In these anxious days of hiring freezes, furloughs and budget cuts, people are starting to take inventory of their surroundings. That includes their work life too. What do we have? What do we need? What can we do without? The surprising answer is that we CAN all get by with less! That’s what we are doing here at the library.

We are getting more work done with less people and less money. How does that happen? Well, first of all, when you don’t have much money to spend, you’re more careful about what you do purchase. You learn to prioritize your needs… and you get more creative about how to fulfill them.

When you are on a tight budget and you have a family to feed, you buy dried beans and rice and you cook them at home. When you’ve got a little money, you take the family out to a restaurant —and you order yourself a Margarita!

The problem with most of us is that we’ve gotten used to the Margaritas, and we think we are somehow entitled to them. We’ve forgotten that we still have the ability to cook for ourselves and we don’t really need a Margarita to survive.

Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, we have to be smart about the purchases we do make. We can’t fritter it away on non-essentials. That holds true at work as well as at home.

Our chairs and sofas at Central were starting to look pretty shabby, but we couldn’t afford to purchase new ones. So we compromised and got them reupholstered instead. Hey! They look great and no one was the wiser; except those monitoring our budget.


Our décor was a bit dated too, so we reconfigured our seating arrangements and moved the magazines downstairs. Now we have a beautiful “living room” space near the bay windows and people are flocking to the area in a big way. It looks fantastic! It didn’t cost us anything. It just took a little creative thinking.

At CPL, our branches have learned to barter with each other. Need colored paper at South Norfolk? We have extra here at Central and will send you some. We won’t order anything until we’ve checked with the other branches first.

We don’t have as many employees as we used to and can’t hire more right now, but the work load is still the same. What can we do? Well, we pitch in and help each other out. If an area is short-staffed, someone from another department or branch steps up and fills in. That way we are still able to serve our patrons.

And, by helping out, staff members are making new connections with each other, learning new job skills, and getting a break from their usual routine. It’s all as good (or bad) as you make it. There is a certain satisfaction in finding solutions to problems. It’s a chance for you to do your best. It’s also the only way we learn and grow.

Most of us have taken history classes where they taught us about the Great Depression. Some of us may have had Grandparents or parents who told us what it was like living during rationing or raising Victory Gardens. And all of us can remember the days immediately after 9-11.

The one thing these events proved was, that in times of crisis, people pull together. I don’t think we are approaching anything near those times, in spite of what the media tells us. Yet, I do believe that when facing challenges, people consistently rise up to meet them and that they ultimately become stronger and better for it.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but the Chesapeake Public Library System is a strong group. We can do it. We have the skills needed. We can do whatever it takes to ensure that our libraries continue to be the community’s beacon of light in stormy weather. We are the lighthouse keepers. We’ll keep on shining.
Books available in our collection that will help you learn to do more with less are:

Switch: How to change things when change is hard  by Heath, Chip

Remake it home: The essential guide to resourceful living by Thompson, Henrietta

The tyranny of dead ideas: Letting go of the old ways of thinking to unleash a new prosperity
by Miller, Matthew

Shift your habit: Easy ways to save your money, simplify your life, and save the planet 
 by Rogers, Elizabeth

Green Living: The E magazine handbook for living lightly on the earth  363.705 GRE


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