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.
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.
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.
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.
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.