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Alternative spring break, part IV, OR the "ethic of inefficiency"

Posted on Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

The ethic of inefficiency is a phrase that we discussed on our spring break trip quite a bit.  It's hard to define in concrete terms. I can give you an example, though.  Imagine that you are the only handyperson in a group of 5 volunteers that are trying to build some porch steps for a neighbor.  Although you know that you could get the job done quicker if you just do it yourself, you take the time to teach the other 4 volunteers how to use the nail gun.  You sacrifice time for the experience of working alongside your fellow volunteers, to build relationships with those people and extend to them patience, expertise, and support.  You include them, rather than excluding them.  Each and every project we worked on in Athens County modeled this "ethic" for us.  The folks at Good Works model it for everyone, every day.  Maybe they are inefficient at work, but they are efficient at building community. I've thought a lot about this concept since our alternative spring break trip to Athens County.  Throughout the quarter and the trip, I asked myself, would I do this again?  COULD I do this again?  The answer to the first question is definitely yes!  The answer to the second question isn't up to me, really.  It will be up to my administrators in the end, whether or not I can be the embedded librarian for this course again.  Some may argue that this model isn't sustainable.  No librarian could do this for every class at the University.  It's a huge time commitment.  However, not every instructor would invite us to be so involved in their course.  And also, if you think back to the ethic of inefficiency, I think my role in this class is a good example.  I could go give a canned presentation that I've given a thousand times to dozens of classes, but it might not be as meaningful as the experience I had in this course.  I wouldn't make the friends I made, learn the things I learned, or have the fun I had.