The Telecommuting Library Worker

Jul 17, 2007

Could it be possible to work for a library...and yet telecommute? Seems impossible, and yet maybe it's not as far out as you might think.

Could You be a Telecommuting Library Worker?

Telework sounds like a dream come true, doesn't it? At least on some days...those days when you don't even want to drag yourself out of bed, much less scrape ice off your windshield or stand at a freezing cold bus stop to get into work. Wouldn't it be much nicer to stay in your pajamas all day, have that extra cup of coffee, then sit down to your own computer at nine o'clock to put in a day's work from the comfort of your own home? With the added treat of knowing you wouldn't have that horrendous commute at the end of the day, either?

Sigh. Now back to reality. Telecommuting could never work if you're a library worker -- or could it? If you work for a public library system or a state-funded school or university, as do the majority of library workers, you are, after all, a government employee. Although most city and county governments have no official telework policies as yet, the federal government has been in the forefront of initiating such policies in each of its agencies. Yes, even in the Library of Congress! Although that institution has no official telework policy to date, they first instituted a task force to explore telecommuting possibilities in 2000 and presently do allow such work on a case-by-case basis.

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But how can telecommuting work for libraries? More easily than you might think. After all, electronic resources are the ones most often used (and requested) to answer questions posed by telephone or online reference patrons. Certain academic and even public library systems around the country have quietly (these are libraries, after all) been implementing telework policies -- in fact, Gail Griffith, Deputy Director of the Carroll County, Maryland library system, started telecommuting some ten years ago! Carroll County has been one of the pioneer systems in extending telecommuting benefits to as many of its staff as possible: collection development, outreach, and administrative staff as well as reference librarians have all been successful at working from home for about one day a week. (Shelvers, alas, still have to do all of their work in person.)

In the future, there may well be incentives, if not a mandate, for more public libraries to get on board with the telecommuting revolution, with academic and special libraries sure to follow suit. If you are a library worker, do you think you could, or would, do part of your work from home? Well, at least it will give you something to think about while shivering at the bus stop!

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