270 $61,290 1.0692
41Akron, OHLarge370 $59,560 1.2291
42Kingston, NYMidsize100 $66,720 1.74106
43Pine Bluff, ARSmall40 $53,250 1.584
44Duluth, MNMidsize120 $61,820 1.0595
45Valdosta, GASmall50 $58,640 1.0190
46Montgomery, ALMidsize210 $56,150 1.4289
47Utica, NYMidsize170 $60,220 1.3995
48Corvallis, ORSmall50 $70,780 1.58114
49Stamford, CTLarge520 $78,980 1.36125
50Hammond, LASmall50 $57,010 1.2890


Our study examined data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and AdvisorSmith’s City Cost of Living Index to determine the best cities for librarians in the United States. We used three major factors to determine the rankings: average salaries earned in each city, the density of jobs for librarians, and the cost of living in each city. We studied 339 metropolitan statistical areas, which we term “cities,” as job markets are generally integrated within metro areas.

From the BLS data, we examined salary and location quotient data for workers classified as “Librarians and Media Collections Specialists.” This data was sourced from the most recent release of the BLS data, reflecting reporting from May 2019.

1. Density of Jobs for Librarians

We used the location quotient for librarians, which is a measure of the proportion of jobs that are held by librarians over the total jobs in a city, compared to the national average. Cities with higher location quotients have higher densities of jobs for librarians. In our ranking, cities with higher location quotients for librarians ranked more highly in our study.

2. Cost of Living for Librarians

Using data from AdvisorSmith’s City Cost of Living Index, we measured the cost of living in each of the cities, with cities offering lower costs of living scoring more highly in our study. This index shows the relative costs of living in cities around the country based on typical living costs such as housing, transportation, utilities, food, and other costs. Cities with lower costs of living allow librarian salaries to stretch further, enhancing quality of life.

3. Average Earnings for Librarians

We used the average salary for librarians reported by the BLS in each of our cities as a factor in our rankings. Cities with higher salaries for librarians ranked more highly in our study.


1. U.S. Census Bureau, Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Population Totals
2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics
3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook
4. AdvisorSmith Cost of Living Index

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