Twenty-one years ago, I left the practice of law to take a job at my local public library. I usually joke that I did it when I realized that having a lot of fun was more important to me than having a lot of money.
But that’s only part of it.
A library is the heart of a community. I knew that every day, working at my local public library, I was helping to make the world a better place.
We served our community well, from putting on story times for toddlers to giving retired folks a pleasant place to sit and read the paper. We provided terrific programs, and computers for people who had none at home, and safe space for people who had no where else to go.
Not to mention the books.
I loved my job. For 21 years, I looked forward to coming to work every day. How many people can say that?
Then the pandemic hit, my library was closed and I was furloughed. For the first time in my life, I’m collecting unemployment. I receive about half of what I would have gotten from working at the library.
However, thanks to the CARES Act of 2020, that amount is augmented by an extra $600 each week. As a result? I am making more than I would be bringing in each week were I still working.
So does this mean that when I’m asked back to work, I’m going to stay home, sit on my butt, and keep raking in the dough?
Well, on a practical level, I can’t. If my job is available to me and I refuse to do it, I can’t collect unemployment.
(Of course, because my age puts me in a high risk COVID category, that job should be tweaked so I can perform it safely. Luckily, my particular job — processing books to be added to the library’s collection — can easily be done remotely.)
But the truth is that even if I could refuse to return to work, I wouldn’t. I love my job. Library work gives my life structure and purpose, and I miss it.
Yes, it’s great to get paid for doing nothing. But it’s no way to live.
There are people who have been laid off who don’t love their jobs and aren’t eager to return to work. Maybe the right approach isn’t to call them moochers and deadbeats for wanting to continue collecting that extra weekly $600 instead of returning to the fray, but to ask what’s wrong with these jobs and what we can do to improve them.
I can’t speak for these folks, of course. I can only speak for me. I’m happy and grateful to be getting that extra $600/week.
I’ll be even happier when I can get back to work.