What Does a Library Assistant Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by Maddy Price. © The Balance 2019

Library assistants perform clerical duties in libraries. As paraprofessionals, they help patrons select materials but refer 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 also are called library clerks, library technical assistants and library circulation assistants.

They typically are supervised by library technicians or librarians, both positions that require more training and education than that of a library assistant. Library technicians must earn a postsecondary certificate or associate degree. This training allows them to have greater responsibilities than assistants do. Librarians need a master's degree in library science (MLS). These library professionals select and organize materials and help patrons use them effectively.

Library Assistant Duties & Responsibilities

Library assistants typically need to be able to complete the following tasks:

  • Charge and renew materials
  • Assist patrons in locating materials
  • Answer telephones and take messages
  • Weed collection of worn-out and obsolete materials as necessary
  • Greet and direct customers
  • Maintain records

Library assistants help to keep libraries organized and efficient while assisting patrons as necessary. They typically assist patrons with checking materials in and out and sometimes with locating materials. Library assistants also answer incoming calls to the library and direct them to the appropriate people.

When not assisting patrons, library assistants also will help with restocking shelves and otherwise organizing library materials.

Library Assistant Salary

About two out of three library assistants worked part-time, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Median Annual Salary: $12.41/hour ($25,812 full time)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $20.12/hour ($41,849 full time)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: 8.96/hour ($18,637 full time)

Education, Training, & Certification

Library assistants do not need any more than a high school diploma in most circumstances, and some libraries may even hire high school students to serve in entry-level roles. Libraries provide on-the-job training.

Library Assistant Skills & Competencies

Library assistants are heavily involved in customer service, and some of the specific skills needed to be successful include:

  • Active Listening: It’s important to be able to understand the needs of patrons in order to fulfill them. Library assistants also need to be able to follow the directions of their supervisors.
  • Speaking: To interact successfully with patrons, library assistants must be able to speak in a friendly and helpful manner. That requires speaking clearly, making eye contact, and using proper tone.
  • Interpersonal Skills: In addition to having strong listening and speaking skills, library assistants must be able to coordinate with others, negotiate, instruct, and persuade. These skills facilitate interactions with library patrons and colleagues, as well as with members of other departments in the organization.
  • Reading Comprehension: Library assistants must be able to understand work-related documents as well as the nature of the materials in the library.
  • Computer savvy: In addition to being able to use the library’s computer software, library assistants sometimes need to assist patrons who are there to use the internet access provided by the library.

Job Outlook

Job growth for library assistants is projected at 9 percent for the decade ending in 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is better than the 7 percent growth projected for all occupations. Libraries provide more than just access to books in many communities. They offer activities and programs for all ages, internet access, and more, and library assistants will be needed to help provide these services.

Work Environment

Library assistants typically will work under the direction of librarians and library technicians performing a wide range of tasks that sometimes involves assisting library patrons. This can range from checking in and out materials to restocking shelves to assisting with community programs. While some tasks can be handled at a desk, other tasks will require being up and moving around regularly.

Work Schedule

Since most jobs are part-time, hours vary. Libraries usually are open during regular business hours in addition to evenings and weekends. Libraries in smaller communities may have more limited hours due to limited resources, but library assistants should be prepared to work any day at any time between roughly 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Assistants often will have schedules that vary from week to week.

How to Get the Job

APPLY

This is an entry-level position with the bare minimum requirements.

GAIN EXPERIENCE

Once hired, the best way to increase hours and responsibilities is through a willingness to work hard and gain experience.

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