How to Become a Library Assistant

Career Path Guide

Although there are other paths you can take, a very effective route for becoming a library assistant is to follow these general steps:


1. Determine if this occupation is suited to your interests and qualities

2. Pursue a diploma or certificate in Library Science or Library Studies 

3. Find a suitable job and nail the interview

4. Move into roles of greater pay and responsibility as you gain experience


Below we've expanded on these points, to give you a more complete idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a library assistant in the United States or Canada.



What Formal Education and Experience Will I Need?

Generally, those who employ library assistants prefer to hire candidates who have:


• At least a high school diploma (although in many cases current high school students are accepted)

• Related education or training, such as a diploma or degree in library science/studies

• Keyboarding and computer skills

• Volunteer or part-time work experience in a library

• Past work or volunteer experience in a public-facing, customer service or clerical capacity


Please Note: Once hired, most employers provide comprehensive on-the-job training.





What is a Library Assistant?

Library assistants, also known as ‘library clerks’, support librarians and library technicians by performing administrative, clerical and operational duties within libraries.


Some of their main functions include checking in and out material at the circulation desk, receiving payments for fines, shelving returned books and helping process new materials. They also assist with administrative functions for special programs and events held at the library. 



What Does a Library Assistant Do?

Although their duties can vary from job to job, library assistants are generally responsible for performing the following tasks:


• Sorting, organizing and shelving books and other publications

• Issuing and receiving library materials such as books, pictures, slides, microfilm, CD, magazines and others

• Responding to inquiries from the general public and stakeholders

• Registering patrons in order for them to be able to borrow library materials

• Researching and recommending acquisition of books and other materials

• Making recommendations to the library manager regarding possible materials to acquire 

• Providing general administrative assistance with functions and events held at the library



What Is the Typical Work Environment Like?

Working Conditions: Working in an indoor setting, library assistants often work under the supervision of librarians and library technicians. Although library settings are generally peaceful, library assistants sometimes have to deal with argumentative, or even abusive, patrons. On occasion, library assistants may have to move heavy items, such as equipment, or boxes of books and other information materials. 


Working Hours: The working hours of library assistants can vary, based on the library’s hours of operation, which could be early mornings, or into the evening, and on weekends. Many jobs for library assistants are part-time, although full-time work isn’t uncommon either.



What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?

If you can demonstrate a solid work ethic, and competence when performing your duties, there is potential to advance and assume additional responsibilities in other areas of the library, and higher levels of pay.


You could also move into a supervisory role, and oversee daily library operations. To become a fully-fledged librarian, you would need to earn a master’s degree in library science.


Alternatively, you could transfer your clerical and customer service skills to other occupational outside of library operations entirely.





Should I Become a Library Assistant?

If you have the following personal qualities and professional interests, you should be a good fit for this profession:


• You have a keen interest in working in a library environment

• You have a keen interest in books and information sources 

• Patience, and a strong concern for customer service

• You can deal with stressful situations with tact and diplomacy

• You can learn new software applications quickly and adapt to changing technologies

• The ability to communicate effectively and deal pleasantly with library users and other stakeholders

• The ability to work with little supervision

• The ability to work as part of a team and take direction from supervisors

• An appreciation for detail and organizational skills

• The ability to maintain accuracy and persevere at tasks that may be repetitive

• You enjoy having clear and definitive processes to guide your work

• You enjoy taking a methodical approach to tasks such as re-shelving books and helping people find information


Please Note: If you’re interested in becoming a librarian one day, getting work experience as a library assistant is an excellent career move. It will introduce you to the profession, help you make useful contacts, and look great on a resume!



What is the Salary of a Library Assistant?

The actual wages and salaries of library assistants can vary greatly, typically depending on the following factors:


• Their level of education and experience

• The amount of responsibility inherent in their job

• The size and type of their employer

• The region in which they work

• Their salary negotiating abilities

• Many other factors


Library Assistant Salary in Alberta: According to the 2017 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the “Librarians” occupational group is $27,254 per year.


Salary - British Columbia: According to WorkBC (Province of British Columbia), those working in the “Librarians” occupational group earn an annual provincial median salary of $43,680.


Salary - United States: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the “Library Technicians and Assistants” occupational group is $29,640 per year.



Who Employs Library Assistants?

Although library assistants are obviously employed by libraries, there are many different kinds of libraries that employ them. In addition, they can also be employed by non-profit and research institutions. Overall, the following types of organizations might employ library assistants:


• Public libraries

• Public and private schools

• College, research and university libraries 

• Corporate, government, hospital, legal, prison, and other specialty libraries

• Publishers and broadcasters

• Museums and archives

• Not-for-profit organizations

• Information brokerage firms

• Information technology (IT) firms



Current Job Opportunities

Our job board below has a listing of "library assistant" postings in your area of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia.



What are Careers Similar to This One?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “library assistant”:


Administrative Assistant

• Librarian 

• Map Librarian

• Medical Librarian 

• Office Clerk

• Office Manager



What Scholarships Are There for Aspiring Library Assistants? 

The “Relevant University Majors” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming a Library Assistant. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our "English Scholarships” page.


Success Tip: Apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




The following resources were used to gather information for this career path guide:


• Career Paths: “Becoming a Library Assistant or Technician.” (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved May 2, 2017.

• Job Profiles: “Library Assistant.” (December 7, 2016). National Careers Service. Retrieved May 2, 2017.

• Occupations: “Library Assistant.” (April 21, 2014). Department of Training and Workforce Development - Government of Western Australia. Retrieved May 2, 2017.

• Occupations in Alberta: “Library Clerk.” (March 29, 2017). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 19, 2020.

• Education, Training, and Library: “Library Technicians and Assistants.” (December 16, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved February 19, 2020.

• Explore Careers: “Library assistants and clerks.” (January 18, 2018). WorkBC website - Province of British Columbia. Retrieved February 19, 2020.



Relevant University Majors

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a library assistant. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


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