We're taking a bit of a breather while the world rearranges its underpants. Meanwhile, the other blog is here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

God gives nuts to them as have no teeth

One of the things that always gets my goat about library management group in general and T. Aldous in particular is their utter passivity to events. The wheels fall off the wagon on a daily basis and they just throw their hands up in horror and cry: "Oh woe, look at what the world does to us!"

Case in point: we still haven't heard anything officially about the last inspection. If I were in T. Aldous' shoes, whether the report was good, bad or indifferent as soon as I got the first informal feedback from the inspectors I'd have been spinning it like a top in a whirlwind. As it is, staff are hearing odd bits in dribs and drabs and with no context to work in.

The latest word is that the inspectors were baffled by our pattern of opening hours. Well good luck to them. There's not a member of staff who can reliably recite the opening hours of all our libraries without a crib. All of our libraries open at 10.00am, except for the ones that open at 9.30am or 9.45am and those that don't open until the afternoon, in which case they open at 1.00pm. Or 1.30pm. Or 2.00pm. Some libraries close for lunchtime, either at 12.00 or at 12.30pm or at 1.00pm. Some don't open in the afternoons at all, caring not to catch the after-school trade. Some close for one afternoon a week. Some close for a day a week. This madcap pattern would be alright if it meant that a steady level of branch staff were available for providing cover throughout the week. It doesn't. We have a glut on Monday and Friday afternoons and Thursday and Friday mornings are a famine.

What arcane methodology led us to this position? Enter Reggie Clockwatcher, who was given the job of devising the curtailment of opening hours during the budget crisis of 1994. And how did he choose the opening hours of each library? Did he analyse use patterns? Did he consult with the local community? Did he use the experience of other library authorities? No, he asked branch library staff which afternoons they fancied off. So half of them chose market day. Then they found out that they weren't going to have the time off: they'd be working at their local main library.

I never did find out what the saving was here. The building costs remained constant, as did the staffing costs -- no one's hours were cut. I can only imagine that there's some huge saving on the use of lightbulbs.

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