Library Assistants and Technicians

Library Assistants and Technicians generally perform clerical duties, and are often mistaken for librarians as they are the first face people see, since most libraries' checkout desks are near the entrance. Library assistants often check materials out and in, collect fines and fees, answer general phone questions, issue library cards, process new library materials, and assist with items on reserve.

ALA has a list of support staff positions in libraries intended to give you an idea about types of jobs you can have as support staff within libraries.

Earnings

Library assistant jobs may be part- or full-time and can range from $8 to $17 per hour; the middle 50 percent earned between $8.95 and $14.44 in 2010. The madian annual salary in 2010 was  $23,120 The highest paying Library Assistant jobs are at colleges, universities, and professional schools.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages: Library Assistants, May 2010

 

The wage range for Library Technicians is slightly higher, $8.64 to $22.59 per hour; the middle 50 percent earned between $10.93 and $18.34 in 2010.  The median annual salary was $29,860. The highest paying Library Technician jobs are with the Federal Government, followed by colleges, universities, and professional schools.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages: Library Technicians, May 2010

 

Outlook

Between 2008 and 2018, the number of library technicians is expected to grow about 9 percent, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations and the number of library assistants is expected to grow by about 11 percent, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Increasing use of library automation creates more opportunities for these workers. Electronic information systems have simplified some tasks, enabling them to be performed by technicians, rather than librarians, and spurring demand for technicians. However, job growth in educational institutions will be limited by slowing enrollment growth. In addition, public libraries often face budget pressures, which hold down overall growth in library services. However, this may result in the hiring of more of these workers, because they are paid less than librarians and, thus, represent a lower-cost way to offer some library services. Employment should grow more rapidly in special libraries because increasing numbers of professionals and other workers use those libraries. Because these workers are largely employed by public institutions, they are not directly affected by the ups and downs of the business cycle, but they may be affected by changes in the level of government funding for libraries.

Occupational Outlook Handbook for Library Technicians & Library Assistants at the Bureau of Labor Statistics has detailed information about educational requirements, work environment and job outlook for library support staff.

Education

Educational requirements vary greatly by state and type of library. Some positions require a high school diploma; others require an associate degree or library technician certificate.

A partial list of state certification programs is available at the ALA-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) website.

ALA-APA has developed a national Library Support Staff Certification Program.in partnership with the Western Council of State Libraries.

A list of Library Technician programs in the U.S. provided by the Council on Library Technicians (COLT).

Skills

  • Ability to communicate clearly with patrons, co-workers and supervisors
  • Ability to follow library policies and procedures, especially as relate to issuing library cards, checking out items, collecting fines and fees, and processing new materials
  • Ability to count change and handle money
  • Ability to work with computer applications; most library assistants will use the library's computer system to manage library card holder records, or add new items to the online catalog
  • Ability to work with and troubleshoot office machines, such as copiers

Experience

  • Generally previous experience is not required, although preference may be given to people who are already somewhat familiar with a library environment, such as a page

Career path

  • Library assistants who excel in their area of work may make excellent candidates for a managerial position, such as a circulation manager or head of circulation. In public libraries, it is not unusual for a similar career path in the cataloging or "technical services" area.
  • Library assistants who complete a four-year undergraduate degree in any field are excellent candidates to consider becoming a librarian.