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Job Outlook: -3% (Decline)

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What Library Technicians and Assistants Do About this section

library technicians and assistants image
Library technicians and assistants help shelve and organize materials.

Library technicians and assistants help librarians with all aspects of running a library. They assist patrons, organize library materials and information, and do clerical and administrative tasks.

Duties

Library technicians and assistants typically do the following:

  • Loan library materials to patrons and collect returned materials
  • Sort and reshelve returned books, periodicals, and other materials
  • Catalogue and maintain library materials
  • Handle interlibrary loans
  • Register new patrons and issue library cards
  • Answer routine reference questions from patrons
  • Teach patrons how to use library resources
  • Maintain computer databases used to locate library materials
  • Perform routine clerical tasks such as answering phones and organizing files
  • Help plan and participate in special programs, such as used-book sales, story times, or outreach programs

A librarian usually supervises library technicians and assistants. Both technicians and assistants help patrons find information and organize library materials. However, library technicians typically have more responsibilities than library assistants.

Library technicians and assistants in small libraries have a broad range of duties. In large libraries, they tend to specialize in a particular area, such as user services or technical services. Those specializing in user services assist library patrons with locating resources and information. Those specializing in technical services research, acquire, catalog, and process materials to be added to the library’s collections.

The following are examples of types of library technicians and assistants:

Academic library technicians and assistants help students, faculties, and staff in colleges and universities access resources and information related to coursework or research projects. Some teach students how to access and use library resources. They may work at service desks for reserve materials, special collections, or computer labs.

Public library technicians and assistants work in community libraries to serve members of the public. They help patrons find books to read for pleasure, assist patrons with their research, or teach patrons how to access the library’s resources. Some technicians in public libraries may help plan programs for users, such as story time for children or book clubs for teens or adults.

School library technicians and assistants show students how to find and use library resources, maintain textbook collections, and help teachers develop curriculum materials.

Special library technicians and assistants work in settings other than school or public libraries, including government agencies, corporations, museums, law firms, and medical centers. They assist users, search library resources, compile bibliographies, and provide information on subjects of interest to the organization.

Work Environment About this section

Library technicians and assistants
Cataloguing or reshelving books may require bending or stretching to reach shelves.

Library assistants, clerical held about 90,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of library assistants, clerical were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 61%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 14
Elementary and secondary schools; local 11
Other information services 9

Library technicians held about 94,100 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of library technicians were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 52%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 17
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 14
Other information services 10

Library technicians and assistants generally work indoors. They spend much of their time at public service desks or at computer terminals. They may spend time in the library stacks reshelving books, a task that may require bending or stretching to reach the shelves.

Work Schedules

Many library technicians and assistants work part time. Library technicians and assistants in school libraries work during school hours. Those in public or college libraries may work weekends, evenings, and some holidays. In special libraries, technicians and assistants typically work during normal business hours but may have to work evenings and weekends.

How to Become a Library Technician or Assistant About this section

Library technicians and assistants
Library technicians and assistants provide customer service to library patrons.

Library technicians typically need a postsecondary certificate. Library assistants typically need a high school diploma or its equivalent, combined with short-term on-the-job training.

Education                                                                                               

Library technicians typically need a postsecondary certificate in library technology, which may include coursework in acquisitions, cataloguing, circulation, reference, and automated library systems. The American Library Association has information about certificate programs available by state.

Most library assistants typically need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training

Library assistants usually receive short-term on-the-job training to learn about libraries and library resources.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Library technicians and assistants must be able to answer patrons’ questions clearly and explain use of library resources.

Detail oriented. Library technicians and assistants must pay close attention to ensure that library materials and information are organized correctly and according to the library’s organizational system.

Interpersonal skills. Library technicians and assistants need to work with library patrons, librarians, teachers, or researchers.

Listening skills. Library technicians and assistants need to listen to patrons to help them with research topics or with finding materials.

Advancement

Library technicians and assistants may advance to become supervisors and oversee daily library operations. To become a librarian, technicians and assistants need to earn a master’s degree in library science.

Pay About this section

Library Technicians and Assistants

Median hourly wages, May 2019

Total, all occupations

$19.14

Library technicians

$16.78

Library technicians and assistants

$14.69

Library assistants, clerical

$13.22

 

The median hourly wage for library assistants, clerical was $13.22 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.15, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $21.62.

The median hourly wage for library technicians was $16.78 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.58, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.00.

In May 2019, the median hourly wages for library assistants, clerical in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private $15.48
Elementary and secondary schools; local 14.01
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 12.73
Other information services 12.16

In May 2019, the median hourly wages for library technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private $19.81
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 17.14
Other information services 17.05
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 15.44

Many library technicians and assistants work part time. Library technicians and assistants in school libraries work during regular school hours. Those in public or college libraries may work weekends, evenings, and some holidays. In corporate libraries, library technicians and assistants work normal business hours but may have to work evenings and weekends.

Job Outlook About this section

Library Technicians and Assistants

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Library assistants, clerical

-4%

Library technicians and assistants

-4%

Library technicians

-4%

 

Overall employment of library technicians and assistants is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Although communities have tried to rebrand libraries for a variety of services and activities, library use has decreased. This reduces the need for library workers to help patrons find information and operate the libraries on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, budget constraints may limit the number of library technicians and assistants in local government and education services.

Job Prospects

Despite projected employment declines, about 24,900 openings for library technicians and assistants are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Candidates who have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree may have the best prospects.

Employment projections data for library technicians and assistants, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Library technicians and assistants

184,600 177,500 -4 -7,100

Library technicians

25-4031 94,100 90,500 -4 -3,600 Get data

Library assistants, clerical

43-4121 90,500 87,000 -4 -3,500 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about library technicians and assistants careers, visit

American Library Association

For information about medical libraries, visit

Medical Library Association

For information about law libraries, visit

American Association of Law Libraries

For information about many different types of special libraries, visit

Special Libraries Association

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Library Assistants, Clerical

Library Technicians

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