How to be a Librarian Assistant

Library shelves and books
Library shelves and books | Source

The Library

Ah, the library. A quiet place where one can read, use the computer, or perform cheerleading kicks from the table in the meeting room. Wait – what?! Okay, so maybe I am not the best authority on how to be the typical librarian. But I did work in a library for 3 years during my 10th, 11th, and 12th grades of high school. Technically my title was Student Assistant to the Librarian. And all these years later I will still tell you that it was the BEST job I ever had – even if I was on the crappy Federal pay scale and even if I was part time so I didn’t get the great Federal benefits. I dream sometimes that I am working at the library again with all my old friends. I call them my friends instead of my coworkers because we got along that well. It was a small family of 8 that worked well together and kept the library in tiptop shape even after story time with 56 preschoolers and their families.

"One day I was speeding along at the typewriter, and my daughter - who was a child at the time - asked me, "Daddy, why are you writing so fast?" And I replied, "Because I want to see how the story turns out!" ~~ Louis L'Amour

How to Alphabetize

I had a few main priorities as a Student Assistant (SA).My first priority was to get all the returned books back to their homes on the shelves, called shelving – I know pure genius.Fiction books were placed in alphabetical order according to genre.The order started with the last name.If the last name of two authors were the same you then went on to the letters in the first name.For example

  • Baker, Claudia comes before Baker, Daniel since C in Claudia comes before D in Daniel
  • Smith, Michael comes before Smith, Mike since the C since we eliminate all like letters to reach the C in Michael and the K in Mike.C obviously comes before K in the alphabet.

If an author has several books in a genre the last and first name will be the same (there’s my genius showing again).So you place the books in alphabetical order according to the titles, not including the words “The And or An”.For example

  • Baker, Mike A Big Circus
  • Baker, Mike The Flower Fell (we ignore “The”)
  • Baker, Mike Orange County Sale
  • Baker, Mike Orange Doll House
  • Baker, Mike Orange Doll Zebra


Hilarious Librarian Song

Favorite Children's Authors

Dr Seuss

Laura Numeroff

Mo Willems

Dav Pilkey

The Dewey Decimal System

Now we move on to the Dewey Decimal System. Ugh, I know. But really it IS easy once you understand it. Just think of the groups of numbers as LASTNAME, FIRSTNAME or rather as a LASTNAME(dot)FIRSTNAME. Let me explain more so you will understand. The non-fiction books were shelved according to number rather than letter. The number could look like any of these variations

  • 300
  • 300.2
  • 300.25
  • 300.256
  • 301.456
  • 301.457

And of course those above examples are in order. The dot, or decimal, is no different than the comma used between last name and first name of the author in the fiction books. You simply place the books in numerical order as opposed to alphabetical order.



Favorite Adult Authors

Stephen King

Dean Koontz

Karin Slauter

Lisa Gardner

James Patterson

Noticing a trend here?!

Finding a Good Book

Another responsibility was to help patrons (you know, those who use the library’s services) find books. After several years at the library I was able to take patrons to a certain section to find information for reports and projects. Animals were in the 800’s, cooking was in the 600’s, and Geography was in the 200’s. I could also find popular titles to fiction books easily without using the computer. Animal Farm was under Orwell in the Classics section, The Burning Hills was under L’Amour in the Westerns section, and The House on Hope Street was under Steele in the General Fiction section. But when it came to finding books I wasn’t familiar with I had to use the computerized card catalog. I could search by author, title, and topic. I always had fun finding books for patrons because I felt like I was presenting them with an ever-elusive treasure.


There were lots of times I had to be very creative in my search because the patron would say “I’m looking for a book I read about 5 years ago. It was a mystery about an old house in Ohio that was used for the Underground Railroad. I think the author was a woman…Bethany, Betty, Mona...” I would often ask the patron to give me a few minutes and I would find them in the library with a list of possibilities. Then the search was on. I would choose fiction-mystery, Underground Railroad, and Ohio as my search terms. Newer books would be discarded from the list since the patron read the book 5 years ago. I would scan the list for authors similar to the names mentioned by the patron and lo-and-behold the title ‘An Underground Railroad Mystery in Ohio’ by Mona Beth Quigley was on the shelf.


Take My Poll

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I did have other odd responsibilities. As a Student Assistant I basically assisted where needed which included covering new books and re-covering old books, emptying the trash, making copies for the coloring pages to put in the children’s area, and making coffee for the older gals. I don’t regret many things because I feel as though I learn and grow from my mistakes. But I DO regret not getting a degree in Library Science.


More by this Author


Comments 22 comments

albertsj profile image

albertsj 4 years ago from Pittsfield, Ma

A library assistant? Maybe, never thought about it. This was quite helpful. Voting up & interesting


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Wow, that brought back memories of school...good hub filled with good info. We need libraries and librarians. My big fear is that with ebooks and such we will lose libraries and that would be a crying shame. Nice job!


