Private -vs- Public

Some questions have been floating around in my mind for a while regarding the private/personal divide.  I remember hearing Jessamyn West speaking at NLS2 in Adelaide in 2004 and there was one point that really resonated with me.  It was along the lines of “…I’m paid by my employer from 9am.  The library opens at  My employer expects me to be at work prior to opening time to facilitate the opening of the library at the designated time. This means I have to be at work at 8.30.  Therefore, I’m donating 30 minutes of my own time to prepare the library for opening.”  Apologies to Jessamyn for my misquoting but it was nearly 6 years ago!

Misquotes and all, I think the point is pretty clear.  Does my employer have the right to direct my time, my life, my resources when he/she is not paying for it?  Or in other words, does my employer own me?

The answer from most of us should be a resounding “No!”  I’m not suggesting that we have no responsibilities as far as our work is concerned.  We have a responsibility to turn up to work in a fit state; not drunk, not stoned, etc.  We have a responsibility to turn up at the appointed time, take the allotted time for breaks, stay for the required duration.

But we have a right to be paid for the time we are there working.  No more, no less.

I start work at 9am.  I arrive at 9am and I hit the ground running.  I do like to begin the day with a coffee and, at my current place of work, it is customary to make this cuppa upon arrival.  However, I’d prefer to have a decent coffee at home, go to work and begin my day as soon as I arrive.  (Disclosure: what I’d prefer and what actually happens aren’t always the same thing.)

If I’m not paid for my lunch break, why am I expected to be on-site and carry my work phone with me at all times?  That isn’t the case where I work now but it was the case at one of the libraries I’ve worked at in the last few years.  To adhere to my principles, I found myself venturing off-site just out of phone range to eat my lunch.

So that’s my time…but what about my resources?

Like many people, I have an iPhone.  We know they do funky cool things that an old Nokia 5110 couldn’t even dream of doing.  There are apps aplenty. I like to stay across issues in this area partly because I’m interested in them personally and partly because an increasing number of my clients are getting iPhones and I like to let them know about various developments and apps that may interest them.  This is my choice.

I have chosen to download a number of apps relevant to my work.  I’m a medical librarian and I keep an eye out for medical apps.  I’m not using these apps in the same way a clinician would.  I just like to know what’s “out there” because you never know when a curly question is going to come up.  But, like I said, it’s my choice.

So, is it ok for my boss to ask me to download an app?

I’ve had a few ad hoc information literacy sessions that were scheduled prior to my normal starting time.  Time off in lieu had been agreed, so that’s not the issue.  One of these sessions was potentially in doubt and so I gave my mobile number to the person to let me know if I was not required to come in so early.  This morning an info lit session I was scheduled to deliver was replaced by a meeting and when I turned up ready to give the lesson the participants sent me on my way.  I need not have come in an hour early.  If they’d had my mobile number, they could have let me know.  (Actually, they completely forgot about me but that’s not the point.)

Should I be giving out my private mobile number to clients at work?

Am I being to precious about this?

If you hadn’t worked it out by now, I have leftist tendencies.  I believe in workers’ rights.  I do not believe an employer, no matter how well intentioned, has the right to dictate how I spend my time or my resources when they are not being paid for.

How many of us “mild-mannered” librarians have turned a blind eye, shrugged off or dismissed a request to go beyond the call all to avoid the confrontation or the awkwardness?

No more!  Rise up and say NO!

This entry was posted in Librarianship, Life choices, Private life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Private -vs- Public

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  2. Penny says:

    Well I do think it would be courtesy for them to let you know you weren’t needed.

    I believe that if I am flexible in terms of my employer asking me to do things that may impinge on my time outside work or change my work hours a bit, then I have every right to ask flexibility of my employer. So when I need to attend some school related thing, or leave a bit early or arrive a bit late it gets ironed out in the end.

    However, I am fortunate to have an employer who has similar attitudes.

  3. liberrydwarf says:

    I agree – if I get in at 8am, I have every right to expect to leave at 4pm. And if I can’t (late meeting, early meeting, night class) I expect to be able to adjust my time to suit, come in later or leave earlier. My library employers are pretty good about this. The rest of the University isn’t as good, though. Yesterday I had a project to do for my Head Of School’s PA (I have a rant about this in my blog today) and a change popped up at the last minute: she couldn’t quite grasp that I wouldn’t take the project home and work on it that night to give to her in the morning. I’ve had others from various parts of the University ask my staff for my mobile number (not a work mobile, a private one, mind you) thankfully we’ve been able to persuade them they don’t need it.

    I’ve got a very firm “work at work, no work at home” line: frustratingly it’s not one that my partner shares, maybe by virtue of his job more than anything else. I might be tempted to trade in my work-life balance for 12 weeks holiday a year too!

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  5. nomesd says:

    Great post, Fi. Agree with a lot of what you’ve raised.

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