What Is a Library Associate?

Library associates provide circulation, research and administrative assistance to librarians. Find out more about library associate's education, careers and salary. Schools offering Archival Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Library Associate Do?

Library associates perform a variety of tasks including research, administration and cataloging. They also assist patrons by answering their questions, issuing library cards and checking out materials to them on loan. Library associates may also oversee interlibrary loans, maintain various databases and help organize special events and outreaches for the community. These professionals answer phones, reshelf materials and assist other librarians in whatever way is needed. Some library associates are able to specialize in a certain area if they work in a larger library. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required High school diploma; associate's degree or certificate recommended
Training Required On-the-job training possible
Key Responsibilities Assist librarian with research
Provide administrative support
Catalog materials
Assist library patrons
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 5% (for all library technicians)*
5% (for all library clerical assistants)*
Median Salary (2015) $32,310 (for all library technicians)*
$24,480 (for all library clerical assistants)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Library Associates

As a library associate, technician or assistant, you're responsible for providing administrative and research assistance to librarians. You could work in a large, public library or a specialized resource center, such as a medical, law or research library. If you want to pursue a specialized career, you could work solely as a library media or circulation assistant.

Some of your specific job duties might include acquiring books and other materials from other libraries, checking out books to patrons, cataloging materials and organizing bookshelves. You'd be responsible for answering questions about literature, activities and library services, as well as helping people find certain materials or information. You might also oversee an electronic circulation system to track down overdue books or materials, send out overdue notices and collect fines.

Education and Training

The library you choose to work in determines your educational requirements. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some smaller libraries will hire you with a high school diploma and provide you with on-the-job training (www.bls.gov). However, most prefer that you have some sort of formal postsecondary training in library science, such as an associate degree or certificate.

An Associate of Science in Library Science Technology provides you with the vocational skills necessary to work in a library. Courses cover the basics in information technology, library science, material acquisition, public service and circulation systems. Certificate programs also provide you with fundamental knowledge of library support, but don't usually require general education and might focus on a particular discipline, such as multimedia. Certificate programs usually take about a year to complete, associate degrees can typically be earned in two years, and both types of programs offer online learning.

Career Advancement

If you are interested in becoming a full-fledged librarian, you'll need to complete a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree program. The 2-year graduate program provides you with an overview of information technology and research related to library science and trains you in the practical skills necessary to oversee a library. Once you have earned your master's degree, you'll be eligible to become a librarian and manage the library associates and technicians working under you.


The BLS estimated almost 210,700 library technicians and clerical assistants were employed in the U.S. in 2014. As of May 2015, the BLS reported that technicians made a median salary of $32,310, and clerical assistants took home a median wage of $24,480 per year. The largest employers of library technicians and assistants were local government agencies in 2015 followed by schools and universities, though the highest paid library assistants worked in legal firms, per BLS data.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Becoming a receptionist is a related career option that requires a high school diploma or equivalent. These professionals work in a variety of offices doing administrative tasks. They provide customer service, as well as support the office staff. Teacher assistants are also similar, but usually require some college education. These assistants help teachers by providing extra attention for students to help them with lessons and work. They may also help the teacher by making copies, enforcing school rules and more.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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