Thursday, December 11, 2008

Big Theme, Big Building, Big Fun

For asthma sufferers, this time of year is just a joy. Hot cold hot cold, wheeze wheeze wheeze. And so my day began. With the able assistance of my two cats, I somehow made it out the door to arrive at work in time for my 12-9 shift at the 'ol biblioteca.

On the way in, I listened to an interview: Before Sarah Palin, There Was Michael Palin, where they discussed the song "Always Look at the Bright Side of Life" from Monty Python's "Life of Brian." This turned out to be a good thing. In fact, I decided that this would be the Big Theme here in the Big Building today.

Like me, the economy is gasping. When you work for the city you live and die by the revenue that supports you. You know that when you sign on for the gig. 18 months ago, things were rosy, rosy, rosy. Hire staff! Plan programs! Be Vital! Spend that book budget and spend it hard.

A year ago a veil of unease drifted down. Hiring was suddenly frozen. What book budget we had left at the time was soon cut off. Subscriptions were cancelled. Programs curtailed. The veil was starting to look a bit like smog.

Today. No hiring. All programs cancelled. A minuscule book budget which is being cut yet again. It looks very likely that daily open hours will be reduced to 8. There are rumors of one-day-a-week closure. 20% of the library workforce is on the chopping block.

During economic downturns, the public turns to the library for a little distraction ( NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams - Libraries Offer Free Relief in Tough Times). In times when staffing, budget, and facility maintenance are cut, circulation and the need for more staff and well-maintained facilities increases.

And yet we carry on. That's the remarkable thing about public library staff. We know the score but, more importantly, we have grit. For many of us, this type of public service is more than a job, better than a career. It is a calling. A call to serve. A call to strengthen our democracy by keeping information free. A call to inquiry on any subject. A call to honorable and ethical action in the best interest of the community.

With such understanding, our staff remains tough as we soldier on. It's not that we don't feel discouragement. It's not that there isn't real fear for our coworkers. It's not that our coworkers are not scared. It's not that we have somehow found a remarkable miracle cure for the tension we feel in our work, our homes, and our nation.

It's purpose. Having a purpose makes you resilient. And with resiliency comes the ability to take a moment to have a laugh. To celebrate the silly. To enjoy a little dark humor. And enjoy a Big Theme Night in the face of Big Layoffs in the future. And to sing:

1 comment:

sexy said...