I am having one of those super cranky days where a book shelved out of order can nearly drive me to tears and the fact that the last interlibrary transit slip was taken and not replaced makes me lose hope in all humanity, or at least in all my co-workers, who are now hard for me to look at and not wonder: "Is it you who has wounded me so?"
For good or ill clerking can well tolerate these feelings. A clerk just sort of turtles up and chips away at the very minutes, seconds. We dig our way to a break, a grounding chat with a congenial colleague, a change, a lunch, the end of shift, a weekend, a vacation. But it's dangerous stuff too, and though the few clerks I know who are all subsumed and destroyed in their protective shells certainly have many and far greater contributing factors to that reality than mere 8-hour a day clerking, I think every clerk takes a little damage walking the line of institutional drudgery, the unholy world of bosses, and one's private commitment to contribution, self-respect, and doing a good job. I see for most of my co-workers empathy is the first thing that flickers, that ability to imagine others experience and some of that do unto others... stuff. Some focus more on the patrons as the enemy, some their co-workers, some the supervisors and institutional structure (Hi!). There's a little deadening, a little passing the buck, a little unhealthful anger or sadness. It makes one...tired, and it's a good time to have your home-life in order.
I recently read this really interesting article, about the 30 hour work week, here:
and I do think that would help, though certainly not resolve these issues. At the least I have found that my co-workers who work more towards part time sometimes seem a little less blasted by these issues, a little less prone to be riled by some of these things that can be pretty small.
And I believe it is like that article implies, or even says. We could get by on all these fewer hours of staffing. Not because we can just afford to cut hours (cut them more, I should say, for believe me, they've been being shaved for a decade), but because we could use our hours better if we weren't driven to these darker places, to this crankiness, to an overworked grinding, quite so often.