- Training requirements range from a high school diploma to
an associate degree, but computer skills are necessary for all
- Increasing use of computerized circulation and information
systems should continue to spur job growth, but many libraries’
budget constraints should moderate growth.
- Employment should grow rapidly in special libraries because
growing numbers of professionals and other workers use those
Library technicians both help librarians acquire, prepare, and
organize material and assist users in finding information. Library
technicians usually work under the supervision of a librarian,
although they work independently in certain situations. Technicians
in small libraries handle a range of duties; those in large libraries
usually specialize. As libraries increasingly use new technologies—such
as CD-ROM, the Internet, virtual libraries, and automated databases—the
duties of library technicians will expand and evolve accordingly.
Library technicians are assuming greater responsibilities, in
some cases taking on tasks previously performed by librarians.
(See the section on librarians elsewhere
in the Handbook.)
Depending on the employer, library technicians can have other
titles, such as library technical assistant or media aide. Library
technicians direct library users to standard references, organize
and maintain periodicals, prepare volumes for binding, handle
interlibrary loan requests, prepare invoices, perform routine
cataloguing and coding of library materials, retrieve information
from computer databases, and supervise support staff.
The widespread use of computerized information storage and retrieval
systems has resulted in technicians handling technical services—such
as entering catalogue information into the library’s computer—that
were once performed by librarians. Technicians assist with customizing
databases. In addition, technicians instruct patrons in how to
use computer systems to access data. The increased automation
of recordkeeping has reduced the amount of clerical work performed
by library technicians. Many libraries now offer self-service
registration and circulation areas with computers, decreasing
the time library technicians spend manually recording and inputting
Some library technicians operate and maintain audiovisual equipment,
such as projectors, tape and CD players, and DVD and videocassette
players, and assist users with microfilm or microfiche readers.
They also design posters, bulletin boards, or displays.
Library technicians in school libraries encourage and teach students
to use the library and media center. They also help teachers obtain
instructional materials, and they assist students with special
assignments. Some work in special libraries maintained by government
agencies, corporations, law firms, advertising agencies, museums,
professional societies, medical centers, and research laboratories,
where they conduct literature searches, compile bibliographies,
and prepare abstracts, usually on subjects of particular interest
to the organization.
To extend library services to more patrons, many libraries operate
bookmobiles, often run by library technicians. The technicians
take trucks stocked with books, or bookmobiles, to designated
sites on a regular schedule, frequently stopping at shopping centers,
apartment complexes, schools, and nursing homes. Bookmobiles also
may be used to extend library service to patrons living in remote
areas. Depending on local conditions, the technicians may operate
a bookmobile alone or may be accompanied by another library employee.
Library technicians who drive bookmobiles are responsible for
answering patrons’ questions, receiving and checking out books,
collecting fines, maintaining the book collection, shelving materials,
and occasionally operating audiovisual equipment to show slides
or films. They participate, and may assist, in planning programs
sponsored by the library, such as reader advisory programs, used-book
sales, or outreach programs. Technicians who drive the bookmobile
keep track of their mileage, the materials lent out, and the amount
of fines collected. In some areas, they are responsible for maintenance
of the vehicle and any photocopiers or other equipment in it.
They record statistics on circulation and the number of people
visiting the bookmobile. Technicians also may record requests
for special items from the main library and arrange for the materials
to be mailed or delivered to a patron during the next scheduled
visit. Many bookmobiles are equipped with personal computers and
CD-ROM systems linked to the main library system, allowing technicians
to reserve or locate books immediately. Some bookmobiles now offer
Internet access to users.
Technicians answer questions and provide assistance to library
users. Those who prepare library materials sit at desks or computer
terminals for long periods and can develop headaches or eyestrain
from working with the terminals. Some duties, like calculating
circulation statistics, can be repetitive and boring. Others,
such as performing computer searches with the use of local and
regional library networks and cooperatives, can be interesting
and challenging. Library technicians may lift and carry books,
climb ladders to reach high stacks, and bend low to shelve books
on bottom shelves.
Library technicians in school libraries work regular school hours.
