Library assistants hold approximately 94,400 jobs in the United States, and many work part time. They work in public libraries, school libraries, library media centers, college or university libraries, research libraries, and other special libraries. Assistants in smaller libraries may have duties in all areas of librarianship: cataloging, shelving, and circulating materials, as well as assisting customers in locating materials. Conversely, an assistant at a large public or educational institution will probably work in a single area or floor of the library, concentrating on the materials kept only there, such as legal materials, audiovisual items and equipment, or music.
Businesses and organizations also employ library professionals. Assistants working for these employers may work in corporate libraries, nonprofit corporations, and government agencies, helping people find items of particular interest to the organization.
The position of library assistant is a perfect starting job in the library field. It offers those interested in career advancement the opportunity to explore different areas of the library to determine the area in which they want to work.
To find an assistant job, focus on larger institutions first because the need for assistants will be greater. Smaller facilities might only hire librarians, who handle all the administrative and professional tasks. Newspaper classifieds may be of some help in locating a job, although dropping by libraries with a resume might be more effective and direct.
Many library assistants work part time, combining work with school or even another job. For example, a music teacher who plays trumpet in a band could mix her part-time teaching experience and her interest in books and learning with part-time work in the school library. Almost any background can be used to advantage when entering the field of library science.
Since school library assistants work in grammar schools and high schools, they must apply directly to school boards. Individuals interested in working in library positions for the federal government can contact the human resources department—or consult the Web site of the government agency for which they are interested in working; applicants must take a civil service examination for government positions. Public libraries, too, are often under a civil service system of appointment.
Since the job of assistant is an entry-level job, there are many directions in which an individual can advance. From there, assistants can advance to the position of library technician, and then to the librarian position depending on their area of interest. Staff may advance to positions with greater levels of responsibility within the same library system, or they may gain initial experience in a small library and then advance by transferring to a larger or more specialized library. Within a large library, promotions to higher positions are possible—such as the supervision of a department.
Tips for Entry
Visit http://www.ala.org/educationcareers/careers/librarycareerssite/home for more information on library science careers.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Attend conferences held by professional associations such as the American Library Association in order to network, pursue continuing education, and learn more about the field.