Library Assistant

Job Description

Library Assistant
••• Boomer Jerritt / All Canada Photos / Getty Images

A library assistant performs clerical duties in a library. As a paraprofessional, he or she helps patrons select materials but refers requests for more in-depth research to librarians. Library assistants check in and out material at the circulation desk, receive payments for fines, shelve books when patrons return them and help process new material. They are also called library clerks, library technical assistants and library circulation assistants.

Quick Facts

  • Library assistants earn a median annual salary of $25,810 or $12.41 hourly (2017).
  • There are about 104,300 people employed in this occupation (2016).
  • Employers include public, school, academic, corporate, and law libraries.
  • Library assistants can expect a good job outlook. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment in this occupation will grow as fast as the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026.

A Day in the Life of a Library Assistant

The following job duties were listed in job announcements on Indeed.com:

  • "Charge and renew materials"
  • "Assist patrons in locating library material"
  • "Answer multiple telephone lines, making referrals and taking messages as appropriate"
  • "Weed collection of worn-out and obsolete materials as necessary"
  • "Greet and direct customers"
  • "Maintain records as required by Library protocol"

The Downside of This Career

  • As with any customer service job, library assistants sometimes have to deal with argumentative, or even abusive, patrons.
  • This occupation will not satisfy someone who dislikes the idea of spending all his or her time indoors.
  • You will spend a lot of time in front of a computer which can cause back and neck, as well as vision, problems. Some studies have shown that sitting for extended periods of time is bad for your overall health.
  • Many jobs only offer part-time hours.
  • If you want a position in a public or an academic library, you should expect to work weekends and evenings in addition to regular business hours.

What is the Difference Between Library Assistants, Library Technicians, and Librarians?

The differences between these three occupations stem primarily from their educational requirements, and subsequently, their job duties. Library assistants, who are not required to earn any degree beyond a high school diploma, have limited tasks. Their interactions with clients are restricted to checking in and out materials. They may also help them locate some resources, but they must refer anything that requires in-depth research to a librarian or, in some cases, a library technician.

Library technicians must earn a postsecondary certificate or associate degree. This training allows them to have greater responsibilities than assistants do, and they may even be able to supervise staff. Librarians need a master's degree in library science (MLS). These library professionals select and organize materials and help patrons use them effectively.

How to Become a Library Assistant?

  • Most employers prefer to hire job candidates who have a high school or equivalency diploma although some will hire those who are still students.
  • Employers usually provide on-the-job training.

The Soft Skills You Need to Succeed

  • Customer Service: You should be concerned with providing excellent service to library patrons.
  • Active Listening: This skill will allow you to understand patrons' needs so you can fulfill them.
  • Speaking: To interact successfully with patrons,  they must be able to comprehend the information you convey. That requires you to speak clearly, make eye contact, and use proper tone.
  • Interpersonal Skills: In addition to having strong listening and speaking skills, you must be able to coordinate your actions with others, negotiate, instruct and persuade. This skill set will facilitate your interactions with library patrons and colleagues, as well as with members of other departments in your organization.
  • Reading Comprehension: You must be able to understand work-related documents.

    What Will Employers Expect From You?

    Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found on Indeed.com:

    • "Flexibility, responsiveness and good communication skills"
    • "Ability to learn and use the computerized circulation system"
    • "Interprets, applies, and explains library policies to students, faculty, staff, and other members of the library community"
    • "Ability to deal with stressful situations with tact and diplomacy"
    • "Ability to learn new software applications quickly and adapt to changing technologies"

    Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

    Your interestspersonality type, and work-related values, about which you can learn by doing a self assessment, are among the factors that determine whether being a library assistant is a suitable career for you. Consider pursuing this occupation if you have the following traits:

    More Related Occupations

     DescriptionMedian Annual Wage (2017)Required Education/Training
    Office ClerkPerforms clerical tasks in a school, office, hospital or government agency$31,500HS or Equivalency Diploma
    Administrative AssistantPerforms administrative and clerical jobs in an office$35,590HS or Equivalency Diploma; some employers prefer an associate degree
    TellerProcesses routine transactions at a bank

    $28,110

    HS or Equivalency Diploma
    Mailroom ClerkPrepares mail for distribution

    $29,620

    Less than a High School or Equivalency Diploma

    Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,   O*NET Online (visited October 17, 2018).