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What does a Library Assistant do?

By Kasey James
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A library assistant helps the librarian with all the daily tasks in the library. This could include working at the circulation desk and assisting the public. Other tasks may include repairing, replacing, and restocking books. Some libraries offer educational children's programs and other special events where the library assistant will help.

The circulation desk is usually the main desk at the front of the library where people check out and return books, ask questions, and receive library cards. The desk can sometimes be crowded, and the assistant may have to multi-task during these times. A library assistant may work at the desk with the librarian or on her own as she becomes more comfortable with the job. The librarians at the circulation desk also take phone calls coming into the library.

The librarian may ask the library assistant to work out on the floor at times. This could include helping people find specific books or books about a particular topic. The assistant may also help library patrons use the card catalog or computer system to locate books within the library. Individuals in this role will also answer any questions the patrons may have.

Books at the library often have to be repaired due to damage. This may be one of the duties of a library assistant. Books that are repaired or books that are checked in have to be restocked accordingly. The assistant may also have to open boxes of new books, label them, and decide where to shelve them in the library. They may have to enter new books in the card catalog or computer system as well.

Many public libraries offer programs for the surrounding community. Children's programs are popular all year round. The library assistant may have to participate in the program by decorating or creating a plan for the event, reading to the children, or helping the librarian to make sure the event runs smoothly. The assistant will encourage new patrons to apply for a library card during these events.

Even though there are several different jobs at the library, the library assistant will often begin with just a few tasks. As an assistant becomes more familiar with the library and the duties, they may be asked to increase their daily jobs. A person in this position could work part time or full time. They may also work weekdays, weekends, or a combination of both.

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Discussion Comments
By lonelygod — On Aug 05, 2011

There are lots of opportunities for library assistants to specialize in a specific area of their library. If you are able to hone your skills so that you are an expert in new media or have something like technical skills or advanced archival skills, you can really increase your salary.

Most library assistants make a fair wage, especially when starting out. A new library assistant can make around $28,000 USD per year. Also, with a bit of specialization they can easily bring their wage up to around $37,000 USD.

For those that are willing to take a few extra courses in something like Internet cataloging or computer repair you can really add more value to your position.

By animegal — On Aug 05, 2011

For those who are interested in entering the field of library services there are lots of opportunities to volunteer at your local library. A lot of libraries are understaffed and they welcome those who want to help with things like shelving books and working with them at events.

I helped out a few of the library assistants during my time volunteering at my local library and it was a lot of fun seeing how they kept the books in tip top shape and how they managed to keep the collection organized. I have always been a bit of a neat freak, so tidying up books was enjoyable for me.

Another fun thing about volunteering at the library was helping out at the circulation desk. Getting to meet all the people who came into the library was interesting and I got a lot of great book recommendations from the patrons.

By Mykol — On Aug 05, 2011

I know that most people would not think that restocking books would be a very exciting job, but that was one of my favorite duties when I worked as a library assistant.

I love the look, smell and feel of books and read as often as I have the chance. When I would restock the books, this gave me a chance to see a wide variety of books and subjects.

I would put books back on the shelves that I would never have known about or even thought about if I had not been working at the library.

By LisaLou — On Aug 04, 2011

When my kids were young, we spent a lot of time at the library. They always had great learning programs for kids and we came home with our arms full of books and projects to work on.

Once they were in school, I applied to work part time as a library assistant and was thrilled when I got the job. I have always loved libraries and being surrounded by books, and the idea that I would get paid to be there was even better.

I think my favorite part of this job was when the new books would come in. I loved opening up those boxes to see which books were there and looking at the brand new covers. I really enjoyed entering all the information in the computer system.

The only downside about this job was that there were always more books to read than what I had time for.

By honeybees — On Aug 04, 2011

Being a lover of reading and good books, I thoroughly enjoyed working at the library while I was in college.

This was a small college and I was an assistant to a librarian who had worked at this college library for many years. She knew the library and the system like the back of her hand.

This was quite a few years ago, and computers were not as widely used in libraries like they are today. We relied heavily on the card catalog. Since I am a very detailed and organized person, this part of the job was very relaxing for me.

By miriam98 — On Aug 03, 2011

@everetra - You can’t become a librarian without a master’s degree in library science. So to answer your question, the library assistant would not be able to move on up without that degree.

Of course, if they obtained the degree while working as a library assistant, I think that would be a plus, since they now have experience. As for pay, I think that the librarian makes substantially more than the library assistant.

I would guess that the librarian is on a salary whereas the library assistant, in most cases, is earning an hourly wage.

By everetra — On Aug 03, 2011

I wonder if a library assistant can ever be promoted to a librarian – and if so, would there be a substantial increase in pay?

By Mammmood — On Aug 02, 2011

@allenJo - I never worked as a library assistant either, but I did explore the possibility once. I never got the position, however.

I do believe it’s an ideal all around job for a number of reasons. The pay is usually well above minimum wage, and can even rise to the salary level depending on your experience. Also, it’s a clean, quiet environment, which is what I like best.

By allenJo — On Aug 02, 2011

I did a lot of part time jobs while in college. I wish I had the opportunity to work as a library assistant. The closest that I ever got was working as a cashier in a bookstore close to the college.

I loved that job, because I loved books. I was able to be around them for several hours a day and I could check out any book that I wanted for free.

What I would have preferred about a library job, however, is the quietness of the place.

I was always very good at organizing things, so restocking books or helping people with the Dewey decimal system would not have been a problem. I didn’t realize that library assistants did other things, like reading to children at special events, or helping to coordinate meetings to ensure that everything ran smoothly.

Those tasks are not as much up my alley, but I would have been willing to do them, I believe, just to continue working at the library.

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