What Does a Library Assistant Do? Roles and Responsibilities

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A library assistant is a professional who assists library customers and maintains library facilities. They often work under the guidance of an experienced librarian and have direct interactions with customers. If you're interested in becoming a library assistant, learning more about what they do can help you determine if this is the right career for you. In this article, we answer the question, ‘What does a library assistant do?', list the important skills they have and answer some frequently asked questions about becoming a library assistant.

What does a library assistant do?

The answer to the question ‘What does a library assistant do?' is that they maintain organisation within libraries and assist customers. The assistants often re-shelve returned books and monitor computer use. These are some duties a library assistant may undertake:

Helping customers find items

One primary function that library assistants perform is to help customers find resources within the library. This may be as simple as directing the customer toward the audiobooks or computers, or it can be ordering a book from another library. The library assistant can help customers locate a specific book, magazine or resource within the library using the computers. They may also show customers how to find resources for themselves in future.

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Maintaining records

Libraries keep many records to measure the services they provide. A library assistant may help maintain records regarding the number of visitors the library receives, how many customers take advantage of the programs offered or the number of materials checked out and returned each month. Library assistants may also help maintain the record of those who have library cards and when they can renew their cards.

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Issuing notices and collecting fines

While maintaining records, library assistants may issue notices to customers. This may include sending emails to remind them when their books are due soon or calling to ask if they want to renew any books before they become overdue. When books become overdue, the assistant may collect fines from customers when they come to return these books.

Repairing damaged books

Though library assistants can't repair extreme damage to library books, they may administer minor cosmetic repairs to some books. For example, the library assistant may re-attach stickers to the exterior of a book to show which library it belongs to. They may also replace the inner page showing who last checked out the book. The assistant may tape ripped pages or take steps to re-shape the book to prepare it for the next customer.

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Sorting and shelving returned items

When customers return books to the library, they often slide them into large bins. The library assistant sorts through these bins and uses carts to return the books to the correct places on the shelves. This is an important process because returning the books to the proper location allows other customers to find them easily. Library assistants may also clean and disinfect the books during this step.

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Important library assistant skills

Library assistants use their knowledge of the shelving system and their organisation and communication skills to complete their daily tasks. These important skills ensure that they can organise the books and other materials and interact with customers effectively. The following is a list of some important library assistant skills:

Communication

Communication is the ability to understand and convey information when interacting with others. This is an important skill for library assistants because it allows them to interact effectively with librarians, other library staff and customers. For example, an assistant may use active listening to understand a customer's requirements, and then communicate the steps the customer can follow to find the resources they are looking for.

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Technical proficiency

Many libraries use online catalogues and technology to assist with sorting and organising books. To be successful as a library assistant, being proficient with technology can be helpful. You may help customers use computers and access the internet or use the system to locate a resource for a visitor. A library assistant may also use spreadsheets and word processors to create library materials and maintain library records.

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Customer service

A library assistant is often the first of the library staff to interact with customers when they require assistance. This highlights the importance of good customer service for library assistants, as they can use this skill to identify the customer's requirements and help them find what they are looking for. Customer service skills allow the assistant to be patient and kind when interacting with customers who may feel upset or confused. By providing quality customer service, the assistant can encourage the customer to return to the library.

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Organisation

Because sorting and re-shelving books and other materials is an important part of the library assistant role, organisational skills are particularly important. These skills allow the assistant to quickly sort through books and remember where to shelve them. Organisational skills may also help the assistant locate resources more quickly when customers request them. These skills can help assistants create and distribute materials that educate customers about the library's available services.

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FAQ about being a library assistant

Learning more about being a library assistant can help you determine if this is the right career for you. These are the answers to some frequently asked questions about being a library assistant:

What qualifications do you require to be a library assistant?

There aren't many official requirements for becoming a library assistant. Some libraries may prefer that you complete secondary school prior to applying, while other libraries may accept secondary school students for a library assistant position. If you want to improve your library assistant qualifications, you may consider pursuing a certification in library or information services. Some libraries may also require that you complete a check to work with children.

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Where do library assistants usually work?

Library assistants can work in libraries in a variety of settings. Many library assistants work in smaller public libraries that serve average-sized communities and towns, while others work in large central libraries within cities. You may also choose to work in the library on a campus or in a government library, depending on your specific interests. There are many specialised libraries, such as art and law libraries that you may seek employment in while pursuing a degree.

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What is the work environment like for library assistants?

The work environment for library assistants can vary depending on their specific tasks and the size of the library where they work. For example, a library assistant who works in a smaller community library may have a quiet day with plenty of time for rest and reading. Library assistants who work in larger libraries and lead programs for children may spend more time in noisy environments and have less time for relaxing between shelving books.

How long does it take to become a library assistant?

How long it takes to become a library assistant can vary depending on the library and its standards for assistants. Some libraries may accept assistants who are still in secondary school, while others may require that you complete secondary school or even gain certifications prior to receiving an offer. After becoming a library assistant, you can pursue a university degree if you wish to become a librarian, which can take between four and six years. Consider researching the requirements at your local library to learn more.

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