What is a Library Assistant?

Library technicians and assistants help librarians acquire, prepare, and organize materials. They also do other tasks that are needed to run a library. They usually work at desks or computer terminals inside libraries. They also work in the library stacks while cataloguing or shelving books.

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What does a Library Assistant do?

Library technicians and assistants typically do the following:

  • Loan library materials to patrons and collect returned materials
  • Sort and reshelve returned books, periodicals, and other materials
  • Organize and maintain library materials
  • Handle interlibrary loans
  • Register new patrons and issue library cards
  • Answer patrons’ questions and help them find library resources
  • Maintain computer databases used to locate library materials
  • Help plan and participate in special programs, such as used-book sales and outreach programs.

Library technicians and assistants are usually supervised by a librarian. Library technicians may have more responsibilities than library assistants, such as administering library programs and overseeing lower-level staff.

What does it take to be a Library Assistant?

Library technicians and assistants have varying levels of education. Some have only high school diplomas, while others have specialized postsecondary degrees. Library technicians are more likely to have to have formal education beyond high school. Most libraries prefer to hire library technicians who have a postsecondary certificate or an associate’s degree. However, some smaller libraries might hire prospective technicians with only a high school diploma.

Courses required for an associate’s degree or a certificate in library technology include acquisitions, cataloguing, circulation, and automated library systems. Usually, library technicians who work in public schools must meet the same requirements as teacher assistants.

No formal education is required for library assistants. Most libraries prefer to hire assistants who have earned a high school diploma, but some will hire high school students.

Library technicians and assistants can advance as they assume additional responsibilities in other areas of the library. Some eventually become supervisors and oversee daily library operations. To become a librarian, technicians and assistants need to earn a master’s degree in library science.

What is the workplace of a Library Assistant like?

The table below shows the various areas in which library technicians and assistants worked in 2010:

  • Various levels of government, excluding education and hospitals 53%
  • Elementary and secondary schools; local 16%
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools; private 9%
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools; public 9%
  • Corporate organizations 3%

Except for those who work in bookmobiles, library technicians and assistants generally work indoors. They spend much of their time at desks or computer terminals. Most also spend time in the library stacks while cataloguing or reshelving books, a task that may require bending or stretching to reach the shelves.

Library technicians and assistants in school libraries work during regular school hours. Those in public or college libraries work weekends, evenings, and some holidays. In corporate libraries, they work normal business hours but may be asked to work overtime.

The schedule of library technicians and assistants who work in bookmobiles is dependent on the locations they serve.

How much does a Library Assistant earn?

The median hourly wage of library technicians was $14.36 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $8.64, and the top 10% earned more than $22.59.

The median hourly wage of library assistants was $11.12 in May 2010. The lowest 10% earned less than $7.95, and the top 10% earned more than $17.98. About 63% of library assistants worked part time in 2010.

Learn more about being a Library Assistant