Library assistants organize library resources and make them available to users. They assist librarians and, in some cases, library technicians.
Library assistants, clericalsometimes referred to as library media assistants, library aides, or circulation assistantsregister patrons so they can borrow materials from the library. They record the borrower’s name and address from an application and then issue a library card. Most library assistants enter and update patrons’ records using computer databases.
At the circulation desk, assistants lend and collect books, periodicals, video tapes, and other materials. When an item is borrowed, assistants stamp the due date on the material and record the patron’s identification from his or her library card. They inspect returned materials for damage, check due dates, and compute fines for overdue material. Library assistants review records to compile a list of overdue materials and send out notices. They also answer patrons’ questions and refer those they cannot answer to a librarian.
Throughout the library, assistants sort returned books, periodicals, and other items and return them to their designated shelves, files, or storage areas. They locate materials to be loaned, either for a patron or another library. Many card catalogues are computerized, so library assistants must be familiar with the computer system. If any materials have been damaged, these workers try to repair them. For example, they use tape or paste to repair torn pages or book covers and other specialized processes to repair more valuable materials.
Some library assistants specialize in helping patrons who have vision problems. Sometimes referred to as library, talking-books, or braille-and-talking-books clerks, they review the borrower’s list of desired reading material. They locate those materials or closely related substitutes from the library collection of large type or braille volumes, tape cassettes, and open-reel talking books. They complete the paperwork and give or mail them to the borrower.
Opportunities should be good for persons interested in jobs as library assistants through 2010. Turnover of these workers is quite high, reflecting the limited investment in training and subsequent weak attachment to this occupation. This work is attractive to retirees, students, and others who want a part-time schedule, and there is a lot of movement into and out of the occupation. Many openings will become available each year to replace workers who transfer to another occupation or leave the labor force. Some positions become available as library assistants move within the organization. Library assistants can be promoted to library technicians, and eventually supervisory positions in public service or technical service areas. Advancement opportunities are greater in larger libraries and may be more limited in smaller ones.
Employment is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2010. The vast majority of library assistants work in public or school libraries. Efforts to contain costs in local governments and academic institutions of all types may result in more hiring of library support staff than librarians. Also, due to changing roles within libraries, library assistants are taking on more responsibility. Because most are employed by public institutions, library assistants are not directly affected by the ups and downs of the business cycle. Some of these workers may lose their jobs, however, if there are cuts in government budgets.
Information about a career as a library assistant can be obtained from:
Council on Library/Media Technology, P.O. Box 951, Oxon Hill, MD 20750.
American Library Association, 50 East Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.
Public libraries and libraries in academic institutions can provide information about job openings for library assistants.
(See the introductory statement on information and record clerks for information on working conditions, training requirements, and earnings.)