Librarian Assistant Job Description
A librarian assistant supports circulation and other library tasks by maintaining records, helping to sort and shelve books, and receiving library materials. They may also be responsible for interacting directly with library patrons, answering questions, and locating materials for patrons to use and checkout from the library.
Depending on the type of library, librarian assistants may also be responsible for issuing library cards to patrons, updating information, and collecting fines for overdue items. While this role is more limited than that of a full librarian, the duties of a librarian assistant help to ensure that the day-to-day operations of the library run smoothly and efficiently.
Librarian Assistant Duties and Responsibilities
Librarian assistants do more than just process incoming and outgoing books and materials. We researched job descriptions to compile the following list of core librarian assistant responsibilities:
Maintain Circulation Desk
Librarian assistants are frequently responsible for staffing the library’s circulation desk. In this aspect of the role, they interact directly with patrons to lend out books, movies, and periodicals. They may also collect materials returned by patrons and enter records in the library’s database. This aspect of the role requires a librarian assistant to provide patrons with information related to due dates and to have extensive knowledge of library policies for materials than cannot be checked out.
Librarian assistants also directly assist patrons throughout the library. They may help library visitors find a specific section or title or direct them to areas of the library where they can use computers or other resources. When patrons need to use audio-visual materials or records on microfilm, librarian assistants are also tasked with setting up equipment and making sure it is working as intended.
Maintain Patron Records
Often, librarian assistants support data entry activities within the library by updating and maintaining patron records. If a patron changes their address or contact information, for example, a librarian assistant may be responsible for updating the library’s records to reflect the correct information. Additionally, the librarian assistant maintains records of checked-out items, overdue materials, and accrued and paid fines.
Sort and Shelve Library Materials
Another major duty of the librarian assistant is sorting and shelving a variety of library materials. This can include books dropped in return bins as well as new releases that arrive at the library. It is the librarian assistant’s duty to sort these materials and ensure that they are returned to their correct places. They may also need to update library records to reflect when an item is back in circulation or removed from the library’s collection.
Receive New Materials
Librarian assistants also support library operations by receiving new materials when they arrive. They may wrap and label books, affixing library stickers and other identifying material. As part of this role, a librarian assistant also creates entries in the library’s database indicating material availability and the number of copies on hand. They may also check patron requests and holds to see if copies need to be set aside before shelving.
In many libraries, librarian assistants are also responsible for processing payments of fines for overdue or lost items. In addition to collecting payments and making change, the librarian assistant records the fine as paid and updates the library and patron records. In some cases, they may check records of overdue items and send out reminders to patrons to ensure that the books return to circulation.
Librarian Assistant Skills and Qualifications
Librarian assistants balance customer service and clerical roles while supporting a library’s day-to-day operations. Libraries typically hire candidates with a high school diploma or equivalent, along with the following skills:
- Customer Service – Librarian assistants spend a lot of time interacting with patrons, either at the circulation desk or elsewhere in the library, so customer service skills are essential
- Organization – Because this role involves sorting and shelving a wide variety of materials and ensuring accurate record-keeping, organization is another vital skill
- Data Entry – The librarian assistant’s role also involves a significant amount of data entry to maintain patron and library records, so some familiarity with database management is very important
- Interest in Books – Librarian assistants should also have extensive interest and familiarity with books, which helps them answer patron questions and make recommendations
- Teamwork – In most libraries, librarian assistants work as part of a team to support library activities and assist patrons, so the ability to work well with others is also an asset in this role
Tools of the Trade
Librarian assistants frequently move around the library to shelve materials and assist patrons, but many of the responsibilities of this role require using basic computer equipment and programs in addition to:
- Library-Specific Software – (Dynix, OPAC)
Librarian Assistant Education and Training
Most librarian assistants have at least a high school diploma, although libraries are increasingly hiring those who have received their associate degree in information science. Some librarian assistants also have a certificate to help secure a position. This role offers a significant amount of on-the-job training to familiarize the librarian assistant with the library’s policies and collection.
Librarian Assistant Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Studies classifies library assistants into two categories: clerical assistants and technicians. However, many librarian assistants work in both of these areas to support library operations. The median pay for library technicians and assistants was $28,440 in May 2016. The BLS further breaks this down into a median hourly wage of $12.12 for clerical assistants and $15.81 for technicians.
Employment for librarian assistants is expected to grow 9 percent between 2016 and 2026, especially as libraries enhance their public programs and become more community-focused spaces.
If you’re interested in learning more or beginning a career as a librarian assistant, we found a number of resources to help further your pursuit:
Library Certificate and Degree Programs – The American Library Association provides information on educational opportunities for librarians and librarian assistants.
Foundations of Library and Information Science – Learn about the fundamental ideas and concepts of information science and library operations with this book by Richard E. Rubin.
Public Libraries Online – This industry website focuses on public libraries and provides links to articles, resources, and forums for those who work in public libraries.
So You Want to Be a Librarian – Read about how to begin a career in a library and find out about the many roles a librarian assistant might play in public and university settings with this book by Lauren Pressley.
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