Magazine article American Libraries

Will's World: A Time (off) for Every Season

Magazine article American Libraries

Will's World: A Time (off) for Every Season

Article excerpt

My workplace, like many, offers one day of sick leave per month. That means that you can be sick up to 12 days per year. I'm not sure what the national average for sickness per employee is, but I've always felt that offering one day of sick leave per month is reasonable. We also offer 9.3 hours of vacation per month, which amounts to 14 days of vacation per year.

Why am I bringing this up? Quite simply, when it comes to managing library personnel, sick leave and vacation can be very troublesome. That's not what you would expect. After all, these are benefits. How can benefits be a problem?

Infectious enthusiasm

First of all, library workers are a very dedicated, service-oriented group who are not in it for the money. They derive a great deal of personal validation from serving others. When you couple this strong service commitment to most libraries' low staffing levels, you have a situation in which library employees need both their sick leave and their vacation time. That's because working closely with the public makes them particularly susceptible to a diverse array of germs--to say nothing of a steady load of stress. Sick leave dispatches the germs, and vacation time takes care of the stress; at least that's the theory.

Contrary to what most workers think, employers provide paid time just as much for the organization's benefit as for the employee's. In the long run, sick and vacation leave tends to increase productivity by keeping employees healthy and energized. Again, that's the theory.


Here's the problem: Many library workers would have to be on their deathbed before they would be willing to take sick leave. One librarian's sore throat is another librarian's minor irritation. I have had to order wheezing, sneezing library workers home to prevent them from spreading their germs to their co-workers.

Why are some librarians so determined to appear hardy? I'm convinced it has something to do with their extra strong service ethic. The public needs to be served in sickness and in health. That's the way they see it. I also feel that many librarians who are ill come to work because they don't want to let their co-workers down. Libraries are short-staffed enough. The irony is that those who come to work sick only make things worse. …

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