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Circulation Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

Specific daily job duties for circulation assistants vary based on the library where they work and its features, amenities, and materials. Based on job posting we analyzed, the core job tasks for circulation assistants are the same in all library environments and include:

Assist Customers Circulation assistants answer customer questions and assist customers in finding books, using card catalogs, operating computer systems, and checking out books.

Register Library Cards Circulation assistants register new patrons for library cards.

Collect Payments These professionals also collect payments on overdue books and other library fees from customers. They negotiate fees and payment plans with customers on overdue library materials.

Enforce Library Rules Circulation assistants enforce all library policies, advising customers on how to properly follow rules.

Sort and Shelve Materials They sort and shelve library books and other materials, placing them in their designated locations within the library.

Process Mail Circulation assistants process incoming mail and shipments of new materials arriving at the library as well as prepare shipments of outgoing materials.

Create Inventory Reports They create inventory reports on withdrawn materials, missing materials, newly-arrived materials, and other library materials.

Open and Close Library Circulation assistants open and close the library to the public, following all proper procedures as outlined by library guidelines.

Staff Special Events They also help organize and staff special library events, such as story time for children, and schedule space for special events by customer request.

Answer Phones Circulation assistants answer incoming phone calls and greet incoming customers arriving at the library.

Set Up Special Displays Setting up and taking down special library displays, informational flyers, and signs is another aspect of this position.


Circulation Assistant Skills and Qualifications

Circulation assistants are well-organized professionals with strong interpersonal skills and usually have a love of reading and books. In addition to a high school diploma or equivalent, libraries seek circulation assistants who display the following:
  • Customer Service - Because circulation assistants support customers on a regular basis, they have strong customer service skills
  • Computer Skills - As many libraries now use digital systems to maintain book inventories, circulation assistants have at least basic computer skills
  • Communication - They also have good verbal communication skills to speak with customers, advise them on how to follow rules, and instruct them on using library systems
  • Mathematics - Circulation assistants perform basic calculations to determine customer fees and collect fee payments
  • Physical Ability - This position requires that assistants stand for long periods at a time, lift heavy boxes, move carts, bend, squat, and stretch to perform their regular job duties
  • Reading Comprehension - Circulation assistants have strong reading comprehension skills
  • Organization - They also have excellent organization skills to shelve library books and properly place other materials

Circulation Assistant Education and Training

Libraries require circulation assistants to have a high school diploma or GED. Some libraries may also require candidates to have past work experience in customer service or within a library environment. This is an entry-level job, and some libraries provide training to new circulation assistants. During this training period, new circulation assistants work closely with librarians and library managers to learn the library system and their basic job functions. The training period varies by library but lasts for typically two or more weeks.

Circulation Assistant Salary and Outlook

In 2016, "Library Technicians and Assistants" earned a median income of $28,440 annually and $13.67 hourly, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Library assistants perform the same job tasks as circulation assistants by aiding with all library operations. There were more than 200,000 jobs for library technicians and assistants in 2016, a number that is projected to rise by 9 percent through 2026. This is as fast as the U.S. job growth average. Full-time circulation assistants who work for government-owned libraries receive health, dental, vision, and life insurance benefits. The benefits package includes sick leave, personal days, and vacation pay. Pension plans and retirement savings are also standard. Government-owned libraries may also provide tuition reimbursement, and some offer additional benefits such as child care and elder care. Privately-owned libraries hiring full-time circulation assistants usually provide basics benefits packages that include health insurance, with some dental and vision coverage. Vacation, sick, and personal days are typically included. Part-time circulation assistants do not receive benefits.

Helpful Resources

Find career opportunities, professional strategies, networking events, and other useful information for circulation assistants with these helpful resources:

American Library Association (ALA) - The ALA offers useful content for circulation assistants and other library professionals about library trends, professional ethics, news updates, and awards. This website also offers education and career opportunities as well as a calendar of upcoming conferences and networking events. Library Assistant RED-HOT Career Guide; 2586 REAL Interview Questions - Land a library job with this career guide, which is full of likely interview questions and all the right answers candidates should give for them.

Special Libraries Association (SLA) - Visit the SLA career center to find job opportunities, educational events, certification program information, and other resources for circulation assistants and library professionals.

The Classification of Everything - Use this book to learn more about the Dewey Decimal system that's still used in libraries all over the country as well as other common library classification systems, including digital classification systems.

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