Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Library Volunteers: NYT Ethicist Column by Randy Cohen

From a library listserv:

Interesting question and answer in the New York Times Magazine, Sunday, August 29, page 17, The Ethicist by Randy Cohen that concerns library volunteers. From the article:
The Ethicist
Library Volunteers
Published: August 27, 2010

Community members have responded to our towns tight budget by volunteering at the library, so much so that the library laid off several long-term full-time employees, people who are our friends and neighbors. Having fewer municipal employees means a slight reduction in property taxes for everyone, but it harms those left jobless. Should town residents consider that before volunteering? NAME WITHHELD, NEW JERSEY"

He gives an analysis (remember, he is a humorist) and ends his answer
"There is a sad limitation to this analysis: a laid-off library employee is not apt to be hired to teach 11th-grade calculus. He or she will suffer; someone else will be hired. There are winners and losers here. And it would be unfortunate if this upsurge of civic virtue resulted in only a tiny reduction in some peoples property taxes, an outcome that thwarts the noble motives of those volunteers: to promote civic betterment by reallocating limited resources."

Read the full column with his analysis and answer.

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