The library is hopping. Action swirls around me. It's an early evening on a midweek Winter day and I am at the front desk of my library. So it begs the question:
If it's so busy how am I writing this?
Accounting for the fact that I have already been interrupted 37 times in the course of writing what little you have read so far, there is something significant to my still being able to do this while rush hour churns through my library. Ten or fifteen years ago at this library the idea that I would have more than 30 seconds of uninterrupted time would have been laughable. I used to have the kind of three minute conversations with my co-workers that I have now, except they would have to be broken up into one or two sentence snippets and parsed out over an hour or two. Sometimes there would merely be a futile attempt at conversation. The whole discussion would just go nowhere for the whole time, like, for example, this:
"I went to this great cheese shop on Thursday!"
"Oh, really. What was... oh, hold that thought."
"So you were telling me about the cheese shop..."
"Right, but, wait."
"What were we talking about again?"
"Was it the White Stripes?"
"Wait, hold that thought."
"Oh, I know what we were talking about. You were going to tell me about the cheese shop."
"Right! I went to this great cheese shop Thursday!"
"Hold that thought."
It took an awfully long time to learn much about my co-workers in conversations like that, but one thing a person had doing the kind of work we were doing was a lot of time, heavy time.
So, right. What changed?
In addition to the automated check in machine's prodigious contributions, library patrons can do all sorts of things for themselves now. They can check out their own books. They can look up their own records. They can renew online at home. We used have to do everything for them. Now we only have to do the strange and difficult things for them.
I was telling my young co-worker about all this while we were working at the front desk.
"Wait, hold that thought." I said.
I've been busy writing this, so we haven't gotten back to it yet.