Monday, September 02, 2013

The baby boomer
immortality problem
And what aspiring librarians can do about it

Thirty years ago, when we heard the first murmurs in the press that baby boomers may impose a significant burden on Social Security and Medicare, we were told they number 78 million.

Now, 30 years later, the number the press cites is still 78 million.

What's going on here? None lost to auto accidents? Early heart attacks? Gym mishaps? Choking on that little cube of Toscanello on a toothpick at a wine tasting?

Baby boomers, it seems, are immortal.

If boomers are such a problem (and, yes, the Bureau of the Census has an official definition: anyone born between 1/1/46 and 12/31/64), isn't the government taking exactly the wrong approach with its various public-health initiatives? Shouldn't people whose birthdates fall between the dates above be getting free cigarettes? Coupons for discounts on fatty and deep-fried foods? Sky-diving lessons from schools whose staff forgets to pack the parachutes?

Shouldn't the 50-something males be provided with high-performance sports cars with no seat belts or air bags?

In short, if baby boomers are refusing to die off, shouldn't it be a matter of enlightened public policy to encourage them in that direction? Can you imagine the civic virtue that lies in ensuring that we have several tens of millions fewer self-absorbed, pretentious, Dwell-magazine-reading, oenophiliac foodie snobs with infinite senses of entitlement? Where is the Grim Reaper when you most need him?

The immortality of baby boomers is a phenomenon of deep concern in the library profession, since there are legions of talented MLS graduates chasing fewer and fewer positions in the increasingly Walmartized library workplace.

And the boomer incumbents are not retiring and are showing every sign of remaining on their jobs until they seize up while standing at their posts on their Dr. Scholl's massaging-gel insole replacements.

What can be done?

Let's return to the idea of nudging boomer librarians toward the exit. Better yet, let's think about giving them a good shove over the cliff, since there are reports that both public and academic libraries are beginning to again hire replacements for vacated positions rather than just freezing them.

There are many ways to deactivate the long-tenured and the long in the tooth.

The trick is not to leave a trail.

First, to divert suspicion, you must fawn over the veteran librarians on your staff, telling them you appreciate their wisdom, knowledge, experience, and valuable mentoring. Let suspicion fall on the sullen library assistant with an MLS and two subject masters -- the one with the piercings, tattoos, and attitude who responds to the veteran ones in monosyllabic grunts and who steals their Zantac tablets and flushes them down the toilet.

Second, give special attention to your especially senior librarians.

Accidents happen. They fall. They can't get up.

On a wintry night return to the library with jugs of water after everyone has departed and groom that icy spot by the staff entrance. Warn your young colleagues so they will remember to wear the little spiky things you slip over your shoes to walk on ice, that I don't know the name of because I live in Phoenix.

Many of your 50-something colleagues are inveterate gym rats because of boomers' obsession with their bodies and health. (Yes, they really do fully intend to saddle us with their presence for eons to come.)

When my grandma was 59 she... well... she looked like my grandma. Today your 59-year-old baby boomer colleague has rocklike abs, buns of steel, and arms like a stevedore. Thus, a heart-attack-inducing surprise will be ineffectual when deployed against such a person. "Accidentally" dropping an armload of fluorescent tubes behind her will induce nothing but indignation and an order to clean up the mess.

But there are work-arounds.

Does the sullen library assistant have a boyfriend who works at the gym? Could the elderly but buff colleague be jogged to death by a berserk treadmill? Or smothered by a large Pilates ball run amok?

A few of your veteran colleagues may be of a delicate nature in spite of the gym, and a shock to the system just may work. Nothing so disconcerts a baby boomer as finding an invitation to join the AARP in her inbox. It's worth a try.

Most baby boomers shook off heavy drug use early enough to have gotten away with it. But you'll find they have one still-indulged guilty pleasure -- compensation, if you will, for having abjured pot, LSD, and, here in the Southwest, an occasional shoebox full of peyote buttons. It is coffee. They all drink it. (And... oh yes! Not your mom's coffee out of the 3-lb Folgers can but whole-bean fair-trade feminist-farm-collective eco-aware Blue Nile Ethiopian coffee, which the elder ones insist on grinding in that god-awful, 120-decibel electric mill at 8:03 am in the break room when you're still trying to come to grips with the pounding headache left over from last night's rave.)

But all kinds of things find their way into coffee.

Untraceable things.

I could go on, but you have a poison reference center right at your fingertips -- the mystery collection in the library in which you page and clerk even though you have three master's degrees and scored a 1520 on the SAT math and verbal, while the professionals just sit over there ordering books, sipping coffee, and bidding on exercise equipment on eBay.

Good luck, and remember to take the batteries out of that automatic electronic defibrillator the fire guys installed in your building as a public service.


  1. Wow, I'm glad i'm a librarian who was born in 1966!

    Missed being classified as a Boomer by an inch!

  2. 1950. Not safe at all. Well, self-preservation demands it: I'm just going to have to give up my cof--

    Pfft. Who am I kidding. Here I am, ambitious homicidal sprat, come get me.

  3. You can do what I did -- get yourself removed from the baby boom. The Census Bureau has a little-known program for this -- just like you can ask Photoshop to adjust the date in photo metadata, you can ask the Census Bureau to officially change the date of your birth. They coordinate the request with the appropriate state vital records offices. The fee is reasonable.

    Tip: You may have a strong urge to adjust younger, but instead adjust older so that you will now show as born before 1946. If you adjust younger, your retirement date will be pushed forward in corresponding fashion.

    In any case, I'm no longer a boomer. Upon adjustment, I immediately felt less pretentious. Wonderful, really.

    And the homicidal sprats aren't ambitious for the most part. They just want jobs.

  4. And be careful. There are some homicidal sprats in that other forum.