Saturday, February 13, 2021

King of the Library: The 14th decree


Over the vast eons of clerkmanifesto I have dreamed of a great library where I am King. And as King, in this fantasy, I have piece by piece built a library as I think it should be, all through the use of decrees, kingly decrees, written here, whenever I am seized by a vision of this ideal library. 

These decrees are whimsical, innovative, rebellious, practical, fun, revolutionary, efficient, generous, and silly, all in their turn. So far there have been 12 of these decrees. No public library has yet contacted me to say:

Dear Mr. Calypso:

We have read with interest your innovative series "If I Were King of the Library", and we were fascinated. Our small library system would like to offer you a five year appointment to run our library entirely as you see fit. We feel that you could make our library a beacon in the world of libraries, or at least a laboratory for new ideas that could invigorate both our small community and the wider community as well.

We hope that you will be interested in this unique opportunity and look forward to discussing this compelling project with you.

The trustees of the Camden Public Library

Shakespeare once wrote:

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Which I bring up here because it says, in effect, that my genius is wildly underappreciated precisely because people are absolute morons!

Oops. I think I've digressed.

Because my real point is that I soldier on, crafting this dream library despite the fact that it is just we few people musing over it while the rest of the world slumbers.

And so we come to today's decree, the thirteenth. It is a very simple one, largely economic in nature, and it is inspired by two basic things.

The first is a quote I read only this morning by Bertrand Russell:

Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?

The second inspiration for today's simple, but dramatic quality of life decree is based on my longstanding belief is that pretty much everyone in any library (and in most work settings) only does effective work 50% of the time at best, a point I have made thoroughly in the history of this blog and so will not rehash here. To put it simply: The pins we're making these days in America are at least twice as easy to make as they once were.

And that is why my 13th Decree is this:

Everyone working at the library shall be paid twice as much per hour, and everyone's hours shall be cut in half.

And so it is decreed on this day etc. etc., by the King.

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