Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Working hard

One of my favorite stories from behind the scenes at my library comes from a long past era. The account, as I heard it from one of the involved parties, concerned two library pages who were working in a small backroom where we used to process the book drop and transit materials. The two pages were working side by side on their two computers. One of the pages turned to the other and said "Hey, slow down. You'll make the rest of us look bad!"

I am, to some extent, a defender of the slacker elements in all jobs. Indeed, I believe that all jobs are full of unacknowledged shirking. Actually I believe any number of irascible, truthful, unconventional things about work. I am on the side of the downtrodden, the low paid and the powerless. I believe in the twenty hour workweek and the $25 minimum hourly wage. Nevertheless I do not see eye to eye with this page urging the work slowdown. It is in violation of the code that says: don't correct a co-worker unless they are doing something wrong (and unless you can do it nicely, and you're sure of it). And it misunderstands the following important slacker principle: there is only so much work to be done, one should avoid getting in the way of other people doing it.

We have, at my job these days, a few small areas of "too much working"  that people get upset about. This getting upset has a lot to do with flow, with things piling up, and with things being hard to find. But I am not one to get worked up about it. Let people throw themselves into the work. It's rare and beautiful enough that it should not be tampered with. If I encounter a place where a surge of work has piled up I can live with it. Somewhere along the grand flow there is going to be less to do. 

And I will be there to do it.

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