Those in public libraries and college and university (academic)
libraries also work weekends, evenings and some holidays. Library
technicians in special libraries usually work normal business
hours, although they often work overtime as well.
The schedules of library technicians who drive bookmobiles depend
on the size of the area being served. Some bookmobiles operate
every day, while others go only on certain days. Some bookmobiles
operate in the evenings and weekends, to give patrons as much
access to the library as possible. Because library technicians
who operate bookmobiles may be the only link some people have
to the library, much of their work consists of helping the public.
They may assist handicapped or elderly patrons to the bookmobile
or shovel snow to ensure their safety. They may enter hospitals
or nursing homes to deliver books to patrons who are bedridden.
|Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Training requirements for library technicians vary widely, ranging
from a high school diploma to specialized postsecondary training.
Some employers hire individuals with work experience or other
training; others train inexperienced workers on the job. Many
employers prefer to hire technicians who have an associate degree
or some other postsecondary training. Given the rapid spread of
automation in libraries, computer skills are a necessity, with
knowledge of databases, library automation systems, online library
systems, online public access systems, and circulation systems
particularly valuable. Many bookmobile drivers are required to
have a commercial driver’s license.
Some community colleges offer an associate degree or certificate
programs designed for library technicians. Programs include both
liberal arts and library-related study. Students learn about library
and media organization and operation, as well as how to order,
process, catalogue, locate, and circulate library materials and
work with library automation. Libraries and associations offer
continuing education courses to keep technicians abreast of new
developments in the field.
Library technicians usually advance by assuming added responsibilities.
For example, technicians often start at the circulation desk,
checking books in and out. After gaining experience, they may
become responsible for storing and verifying information. As they
advance, they may become involved in budget and personnel matters
in their departments. Some library technicians advance to supervisory
positions and are in charge of the day-to-day operation of their
Library technicians held about 122,000 jobs in 2004; almost half
worked in county or municipal public libraries. Most of the rest
worked in school or academic libraries, while some worked in special
libraries for health and legal services. The Federal Government
employs library technicians primarily at the U.S. Department of
Defense and the U.S. Library of Congress.
Employment of library technicians is expected to grow about as
fast as the average for all occupations through 2014. In addition
to jobs opening up through employment growth, some job openings
will result from the need to replace library technicians who transfer
to other fields or leave the labor force.
The increasing use of library automation is expected to continue
to spur job growth among library technicians. Computerized information
systems have simplified certain tasks, such as descriptive cataloguing,
which can now be handled by technicians instead of librarians.
For example, technicians now can easily retrieve information from
a central database and store it in the library’s computer. Although
efforts to contain costs could dampen employment growth of library
technicians in school, public, and college and university libraries,
cost containment efforts could also result in hiring more library
technicians than librarians. Growth in the number of professionals
and other workers who use special libraries should result in good
job opportunities for library technicians in those settings.
Median annual earnings of library technicians in May 2004 were
$24,940. The middle 50 percent earned between $18,640 and $32,600.
The lowest 10 percent earned less than $14,760, and the highest
10 percent earned more than $40,730. Median annual earnings in
the industries employing the largest numbers of library technicians
in May 2004 were as follows:
|Colleges, universities, and professional
|Other information services
|Elementary and secondary schools
Salaries of library technicians in the Federal Government averaged
$39,647 in 2005.
Library technicians perform organizational and administrative
duties. Workers in other occupations with similar duties include
library assistants, clerical;
information and record clerks; and medical records and health
|Sources of Additional Information
For information on training programs for library/media technical
assistants, write to:
- American Library Association, Office for Human Resource Development
and Recruitment, 50 East Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611. Internet:
Information concerning requirements and application procedures
for positions in the Library of Congress can be obtained directly
- Human Resources Office, Library of Congress, 101 Independence
Ave. SE., Washington, DC 20540-2231. Internet: http://www.loc.gov/hr
State library agencies can furnish information on requirements
for technicians and general information about career prospects
in the State. Several of these agencies maintain job hot lines
reporting openings for library technicians.
State departments of education can furnish information on requirements
and job opportunities for school library technicians.
Source: Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition,