catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 20 :: 2012.11.09 — 2012.11.22


A library sketch in three acts

Act I. On the Job

I never realized how quickly my co-worker worked until I filled in for her while she was on maternity leave. And I never realized how much work was involved in her job as an interlibrary-loan staff person. As my training began, my untrained eye began to discover a surprising number of clunky, silly, illogical steps in the process that seem only to waste time, energy and money. My co-worker has counteracted most of the effects by completing her work at great speed and by developing a method to the madness over the years. Since I feel that my rate of productivity has leveled off, and since I have not mastered her method, I can only make up for it by adding more hours to my work week. A little while after starting the position, I was tempted to add to my prayers, “…and God bless all the sensible libraries that don’t require unnecessary packaging which takes extra time and effort to do and undo. And God bless all the libraries without wonky barcodes. Amen.”

I’m still searching for ways to shave off minutes, eliminate redundancy, minimize input, increase output and generally feel more satisfaction than frustration. However, in my attempts to streamline the system, I find myself sitting, mumbling to myself and pointing at various piles of books as the clock ticks. 

Act II. Around the Water Cooler

Our director recently decided that, while we will still use disposable plastic flatware, plates and napkins for library programs, the staff will use (and wash) the dishes and silverware in the staff kitchen.

If the library were a ship, the crew would have mutinied.

“I wash enough of my own dishes at home, and now I have to here?”

“I hate washing dishes!”

“I’m going to go buy some plastic and paper stuff myself and bring them in. So, there. Why wash something when you can just get rid of it?”

I listen to these refrains with a sinking heart. This “quick and easy” solution, which indeed saves time and energy on the part of the individual, produces a vast amount of waste on a global scale. This “efficiency” serves to improve the lives of a few, while the rest of the world has to deal with the effects. The “logic” of this attitude doesn’t make sense.

Act III. In Conclusion

For the most part, I’ve gotten the hang of the interlibrary loan system, even as I envision a state-sweeping petition for more consistency and fewer hoops to jump through. And justifying the use of disposable flatware and plates happens from time to time. But I try to do my part and do what makes the most sense in my mind. So, I wash the dishes.

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