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The Different Kinds of Librarian Assistant Jobs

I have worked in two different library sytems (both have been public libraries). They have each had very similar-sounding job titles, but the job duties of those positions can be quite different.

Let’s take the innocuous-sounding “Assistant Librarian jobs” title, which is normally how it is advertised. It can mean different things in different places, just like much else in the wondrous world of library employment.

For instance, when I got hired by the Salt Lake County Library System, I was known by the majestic title of CSS (customer service specialist). And patrons never failed to treat me with the gravitas my position demanded. Just kidding, but in all seriousness, 99% of all patrons in my career have been absolutely wonderful to me.

Job duties of a customer service specialist in the Salt Lake County Library:

  • Smile
  • Nod a lot
  • Circulation duties (checking books in when people bring them back, checking out books when people want to borrow them)
  • Processing holds (people request books, either online or in person, that aren’t in stock. When they come in, someone has to run them under a scanner and put an awesome rubber band around the book before placing it in the appropriate delivery box–enter the CSS!)

Most of the customer service stuff is not much different than any retail job. Trying to get people to calm down, looking up inventory, apologizing for things that you really shouldn’t have to apologize for, etc)

Note: I have worked with a lot of CSS people (and library managers) who were total jerks and deserved the “harassment” they got from library patrons.

Now I work for the Salt Lake City Public Library System. We also have librarian assistants, but it’s a little different than the County–in many cases, it’s a lot different.

Salt Lake City Librarian Assistant Job Duties

Many of our assistants do much of the work that would traditionally be handled by librarians. And, depending on the library location and circumstances, many of our librarians (like myself) wind up doing a whole lot of customer service duties and circulation tasks that would make the rigid-job-description-department at the Salt Lake County Library claw their eyes out.

If you are looking for a library job

Talk to people who work at the library you would like to be working at, if possible. Ask them what their jobs are. Ask them, if you’re brave enough, how closely their jobs resemble the job description that you are applying for.

It might not be what you think. Do your due diligence and you’ll have a better chance for success.

If you have any questions about working in a library, please let me know. I have shelved books, become a librarian, managed a branch, voluntarily stepped out of management because it was a hellhole, and now I’m back as a librarian again. If you really want to work in a library, you’re probably a curious person. So ask!

If I can help you with anything, I will!


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jenny G. July 31, 2012, 9:56 pm

    I’m taking the library shelver test tomorrow 8-1-12 and have NO idea what to expect for this test. Will they do an oral interview? Will they have us walk around and shelve books to see if we’re capable? HELP!

    Thanks for your time!


    • Josh Hanagarne August 1, 2012, 12:19 pm

      Hi Jenny. At my library, there’s a brief oral interview, then a shelving test. But of course, I can only speak for my library. I’m not sure what else they’d make you do, but you’ll find out. Good luck!