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

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Yuletide cheer

Every other Tuesday, the Mobile Library's last stop is outside O'Grady's fish and chip shop, so they pop in and get their dinners and bring them back with them. Being nice lads, they've taken orders from other staff at Helminthdale and we've had a regular lunchtime social gathering of it.

This has been noticed by management. Mary Dunroamin has changed the Mobile Library schedule. The stop outside the chip shop is now served at 2.00pm.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I have always thought in the back of my mind...

Good news: we've decided that we'll have a pie and pies lunch for Chrimbo Eve at Helminthdale. The housebound van will pick up the order from O'Grady's fish'n'chip shop and merriment will ensue on their arrival. Not necessarily festive but it's very informal and an opportunity for staff to socialise a bit during the working day.

Bad news: Mary Dunroamin has complicated matters fearfully. You see, we put our names down, saying whether we wanted meat and potato or cheese and onion pie. There's eight portions to a pie and Mary makes the ninth for cheese and onion. Instead of waiting to see how many more people sign up for cheese and onion, she sets on a recruitment drive. The library van is taking portions out to branch libraries; a couple of assistants are taking pie home for their partners; recently retired staff are only allowed to join in if they're having cheese and onion pie. At this rate there'll be seventeen for cheese and onion and she'll be spending all day tomorrow recruiting takers for pie number three.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The reason why paradise lost

Also from Milkbeck staff meeting: a couple of members of staff have recently lost relatives... oh, I couldn't tell you...

Despair held by water

More from Milkbeck: one of the temporary staff has been unsuccessful in getting a permanent job in the library. T. Aldous invited the rest of the staff to commiserate with her. Needless to say, the poor girl was mortified.

He sang a salty song about a girl from Bangalore

Mr. Strategic took his "I've got a niggle" roadshow to Milkbeck Library's staff meeting today. Mistaking a combination of dumb insolence and downright contempt for mute incomprehension the idiot elaborates... "The first thing you learn at library school is how to fold a cardboard box so that you don't have to tape up the bottom."

The lesson does him no favours. It confirms many people's long-standing prejudices about "The Professionals." More to a point, four of the five librarians' posts are vacant and the library is down to half a librarian (if you're very interested in knowing what happened to the other half of a post the Human Resources department would like to meet you in a dark alley). Staff gather in corners like school Shakespeare, muttering: "I'll give him bloody niggle."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A drowsy numbness pains my senses

Have a letter in front of me complaining because the Kirklees web site has been down recently. For once I can justifiably, without contradiction claim this has nothing what so ever to do with me. Apparently though it has as the letter is from someone who tried to access it from one of our People's Network PCs. Obviously my fault.

Mind you, last week I was asked to download a "website" onto a CD-ROM. The conversation quickly got rather terse and apparently I am uncooperative! Besides the technical difficulties of downlaoding a website, a whole website, my PC doesn't even have a CDROM drive, let alone writer! "Mine does" replied requestee, "but I don't know how to use it." I kindly offered to swap PCs to better match user capability, but that was turned down, but we really fell out when I asked if she had a CD to write to, "No I thought you'd have one." Worse still I was required to perform this miracle "Now".

Friday, November 25, 2005

Shake, rattle and roll

T. Aldous is fixating on the kettle in the staff room. He has noticed that there are occassional flakes of material from the element. He is addressing this by hacking any loose stuff off the element with a knife and giving it a damned good scrub with a manky old washing-up mob.

We're all noticing that the coffee's a bit crunchy today.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Like two rubber ducks that pass each other in the bath


I tried to hint to Mr. Strategic that it wouldn't be a good idea to have anything in the Helminthdale's staff meeting tomorrow headed "T. Aldous' niggles" (= too much brown tape on boxes), especially in a week where the library was run by a branch assistant plus one temp and someone who started with us last Tuesday. "I used it at Catty and Dutch Bend and I've got to give the same message to everyone."

So there you have it: if you do something stupid it's OK to do it repeatedly so long as you're consistent about it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

There is nothing better in life than writing on the sole of your slipper with a biro

Word from Dutch Bend: at the end of their staff meeting, the usual monologue, T. Aldous comes up with "T. Aldous' niggles." This turns out to be: "you're putting too much brown tape on the boxes you're sending into Helminthdale for the book sale." My how they laughed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Laughing their hods off

The caretakers are in tumult. They spent all morning tooling round libraries picking up boxes of books that hadn't sold locally in sales. They've just shifted ninety-two boxes of books and sundry trestle tables into the side room for Helminthdale's big booksale. Now T. Aldous tells them that the room's got to be cleared on Friday morning for a meeting. And then three hours later the books and trestle tables have to be replaced. The air is ripe with Anglo-Saxon invective.

