The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

CIVIL SERVICE: You might not believe this, but in the civil service it is always important to catch the next great new thing. You might wonder why people who have jobs they can’t lose would care one way or the other about a new anything, since we’re going to get our paychecks whether we think of anything original or not. Your cynical attitude would be incorrect, however, as well as uncharitable; civil servants care deeply about their work and are on a constant lookout to find new and more expensive ways of spinning the bureaucratic wheels. It is with this great truth in mind that I am pleased to announce that our very own egregious mold pit is now an Equal Access Library.

At this juncture I am still not entirely certain what constitutes an Equal Access Library, other than that we will now provide library services “…from womb to tomb…,” to quote the official literature. The assistant director will handle the information needs of the latter group, while our children’s librarian will upgrade the sterling services she already provides our happy little burg's population of microbe-breeding tykes to include those who have not yet arrived. I, apparently, will sit at the reference desk and answer questions, which is what I would have done anyway. As a general rule I disapprove of reference librarians doing anything except answering questions. Answering questions is what a reference librarian’s job is all about and having us do something else detracts from our main function. You do not ask racehorses to pull milk wagons, a metaphor rapidly going the way of the manual film camera and the dodo bird.

In fact, I disapprove of civil servants doing anything except what they’re supposed to do; more often than not permitting a civil servant to do anything not clearly specified in their job description is simply an excuse for demanding more staff and money in the next fiscal year. Civil servants should get the absolute minimum required to do their jobs properly and anyone who comes up with a bright idea to do the job better should be taken outside and beaten to within an inch of their life, a necessary deterrent for those who cannot otherwise get canned. If they want to foist their bright ideas on an otherwise unsuspecting American public they should get real jobs in private industry, where the company can terminate their employment in a heartbeat should the bright idea turn out to be a disaster, which is usually the case. Most ideas are disastrous, when you look at them in retrospect. Most new bad ideas are really old bad ideas in disguise, and it wouldn’t do for someone with nothing invested in the new bad idea to point this out to the American public, who will first have to shell out vast sums of money for the new bad idea, and then shell out the equally vast sums required to ameliorate the unforeseen social problems the new bad idea will create in its wake. This is one of the reasons most governments and political parties discourage the study of history in school these days; you can’t tell what people will do if they start looking at bad ideas in retrospect beforehand. This could lead to personal and departmental accountability, or worse, cuts in one's annual budget, and this is a prospect most civil servants would just as soon live without.

In the main, though, I am for anything that gets more people to use the public library, an institution I believe is almost synonymous with American democracy, and I’m not just saying that because this place keeps me in beer and pretzels. I am, however, at something of a loss when it comes to how the two groups specified will take advantage of the program. I do not, as I’ve mentioned here many times before, make any claims to omniscience, so perhaps I am not taking a long-term view of this program’s potential, but while I am sure the assistant director and the children’s librarian will perform their usual Herculean labors trying to make a success of this program, I see no practical way of moving the in utero and the interred from their natural disinclination to use the public library.

There is, after all, the question of transportation to the library; both groups of people are more or less dependent on family and friends to get them anywhere; and then having gotten to the library, there is the question of where they will store the library materials until they are due back at the library, shelf space being at something of a premium for both the pre-birth and post-life communities. I imagine that with the passage of time there’d be more space for the latter to store unread books and DVDs, but this is not true of the former group, where time and space shrink in direct proportion to each other and without the aid of Einstein’s special theory of relativity. And for both groups, of course, the families involved would object strenuously to constant backing and forthing such a program involves. I am all for programs to help shut-ins get library materials, but as in all things there are people who insist on taking things to their logical extremes and I think we are wasting our time trying to get through to these people.

These limitations, of course, will not stop the people who dreamt up the Equal Access Library concept. Having convinced their betters in the library bureaucracy that this is a great idea, they are now hard at work trying to get libraries all over the county to implement it. In all likelihood, the idea will fall on its face, despite everyone’s trying to make a go of it, but this is the civil service, after all; the people who came up with this abomination will, no doubt, get a promotion for their efforts and will probably get more resources to continue next year what they shouldn’t be doing in the first place this year. Thus it always is, here in our happy little burg.


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