Pro Talk: Library Assistant Does More than Check Books

This week, we spoke to Library Assistant Iantha Davis about her duties and what she needed to get into her job line.

As the job climate continues to change, there are several careers that many don’t know a lot of information about them. How did they get there? What kind of training did they undergo?

Well, Florissant Patch is attempting to answer these questions.

Each week, we’re speaking to a new professional or working person about their job, how they got and what they do.

This week, we spoke to Library Assistant Iantha Davis about her duties and how she got there.

1. How long have you been in your position?

I started on Sept. 9, 1999, so I have been here for 13 years.

2. How did you get into your field?

The library branch that I work at is the library that my daughter and I would visit to check out books. I happened to see a “help wanted” sign for a clerk position and applied. I didn't get any response, so I called in to speak to the manager. I had specified that the days and evenings I was available where those that were stated for the position, but she wanted someone more flexible.  I explained that I was available other days but had just put in those days because that is what the advertisement for the position had listed. So for anyone job hunting, even though a position is for certain days, I would recommend to always show that you are flexible.

3. What training or education did you receive for this position?

Even though I had originally applied for a clerk position, the manager said that my education qualified me for the Library Assistant position that was available and she would like to interview me for that. I have a Bachelor of Science in History and the minimum education requirement for Library Assistant was 60 college hours. For most of the day-to-day operation of the Library I received on the job training.

4. What are your main duties or responsibilities in this position?

The title of my position is Library Assistant, and if you think about it, it is actually descriptive of what I do. I assist people in using the Library. It begins with a new customer who comes into the branch looking to get a library card, I create their library record and provide them with a card and let them know what services the library has to offer. If they need help finding a book, I assist them with the catalog, showing them how it works, where to find the book on the shelves or how to request it if we do not have it in at the time. Once the item is found, I then check it out to the customer or teach them how the self-check machine works, so that they can check out their own items. This can be very convenient for the customer when they need to make a quick stop to get in, get an item and get out without having to wait in line. Items that have to be requested are organized on the self-service hold shelf and it is part of my job to maintain the holds. Library assistants also share responsibility for finding items that we have in our branch collection that have been requested by customers at other branches, pulling those requests and processing them so that they get to the customer at their home branch. When books are returned, I check them in and sort them so that they are ready for the clerks to shelve. Assisting customers at the Library includes many services besides checking out books. We have at our branch, 31 Internet computers for adults, teens and children and when customers need help navigating a website, working with their email or using word processing, I am there to help them. As a Library Assistant, we are also offered the opportunity to do branch programming. I provide a program for adults called Going Green, this is a craft program where we up-cycle. We create something new each month by taking items and putting them to a new use, extending their life. In the most recent program we used newspapers to form a wreath, which we then wrapped in burlap and decorated with flowers and leaves made from felted wool pants and jackets to created a lovely fall display.

5. What tips would you give to someone interested in pursuing this
as a career?

It is important to be friendly and outgoing. This job is all about customer service, and the Library Assistant is often the introduction to the library that the customer gets. If we are positive and friendly, the customer sees the library as a positive and friendly place to be, if we were to address the customer in a negative way then they would see the library as a negative experience.

Having good communication skills is an asset. You need to be able to assess the needs of the customer when they come in looking for material. Sometimes helping the customer is very straight-forward; they come in and say, I need this movie do you have it? And you can look in the catalog and find the item. Other times, they just have a general idea of what they need, such as a student doing a paper and you have to be able to ask the right questions to narrow down the subject and get the correct information for them.

Be open to change, things always change, many people think of the library as the place where you go to get a book, be quiet and study and that just isn’t the case. There is a lot more that the library offers now, many services have been added in the time I have been here. We have computer classes, Internet access and a wide variety of programming for all ages all of which have made us a part of the community. Many people now come to the library for socialization not just for studying. Change isn’t just about the services we offer but about the environment itself, our branch has totally been redesigned
to better serve customers.  If we can’t adapt to change we won’t be able to help the customer adapt to the changes that we make.


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