03 May 2010

No, You CAN'T Borrow the Stapler (and Other Budget Woes)

During these times of budget cuts and universal brouhaha, I can't help but remember budget crises past.

In particular, there was one set of budget cuts in the late 1980s or early 1990s (any oldtimers out there remember the time period?). Although we had a Director, the System was controlled by the Associate Administrator, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. (This person is no longer with our system, and the position of Associate Administrator has been eliminated.)

In order to demonstrate the impact of budget cuts to the public, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed decreed that we would no longer let patrons use free office supplies. Paper, pens & pencils, paper clips, tape, even staples were no longer available for patron use. Scissors were a grey area: as I recall, we allowed people to use them, but afterwards people had to re-sharpen the blades with their teeth. Gods have mercy on the soul of anyone who asked for a postage stamp. We had to remove all such supplies from sight. If anyone asked to use office supplies, we were to explain that due to budget cuts we could no longer supply free supplies to the public.

The theory, I think, was that outraged patrons would immediately go home and call or write to their County Council members demanding that our budget be restored so that we could afford $1.26 for scotch tape. [At least, that was the public theory. I think there was also a large component of punishment for the ungrateful public who had allowed these budget cuts to happen in the first place. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed was like that.]

So we started refusing office supplies to the public. Did they follow the plan and protest to their elected officials?

Did pigs grow wings and fly to the tops of mountains?

Oh, the public was outraged, all right. And they did what they always do when outraged: they complained to the poor staff member in front of them. They screamed, they yelled, they cursed, they threatened to have us fired. They chanted "kalimah!" and plunged their hands into our chests, ripping out our still-beating hearts and dashing them to the floor.

Staff started wearing masks to hide our identities, and armored breastplates to protect our hearts. We dreaded coming to work each day.

The result? Staff members killed, maimed, or in therapy: Dozens. Calls or letters to elected officials: None. Are you surprised?

Eventually the budget crisis subsided (as they always do), things got better, and we were allowed to restore the staplers and tape dispensers to the tops of our desks.

So take heart in the current budget situation. It could be a lot worse....


Marsh Mistress said...

Love it, Don! And so true. Would love to know the identity of she who must be obeyed, although I have my suspicions...

Emeraldmist Nightfire said...

I remember those days. Don't recall the exact time period though. It was rather embarrassing to have to tell patrons they couldn't use our pencils and pens.

Skipper1 said...

Don't forget a recently hired branch manager was sent to the branches as a spy to make sure staff were complying. BM had just started and was from out of the state so no one knew her.

Bob Erle said...

It must have been the fad at the time, I was with MCDPL then and we had to go through the same bogusness.

I love how the media keeps telling me I should be happy just to have a job. Ya know what, I'm not happy. The government is taking more money out of my pocket so they can fund their little pet projects that they don't want to cut lest it imperil their chances at reelection.

Meerkatdon said...

On Facebook, one staffer says that this must have been in the 1989-1990 timeframe, based on where she was working at the time.

Anonymous said...

AACPL suxs. too many liberal wacko dems.

Bob Erle said...

@Anonymous - PAH! Man up and admit who you are. We are all dedicated professionals providing the best possible service to our patrons regardless of our political leanings.

Aside from that, AACPL most definitely does not suck. I'm one of the few people who've worked on another library system in Md and I can categorically state the at AACPL blows my previous employer away. There are reasons why we invariably finish top 3 in the HAPLAR survey of American Libraries and I will stack our staff against any in the nation. And know what, we'll kick buttocks and take names.

Meerkatdon said...


I'm sorry, but until you learn to spell, use complete words, and properly punctuate a sentence, your opinions are not going to get much of a sympathetic hearing.

I am going to turn off anonymous commenting on this blog. We don't need illiterate nobodies wasting our time.

How can I do that? Well, it's MY blog. So there.