CHOOSING A CAREER / JUL. 22, 2014
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How to Become a Library Assistant

Library assistants work alongside librarians to ensure the efficient running of the library. They compile records, sort and shelf books, and issue/receive library materials. If you are passionate about reading and protecting information, and possess strong organizational skills, this could be the job for you.

The Work

Library assistants usually deal with various informational materials, such as maps and photographs, CDs, DVDs, newspapers, pamphlets, and physical or electronic books. These assistants can work in:

  • Academic libraries - they help students and colleges access information related to their course work or projects
  • Public libraries - help members of the public to find books to read for leisure or research
  • School libraries - they show students how to use and maintain library materials
  • Special libraries - these libraries are common in government agencies, museums, medical centers and law firms
  • Library assistants working here help staff members to retrieve information useful to the organization

Apart from helping people to access information, library assistants also:

  • Sort information and books according to specific procedures
  • Maintain computer databases that help to locate library materials
  • Handle inter-library relations, such as loaning books to other libraries
  • Participate in special programs, such as selling used books.

Work Environment

Since most libraries operate for long hours, it is common for library assistants to work shifts, including evenings and weekends. However, those working in special libraries may work normal business hours (9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday).

Library assistants working in mobile libraries often travel around major towns and cities.  

Salary

The amount of money library assistants make in wages varies with whether they work for profit or nonprofit libraries. As such, beginning librarians can expect to earn the following salaries;

Type of library

Annual pay

Educational libraries

 £16,000 - £19,000

Commercial libraries

£18,000 - £21,000 or more

Source: National Careers Service

Entry Requirements

You don’t need advanced academic qualifications to become a library assistant. To qualify for employment, you need;

  • At least five GCSEs (A-C) - commercial libraries may prefer A levels
  • Some experience working with information management systems

You can also become a library assistant after completing a libraries, archives, records and information management apprenticeship scheme.

Most libraries offer on-the-job training to help newly hired library assistants execute their functions effectively.

Important Skills and Abilities

To be a successful library assistant you should have;

  • Excellent customer service skills
  • An interest in reading books and protecting information
  • Interpersonal skills to work with senior librarian and other library staff as a team
  • Good computer skills to use the library’s computer database effectively
  • A methodical and well-organized approach to various issues

Career Development

After you start working as a library assistant, you can pursue the following courses to enhance your career progression prospects;

  • Level 2 Certificate in Libraries, Archives and Information Services
  • Level 3 Diploma in Libraries, Archives and Information Services

These courses are offered by several colleges across the UK. Examples include;

With more work experience, you can apply to be a member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and complete its certification program. This enhances your chances of becoming a qualified librarian.

Work Opportunities

As a library assistant or librarian, you can work for;

  • The local authorities’ public library services
  • Libraries in colleges and universities
  • Law firms
  • Commercial research centers
  • Information service providers

Look out for advertisements in the local press, newspapers and job centers.

Success Tip

To become a successful library assistant, you should focus on cultivating good working relationships with senior librarians. This way, you will be able to learn from them, as well as follow their career paths.

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