Sunday, October 28, 2012

There has been trouble at the Manuscript Library again. This time a fairly minor internal matter: Samba, our third digitization worker, had always been the black sheep in the team. He somehow managed to have at least five times as many births, deaths and marriages as anyone else. He normally arrived to sign in in the morning, but would be mysteriously called away on important business within an hour or so. We gave him many chances, but this state of affairs has been trundling on for months and actually putting the project behind schedule. Finally we saw a way out of this predicament. The last stage of the British Library Project has arrived: the Box Making. We are going to make about 300 acid-free storage boxes for the most important manuscripts. The workers will be paid by the box. If you are a diligent worker you can make as much money as everyone else. If you don’t work, you don’t earn anything. So we told Samba he is being moved onto the boxes. He took part in the training with three other box making candidates. When it dawned on Samba that he was actually going to have to work for his money in this scheme, he didin’t like it. He didn’t like it at all. He demanded that he be paid a salary. I said no. At eleven o’clock that night I got a phone call from Keita who is in Segou. Someone had called him to tell him to tell me to be careful. The Library Project was going to be closed down the following morning by the Prefect. Samba had been to the Village Chief to complain and then to the Prefecture. I initially lost my temper, then I calmed down thinking it couldn’t possibly be true- this was of course just an internal matter for the project to deal with. I fell asleep. It was not true. Samba had been spreading rumours , and Djenne is a fertile ground for muck spreading: whatever you want to be known and believed will circulate within an hour or two if you make sure you fan the flames...


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