Library assistants, sometimes referred to as information assistants or paraprofessionals, work closely with library/information managers in the day-to-day running of a library or information service. Duties include routine administrative work, such as filing or replacing returned items, dealing with correspondence, ordering books, journals and other materials, as well as liaising with suppliers, cataloguing new materials and maintaining databases and records.
They handle a range of materials including books, journals, newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets and maps as well as video, film, DVDs, photographs, microfiche, CDs and cassettes. If any materials are damaged, the library assistant would arrange repairs. There is increasing involvement with online and CD-ROM facilities, including the internet and computer databases.
A major part of the role is to assist service users to locate information and resources, often requesting items held in other libraries; there is considerable contact with people in other departments, as well as the public. In a public library, assistants may help with community events such as story readings.
Most library assistants work shifts including weekends or evenings, especially in a public or academic library, although some assistants work office hours.
The work is usually indoors but there may be opportunities to go out in a mobile library. The work can be quite physical with a lot of standing and lifting involved.
To be a library assistant you should:
Employers include local authority public library services, central government departments, national libraries, universities and other educational establishments. See Employers' Organisation for Local Government for links to useful job search sites. Other posts exist in public service industries and corporations; manufacturing and commercial companies; research associations; professional bodies and media companies.
Some graduates apply for paraprofessional posts to gain experience or to get a foot on the career ladder. Library assistant roles can be route into postgraduate study (see Librarian profile). In a large library, opportunities to progress to more senior grades are available.
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