Monday, September 27, 2010


This makes me very sad. Must we work librarians to death for profit? I love librarians. To me libraries are sanctuaries, places of calm and peace and good cheer ... and a Quakerly quiet, and librarians are the key to maintaining that atmosphere.

But the bigger picture is perhaps the lack of imagination that allows us to be willing for librarians or any workers to be harried and rushed and overworked. People are already strained with commutes and bills and childcare, eldercare, the many complexities of navigating life these days, and perhaps every job doesn't need to be turned into a treadmill. I don't begrudge librarians or any other worker some time to gather their wits on the job or a moment to say a few kind words to a client. Are any of us going to be happy or at peace in a Gradgrind world of endless toil? Are libraries going to be come as crowded and unpleasant as airplanes have?

A second thought. People, according the article, still volunteer--more than ever--at these for-profit libraries. I am all for volunteering, truly I am, but I do wonder at volunteering where the money is padding the pockets of somebody who, apparently from what he said in the article, doesn't care about the worker. Especially in these times of high unemployment, I think we need to be careful not to do volunteering that takes jobs away from people. It might be better, as the paid librarians are going to be worked into the ground anyway, to challenge these libraries by not volunteering, so that the actual cost of labor is reflected in paid labor. But I struggle with this too, because work should be intrinsically about dignity more than pay, and volunteerism exemplifies that spirit. On the hand, I don't think librarians make all that much money that the owner of the for-profit library company couldn't pay a few more to do the work of the volunteers and make a profit that is real. What do you think?

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