What is a Library and Archives Assisting Degree?

Degree programs in library and archives assisting teach the skills required to assist librarians and archivists. Students learn these skills by studying the principles and systems of operating a library or archive. Subjects include:

  • Library resources and services
  • Acquiring material for libraries and archives
  • Evaluating materials for preservation
  • Cataloging systems
  • Storage systems
  • Display systems and exhibition of materials
  • Retrieval of materials and information
  • Managing paper and electronic collections of books, periodicals, documents, photographs, films, sound recordings, and other records

Program Options

Educational programs in library and archives assisting are offered at the certificate or diploma and associate degree levels. Some programs may be offered under different names, such as library information technology or archival studies and records management.

Certificate or Diploma in Library and Archives Assisting – Six to 18 Month Duration
Associate Degree in Library and Archives Assisting – Two Year Duration

The course content for these programs is very similar. Education at the associate degree level, however, is more in-depth than in a certificate or diploma program. Here are some sample courses:

Introduction to Libraries and Library Resources – historical and current resources of libraries, the organization of libraries

Cataloging and Classification – cataloging, description, and classification technologies

Computers in Libraries – digital technologies in the modern library and networked environment

Techniques for Internet Research – search, research, and evaluation of online resources

The Law Library – databases for legal research

Library Work Experience – supervised work experiences in libraries or related industries

Introduction to Archives and Records Management – the use of automation and the Internet in the fields of information management and archives; topics covered include developing a records program, research and reference services, and disaster contingency planning

Preservation – examination of the preservation and deterioration of multimedia archives material, collections care planning

Archiving and the Law – examination of the laws that govern the acquisition and disposition of records, public access, and personal privacy

Archival Arrangement and Description – the principles and practices of acquiring, arranging, and describing archival records in all media

Records Scheduling and Retirement – the final stage in the life cycle of records: inventorying, retirement, and destruction

Degrees Similar to Library and Archives Assisting

Library Science and Administration
Library science and administration degree programs – also known as library science and library and information science degree programs – teach the skills needed to work as librarians and information specialists.

The curriculum has many similarities to that of library and archiving assisting, but it is more leadership focused. Therefore, topics covered also include managerial responsibilities like performing library database audits and updates and creating and administering library budgets.

Archival Studies
Degree programs in archival studies teach students how to design and implement systems for creating and managing records and archives. Classes include creating and preserving records and selecting records for archiving.

Database Management
This degree program teaches students how to construct and organize large information databases. Coursework includes the fundamentals of operating systems, programming, and algorithm design.

Students who major in education study the learning and teaching processes. Among the courses they take are educational psychology and teaching techniques.

Management Information Systems
Students who major in management information systems learn how to build systems to retrieve and store information. They take courses in database architecture and management, multimedia systems, and human/computer interaction.

Skills You’ll Learn

Graduates with a degree in library and archives assisting come away from their studies with several transferable skills:

  • Information awareness – they are internet- and research- savvy and know how and where to best locate information
  • Capacity to quickly skim through and comprehend significant amounts and kinds of material
  • Accuracy and attention to detail
  • A sense of logic / organization – this comes from their understanding of the importance of proper identification and classification
  • Computer and digital media knowledge – they are comfortable using technology
  • Multitasking – they are comfortable switching gears and locating information as required
  • Oral and written communication
  • Creativity
  • Patience
  • Interest in history and an appreciation for the importance of preserving it

What Can You Do with a Library and Archives Assisting Degree?

The world of libraries and archives is all about information and information management. Career opportunities in the field, therefore, are wide, simply because many work sectors deal with gathering and handling information.

Here are some of the occupational categories in which the skills learned in a degree program in library and archives assisting can be applied:

  • Public libraries, in roles such as children’s librarian, youth services librarian, reference librarian
  • Public and private school libraries
  • Academic libraries and archives at colleges, universities, research institutions, learning resource centers
  • Special libraries and archives in business sectors including law, healthcare, and science and technology
  • Federal government and related, such as the Library of Congress, National Records and Archives Administration, and presidential libraries
  • States and municipalities, such as the New York State Archives and Chicago-Area Archives and Special Collections
  • Non-profits, such as the American Red Cross and UNICEF
  • Industry associations such as the Academy Film Archive and American Radio Archive
  • Community organizations, such as Ukrainian Museum-Archives
  • Religious communities, such as the Mennonite Church USA Archives
  • Museums, such as the Smithsonian Institution Archives
  • Media (many large newspapers maintain archives)

In each of the sectors, working as a library or archives assistant may involve some or all of these activities:

  • Cataloging and archiving special collections
  • Digital preservation and archiving
  • Documentation / publishing
  • Research
  • Helping people use library or archives resources


Find out what graduates typically earn.

Read about Salary