Alumna Celma de Faria Luster Publishes Book about ‘Extra-Help Librarian’ Career Option

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For alumna Celma de Faria Luster, filling in as a substitute or on-call librarian served as an entry point for her career in the information field.

Also known as extra-help librarians, these professionals are most often employed in public, school and academic libraries. They may fill in for a few hours or days when a permanent staff member is out sick or on vacation, or they may work long-term on specific projects or in an unfilled staff position.   

Luster learned about this job category when volunteering in libraries while earning her Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree in 2006. Realizing not many information professionals knew about this employment opportunity or understood its potential, she decided to write a book about it.

Her book, published in September 2013, is titled “Extra-Help Librarians: A Guide for Success at Public, Academic and School Libraries.” Drawing largely on her job experience, it took her four years to research, write and publish the book while also balancing work and family. The 180-page paperback is mainly aimed at new professionals, retirees from full-time employment who want to shift to part-time work, individuals who are exploring career options for information professionals, and practitioners who want to transition into a different area of librarianship.

She said networking and persistence are the keys to working as an extra-help librarian, which offers scheduling flexibility, as well as opportunities to take on diverse responsibilities and work in different library settings and communities.

People considering working as an extra-help librarian should realize, though, that these are hourly positions with no benefits like health insurance or paid time off. Luster also points out there is no job security and typically no opportunity to provide input into institutional decision making.

Still, “MLIS graduates should take advantage of these positions to get work experience, be able to apply for staff-only openings, and be able to manage other aspects of their lives without the pressure of a full-time job,” Luster said. “It is a great position.”

Luster earned two undergraduate degrees, in public relations and social work, in her native Brazil. “Both are four-year degrees and studying was my life then,” she said. It was while volunteering in the library at her son’s school that she realized she would be happy working as a librarian.

While pursuing her MLIS degree, Luster volunteered at different types of libraries – public, school, law and medical — to get a variety of experience in the field. Her internship was at a university library.

Luster still works as an extra-help librarian when opportunities arise, in addition to her permanent part-time job as a librarian at the Sonoma County (California) Library. Her duties there include providing reference services to patrons, particularly those who primarily speak Spanish. Though her first language is Portuguese, Luster also speaks Spanish and selects Spanish fiction for the Sonoma County Library system.

Besides continuing in these two jobs, Luster sees herself doing more writing in the future. In fact, she published an e-book in February 2014 titled “Welcome to the World Cup: Travel Tips from a Brazilian.” Not the typical travel book, this one focuses on the 12 host cities and offers “insider” information for those heading to Brazil this summer for the 2014 World Cup.

Career Tips

“Network, be open-minded, develop your interpersonal skills to provide excellent experience to everyone — patrons and co-workers.”

Tech Tip

“Knowing how to search the catalog and databases is essential across the board.”

Professional Affiliations

American Library Association; California Library Association

Conference Participation

CLA 2013 in Long Beach, Calif.

Favorite Blog or Website Also, “The WorldCat website is a resource that has been very helpful to me as a researcher and at work.”