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Support staff in the library have many names: clerks, educational assistants, secretaries, technicians. Each may have its own set of duties or job descriptions. It's important to determine what the jobs of each staff member are from the start to avoid conflicts or jobs left undone.

Most LMS have found that this management requires several steps:

bulletDevelop job titles and descriptions to justify the need for staff if none exist or they need to be changed
bulletRecruiting and hiring staff
bulletIf nothing else, the LMS should be involved in determine who should be hired for the position. This will vary by district based on staff contractual agreements.
bulletSample interview questions for a library media assistant from a local high school
  1. Please share any experience you have that you feel is related to this position
  2. Describe the clerical and computer skills that you have. What skills have you learned lately? What type of skills are you willing to learn?
  3. Do you like to work on one task at a time until it is done, or do you like to work at a variety of ongoing tasks during the workday?
  4. Would you rather work on projects given to you by the librarian, work directly with students, or a combination of both?
  5. Why do you want to work in a school library? What is your comfort level using a library and helping others to find information?
  6. When working with students, it is important to develop a good rapport with them. What are some ways you will do this?
  7. What type of library "atmosphere" would you feel comfortable working in? What type of noise level and activity level do you prefer?
  8. Describe any experience you have using the Internet.
  9. How do you feel about hands-on projects such as book repair, book processing, and creating bulletin board displays?
  10. You are in the middle of a job when a student comes up to you and asks for help finding information. What would you do?
  11. A group of students are being loud and disruptive. How would you handle the situation?
  12. A teacher brings in a class to do research, and several students are reading magazines and joking around rather than doing their assigned work. How would you handle the situation?
  13. You finish your list of jobs for the day with several hours left over. What would you do?
  14. Training
    bulletLibrary skills (e.g., circulation, cataloging, processing, seeking information)
    bulletTechnology skills (e.g., technology problem solving, applications software, reference tools, Internet searching)
    bulletPeople skills
  15. Assigning job responsibilities
    bulletIt is best to work with the entire staff to assign tasks to the most able person with the agreement of all
    bulletRegular meetings should be held to determine how things are going, what is getting done, and what motivation is needed.
    bulletSolicit the best ways to accomplish a task from staff members.
    bulletThe LMS should also demonstration his/her own willingness to do any task.
  16. Supervision
    bulletSet standards of performance
    bulletMonitor progress
  17. Maintaining job satisfaction
    bulletDetermine what motivates each individual
  18. Evaluating performance
    bulletIn many cases, the support staff is evaluated not by the LMS but by the principal. This means that managing staff must be done without the evaluation component.
    bulletThe LMS may have to assist the administrator in developing evaluation criteria for support staff or provide data for the evaluation.

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Advisory Council

Many schools create library advisory committees as well as technology committees. Each has a valuable function and should include the LMS. They generally include other teachers representative of the overall school staff and occasionally students and even parents or community members. They generally advise on policies and sometimes offer suggestions for selection while also gathering information from other students and staff and transmitting information from the library back to the staff. Each school must determine the frequency of meeting and the limitations of power for these groups.

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In addition to paid support staff , many library media centers use adult or student volunteers. This has both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, it provides free labor in a time of too many jobs and not enough time. Volunteers can provide assistance with circulation, processing, shelving, displays working with students, reading, and many other tasks. On the negative side there are always problems of training, attendance, quality of work, confidentiality, and motivation. Each LMS must determine if volunteers will work for them. Cheryl Ann McCarthy in Volunteers and Technology: The New Reality ( American Libraries, 27 (6)) outlines some of the aspects to consider when developing an adult volunteer program. These same guidelines could apply to both public library and school library media center volunteer programs. She emphasizes the need to demonstrate that professional staff cannot be replaced by volunteers before beginning any such program.

Many schools have volunteer coordinators that could be used to solicit volunteers. One district uses the following form for placing library volunteer

Parent Volunteer Form

Please complete this form and return it to the Library Media Specialist.



Telephone number

Day(s) you are available to volunteer: (Please indicate 1,2,3 for your preference).


Times you are available to come to the library media center

bulletAM only
bulletPM only
bulletAM and PM

Grades you prefer to work with:

bulletPrimary (K-2)
bulletIntermediate (3-5)
bulletMiddle school (6-8)
bulletHigh school (9-12)

I would like to (check all that apply)

bulletread stories to children
bulletprepare a bulleting board
bulletduplicate materials
bullettype orders, booklist
bulletassist with computer
bullethelp circulate materials
bulletother, please specify

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Student Workers

Student volunteers have always been part of school library programs, but now they are extending their roles into the technology arena. Some have students working with network administration at a lower level or assisting teachers with technology.

With the emphasis on school to work, many districts have instituted elaborate student "hiring" procedures complete with resumes and interviews. Some high schools even provide "payment" in the terms of partial credit for student volunteers.

Again, student workers have many advantages, but running such a program requires considerable attention and organization. Each LMS must determine the tradeoffs in his/her situation. Nancy Everhart in "Library aides: If you fulfill their needs, they will come (and work!)" (Book Report, 13 (1)), describes how to successfully motivate such aides.

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