"When an old and distinguished person speaks to you, listen to him carefully and with respect – but do not believe him. Never put your trust in anything but your own intellect. Your elder, no matter whether he has gray hair or lost his hair, no matter whether he is a Nobel Laureate, may be wrong... So you must always be skeptical – always think for yourself." --Linus Pauling

10.06.2005

My Statement to The Powers That Be

So in the big Los Angeles Public Library vs. Jack internet case I was required to write a statement. This would be it:

Hello,

In reviewing my case, no doubt the number of times that I've been written up for using the internet with come across as very damning evidence indeed. I ask that you consider some other factors in making your judgment.

At no point in my time as a clerk typist in Access Services have I ever been written up for an inability or unwillingness to perform my duties. In matter of of fact when assigned to the circulation desk I have invariably chosen to work at station #4, a center position affording high visibility to patrons and a corresponding higher volume of work for the clerk sitting there.

Because of my experience and knowledge of the library I think that I have earned a good reputation for my facility and dispatch in assisting patrons. Many have commented to me or to my superiors that if it weren't for my actions at the desk they would have despaired of ever getting out of the line at all. Certainly no patrons have ever complained that I was too busy reading or surfing the internet to pay attention to them.

So, I have to ask: Why does this rule exist? What purpose does it serve? I have asked this question of my supervisors repeatedly in the past and have always been told that why the rule exists doesn't matter, only that it is followed. However, I have my own theories as to why it was enacted.

Up until last week, clerk typists were allowed to read at the circulation desk (this by the way also caused more than one person to do a double take on the non-use of the internet rule). Now we've been told in a staff meeting that no one is allowed to read at the desk.

While the reason for this decision was not given, everyone in the department knows: One clerk typist in particular would position herself at the circulation desk in such a way as to be nearly invisible to patrons and thereby ignore them to continue reading. Instead of doing the logical thing and just punishing her, all of us are made to suffer.

I surmise that it is much the same with internet use. Some employee somewhere misused it and rather than punishing offenders on an individual basis it was believed that a blanket rule would be simpler. Except that no one to my knowledge follows it, including every single library assistant, senior librarian, etc. that wrote me up for the transgression. No, really.

Perhaps you worry, "What would the public think?" They wouldn't think anything of clerk using the internet or reading a book if they were in turn helped in a courteous and efficient manner. Do you worry over what employees of the U.S. Post Office do when you are not in line to buy stamps? Of course not. No one does.

Being a clerk typist in Access Services is a simple but stressful job. Largely this is due to the constant activity in the department. But the Los Angeles Public Library is not a 19th century factory environment and should not be run like one. It is a hard job sometimes and does not need to be made harder still. It's rules like this one, hypocritically enforced at best, that cause drops in morale and productivity in the workplace.

I believe that I do my job as clerk typist to a very high level of performance. The fact that I've never been written up otherwise would surely indicate this to be true. However, what I have repeatedly been made to feel over time is that it is not how well I do my job that matters, but how well I conform.

I am good at a great many things, conforming to rules that seem illogical has never been one of them. In regards to the non-use of the internet rule, I think the rule is unjust. At the very least it is unjustly applied. Benjamin Franklin would be appalled.

Thank you for your time,

Jack

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