Friday, September 30, 2005
The saga of Spadespit Library continues apace. Barring a couple of days when the Group Librarian — who has left since — decided the place could be open as she wasn't there, the earliest expected re-opening is next Monday. Until then a sort-of off-line service is continuing from a room in the Town Hall, while ridiculously a hundred yards up the road a small collection of books reside in the Council Customer Centre where they have full access to the library system.
Meanwhile back at the branch, they have discovered the floor and supports under it are riddled with dry rot and a further closure of at least six weeks will be necessary before the end of the year.
Health and Safety want to close the WHOLE building as there isn't adequate provision for fire exits from the staff room (there isn't any provision for fire exit from the staff room) and there aren't arrows on the dry rotted floor indicating the way out should there be a fire! The Branch Supervisor was told to close her eyes, spin round and then try and find her way out of the library without reopening her eyes, as that would be what it would be like if the place was full of smoke. As she pointed out, if it was that full of smoke she would be on the floor suffocating and, rather accurately, pointed out she wouldn't be able to see the arrows for the smoke anyway!
Actually I'm quite in favour of this business of closing branches where there isn't adequate fire exit provision as a rough estimate means we will have about three left open, a much more managable number.
Does anyone wonder why this madness is driving me insane?
"Hiya. We're locked out of the library. Can you arrange for us to get in?"
Just a minute... why ring me? Don't tell me they're blaming the computers for being locked in? Mind you, I could well understand the poor little buggers wanting to barricade the doors.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
I send out the message. Catty Library replies: "Does this mean that Spadespit won't be dealing with reservations our customers have placed on books there?"
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
"I'm sick of sweeping up condoms every morning. You'd think somebody would do something about it."
"They'll probably end up putting a condom machine on the wall of the library."
"I wouldn't put it past them. In fact, I'll bet Huxtable's put in a requisition for one as one of his money-making schemes."
"God, I hope not. They'll stick some gigantic income target onto it. We'd either have to encourage more prostitution or else the shortfall will be taken from the book fund."
We're working on some "Shag for literacy" posters, just in case.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
"What are we doing about smartcards?" he demanded.
"You tell me," I suggested. "I've been asking you for a year what you want the smartcards to do."
"What do they need to do?"
"Whatever it is that you think we need smartcards for."
"Can we do it in time for the March deadline?"
"It depends on what you want to do."
"I'll put smartcards down as one of our strategic goals for this financial year then."
And off he trots. This conversation is wrong on so many levels I can only shrug it off and mentally walk away. I would suggest that smartcards could be used for booksales, monitoring use of old encyclopedias and withdrawn book statistics but it would be just my luck for this to become official policy to be delivered by Christmas.
Ardley Corduroy, our esteemed director, tells us again that co-location is needed so that the library can be made to appeal to the community.
Monday, September 26, 2005
I think I've mentioned that T. Aldous' telephone is perpetually put through to an empty office so that he doesn't have to answer it himself. The rest of us spend our time having to drop whatever it is that we're doing to pick up the call, hunt the damned fool down to tell him that he's got a 'phone call and then kick our heels awhile waiting for him to finish his inevitibly prolonged and tortuous conversation (because he never says: "I'm on someone else's 'phone at the moment; I'll go back to my office and call you back"). Today we have a new twist. Sally took a call, bearded T. Aldous in his lair and came back to her desk. Along comes T. Aldous...
"Why did you pick up this call?"
"Because the 'phone was ringing and somebody needed to pick it up."
"Where's Edie? She should be picking the calls up if nobody's around."
"She's on her lunch."
"Tsk. This really isn't good enough, these things need to be co-ordinated."
"Look, we made sure that somebody was around to pick up your calls. The 'phone went. I picked it up for you. What's the problem?"
"I just don't think it's good enough."
"Councillor Winalot's still on the line. He wanted to speak to you, remember?"
It's amazing how many people have checked with Personnel that their job description doesn't include the phrase: "Personal Assistant to the Chief Librarian."
Friday, September 23, 2005
You may wonder why we've got a gazebo. It stems from the time we were doing a Children's Book Festival promotion in the car park of a well-known supermarket. In a thunderstorm. Charity prevailed and the supermarket lent us a gazebo to shelter under. They later sold it to us at a knock-down price because it was shop-soiled. Actually, Edie Bedspread persuaded them to sell it for a tenner and after ten weeks' wrangling it was agreed that it could come out of petty cash.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
"We suggest that all libraries with below average issue figures should be reviewed with a view to closure and that this should be a continuing programme until such time as all the libraries in the area achieve at least average issue."
You'd be embarassed to make these things up.
We've got all these action plans but none of us can think of any action that's been taken on any of them.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Penny's been on six focus groups so far this year, solely on the basis that she won't rock the boat and T. Aldous can bully her into going along and being on message.
