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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 — Houston, TX

Beyond Fondy 24/7: advocating for fairness

By Anonymous     2/27/24 10:17pm

Editor’s Note: This is a letter to the editor that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. Letters to the editor are fact-checked to the best of our ability and edited for grammar and spelling by Thresher editors.

The author of this letter to the editor was granted anonymity because of the risk of employment-related disciplinary action.

An editorial “24/7 Fondy presents more cons than pros” published Jan. 16 raised valid concerns about the potential drawbacks of Fondren Library operating 24/7. However, this argument barely scratches the surface, overlooking a critical aspect — the well-being of the dedicated staff who operate the library. 

It is imperative to consider that these individuals are not just employees but people with lives, families and aspirations. To give you a tiny glimpse of what it is like, from working pre-pandemic to now, keeping up with my outside life is challenging. Trying to ensure you can pay your bills and care for your family makes it exhausting to want to make plans. Some days after my shift, I head straight to bed, barely making conversation. While there is a never-ending pile of work to be done, the little things here at Rice make things manageable. Whether it is the peaceful walk to one of the coffeehouses, the occasional bakery good or the small conversations with staff from other departments, those little things make some work days better — but the little things are only temporary and can only do so much.

I have learned that even though I have worked in this field for almost a decade and have a bachelor’s degree, the pay will still be low and the raises even lower. The current starting pay for library staff is a mere $15 per hour, a rate that, for some, barely allows them to make ends meet. Many workers possess college degrees and boast years of valuable library experience. This issue is exacerbated by the appalling pay received by our student workers, starting at just $9 per hour. If we genuinely advocate for a 24/7 library, it is only fair and just that we demand better compensation for the staff who make it possible.

Adding insult to injury, specific library departments are not recognized as essential workers during disasters, denying them the compensation and recognition accorded to essential workers. Despite these challenges, library staff have demonstrated unwavering commitment, risking their safety to keep the library open during crises. Winter storms, the ongoing pandemic — we workers have gone above and beyond, ensuring accessibility to resources even in the face of adversity.

It’s disheartening to witness a focus on initiatives like “Fondy 24/7!” and associated petitions without a parallel emphasis on addressing the plight of the underappreciated library workers. While education is undeniably essential, the constant demands on Fondren Library often result in misplaced blame on the institution itself. The university’s priorities, evident in allocations toward areas like the Academic Quad redesign instead of the library, need reevaluation.

The call for extended library hours is valid but should not overshadow the pressing need to improve the conditions of the dedicated staff who facilitate this service. If we champion “Fondy 24/7,” we must equally champion fair wages and better working conditions for the individuals who make it possible. This frustration stems from a genuine concern for the well-being of Fondren Library’s invaluable workforce, who deserve recognition, respect and improved compensation for their unwavering dedication.

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