General Question

AnonymousWoman's avatar

If I want to work at a library or a bookstore, what should I know?

Asked by AnonymousWoman (6528points) February 16th, 2012

I’m thinking about working at a library or a bookstore… and I assume it would be helpful to be knowledgeable about books and dealing with transactions. I also assume it’s important to have good organizational skills and to be able to find things fast. Dealing with customers is, of course, also important. Is there anything I’m missing? Thanks in advance.

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17 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Understanding the Dewey Decimal system would be helpful for library work.

Using a cash register would be helpful for bookstore work.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@marinelife I think the ISBN has replaced the Dewey Decimal system in most libraries. We have a number of librarians on Fluther, there answers would probably be the most helpful.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I agree with @marinelife.
You’ll need to know Dewey to answer questions and direct people to the correct areas. Register experience is a plus in either situation.

I’ve worked in both. It helps to know the latest arrivals, the local sections and the current NYT Bestsellers.

In either, it’s obviously helpful to have customer service skills. It’s also necessary for you to like organizing. You’ll spend a good chunk of your time doing just that.

auhsojsa's avatar

Library requires a degree. Somewhere along the lines of Liberal Arts.

marinelife's avatar

@WestRiverrat ISBN is not a classification system. The International Book Standard Number is assigned to each individual book to identify it. It is country-specific.

“Dewey Decimal Classification (also called the Dewey Decimal System) is a proprietary system of library classification developed by Melvil Dewey in 1876.[1]

It has been greatly modified and expanded through 23 major revisions, the most recent in 2011.[2] This highly organized system categorizes books on library shelves in an efficient, specific and repeatable order that makes it easy to find any book and return it to its proper place on the library shelves. The system is used in 200,000 libraries in at least 135 countries.” From Wikipedia

Before telling me who would be most useful to answer a question, perhaps you should not be talking through your hat.

janbb's avatar

To be a professional librarian, you need a Master’s Degree in Library Science. Many folk who work in libraries are actually clerks. Some of these are college graduates and some aren’t. These are usually the people you deal with at the circulation desk, see shelving books, etc. I would say the most important skills for a clerical job in either a library or bookstore are friendliness, good organizational skills and intellectual curiosity.

marinelife's avatar

@auhsojsa Not all jobs in libraries require a library science degree although if you aspire to be a librarian, it would be most helpful.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

So, I may need post-secondary education.

Just wondering…

Would this be good enough?

janbb's avatar

It really all depends on the type of library and at what level they are hiring. That would certainly qualify you for many of the jobs in our library but not all of them. The salaries of professional librarians (those with a Master’s Degree) are higher than clerical/technical workers. I think that program would be a good place to start if you are interested in library work and could well lead to a satisfying job.

Carly's avatar

Unless you have some kind of degree (even an AS), you probably won’t be able to get more than a volunteer position at a public library. If you’re interested in working at a specialty library you’ll need some kind of degree, and if you’re interested in working at an academic (college) library doing basic shelving and/or circulation position, you’ll probably need to be an enrolled student.

Most bookstores just require retail experience and the knowledge of a lot of titles and the general publishing market to recommend books, but honestly.. a lot of bookstores are going out of business.

If you’re interested in working with books, not so much people who like book services, work for an online bookseller. If you’re interested in working with people who like books, work in a library if you can find a job.

SuperMouse's avatar

Our local public libraries don’t necessarily require a college degree, but as @janbb mentioned, the positions tend to be more clerical and not at the top of the pay scale. At the university library where I work a bachelor’s is required for most of the staff positions, hiring someone without one is the exception, not the rule. All of the faculty reference librarians have at least a Master’s Degree.

As for knowing Dewey, @janbb would you agree that that isn’t really a necessity? I know that our library uses Library of Congress and our local library doesn’t use Dewey, they use something that is kind of a hybrid of Dewey and that bookstore classification system that is the current debate among catalogers. If you aim is to become a cataloger (the person who processes the books, gives them a call number, etc. and enters them into a library’s catalog) you should probably be familiar with the different cataloging systems. Cataloging class was nearly the end of my career as a librarian, if I hadn’t had access to wonderful catalogers who were willing to go over my homework with me I am sure I would have failed! Our school libraries are the only ones around that still use Dewey.

For me the thing I have found most useful working in a library is having people skills. I work a couple shifts a week on the circulation desk and a couple on the reference desk and being willing and able to work with patrons is essential for both. Another thing that I really think helps, especially on the reference desk, is enjoying detective work and research. I love being able to find information for people and help them solve a puzzle.

Wow, that got really long!

janbb's avatar

For any library, knowing how to use the catalogue is much more important than memorizing the classification system and that is a skill that can be fairly easily learned.

keobooks's avatar

If you want to work in a library, but you aren’t up for going for a masters, you may want to try school librarianship. (School Media services) in most states, you can get a teaching license for being a media specialist and be a school librarian with only a bachelor’s degree. Personally, this is the route I took, and it wasn’t the right one for me. I found out that I don’t like working in schools. And now I have a lot more experience in cataloging, programming and tech services than most librarians I know, but I can only get very low evel work in a public library because I don’t have the MLS.

But if you really like the idea of being a teacher and being a librarian, it’s a very valid path, Most of the people I know who work in public schools like it. And oddly enough, even though they have less education than their MLS counterparts, they are sometimes paid much better.

In the State where I live, there are five levels of public librarianship.

Levels 1 – 3 require a Masters in Library Science – Almost all librarians in the public sector are at this level.

Level 4 requires a Bachelor’s degree – This level is a bit tricky. In very small towns, you might be able to run a library at the level 4 level. In most libraries though, it’s likely that you’ll only be an assistant. Some of these level 4 jobs don’t officially have the Librarian IV title anymore, due to the fact that the State now requires Librarian IVs to get special training paid for by their employers. So in many positions, the same job has been classified as non-MLS professional level library work and the pay has dramatically dropped.

Level 5 requires only an associates degree and I’ve only met a very small number of them. They all lived in very tiny towns that couldn’t afford to pay a “real” librarian. So they only had to take a few classes to know how to catalog books and sort out the budget. The last librarian V I met lived in a flyspeck of a town and worked in a library that was about the size of my living room. It was also the town’s historic museum. She was the only employee and she worked part time. She had one volunteer who checked out and shelved books.

Because the public libraries receive public funds, they have really strict guidelines that they can almost never bend the rules. If they have a job that requires an MLS, you can’t get that job if you don’t have the degree even if you have years of experience working in the library. The good news is that once you get your degree, any professional non-degreed job you’ve worked at in the library will count towards professional experience so you will bump up.

Just to make it clear—if you got a job in tech services repairing books and getting new books ready for shelving it would count as professional non-degreed work. If you did this for 5 years, once you had your MLS, you’d immediately go from non-degreed professional (librarian 4) to MLS Librarian with 5 years of experience (librarian 1) and have access to the best jobs.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

I am not sure if this will help, but I do want to say…

I live in Canada, if that changes anything. Ontario, to be exact. :)

janbb's avatar

There is a book in the United States called The Occupational Outlook Handbook which is also online. It details job prospects, training and salaries for various professions. You might want to look into whether there is something similar for Canada. It could give you more specific information.

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Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@AnonymousGirl You’ll need a specialty you bring to the table to work in this field. Book stores are dropping all over this area. Everybody seems to want access to books online. My first thought when I saw your question was you’ll need to know how to apply for unemployment. But if you can find a niche it might work.

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