Lie down and be counted

The inspectors expressed concerns that only one person (myself) knows how any of our systems work. "What would happen if he fell under a bus or decided that he didn't want to co-operate with library management?" Damn. I hadn't realised that my game plan was so transparent: "half a million pounds in my numbered Swiss bank account or you don't get the statistics for your public library impact measures."

T. Aldous sprang into action. I now have an appointed deputy who needs to be trained up. It's the Stock Procurement Manager. The job's been vacant since Jimmy Huddersfield retired months ago. And the job description's being looked at because T. Aldous and Mary think that this could be combined with the stock management librarian's post and/or the reader development post, both of which have been vacant over a year.

Monday, November 21, 2005

You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be lead

Apparently, T. Aldous told the inspectors at some length that he really wanted to work strategically.

Mr. Strategic has just spent two hours unpacking encyclopedias, putting them onto trolleys and putting them in display in Helminthdale's big booksale.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Talk to the wall because the email's not listening

Me: "I've sent you a few emails about e-government decisions I need from you."

Mary Dunroamin: "Oh, they'll be in my 'unread emails' folder."

Is there anywhere lower than the bargain basement?

The first glimmer of actions from the Action Team: T. Aldous is going to have a grand book sale at Helminthdale Library. So the thirty-two boxes of books that were packed up unsold on Monday will be unpacked and augmented by twelve boxes of books that haven't been sold at Catty in the past six weeks and an unspecified number of books from Dutch Bend.

T. Aldous — who is busy, busy, busy — has spent all morning sifting through the boxes to make sure that they're correctly priced up. As they're all the same price I can't fathom why he's bothering.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blind man's buffing-up

The Post-Inspection Action Team has taken over the meeting room at Helminthdale. To prevent any leaks, the room is locked and barred to all comers. As they've been eating in the room, the caretaker insisted on cleaning the room this evening. In the end he had to promise to hoover the room with his eyes closed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A bungee jumper at the end of his tether

I get a strident email from the corporate web resources manager telling me that he sees no reason why the library catalogue should include web-based resources as "library catalogues only list the books held in the library."

I refrain from telling him to go boil his head. What is profoundly depressing is that this guy feels empowered to dictate to council services what information they do or don't provide to their customers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Upon finding the office banjo

T. Aldous refuses to discuss anything with anyone with a view to forcing a decision to be made, which is hard luck for those of us with e-government dumped on us. "Everybody is bringing me December deadlines," he wails. What he doesn't say is that the clock started ticking at different times, in some cases four or five years ago. Gah.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The dawning light

Jim Lettuce again, about Impact Measures...

Jim: "We could meet all of these couldn't we?"

Me: "Oh yes."

Jim: "I don't understand how we're not then."

Me: "Ask me your next question."

Jim: "How often does management group meet?"

I smile. "Oh, I see," says Jim.


I happened to notice on Saturday that a certain branch had set more than fifty percent of their PN PCs to broken and adopted the rather interesting method of getting them fixed by not telling anyone. I asked what was matter with them to be told they didn't know. I called in the branch, found nothing wrong with the PCs reset them to working, only to discover this morning they were set to broken again. I rang to ask why.

"Well they were broken on Saturday so we thought they must be broken today as well because you weren't here long enough to fix anything."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Why I don't like having annual leave any more

For every day's leave I take there are two or three days' worth of hassle and aggrevation caused by things happening while I'm off that I don't get to know about until they cause a problem.

I found out last night that the PC on the Ref. desk has been moved onto the public side of the People's Network to test an idea about the cause of problems we're having. Consequently, the log-ins we usually use aren't operable and there's no access to email or the catalogue. The chap who did it told the librarian, who promised faithfully to pass the word. Anyway, one of the other Masters of Reality were on last night, hadn't been told, rebooted the PC (don't ask), couldn't get in. I was equally puzzled. Luckily, even though it was after hours the PC guru sorted it for us.

