Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bean Counters and Librarians

I did an informal survey of working hours for librarians. There is an interesting trend with those who reported. In general librarians work 35-40 hours per week and are exempt from overtime. They are considered management, professional, faculty or some combination. In smaller libraries they are more likely to work longer hours and have more varied duties. Some libraries gave comp time when the librarians work in excess of their scheduled time. Some said they just work long enough to get the job done; which may be 32 hours or 50 per week. Very few of the librarians report an enlightened or flexible schedule One reported that clerical staff could not make up time. If they came in 2 minutes late they would need to take vacation time and could not even make it up.
I am sure that those who control the budget want to make sure there is no abuse of the system. Sometimes the "bean counters" make rules that lack common sense.

In the
Dec. 9 online version of the Chronicles of Higher Education, they reported that professors in the history department at the University of Montana at Missoula were told the long distance phone calls would no longer be paid for. Travel expenses were reduced to $350 per year and when the toner ran out for the copy machine they could make no more copies. What are those students thinking about the uses for their tuition? The university is being foolishly frugal.

Some of the libraries have no time sheets; while others had to account for every minute. When I worked for the State, we had time sheets, but hours were flexible. If we scheduled our time with our supervisor our hours could be from 7 am to 8 pm. Most people were gone by 5 PM. But sometimes I needed to perform tasks after hours and I stayed until 7 or 8 one day per week. The other days I left before 4:30. My boss started at 7 and left at 3 or 3:30.
This was possible because very few people in the agency dealt directly with the public. An enlightened policy of work would allow flexibility both to serve the needs of the institution and the individual. There would be core hours that full time people would be expected to be on the job except if the job was nights and weekends. Beyond a certain limit overtime would be compensated with money or time.

What should be reasonable for a professional to work? In any institution that serves the public, someone must be "on duty" at the door, the desk, etc. The people not facing the public have more flexibility. The funding agency needs to balance institutional needs and individual needs. One time I was scheduled to keep the library open until 8 pm. I was the only staff member there. One day I really couldn't stay that late. I arranged to switch hours with another librarian. 4 o'clock came and she
didn't come in. She didn't answer her phone or cell phone. 6 o'clock came and still no one knew what happened to her. The library director said that it she didn't come in I was to close the library early because I had made an approved arrangement. Luckily another librarian was able to stay until 8, but we didn't hear from the first one until the next day. She had forgotten about her schedule for that day. It is nice that someone could be flexible even if only a few people in the public would have been affected. People need a work-life balance, but also realize that your actions affect others. Working 50 hours a week without additional compensation is not fair to the individual. Missing your scheduled hours is not fair to the rest of the staff.

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