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Library Aides Love the Library

by on March 4, 2013

What is a library aide? What do they do? What kinds of people are they? Are they really necessary? Yes. Always and forever, yes. Typically, a library aide is a low-rung worker who does physical, menial tasks like shelving, checking in, shelf-reading, and the like. While the exact title and definition changes from system-to-system and branch-to-branch, the heart of the library aide always remains the same. Most of us, myself included, are aides because first and foremost we love the library. Sometimes it’s our first and only job. Other times it’s an extra paycheck late in life. Whether we help  staff the circulation desk or shelve cart after cart of returns the loyalty is there all the same. This isn’t so much an educational or informational post, just a world of praise to the underlings of the library world.

Aides, pages, and assistants: whatever you want to call them, they usually always fulfill the same job positions[1]. We are the lowest rungs of the library ladder. We are the grunts, the soldiers on the front lines, battling every day with ornery over-sized books and piles of unrelenting discharges. We are the unseen elves making sure the shoemaker is able to keep his business in tact. We are high-schoolers, college students, working moms, retirees, grandparents, and everything in between. We work as hard as we can and make a national average of $14.00 an hour[2]. Some of us have dreams of sitting behind the beloved reference desk one day. In the case of the library staff in Mesa, Arizona there was a time when all there was were library aides. Although not in the public library sector, school librarians in Mesa faced a tough decision when their monetary allowance was cut back in 2008[3]. With the slow removal of certified librarians, library aides took initiative and kept the libraries in public schools afloat. Although they weren’t technically qualified for the job they wouldn’t let their libraries sink.

One thing you can be sure of is that many library aides are dedicated to their job. In the case of Lyda Thanh, a library aide from Long Beach, California, her dedication[1]  took her all the way to Cambodia[4]. When librarian Susan Taylor found trouble ordering books in Khmer (a language that many Long Beach Cambodians speak) she and her trusty Khmer-speaking aide Lyda took their funds to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Together they were able to stock over 1000 books for the Khmer-speaking Long Beachians. That, comrades, is dedication. The willingness to travel halfway across the world to help out your library and your community speaks volumes.

All merits considered, library aides are too often underrepresented. We see articles, month after month, dedicated to librarians, directors, and students but so rarely is there a shining moment offered to an aide who went out of their way to help. [2] I can say that in my time as a library aide, I’ve had the privilege of working with many lovely people who cared about their jobs as much as any MLS professional. To say that library aides are necessary would be doing them a disservice; they are an integral part of any library. I’m not asking for special aide holidays, just that next time you see an aide doing something beyond their job description, give them a pat on the back.

[1] American Library Association, “Overview of Library Support Staff.” Accessed January 27, 2013. http://www.ala.org/offices/hrdr/librarysupportstaff/overview_of_library_support_staff.

[2] CareerOneStop, “Occupation Profile: Library Technicians.” Accessed January 27, 2013. http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp?next=occ_rep&Level=&optstatus=111111111&jobfam=25&id=1&nodeid=2&soccode=254031&stfips=06&x=54&y=12.

[3] Debra Lau Whelan, “Aides Now Run More Than Half Mesa, AZ, School Libraries,” School Library Journal (2008), http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/articlesfunding/859694-347/aides_now_run_more_than.html.csp (accessed January 27, 2013).

[4] Oleck, Joan. “CA Librarian and Aide Head to Cambodia for Kids’ Books.” School Library Journal. (2008). http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6527147.html (accessed January 27, 2013).

Word missing?

This ending seems a little contrived to me.It may be true, but you don’t really have any way to back it up with facts. Library aides are an integral part of every library and I, for one, am glad for the experiences  and library learning I received during my time as alibrary aide. Or something like that?