This section is from the "Modern Machine Shop Construction, Equipment, And Management" book, by Oscar E. Perrigo. Also see Amazon: Modern Machine Shop Construction, Equipment, And Management.
In discussing the question of costs in the machine shop in the previous chapters reference has been made to the fact that high salaried workmen will frequently do a given piece of work for less actual cost for labor than the same work would be done by a man earning only one half the daily wages. The matter was followed up with the additional advantage of employing good workmen by the fact that the more highly paid man occupied only the same space, used the same machine, and as he did his work in less than half the time the burden of shop expense was less than half that of the work done by his less experienced shopmate.
The natural inference to be drawn from these conditions, which may be met with every day in the machine shop and manufacturing plant, is that it pays to have skilful workmen.
In these days of advanced thought on mechanical as well as other subjects, it is one of the necessities of the times that if a workman is to get to the head of his class in a proper understanding of his work and the conditions under which he labors and by which he is surrounded, he must make an effort to become better educated, not only in his chosen line but in other branches related to it. This education cannot always be obtained in schools, since there are to-day in the shops many men who have not enjoyed the advantages of a technical education and there are likely to be many of the same class in the future.
Again, while the advantages gained by a technical training in the excellent schools of the present day are many, there are other and important advantages that should not be neglected, even by the technical graduate. These are the advantages gained by the systematic reading and study of technical and trade publications. They are for the most part filled with not only the newest but the most practical articles, descriptions, and essays that it is possible for their editors to obtain by a liberal outlay of money. They are not the compilations of what was the thought of years ago, but emanate from the brain and practical experience of men active in mechanical affairs, and selected for their practical utility by editors with a practical knowledge of the subjects of which they treat. They are, therefore, rich in theory, but richer still in live up-to-date practice.
While the bright mechanic of to-day usually subscribes to one or more of these publications relating particularly to his own trade or specialty, this is not sufficient to give him the broad-minded view of conditions and the experiences of others that he should have. Still, the expense necessary to obtain a number of these often will deter him from gratifying his desire for a broader outlook that their possession might give him.
For these reasons it would seem to be not only a matter of much benefit to the employees, but in an indirect though perfectly practical way an advantage to the employer, to institute a Reading Room for the employees where they may have all the advantages to be desired by a free opportunity to read and study the best there is published in their particular lines. It is true, as everyone will doubtless admit, that one's reading has much influence on one's thoughts and opinions. Surely the same may be said in respect to its influence upon one's everyday work, and the more liberal are the conditions in this respect the more will be the actual benefit both to employee and employer.
Every employer has it in his power to do something in this respect for the men that he employs. And the slight expense which he thus undergoes will have many and far-reaching effects. He will not only have better men, so far as their work is concerned, but better men in their knowledge of all that relates to it. He will have men more loyal to his interests; better satisfied with their positions and with more pride in the fact that they are a part of an establishment managed upon a scale of intelligent liberality and consideration of the circumstances and conditions under which they labor. And the spirit of loyalty thus engendered will go far towards the success of the establishment in so far as it lies with the employees.
In organizing a Shop Reading Room the first requisite is a good, light, clean room, in the office building if one there is available. It should be furnished comfortably but plainly, and with such furniture as will make it a pleasant place for the men to congregate. The room should be open during the noon hour and for two or three hours in the evening.
As to the class of literature to be provided, it may be said that it should not be confined to technical publications, but may well include the best local papers, excluding, of course, those of a sensational kind, which do vastly more harm than good among all classes of the workingmen of to-day. Good magazines of general literature should be on hand, as well as books of history, biography, and technical works bearing upon the industries in which the men are engaged in their daily work.
The question of politics should be eliminated as far as it is possible to do so, both by the choice of literary matter and the discouragement of discussions of this nature. This should be particularly the case in view of the fact that there might be among the men a suspicion that the employer was endeavoring to impress his political opinions and prejudices upon them.