This morning, self same Master of Reality (PO grade) couldn't log on. Locked the password. Told customers "there's a major problem on the computers", rang me (in that order). I went up, got it unlocked. They then couldn't open the booking system to let people onto the PN terminals. Told customers "there's a major problem on the computers", rang me. I went up, opened the booking system. To my dismay, none of the clients were showing up on the screen. While MoR is telling customers "there's a major problem on the computers", I go over and have a look. All switched off. Because "there's a major problem on the computers". I run around logging them all on, as MoR is too busy telling customers "there's a major problem on the computers", despite me saying "there isn't, you just need to log them on". MoR having made the transition from "there's a major problem on the computers" to "sorry, you can't use them because we've had a major problem on the computers", Systems Librarian gives up.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Here we go again

Take a day off, return and find our Reference Staff had e-mailed me with URGENT in the subject line. The text was simply the following line:

T5 problem with keyboard. Pressing R producing M etc

Some prat in full view of the whole Reference Library had gone to the trouble of removing all but three of the alpha keys on the keyboard and repositioning them randomly. Ref staff hadn't noticed the keyboard arrangement looked somewhat unusual.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What bliss it is to be alive

My working life is complete: I've just repaired the rabbit's tail on a board book by cutting a cotton wool ball in half and supergluing it to the cover.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

It must be take the piss out of the Systems Librarian Day

Have just this minute been asked by our Children's Unit if they can have a new printer.

"Why, what's wrong with the one you have got?"

"It's jammed."

Not quite there yet

One of the staff who pretends to work in the Children's Library watched kids accessing porn sites on the People's Network last Saturday, did bugger all as "they seemed to be having fun", and now demands I ban them.

One of our Reference staff on the same Saturday watched a teenager bugger up a CDROM drive. She said she didn't know how he had done to it, but thought there was a library card inside the drive. Sure enough I have just fished a library card out of offending CDROM drive which was preventing the drawer from closing.

Finally, in response to an email that "the mouse on PC 5 is not working..."

"Have they stolen the mouse-ball or is the breakage something more fundamental than that?"

"No, that's the first thing I check! The up-down movement works on the bar inside, but not with the ball in it; I tried to 'roughen up' the ball, without success."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ten green bottles

Jowatt Javelin retires today. With his retirement I now move out of the youngest quartile of staff in the service. I'm 45.


Happy event here, the Housebound Assistant's pet glove, which has been broody for a couple of weeks, made a nest on her desk last week and has now had a litter of two lovely little pink mittens.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Closed sesame

There was a wholly unnecessary panic at Dutch Bend on Saturday: Minnie Clutterbuck couldn't log the PCs on because the password changed last week and nobody left her a note to say what it was. I asked the librarian why there wasn't a note for Minnie.

"I was going to tell Irene to leave a note for Minnie, but she was going to the dentist and I thought she might forget."

Stock management (again!)

A phone call from a branch asking if the system could tell them which books they had taken the date labels out of in preparation for withdrawal, as they had put the date labels in a plastic bag which the cleaner had assumed was rubbish, therefore they don't know which books they intended to withdraw.

"Find the books," I helpfully suggested.

"Can't do that. We sent them to book sale".

Great God this is an awful place

Popped up to Ref. with a new mousemat to solve the major problem. Turns out that there was an unreported problem...

An out of order notice on a PC because the chair in front of it was broken.

A strain on the maintenance budget

Reggie Clockwatcher rings down with a major problem.

A customer's broken a mousemat.

Quote of the month

Jim Lettuce pops over to ask me about Impact Measures. How did you cop for this chore? I asked.

"My boss said to me: 'Go and find out what's happening in libraries. I'd ask T. Aldous myself but I've not brought my sleeping bag.'"

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Big pictures

Management group have been in deep conclave.

To my knowledge there are at least a dozen reasons why this must be the month when this service finally falls off the cliff. One involves the fact that half the procurement staff who order and process incoming stock have retired and not replaced, just in time for the last-minute panic-buying caused by the fact that a huge (big, very, very, big), and very politically sensitive (ouch! ouch! ouch! ouch! ouch!), pot of money for new stock hasn't been spent and needs to be by the end of the month for the cabinet report. The report has to be impressive to avoid Son Of Big Kicking. At the same time the team loses our finance clerk, who'd be processing all the invoices and creditors and getting all the required stats for to avoid SOBK. At the same time, the library assistant career grade kicks in after a fifteen-year gestation, except for procurement staff who are pending review, delayed by our implementing automated ordering (1999), the retirement of van driver (2000), the first Best Value review (2002) and sundry other factors, as T. Aldous "has ideas about restructuring how the team works", which will come into effect before replacing the retirees.

