Becoming a Library Associate?
Library associates perform a variety of clerical and customer service tasks at public, academic and specialty libraries, typically under supervision. They answer routine questions for patrons and show them how to operate computers, search online catalogs and use office machinery, such as photocopiers. Responsibilities also might include checking library materials in and out, collecting fines for overdue materials, preparing reports, issuing library cards, assisting with programs and creating library displays. Computer skills are utilized for researching, updating library websites and working with databases.
A bachelor's degree in a field such as library science is a typical requirement for a library associate. State certification isn't usually required, though voluntary professional certification available. Some employers want candidates for this position to have varying levels of experience in library, clerical or customer service jobs. A library associate should have a few key skills in customer service, communications, spreadsheet and word processing programs, usingOnline Computer Library Center (OCLC), and using WebClarity Software's BookWhere. They should also have knowledge of bar code readers, scanners, photocopy machines, microfilm readers and microfiche viewers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, library assistants earned a median annual salary of $27,930 in 2015.
Earn a Degree
The first step to becoming a library associate is earning a degree. Employers' experience and education requirements for library associate jobs can vary. However, many prefer that candidates hold a bachelor's degree. In some cases, employers may require it. A particular field of study isn't usually specified by an employer but it is possible to earn a degree in library science or a related field.
It might be a good idea to earn a college degree in library science. Bachelor's degree programs may be offered on-campus, online or in a hybrid format. They focus on services and literatures, reference materials, library management, professional ethics, preservation and digitization of archives, and information literacy. Courses may include the theory and application of activities such as cataloging, building collections, storytelling and library technology. Fieldwork may be required. Some bachelor's degree programs may be accredited by the American Library Association.
Find a Position
Some employers want to hire library associates who have worked in a library or held clerical or customer service jobs. Aspiring library associates might choose to start out at small libraries, which sometimes experience difficulty filling vacancies and may be more flexible in hiring practices with regard to experience and education levels. Getting hired in a lower-level position, such as a page, is another way for prospective library associates to start acquiring experience.
Aspiring associates can also familiarize themselves with library duties, procedures and equipment by volunteering at a library. Gathering references and getting work experience at a library, even unpaid volunteer work, may fulfill the desired relevant experience preferences of an employer.
States typically don't require certification for library associates. However, some states mandate certification for all full-time workers who provide library information services to patrons. Additionally, some states have voluntary programs that award certification to library support staff. Eligibility standards vary by state but many include a combination of education and experience. Re-certification may require participation in continuing education and professional development activities.
Voluntary national certification is also available through the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) for library associates who want to showcase their skills and achievements to current and prospective employers. Candidates for Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) must have a high school diploma or GED and at least one year of experience working or volunteering at a library, and they must demonstrate competency in six skill areas.
As library associates learn and acquire experience on the job their duties may expand to include more responsibility and less supervision. Demonstrating leadership skills or interest may allow an associate to move into a clerical supervisory position. Alternatively, an aspiring associate may desire to become a librarian. In addition to the experience, a master's degree in library science from an accredited institution is required.
In summary, aspiring library associates should look into earning a bachelor's degree in a field such as library science, gaining practical experience in a library environment and earning voluntary professional certification.