Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Feast or famine


In the sheer chaos of understaffing, new hires, sub training, random sub appearances based on their availability over our need, and a generally disorganized, laissez-faire approach to how we do things, I walk into wildly varying staffing situations at my job these days at the library. Currently our circulation staff, working right now at my library, numbers twelve people. This is a lot! But at 5:00 that number will drop to three, one of whom I suspect might call in sick, leaving us a staff of two, one-sixth of what we have now. 

The nice young man in black and white checked pants helping someone to my right is someone I have not seen since we trained him in half a year ago. A temporary worker walking by was pointed out to me by a longtime co-worker who has returned this very day to take back his old hours. Did I know the person pointed out to me? No, I can't remember. She seems vaguely familiar. He then told me her name, but I have already forgotten it. The chances of me ever seeing that co-worker again seem too low to go to all that difficulty of remembering her name.

Briefly remembering a name might not seem difficult to you, but I have only survived here through a meticulous conservation of energy.

Maybe the oddest thing is that around here two people get about as much done as twelve. I don't know how that works. I'm not saying it from the perspective of two better workers getting done the work of twelve poor ones, but rather something about the strange, pulsing inertia and momentum of a larger library like this producing times where the work is done equally by twelve or two people. If we had twelve people for a sustained period of time we would be very caught up and our large staff would increasingly have to find involved, largely meaningless things to do. Likewise, if we were always down to two people, we would fall into a state of desperate, limping chaos. But these gluts of workers, and these shortages of workers, at least as they occur for a day or two, have functionally the same effect on the efficiency of this library.

It seems very mysterious. But maybe it's just me.

Maybe everything every day is wildly different, but I...

have become...


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