Libraries have known for some time now that patrons are increasingly shifting to virtual rather than physical visits. A number of libraries are providing innovative and interesting programs that attract patrons to their physical spaces including film, gaming, and technology offerings. However, as libraries continue to expand their online holdings, patrons are able to do more and more from home.
If patrons can do more from home, why can’t library employees? The New York Times ran an article yesterday that describes gasoline as the new workplace perk. With the outrageous price of fuel, many forward-thinking companies are actively encouraging their workers to telecommute. Some companies are even providing BlackBerrys and reimbursing employees for high-speed Internet service to encourage telecommuting. In addition to the obvious savings on fuel costs, these measures are also having some side-effects that put more money into workers’ pockets. With more time to work from home, employees spend less of their salaries on work clothes and takeout lunches.
So what about libraries? Can library employees benefit from telecommuting? Depending on the nature of the job, of course they can. People working virtual reference shifts are logical candidates for telecommuting. Some jobs with high technological components are also obvious choices. People working with data loads, web pages, and electronic resources are all prime candidates. Unfortunately all library jobs may not benefit. If a library needs the circulation supervisors on duty at the desk, then telecommuting may not be an option for that position. Likewise shelvers and catalogers may a difficult time finding telecommuting options, although I can certainly envision some scenarios in which this would actually work well for catalogers.
Are there any libraries that actively encourage telecommuting? Hopefully there are, but I haven’t heard of them. If anyone knows of successful telecommuting programs for library employees, I’d really like to hear about them.