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Student Aides

Page history last edited by Staci Cox 15 years, 10 months ago

Student Aides


     Many school libraries use student aides to help with various tasks.  A wide range of students will volunteer in the library:  some may be gifted, while others are diagnosed with learning disabilities.  The best students do not necessarily make the best student aides.  The most important factor, beyond interest, is motivation.

Students are motivated by some of the same things as adults--physiological needs, safety, sense of belonging, esteem, and finally self-actualization.[1]   Examples of things you can do to address these needs include:


Physiological needs:

  • provide snacks
  • provide a comfortable, cheerful place to work

Sense of belonging:

  • include a photo of library aides in the yearbook
  • take pictures of them to display in the library or your office
  • give cards to acknowledge special events, such as graduations or birthdays


  • give aides special borrowing privileges – e.g., no fines
  • give aides free photocopies
  • recognize aides with award certificates
  • give them something to be responsible for – e.g., magazine check-in or a set call number range to maintain
  • let students plan and assemble a display


  • assure (and demonstrate to) students that skills learned in the library are transferable to other work and to other learning goals
  • write recommendations for students at the end of each year with specific details of skills demonstrated 


Working with student aides 


Secondary schools: 


In some secondary schools, the student aide position is a credit class. This may require that a scope-and-sequence of activities and skills be drawn up and regular tests and reports given. Consider designing individual units so students can learn a skill in a self-paced manner and then move on to another. Each skill learned qualifies the student to operate a machine or perform a service that needs to be done for the library.  Other schools don’t require tests but will still require you to demonstrate your system for evaluation.  Contact the School Library Coordinator for sample evaluation forms. 

Secondary students can usually be relied upon to perform many basic library jobs (see the list below) if each task is broken down into simple parts that can be done separately.

Rotate tasks frequently. Most adolescents have short attention spans and low boredom thresholds. Their work may begin well, but the quality will fall off quickly if you do not keep something fresh and interesting coming their way.


Elementary schools:


Usually, it is not possible to have students assigned to the library during a regular school day in elementary school. However, students can be very helpful with circulation, shelving, and general straightening if you can arrange for training outside of the academic day. Scheduling a library club to meet before or after school can allow time for training. Some meetings should be solely for fun, with food, games, etc. Otherwise, most students will soon lose interest.

Students can be scheduled to do their assigned work during recess or lunch.  Alternatively, aides can be selected from each room to perform duties whenever their class is in the library. Partnerships between primary and intermediate students may provide opportunities for mentoring. 


Helpful Tips for Managing a Successful Student Library Aide Program


  • Require students to complete an application before becoming a library aide.  The application should ask basic questions about previous library experience, interests, and possibly require an adult recommendation.  Students who enthusiastically complete the application process will be your most motivated library aides.  Talk to your administrator about making the application mandatory for placement in your class.
  • Write a detailed course description, and make sure your principal and/or counselors have a copy.  When students register for classes, this will ensure that they understand the course prerequisites, description, objectives, and requirements. 
  • Design a rubric for your course.  In most cases, library aides are not assigned homework or given tests.  Avoid any confusion at report card time by clearly defining what type of work constitutes each letter grade, and distribute copies of this rubric to students and parents.  Be sure to incorporate some of the library/information literacy standards into your rubric.
  • Create a training checklist for library aides.  When you get new students, this guide will help streamline your library aide orientation.
  • Near the end of the course, ask students to complete a survey about their experience as a library aide.  Take their input seriously and use it to improve your program for the future!




Be sure that student aides are not allowed to move equipment that can pose a hazard. Particularly be aware that there are regulations against students moving tall audio-visual carts with heavy televisions, monitors, etc. Use safety straps for this equipment, and do not allow students to move anything taller than they are.


Tasks That Student Aides Can Perform


  • Basic Library Duties
    • Work at circulation desk: check books in and out
    • Shelve books
    • Read shelves
    • Check in magazines, newspapers, and journals
    • Assist with inventory
    • Print and sort overdue notices
    • Unpack new books
    • Process new books (stamp, barcode, tattle tape, etc.)
    • Assist with collection maintenance (e.g., check catalog for most current coyright date of various Dewey areas so you can see which need updating)
    • Monitor sign-in books or lunch passes
    • Assist with book repairs
    • Help with special projects and programs (e.g., Battle of the Books)
  • Errands
    • Pick up and sort mail
    • Deliver items to classrooms and offices
    • Deliver overdue notices
    • Hang signs and/or promotions throughout school hallways
  • Library Atmosphere
    • Create book displays for special events/features/celebrations
    • Decorate bulletin boards
    • Create signs to identify various library areas
    • Basic straightening of library (chairs, magazines, computer areas, etc.)
    • Sharpen pencils and keep slips of paper available near catalog computers
    • Water plants
    • Light cleaning, e.g., dusting, picking up trash
  • Clerical Tasks
    • Laminating and/or trimming laminating
    • Photocopying
    • Answering phone calls
    • Filing catalogs
    • Typing/word processing
    • Enter information into a database or spreadsheet
  • Equipment
    • Back up computer files
    • Perform regular maintenance tasks on computers (e.g., software or antivirus updates)
    • Cleaning keyboards, VCR/DVDs, etc.
  • Curricular
    • Read new titles and write book reviews
    • Advocate library use within school community
    • Provide input and suggestions regarding future title purchases
    • Train and mentor library patrons about catalog use, Dewey, or other library-related curriculum.


Additional Resources


For more information about successful library aide programs, see the following resources that are available through the Digital Pipeline:


Mornaga, Karen, and Emii Mastsumura.  “Library Aides: Building Character, Advancing Service.”  Library Media Connection  Jan. 2008: 10-14.


Schipman, Mavis.  "It's Cool to Work in the Library... Student Library Aides."  Library Media Connection Nov.-Dec. 2006: 26-27.


[1]Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of human needs and motivations.

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