On the Archives Deadlift, or the 45 Pound Lift Requirement

I like checking out job listings every now and then. As a stay-at-home mom of six years, I am fully aware and accepting of the fact that I am pretty much never going to get meaningful employment that pays in excess of babysitter rates ever again. That is, unless I lie about where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing, or change routes completely, but I digress…I still like looking, though.


A good number of entry- and mid-level archives positions require the applicant to be able to lift anywhere from 30 to 45 pounds because of these babies: Boxes. All of them acid-free, just over a cubic foot in size, and potentially very heavy boxes that fill the shelves and (let’s be honest) floors of many archives and records storage facilities.

It’s unlikely that more than a few minutes a day would be dedicated to solely moving 45 pound boxes  (unless you’re clearing out/loading in an old/new facility). And it’s not like you’re being asked to do Olympic-style squats or snatch like you’re in the bro-iest of Crossfit boxes.

Those 30 – 45 pound cardboard cowboys (not an official nickname, but a fitting one since they are rough and tumble, hardy, and can take a ton of abuse without crumbling) are a fact of information management life. And they can’t lift themselves. Boxes filled with paper are heavy. Stacks of paper are heavy. We deal with paper as a profession. It’s part of the job. Bend at the knees. Get a good grip. Lift!!

Lifting boxes is a lot like lifting weights — daunting, but easy if you know how to do it properly. Don’t bend and lift with the back; bend at the knees and use your body’s natural range of motion. Physics is your friend. But if you don’t trust physics and don’t harbor completely irrational hatred towards all things generated by the government, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a guide to ergonomic lifting in the workplace that provides tips for carrying those containers.

The few gents who’d apply for positions at my last job would puff their chests and “piece of cake” it. More than a handful of women, on the other hand, questioned the lifting requirement. It was uniformly proclaimed that lifting such a load was too much.

For a woman.

Said to a woman supervisor.

In an office full of women. Who haul boxes of all weights, shapes, and sizes every. single. day.

“Is there someone else who can do this?”

“You actually do this?”

“Is there a cart?”

“Is the ability to lift negotiable? No?”

“That’s too much.”

XX chromosomes are no impediment to lifting any weight. Impromper form and stinkin’ thinkin’ are!

My former boss, a 5-foot-nothing spitfire of a woman, a woman who I still kowtow to*, would just look at these people and blink. No words. No comment. No verbal response. Just blink. So many words can be conveyed with the slow lowering of lids.

“Are you serious?”

“You’re kidding?”

“You’re not hired.”

*Seriously. If she were to call and ask for coffee right now I’d Instacart a thing of Newman’s Own Special Blend K-Cups and a pint of half-and-half to her desk ASAP.


2 thoughts on “On the Archives Deadlift, or the 45 Pound Lift Requirement

    1. Surprisingly, the one who asked if there was a cart was not an entitled shithead.

      I miss watching you-know-who’s slow, steady, “Christ, you’re an ass, aren’t you?” blink. And her rapid, “Jesus…” follow-up blink.


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