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Library technicians and assistants help librarians with all aspects of running a library. They assist patrons, organize library materials and information, and perform clerical and administrative tasks.

Duties

Library technicians and assistants typically do the following:

  • Loan library materials to patrons and collect returned materials
  • Sort and reshelve returned books, periodicals, and other materials
  • Catalogue and maintain library materials
  • Handle interlibrary loans
  • Register new patrons and issue library cards
  • Answer patrons’ questions and help them find library resources
  • Maintain computer databases used to locate library materials
  • Answer the phone, organize files, and perform other routine clerical tasks
  • Help plan and participate in special programs, such as used-book sales, storytimes and outreach programs

Library technicians and assistants are usually supervised by a librarian. Library technicians typically have more responsibilities than library assistants, such as administering library programs and overseeing lower level staff.

Library technicians and assistants in smaller libraries have a broader range of duties. In larger libraries, they tend to specialize in a particular area, such as user services or technical services. Technicians and assistants in user services assist library patrons with locating resources and information. Those in technical services research and acquire, catalog, and process materials to be added to the library’s collections.

The list that follows gives examples of types of library technicians and assistants based on the type of library they work in:

Academic library technicians and assistants assist students, faculties, and staff in colleges and universities. They help students, faculty, and staff access resources and information related to coursework or research projects. Some help teach students how to access and use library resources. They may work at service desks for reserve materials, special collections or computer labs.

Public library technicians and assistants work in their community libraries to serve all members of the public. They help patrons find books to read for pleasure; assist patrons with their research for schoolwork, business, or personal interest; and teach patrons how to access the library’s resources. Some technicians in public libraries may help plan programs for users, such as story time for children, book clubs for teens or adults, or other educational or recreational activities.

School library technicians and assistants show students how to find and use library resources, maintain textbook collections and they help teachers develop curriculum materials.

Special library technicians and assistants work in libraries in government agencies, corporations, museums, law firms, and medical centers. They assist user, search library resources, compile bibliographies, and provide information on subjects of interest to the organization.

Work Environment

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Library technicians and assistants held about 216,600 jobs in 2012. They work in local public libraries, corporate and specialty libraries, and school and university libraries.

The industries that employed the most library technicians and assistants in 2012 were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 54%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 17
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 16
Information 6

Library technicians and assistants generally work indoors. They spend much of their time at public service desks or computer terminals. Most also spend time in the library stacks while reshelving books, a task that may require bending or stretching to reach the shelves.

Work Schedules

More than half of clerical library assistants worked part time in 2012.

Library technicians and assistants in school libraries work during regular school hours. Those in public or college libraries often work weekends, evenings, and some holidays. In corporate libraries, library technicians and assistants work normal business hours but may be asked to work overtime.

Education and Training

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Most library technicians need a postsecondary certificate or an associate’s degree. Clerical library assistants usually learn through short-term on-the-job training.

Education

Most libraries prefer to hire library technicians who have a postsecondary certificate or an associate’s degree. However, some smaller libraries might hire prospective technicians with only a high school diploma.

To obtain an associate’s degree or a certificate in library technology, candidates must take classes in acquisitions, cataloguing, circulation, reference, and automated library systems.

In some cases, library technicians who work in public schools must meet the same requirements as teacher assistants.

No formal education is required for clerical library assistants. Most libraries prefer to hire assistants who have earned a high school diploma or GED, but some will hire high school students.

Training

Clerical library assistants usually receive some short-term on-the-job training to learn about libraries and library resources.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Library technicians need to listen to and understand patrons’ needs, provide clear answers to questions, and teach patrons and students how to use library resources.

Computer skills. Library technicians and assistants use computers to help patrons research topics. Library technicians and assistants also use computers to maintain the library’s database of collections.

Detail-oriented. Library technicians and assistants must pay close attention to ensure that library materials and information are organized correctly and according to the library’s organizational system. Cataloging and processing library materials also requires attention to detail.

Interpersonal skills. Library technicians and assistants provide customer service to library patrons and work on teams with librarians and, at times, teachers or researchers.

Advancement

Library technicians and assistants can advance as they assume additional responsibilities in other areas of the library. Some eventually become supervisors and oversee daily library operations. To become a librarian, technicians and assistants need to earn a master’s degree in library science.

Pay

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The median hourly wage for library technicians was $14.74 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.86, and the top 10 percent earned more than $23.33.

The median hourly wage for clerical library assistants was $11.27 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.21, and the top 10 percent earned more than $18.41.

In May 2012, the median hourly wages for library technicians and clerical library assistants in the top four industries in which these technicians and assistants worked were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state,
local, and private
$15.47
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 12.96
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 12.08
Information 11.11

More than half of clerical library assistants worked part time in 2012.

Library technicians and assistants in school libraries work during regular school hours. Those in public or college libraries often work weekends, evenings, and some holidays. In corporate libraries, library technicians and assistants work normal business hours but may be asked to work overtime.

Job Outlook

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Employment of library technicians is projected to grow 8 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment of clerical library assistants is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Online databases and other electronic tools have simplified some tasks, allowing them to be performed by technicians and assistants rather than librarians. Library technicians and assistants earn less than librarians. As more libraries face budget constraints, technicians and assistants will be used increasingly as a lower cost method of providing library services.

For More Information

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For more information about library technicians and assistants careers, visit

American Library Association

For more information about careers in libraries, visit

Library Careers

For information about medical libraries, visit

Medical Library Association

For information about law libraries, visit

American Association of Law Libraries

For information about many different types of special libraries, visit

Special Libraries Association

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh.

Holland Code

Helping
Persuading
Organizing

Median Pay

$26,800

Projected Growth

12%

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