Library technicians and assistants, also known as library technical assistants, media aides, library media assistants, library aides, or circulation assistants, are gaining ground in their field as the growth of technology allows them to complete more and more duties that were previously reserved for librarians, even without holding an advanced degree.
This article outlines the job duties for library technicians and assistants, as well as the necessary education and other requirements needed for the field. The 10-year employment outlook, as well as expected yearly earnings figures, are also included.
Library technicians and assistants primarily help librarians with their essential tasks of maintaining library materials, assisting library patrons in finding what they need, conducting research, and running library programs.
A library technician or assistant’s duties often include:
- presiding over library programs, such as book readings
- helping with choosing and acquiring new materials for the library
- shelving books
- checking materials in and out of the system
- assisting patrons in finding materials or information
- processing interlibrary loan requests
- repairing materials
- supervising other staff or volunteers
- researching using databases and online catalogs
- helping with preparations for library events and activities
One specialization in the library technician and assistant field is the “Braille-and-talking-books clerk.” These workers assist visually impaired individuals with finding what materials they need in large-type, Braille, or audio book format. Some extra job training is necessary to become a Braille-and-talking-books clerk.
More and more, with the help of advancing technology, library technicians and assistants are able to do work previously reserved for librarians. Internet databases greatly simplify the process of searching for materials and conducting research. These databases also make interlibrary loaning and searching for materials stored in other libraries much easier.
In general, library technicians and assistants work in libraries and other places where archives are kept. They may work for private institutions, such as private colleges, but most work for the government in a public library, state-funded university, government office, or public records office. Some private businesses hire library technicians and assistants to manage their files and help with data searches.
Education and Other Requirements
A higher education is not necessary to become a library technician or assistant. However, holding at least an associate’s degree in library science or a related field will give job hunters a leg up in the hunt for employment.
Individuals wanting to work in public school libraries must meet the same requirements as teacher assistants, which may include on-the-job training and passing a background check. Requirements are different for library technicians and assistants wanting to work in a Title 1 school, a school classified as having a significant number of students from low-income homes: They are required to have completed at least two years of higher education, earned an associate’s degree, or passed a state-approved exam.
Some small libraries may hire high school students as library technicians and assistants, but in general at least graduation from high school and preferably some related work or volunteer experience are required to be hired for these jobs.
10-Year Employment Outlook
Job opportunities for library technicians and assistants are expected to grow at about the average rate for all occupations. Job candidates who have specialized training, education beyond a high school diploma, and/or related work or volunteer experience will have an increased chance of finding work as a library technician or assistant.
Over 120,000 individuals are currently employed as library technicians or assistants. About half of those individuals work for the local government, usually in a public library setting.
While government funding restrictions limit job growth in public, school, and government libraries, job prospects will be better in specialized libraries. Also, funding restrictions often lead employers to hire well-trained library technicians and assistants over librarians, as a way to save money.
Average earnings for library technicians and assistants are presented in hourly figures, as many of these workers are in part-time positions:
- Median: $13.85
- Middle range: $10.55 to $17.75
- Overall range: $8.25 to $22.00
From highest to lowest, here is the list for average hourly wages based on type of employer:
- Colleges, universities, and other postsecondary education institutions: $16.00
- Information services: $13.50
- Local government: $13.25
- Elementary and secondary schools: $13.00
Library technicians and assistants with a postsecondary degree or a specialization in a desirable field have a better chance of getting higher wages.