September 20, 2010
Summer's Over, Time to Get Back to Work (Really?)
"September is a time of change—the more relaxed dress codes and slightly slower pace of summer have given way to the normal hustle and bustle of our workday lives." Quoting "From the Desk of," yup, our association president's latest message. What relaxed dress code? What slightly slower pace? What back to normal workday lives? I must have missed the memo. Does anyone look over these messages before they get published?
There are no relaxed dress codes in either the private or public sectors (well, maybe Fridays). The summer is the busiest season of the year in the private sector because those law librarians have to deal with the arrival of students who are summer associates and grads who are first year associates ill-prepared by the legal academy for the real world. Vacations? Well, if you call attending AALL a "vacation," perhaps.
The "normal hustle and bustle of our workday lives" does not change one iota for public sector law librarians during the summer. While one season of the year may not be busier than another, the government remains open for business. So if some public sector library staffers are taking vacations, others are pulling double duty to get the work done.
Oh wait, our president's statement may represent the rhythm of academic law library work from early May to early August. Students have migrated after taking their finals. Profs are more likely to be working on their next law review article at home or staring at a stack of ungraded exams behind closed office doors. A collective sigh of relief is heard in the law library because it's summertime, time, time, the living's easy. Or so it seems.
Yes, there is no denying the fact that particularly the public services staff are counting down the days to reading-and-exams weeks by early April. But most academic law librarians start the summer off gazing at their offices and wondering if the collective debris of the academic year can be cleared away before their 9-month long patrons return. Many do head off to take as much of their four weeks per year vacation as possible because the typical academic law library is too short staffed for vacations any other time of the year (expect during December and January). Some actually use the summer's opportunity to get more work done. They do not allow themselves to fall into the trap that there's nothing to do because there's no patrons in the law library. Those are the "keepers," the ones who are self-motivated.
Alas, for a minority, the pace does slow down, down to a crawl unless management has been paying attention and has come up with a to-do list of summer break projects. Of course, the same sort of "non-keepers" can also be found in the private and public sectors as well. It's just less likely to not be so seasonal because there is no decline in foot traffic, phone calls, emails, deadlines. In those sectors, catch-up time or to-do list managerial moments are occasional day-long events when courts are closed, not an entire season of the year.
I know this to be the case because between being a BigLaw firm librarian and a public sector law librarian, I was an academic law librarian. But one doesn't need have worked in all three major library sectors to know better than sending out this "summer's over, time to get back to work" message. It is, however, time to cue the music video (Janis but I doubt it's Jimi) for the "keepers" who have to put up with the "slightly slower pace of summer" notion that gives many the impression that academic law librarians just hang a "gone fishing" sign on their doors for three months of the year because "fish are jumping out and the cotton's so high." [JH]