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Job Descriptions, Definitions Roles, Responsibility: Library Assistants, Clerical




Library assistants assist librarians and, in some cases, library technicians in organizing library resources and making them available to users. (Librarians and library technicians are discussed elsewhere in the Handbook.)

Library assistants, clerical—sometimes referred to as library media assistants, library aides, or circulation assistants—register patrons so that they can borrow materials from the library. They record the borrower’s name and address from an application and then issue a library card. Most library assistants enter patrons’ records into computer databases.

At the circulation desk, library assistants lend and collect books, periodicals, videotapes, and other materials. When an item is borrowed, assistants stamp the due date on the material and record the patron’s identification from his or her library card. They inspect returned materials for damage, check due dates, and compute fines for overdue material. Library assistants review records, compile a list of overdue materials, and send out notices reminding patrons that their materials are overdue. They also answer patrons’ questions and refer those they cannot answer to a librarian.

Throughout the library, assistants sort returned books, periodicals, and other items and put them on their designated shelves, in the appropriate files, or in storage areas. They locate materials to be loaned, to either a patron or another library. Many card catalogues are computerized, so library assistants must be familiar with computers. If any materials have been damaged, these workers try to repair them. For example, they use tape or paste to repair torn pages or book covers and other specialized processes to repair more valuable materials.

Some library assistants specialize in helping patrons who have vision problems. Sometimes referred to as library, talking-books, or braille-and-talking-books clerks, they review the borrower’s list of desired reading materials. They locate those materials or closely related substitutes from the library collection of large-type or braille volumes, tape cassettes, and open-reel talking books, complete the requisite paperwork, and give or mail the materials to the borrower.