Monday, September 19, 2005
"We are concerned that the issue figures for nearly half the libraries are below average for the service."
Next week: consternation as the Pope's catholicism is revealed.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
"I've sent you an email about impact measures," he says.
"I know, I've sent you a reply."
I put my coat on.
"When I went to the workshop they didn't say anything about requiring statistics six months later," he says.
Never trust anything called a workshop that doesn't involve sheet metal working. Especially when it involves woolly-minded idiots like T. Aldous Huxtable who imagine that waffling around the edges of why something can't be done at the moment is the same thing as doing a job of work. I would have thought that calling something a Library Impact Measure suggests that something needs measuring.
I close down my PC.
"Can you get the figures I've asked for?"
"Yes, if I have a week to do it in and have nothing else to do."
"I tried looking at the report submission form but it doesn't work on my PC."
Given half a chance he'll tell me this two or three dozen times. His PC is five years old. He refuses to buy a new one but tells all and sundry that his email, and anything else that involves his being accountable for his inactions, doesn't work ("Someone keeps archiving my emails." "Don't click on the button that says 'Yes' when the auto-archive prompt pops up." "I thought if I say yes then it won't do it." "No, if you say yes then it will do it." "So how will I keep my emails then?" repeat ad nauseam). Having spent most of the week fighting a violent urge to slap the man I have no patience for this sort of nonsense. I get up and leave the office. The fool follows me.
"I'll ask you for the figures on Monday, then."
I clock out and take my leave. I'm reminded of the old song:
One evening in October when I was far from sober,
To keep my feet from wandering I tried.
My poor legs were all aflutter so I lay down in the gutter,
And a pig came up and lay down by my side.
We sang, "Never mind the weather just as long as we're together,"
Till a lady passing by was heard to say,
"All his self-respect he looses when such company he chooses,"
And the pig got up and slowly walked away.
Our chief librarian has come in on a Saturday to spend four hours pratting about with booksale books. I know for a fact that he spent an hour pricing up a pile of them because he sat right in my eyeline while he did it. Why he bothers pricing them individually I do not know as they're all the same price. I think calm thoughts of daisy-strewn meadows and balmy summer nights while calculating the necessary trajectory for a falling bookshelf to catch the edge of his desk and catapult him out of the window.
Once he'd done whatever it was he thought he had to do, he mooched around the library like the Ancient Mariner, talking at people until they saw bright lights and could smell a mixture of lime flowers and caraway seeds. As the staffing rota for the day looks like the landing crew of the Mary Celeste (we're carrying fourteen vacancies in this library alone and it acts as a feeder for cover for six branches) and Polly Kerosene wasn't going to get her lunch until four o'clock, it probably wasn't the best time for him to come out with: "I don't know why I always end up doing all the work in this library."
Friday, September 16, 2005
I ring the supplier to say that the deal's off and we won't be getting our nice discount on our next purchase after all.
Words fail me.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
I play the role of computer-literate reference library enquiry desk staff. This is because none of the reference library staff fancied doing it, so Reggie suggested that "the technician should do it." (No jury would convict me.) My job is to stand at the desk and look 21st Century. I have been instructed that on no account am I to make a sweeping gesture at the shelves and say: "will you look at the old crap we've got out here."
Councillor Winalot is sweating profusely, the tension of it all is getting to him. He pretends to be regal and approaches the desk. Then he spoils it: "Now think on, lad, no offence but don't speak till tha's spoken to."
Reggie's on leave. He made such a fuss about the need for "professional" cover that Daisy Hill's been sent up from Bencup to staff the desk. She is so very professional that at five to five there was no member of staff up there; Daisy having left the desk unattended so as to hover backstage around the clock machine so that she can time out at the stroke of five.
One good thing from all this crap: if someone can provide me with at least one good photo of me showing the screen to the celebrity our software supplier has offered us a substantial discount in exchange of the publicity pics. I have emphasised the need for the photos to anyone who passes me by. It's a pain, but it'll be worth it.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
"I got 10% discount by agreeing to buy it by 15th September."
Monday, September 12, 2005
"It makes it easier for people to pick the call up if I'm already on the 'phone. That way I'm not missing any calls."
Friday, September 09, 2005
"I need to provide a copy of the council's constitution for the inspectors," he says. "I rang the Excellence and Expediency Team [the proud authors of "Scoring Points by Ticking Boxes"] to get a copy. They say it's on the web. Can you get it for me?"
I sighed deeply. I'd asked somebody to make sure to keep the idiot well away from me so that I didn't kill him (I may tell you about this some day).
"I need it this afternoon," he says.
So I start the arduous (not) business of getting onto the council web site, going into the Council & Councillors folder, clicking onto the link labelled "Council Constitution" and copying the URL into an email to T. Aldous.
"When can you do it?" he asked.
"I've done it," I said.
