Should I Become 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. Library helpers spend most of their day standing, staring at computer screens and loading carts. They also carry, lift and shelve books.
Library helpers typically have a high school diploma and one or more years of experience in the field. However, employers might prefer library assistants who have completed a formal training program, such as a certificate or associates degree program in library technology.
The skills needed in this field include information ordering, customer service, good communication and detail-oriented skills, proficiency with Microsoft Office, WorldCat, Online Computer Library Center, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for library assistants in 2015 was $24,480.
Step 1: Complete a Training Program
While only a high school diploma is needed to work as a library helper, employers prefer applicants with 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. Some employers want a library helper to have at least an associate's degree.
Additionally, the BLS noted that library technicians working in a public school must meet the same requirements as a teacher assistant, which typically includes a two-year degree.
If you want to be successful at this step, here are some steps you can take:
- 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 should take computer and information technology courses. This education allows prospective library helpers to gain a thorough understanding of computer technologies and applications.
- Gain communications skills. Library helpers must be excellent communicators and provide good customer service. Students who take communications courses can bolster their interpersonal, and written and verbal communications 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 for Career Advancement
Library helpers can establish themselves in the field by gaining entry-level experience. While some larger college libraries may require one to two years of experience in the field, library assistants may be able to find entry-level, part-time positions within smaller facilities without experience. In this setting, students learn about circulations, library software, collection management and technical services. As Library assistants acquire more experience, they become qualified for management positions.
Additionally, you may want to:
- 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.
To review, with a high school diploma, experience, and customer service and computer skills, library helpers can assist librarians in organizing and maintaining books and periodicals, cataloging, and answering phones, which pays about $25,000 a year.