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Library Assistant: Employment Info & Requirements

Mar 29, 2019

Library assistants are typically responsible for the circulation desk and its associated functions, as well as organizing library resources and making them available to patrons. Continue reading to learn more about educational requirements, useful skills, career outlook and salaries for library assistants.

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Career Definition for Library Assistants

Library assistants, often called circulation clerks, are responsible for cataloguing, loaning and shelving books, magazines and other materials. They also provide new patrons with library cards, update existing registrations and help visitors locate resources. Additional duties can include maintaining electronic databases, processing interlibrary loans and assisting with programs and used book sales. Some library assistants may specialize in helping visually impaired patrons find Braille, talking or large-type books.

Education High school diploma or equivalent, on-the-job training
Job Duties Cataloguing, loaning and shelving books, magazines and other materials; distributing library cards; helping visitors locate resources; updating registrations; maintaining electronic databases
Median Hourly Wages (2017)* $12.41 (for clerical library assistants)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 9% (all library technicians and assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A high school diploma or its equivalent is the minimum educational requirement for obtaining a position as a clerical library assistant, who typically trains on the job. Some libraries may be amenable to hiring and training high school students. An associate degree or a postsecondary certificate in library technology is usually required for library technicians. Curriculum requirements generally include topics in automated services, acquisitions, cataloging principles and reference.

Skills Required

In addition to a love of books and reading, library assistants should be computer literate and have good organizational abilities. Attention to detail is also required, along with the communication and interpersonal skills associated with any high public contact position.

Career and Economic Outlook

Library assistants can be employed by academic, public, school or special libraries, such as those associated with government agencies, companies, law offices or museums. As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for library technicians and assistants are expected to increase by 9% from 2016 to 2026, which is about as fast as average compared to all other occupations. The BLS reported that clerical library assistants earned a median hourly wage of $12.41 in May 2017 (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options in this field include:

Librarians

Although responsibilities can vary according to the institution and position, librarians are usually responsible for assisting patrons with information retrieval and research for personal enjoyment or professional purposes. Additional duties may include choosing new audio and visual materials, books or computer equipment; planning programs; preparing budgets; and supervising staff members. A Master of Library Science is usually required to enter the field, and prerequisites include a bachelor's degree. According to the BLS, librarians across the country should expect a 9%, or average, increase in jobs between 2016 and 2026. The BLS also reported a median annual salary of $58,520 for librarians who were employed in May 2017.

Teaching Assistants

Teacher assistants support the work of certified teachers by providing students with academic help and classroom supervision as needed. Their duties can include calculating and recording grades, taking attendance and watching over students during field trips, lunch and recess. While a high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement for obtaining a position, some schools prefer candidates with an associate degree or the equivalent. Between 2016 and 2026, the BLS has projected an 8%, or about as-fast-as-average, increase in job opportunities for teacher assistants, who earned a median yearly salary of $26,260 in May 2017.

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