"Thinking about it, would it be possible for me to go onto the web site and look for it myself?"
To my dying day, I'll never know how I didn't say: "no."
"That'll be for the People's Network Services presentation," says I.
"You know about that?" asks his secretary.
"Yes, a friend sent me an email telling about it the other day," I reply.
"Send me a copy of that email please," says she.
"No," says I.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Reference Librarian: "We're very busy, so we have kept a copy of the old edition so that if somebody's already using volume one customers still have something to refer to."
The internet access was down today. The very busy reference library had six customers. None wanted an encyclopedia.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
"You knew when Jimmy was retiring, so why didn't you get all this lot ordered when he was still around to get it done?"
"Management Team were discussing the best way to spend the money so we couldn't do it while Jimmy was here."
"Well, how are you going to spend the money?"
"We're not sure yet. I've got some ideas that I want to talk through with Mary when she gets back from holiday."
"You could buy some Balkan trade directories. That would soon solve the problem."
Monday, September 05, 2005
In Mary's absence, the accession team have been getting the demands because they're in between his office and the coffee machine. "I asked Mary for the withdrawal figures for the report we've got to write and she didn't give them to me," says T. Aldous. A new member of staff panics and starts searching Mary's desk for the figures. "Don't worry," the others tell her when she can't find them. "Mary's given him these figures at least three times in the past month. If Mary's not in, he comes and asks us. Ask Kevin to run the report."
I duly ran the report, which isn't complete because it won't include any stock that's not catalogued (let's not go there). It's given to T. Aldous. Two hours later he's heard to tell someone: "I'll have to ask Mary for last year's withdrawal figures for the report we've got to submit."
"There's no point in asking me about it," says T. Aldous Huxtable, "I was on leave that week."
Saturday, September 03, 2005
"Who's that man?" he asked the Librarian.
"That's Kevin Musgrove, he's come in to sort out the printing problems," she explained.
"He's walking about like he owned the place," bristled Gordon's moustache.
"He's probably thinking the same of you," she replied.
Friday, September 02, 2005
We've just spent £1,000 on a couple of Balkan trade directories for the use of one of their customers, who's been coming in every day for the past eight weeks to ask if "the books I ordered have come in yet." That's one of their customers. That's the service that refuses to buy crossword-solving books for branch libraries because "they're expensive for what they are and serious readers don't use them."
In the circumstances it's probably as well if I don't tell the world about them.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
What is unusual is that the book's been issued five times and nobody's complained.
I leave you to imagine what the authority indexes looked like on the system.
Working with this crazy set up was bad enough. Even worse was the amount of work we had to do to unpick the mess when we upgraded the system some years later. We still bump into the odd problem a decade later; when we bought a new web PAC recently we found that an invalid juvenile subtag crashed all the subject searches. Groan...
Back in the days when we had a Cataloguer, she lost the battle with Local Studies who opted for a non-decimal classification scheme. None of the standard taxonomies suited them so they invented their own. From scratch. There was a committee made up of all the male librarians in the service (do we need any editorial comment here?) and they got to work. Sort of, as only old-school male librarians could. What makes the scheme particularly interesting and difficult to use is that two of the librarians weren't on speaking terms (they shared an office and had been sulking for the previous six months about a filing cabinet).They proceeded to have a fiercely-contested duel of erudition, each trying to out-do the other in the complexity and intricacy of their part of the schedule. In the end, the chap doing the ecclesiasticals used the natural advantages of the subject to defeat the chap doing the sports section. If you don't know your apse from your elder you'll never guess the code number.
That isn't the topic of this log. Children's library catalogues is. At a time when we're seriously looking at starting to download MARC21 catalogue records I find out that the children's non-fiction isn't an old version of DDC after all. I was trying to map some of the key homework topics, existing numbers against new, so that we could have some idea of the scale of dislocation of stock that would be involved if we didn't hire someone to re-classify the bought-in records. I suddenly realised that the numbers didn't make sense. Especially once I realised that the whole of human endeavour from the Ice Age to the Norman Conquest was one class number while Richard III merited one of his own.
I mentioned this to Jimmy Huddersfield when I bumped into him this lunchtime. He explained: "The Children's Librarians wouldn't let the Cataloguer use the same schedule as the rest of the stock. She suggested that if that was too complicated then she could use the schools Dewey schedule. Didn't suit. Oh no. The Children's Librarians insisted on inventing their own: a 'cut-down version' of the 16th edition of Dewey as they were more comfortable with that edition because one of them had spent a couple of days looking at it at library school. The rest of us were already on 18th edition, but it looked a bit complicated. Any subject they didn't like, or didn't understand they fudged, forgot, or threw into a 'miscellaneous' pot. You should have seen the disgust on her face when she was presented with the table of numbers." He grinned evilly: "Have a look at the science section."
I did when I came back.
There'll be some serious reshelving if we go MARC21.