Overview of the Skills Needed to Become a Library Helper

Research the requirements to become a library helper. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in library assistance.

Do I Want to Be a Library Helper?

Library helpers, also known as library assistants or library technicians, organize library materials and shelve books. Under the supervision of librarians, assistants organize and maintain periodicals, help patrons with questions, deliver items and answer phones. Shelving books can be physically demanding. In addition, many library helpers work for long periods while looking at computer screens.

Job Requirements

Library helpers typically have a high school diploma and some experience in the field. However, employers might prefer library assistants who have completed a formal training program, such as a certificate or associate's degree. The following table lists some of the requirements to work as a library helper:

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma; certificate or associate degree preferred*
Degree Field Library technology*
Experience 1 or more years of experience are preferred**
Key Skills Information ordering skills*, customer service*, communication**, detail-oriented**
Computer Skills Skills in Microsoft Office*, WorldCat***, Online Computer Library Center***, Microsoft Excel***, Microsoft Access***
Additional Requirements Ability to stand for long periods of time, load carts, bend and reach shelved materials**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Job postings (September 2012), ***O*Net Online.

Step 1: Complete a Training Program

While only a high school diploma is needed to work as a library helper, employers may prefer applicants who have earned a degree or certificate. Programs in library technology train students in information organization, collection management, information and computer literacy, public library services, circulation and automated library systems. Depending on the employer, having at least an associate degree may be a requirement. Additionally, the BLS noted that library technicians working in a public school must meet the same requirements as a teacher assistant, which typically include a 2-year degree.

Success Tips:

  • Develop your computer skills. With libraries transferring over to digital materials, in addition to written materials, many employers list strong computer skills as a must for library assistants. Students may want to take advantage of computer skills and information technology courses. This will allow prospective library helpers to gain a thorough understanding of computer technologies and applications.
  • Gain communications skills. Excellent communication and customers service skills are top requirements for library helpers. Students can use communications courses to bolster their written and verbal communications skills, as well as their interpersonal skills.
  • Use your elective courses to gain relevant work experience. Since most employers require some level of experience in a library setting, students may want to complete programs that offer elective library field experiences. These professional experiences allow prospective library helpers to familiarize themselves with the processes and technologies of the field.

Step 2: Get Library Experience

Library helpers can establish themselves in the field by gaining entry-level experience. While some larger college libraries may require 1-2 years of experience in the field, library assistants may be able to find entry-level, part-time positions within smaller facilities without experience. Working within these facilities provides them with a knowledge base in circulations, library software, collection management and technical services. Additionally, library assistants with increased experience may advance to management positions.

Success Tip:

  • Consider volunteering at local libraries. Volunteering at a library will allow job seekers in this field to familiarize themselves with common library equipment, including online catalogs, scanners and audio/visual equipment. It will also help candidates better understand how libraries are organized.

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