Lending is in foment due to the number of vacancies and Julie Keemun's imminent departure, leaving us with no lending librarian at Helminthdale.

Ref. is Ref. With Reggie Clockwatcher playing his class act.

e-government; e-learning; Impact Measures; CPA; inspections; reviews; Framework for the Future; Gershon; and who knows what lurk in the wings like so many pantomime demons.

This morning the big idea was unveiled.

"We'll be able to stop having separate milk and teabags for Ref and Lending."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Managing the hairy palmed

I'm being constantly asked what happens about customers who come in and look at porn sites. I address this by starting with an elementary, and rather bowdlerised, account of the engorgement of erectile tissues with blood caused by visual stimuli enacting hormonal release centres in the brain but it turns out that they want to know whether or not we can bar people. I explain, again, that that's a management issue and they should ask their managers about how the acceptable use policy is to be enacted. As their managers can't tell the difference between an acceptable use policy and a terms and conditions agreement and told me to rewrite the former (written one Sunday afternoon) as it couldn't fit on a one-page A4 terms & conditions sheet in 24 point text I don't think they're on a winner somehow.

Knowing your place in the scheme of things

I've been trying to have a meeting with management group about e-government. Actually, I've been trying for the best part of two years, but it's getting a bit urgent now. No can do, too busy.

I have just watched the whole of management group getting themselves involved in this morning's story time at Noddy Library. The branch librarian's off sick so somebody needs to cover, except that nobody's available. But of course we can't say that storytime's cancelled because of staff sickness, oh no. So management group dropped everything and set to shuffling everybody around so that Cicely Gnasher can go out to do the story time. Which she does.

No bugger turned up for it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

You don't have a dog and shit on the carpet yourself

Up to my neck in e-government stuff; smartcard project fraying at the edges; the last of the libraries to go live with our LMS just coming up to the boil; a huge fight with our friends in the IT department; and T. Aldous mithering about the floorplans for five relocated libraries. Just at the point at which I want to sit in a corner screaming, I get a call from Reggie Clockwatcher...

Can I please come to the reference library to see whether two Asian youths are looking at porn on the People's Network as another customer has complained.

I wonder why Reggie doesn't go over, have a look at what they're doing and, if they're up to mischief, kick them off the PCs. Then I go home.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Bulldogs swallowing wasps

The head of Community Services, Harry Presto, retires tomorrow. He's been having a few lunches to say cheerio to the people he's worked with over the years. Today it was the turn of the half-dozen people he's been working with in the library service, which is very generous of him.

Frog made the mistake of mentioning this in the children's meeting and it got back to Umpty Library who immediately got a huge collective cob on because they hadn't been invited.

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"It's gone down really badly that only senior managers got invited."

"He invited the people he works with."

"Well, none of us know him here, but some of the lower paid staff should have been invited."

"So your beef is that someone you don't know didn't buy you lunch?"

Any time this service weans itself out of the school playground can't be too soon for me.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Embracing the future

As part of the Consulting Our Children programme, Frog Dropwort's been to a few meetings of the Children's Forum at Senebene Library. As a result, he's come up with the idea of arranging a visit to the library supplier by some kids from the Forum to choose a couple of dozen books for a travelling collection. It would be an easy "consultation tick" for the library service and it would be useful to see how different, or not, the kids' choices would be to the Children's Librarians'. The Children's Librarians meet every week and spend a few hours doing book selection from approvals, so Frog took the opportunity to mention this idea to them. Nancy Flannel, from Catty Library, was most disapproving: "I'm a professional and I don't get to visit the supplier to choose books!" As it takes her all morning to select a couple of dozen books from the approvals I can't imagine she'd be able to cope with a storefull to choose from.


We don't have many librarians below the age of fifty and the youngest of them, Julie Keemun, is leaving us for another authority. She thought it might be a nice idea to go out for a farewell lunch with a few of her closer working colleagues and approached Mary Dunroamin with an invitation. "Oh no," said Mary, "I've been to Vivaldi's three times already this month!"

Setting an example

T. Aldous has been throwing his weight around at Umpty Library, complaining to the staff meeting that the issue figures are dropping like a stone (why just pick on them?) and that Something Must Be Done. In their shoes I would have suggested that the Chief Librarian might want to renew his loans, which have been overdue since the beginning of September.