What are the Different Library Assistant Jobs?

Alan Rankin

Librarians are trained professionals who operate public and private libraries. They usually have an academic degree in library science. Library assistants are members of the librarian's support staff who perform functions that do not require a librarian’s expertise. Library assistant jobs include clerks, pages and technicians, all of which have different educational and professional requirements. Major library systems may also require general service employees.

Some library assistants work at the circulation desk and help patrons check out books and other library resources.
Some library assistants work at the circulation desk and help patrons check out books and other library resources.

Library clerks take care of the clerical and administrative duties involved in running a library. These include checking books in or out, processing library card applications and collecting overdue fines. Librarians may also perform these duties, especially in small libraries with limited staff. Most libraries do not require a library science degree for clerks, although some may require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as English. Like those in other library assistant jobs, clerks can be mistaken for librarians by patrons. Their positions may be combined with pages or technicians in some libraries.

In most libraries, old fashioned card catalogs have been replaced with computer systems.
In most libraries, old fashioned card catalogs have been replaced with computer systems.

Library pages are responsible for shelving books, retrieving books from the overnight book drop and making sure shelves are neat and properly organized. They also assist clerks and librarians with clerical or other duties as needed. These positions are entry-level library assistant jobs and are often filled by high school or college students. Like clerks, pages may be part-time employees, depending on the budget and time requirements of the library. Some library science students take library assistant jobs while working on their degrees so they can gain experience in the field or get an early start on their career paths.

A library assistant may be responsible for assisting patrons with book needs.
A library assistant may be responsible for assisting patrons with book needs.

The term “library technician” may be used interchangeably with the clerk and page jobs. In some libraries, however, a technician is a library assistant with expertise in a specialized field. Some library technicians may be proficient in retrieving information from the Internet or electronic archives. Others might focus on physical archives, public records or legal research. Maintenance of electronic library catalogs and other specialized information storage, such as microform systems, may also fall under the duties of a library technician.

Large libraries require general service staff, which may include security guards.
Large libraries require general service staff, which may include security guards.

Other specialized library assistants can work with periodicals, children or teen readers, video and media collections, foreign-language materials, or materials for disabled and special-needs patrons. Some libraries include adult education programs, presentation areas, viewing or listening rooms and photocopying centers. Any of these areas may require the work of a library assistant. Large libraries and library systems also require general service staff. These positions include maintenance technicians, drivers, custodians and security guards.

Library assistants may run tutoring programs.
Library assistants may run tutoring programs.
Library assistants are often responsible for ensuring books are organized correctly and re-shelved properly.
Library assistants are often responsible for ensuring books are organized correctly and re-shelved properly.
A library assistant might focus on legal research.
A library assistant might focus on legal research.

Discussion Comments

backdraft

There are certain archivist jobs that are available for library assistants. Archives are both complicated and very menial. They take a lot of planning and smarts to open and organize, but many of the most important day to day tasks are very repetitive and boring. For this reason a lot of archives are administered by professionals with degrees but the grunt work is done by assistants.

nextcorrea

There are many school library assistant jobs. Most school libraries only have the budget for one full time librarian but they have a need for several employees. Usually they hire part time workers without MLS degrees.

I had one of these jobs when I first got out of college. It did not pay a ton and the library was pretty old. But I liked the work and I went on to get a graduate degree in Library Science. I no longer work in a school library but I credit one with helping me to find my career.

jonrss

Becoming a technology assistant is one of the most important and fastest growing jobs in the library sector. More and more, libraries are centers of technology rather than books. For many, the computer, printer and Wi-Fi access are the most appealing part of the library.

But as is the case with most public access computers they take a lot of maintenance. And the population using them often does not have a lot of training with computers. Having dedicated staff on hand to deal only with technology can free up a lot of time for other staff and provide patrons with an exemplary level of service.

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