Rolly A Chabot profile image

Rolly A Chabot 4 years ago from Alberta Canada

Hats off to te Librarians in my small town. They are always more than willing to help and have a passion to help others. They do keep the place very clean and well organized and should I ask a question about some research I may be doing for a book they seem to always go te extra mile to help... Thanks for this hub... interesting and very informative to hear the other side of the work they do.

Hugs from Canada


Gurpreet Seehra profile image

Gurpreet Seehra 4 years ago from Chandigarh, India

it's very useful. i have always thought that Librarian is such a peaceful job. Among man's favorite friends - Books. You reminded me of my times in college when I used to stay at Library for long hours. Thanks n Take Care!


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Hello albertsj, its great to see you! I had tons of fun at my library job. I wasnt the typical assistant hahah

Hi billybuc :) Thanks! I hope libraries never become extinct. I dont think there is any feeling better than holding a paperback folded in half and reading under a tree. I fear for the same thing.

Rolly! Hello friend. As a former librarian I will admit we have a certain passion for authors. You write the books that we think make the world go around.

Hi Gurpeet :) a man who loves the library is awesome in my book - get it...book? hahah Thanks for taking the time to read


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica

This is different Ardie, I thought Librarians were uptight prude recluses....definitely not you! lol

Very interesting occupation though. I don't know if I would like it.


Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

What a great resource for students who are just learning, anyone who might work in a library part-time, and for those of us who learned Dewey 'way back when, but we need a refresher! I like the good examples you gave - everything makes sense, and anyone reading this can put it to use right away.

Voted up, useful and interesting!


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I also worked as a library assistant in HS. These three tasks comprised about 95% of my work. I used to know the Dewey Decimal system so well haha.


Bardie 4 years ago

I too worked in a small town library when in high school, it was my favorite place!


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

hahah Cardisa! Yah, I always thought that too - until I worked at the library myself... and I have a habit of turning any place into a playground :D

Hi Marcy! I hope someone reads this and makes the call to work at a library - it was such a fun and rewarding job. Plus I learned so much about how to research :)

Hello randomcreative - a sister in shelving hahah just like Bardie! Thats it, we need to have a group just for past librarians...I wonder how fun that group would be.


Haunty profile image

Haunty 4 years ago from Hungary

I love the library, it's one of the nicest places in town. Although, they could use a person like yourself to teach some of the librarians manners. There is, however, a kids' section where everybody is super nice and all the best books are crammed in there, so I usually just make a beeline. ;) Nice hub as always!


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Thanks Haunty! I love the library too - I drag my kids weekly for new books and storytimes. I dont know if I am the best person to teach manners hahah I DID do a jump kick from the meeting room table :)


emilybee profile image

emilybee 4 years ago

When I was small I wanted to be a librarian, because my mom was a substitute librarian at the time. I grew out of that phase, but awesome hub and informative for if I ever change my mind again ;) Voted up!


ladeda profile image

ladeda 4 years ago

Haha, I did this when I needed some money to get through nursing school. Oh how I miss the peace and quiet and ability to hide behind bookshelves! ;)


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

Cool hub Ardie! It really sounds like you loved it. And no doubt you are intriguing others to try this profession. I loved your silliness too.


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Hi emilybee! I would love to get into my local schools as the librarian :) That would be SO much fun to me. Thanks for reading.

ladeda, I would PAY the library to set me a schedule to hide in the bookshelves hahah And to ban my children from hunting me down.

Hello Sharyn :) Im not too sure the head librarian loved my silliness at the time LOL but it was such a great job. I would encourage anyone interested to try for it.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

I always wanted to be a Librarian! I love the Library. I still remember the joy if getting my first card with my own name on it:) I worked in the school cafeteria - borrrring! All I got paid was free lunch! Lol

Sounds like a blast...I thought aboutngoing to school for that but good thing we didn't - I don't think there are going to be many libraries with real books before long. Poor Dewey!


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Hi RHW :) I remember getting my first card too and then taking my kids to get their first cards. I am such a nerd that we made a huge deal out of it haha

Im sad to admit the libraries might be taking a leave soon and it breaks my heart. I've always felt at home among the stacks (even if I was doing cartwheels in them).


movielardatadare profile image

movielardatadare 4 years ago from Texas

Lucky! I tried to be a library assistant back when I was in high school. Unfortunately, I didn't get the job. I knew that being a librarian is fun. I mean, I see librarians keep working at the same library for years and years. After reading this, I think I just may pursue becoming a librarian again. Such a quiet place. Silly people won't go to a library because they find it boring. Pretty much intellectuals and loners tend to visit libraries. My kinda place! Voted up!


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Oh man moviela, this was the best job I ever had. I still have dreams Im working back at the library with my friends...but I disagree about silly people not going to the library. I am probably the silliest smart girl around :D


movielardatadare profile image

movielardatadare 4 years ago from Texas

Good point. I'm a goofball myself. I really am considering pursuing the librarian thing again. It just seems so fun to do for a living.


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

You should get a degree in library science and then hire me to do the children's library stuff! I promise to keep away from doing cartwheels - I AM much older now...dont need to break a hip =)

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