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What is a Library Assistant?

Also known as: Library Technician, Library Clerical Assistant, Library Services Assistant, Library Technical Assistant, Library Aide, Library Clerk.

A library assistant (or library technician) helps 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, and work in the library stacks while cataloguing or shelving books.

What does a Library Assistant do?

Library assistants typically do the following:

  • Loan library materials to patrons and collect returned materials
  • Sort and re-shelve returned books, periodicals, and other materials
  • Organize and maintain library materials
  • Handle inter-library 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 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 is the workplace of a Library Assistant like?

The table below shows the various areas in which library 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 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 re-shelving books, a task that may require bending or stretching to reach the shelves.

Library 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 assistants who work in bookmobiles is dependent on the locations they serve.

How can I become a Library Assistant?

Most libraries prefer to hire library assistants who have a postsecondary certificate or an associate’s degree. However, some smaller libraries might hire prospective assistants 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.

Library assistants can advance as they assume additional responsibilities in other areas of the library. Some eventually become supervisors and oversee daily library operations.


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