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

Friday, December 29, 2006

They're going to make Hitler the Queen of the May

Himself comes up to me while I'm talking to Frog about his teenagers' project.

"I hope that you're doing something to minimise the amount of missing stock in the libraries in next year's CIPFA report."

"I've organised an inventory of stock at Gypsy Cream, Pansy's just finished doing adult fiction; Lola's just finished an inventory at Windscape and I'm organising one at Pottersbury Road."

"You need to get this done before the CIPFA count I don't want to have to talk to the auditors again."

  1. Since when was I responsible for stock in our libraries?

  2. Since when do I need instructions from T.Aldous Huxtable on how to pre-plan a CIPFA count?

  3. Or anything else come to that?

Some drove up in taxis that were empty

Jim tells me that one of management group's priorities in the new year is to establish how many vacancies there are in the service, where they are and then get about filling them.

That's right: they don't know!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ipecachuana is an ugly word

More departmental briefings on sickness monitoring:

"If somebody's been signed off sick then you should assume that it's genuine unless, of course, you see them out shopping."

I've checked on the website and nowhere does it say that ill library staff qualify for meals on wheels.

Oh! If only these stones could talk!

Somebody lobbed a stone through one of the windows at Dutch Bend last night and they rang in to report it. Unfortunately, Tilly's not in today to take the call, Mary's on leave and T.Aldous was late in ("there are buses on Pardendale Road" -- don't ask) so it was left to New Boy Jim to take the message. Unfortunately he had no idea what to do about it and neither did any of the rest of us so he had to wait until Himself came in. Having explained the problem Jim then had to endure an hour -- literally -- of T.Aldous explaining that
  • ordinarily the call would have been taken by Tilly to report and that in her absence it would have been taken by the finance clerk (another vacancy);

  • the notes on who to contact should be somewhere on Tilly's desk but they're not there because Tilly must have put them somewhere;

  • Mary's usually in at this time in the morning if Tilly's not here;

  • the procedures for reporting repairs have changed recently;

  • T.Aldous knows who to contact so he'll deal with it;

  • the procedures keep changing, you used to just give Norman in admin a ring but the admin team's been reorganised and Norman's doing something else these days;

  • Tilly really should have been in today.

and more besides. The rest of us (both of us) tried not to listen or watch as Jim lost the will to live. Eventually the explanations subsided and calm was restored. I wouldn't like to swear that the repair got reported.

Of course none of this would have been necessary if "how to report a repair at a library" wasn't a state secret. Or if libraries could report the repairs themselves instead of having to report them to Tilly or T.Aldous.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

With a song in my heart

The muse of epic poetry has struck again. My correspondent has obviously had a splendid Xmas.

Management Idiot
(after Green Day)

Don't wanna be a management idiot
Don't wanna feel good treating people like shit.
When you're dealing with them it's the blame game
So take precautions and give them a false name.
If folk are sick then they're faking.
If they leave make sure to keep the vacancies
Wide open for a year or two-oo.
No leave 'cos there'd be no cover.
Don't care if Typhoid Mary is your lover.
'Cos you've got nothing else to do.

They have meetings, waffle for an hour.
Talk big -- like, can you feel the power?
Touch base and map out the position.
Run the flag up and come to no decision.
They dish orders out like confetti.
No ending to the constant pettifogging
Micromanagement they'll sell.
Seems to me that they take their mighty
Irresponsibilities lightly
As we all trundle off to Hell.

Don't care about policy or planning,
Resource procurement, development or manning.
Don't know training from a mint imperial.
My God, I'm management material.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Merry Xmas to all our readers

Season's greetings to one and all. Hope you have a good 'un.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Departmental briefing on sickness monitoring and management. The highlight is the statement

"It's been suggested that staff from other departments coming back to work after being off sick with stress could be found jobs to do in the Library Service as part of their rehabilitation."

The scoffers and mockers have a field day. Yeah, sure, working in this library service is soooo not remotely stressful. (The only service with a worse record for staff being off sick with stress is the one-stop-shop, which cops for every infection coming though the door plus having to act as the public interface to a deeply uninterested Helminthdale Council.) After the laughter subsides there comes the bombshell:

"The idea came from a very senior member of management in the Library Service."

No prizes...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Over my shoulder goes one care

We're Secret Santa-ing. It occurs to me to wrap up Noddy Housing Office's comms kit (it was dumped on me during the recent "clean up"). To my surprise it's gone. Where? The caretakers look smug. "Ask no questions."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Elastic-sided goats

A small group of senior managers cluster about the doorway talking about a host of new projects they're planning for the new year.

I keep a wide berth. It would be a good idea if first of all we actually finished any one of the bloody projects that have been hanging round like a bad smell on the landing for years on end.

Frozen music

I've received a nice calendar with pictures of a wonderful library in the States: all oak beams and balustrades.

"Imagine having to dust all that!"

I say to Lemuel.

"You could just imagine him there. He'd be in his element. He'd be walking about with a bloody candle."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Can't be helped

I'm resorting to desperate measures: I've just created a blog for to house the clip art pictures and help sheets for our library portal. I'm doing this because there's nowhere else for them to live: the council's switching content management systems and they're not allowed on the new system because they don't meet corporate branding requirements. So I created the blog.

Then found that although I can log in and create entries, including a sheet explaining how to log into some of our remote resources, we can't read them at work. It turns out that blogs fall foul of the council's internet frivolity filter and so are forbidden fruits. I can receive fifty-nine emails a day offering me a bigger dick, viagara by the barrowload and a share of the ill-gotten gains of sundry crooked politicians in third world countries but I can't read blogs. Ah well. "Can't be helped," I hear myself say to myself.

"Can't be helped?"

"Can't be helped?" Of course it bloody can. I'm writing help sheets we can't read because I'm not allowed to put files on my own server "for security reasons" and because I'm not allowed to add new pages to the library service pages to the content management system or use pictures in the pages that do exist.

What on earth am I doing with my life?

Behind you!

Frog's just sent out the panto tickets to the prizewinners for the Xmas competition. If he had permission to buy the advertised prizes for last Easter's school holiday competition they could have had an Easter egg each, too.

Sic transit Gloria Swanson

Overheard in the staff room:
"Did you have a good weekend?"

"It was a bit hectic. We had a birthday party for my mum, it's her sixtieth this year."

"She must have been eight when she had you."

Monday, December 18, 2006


Catty's closing while they (finally!) get the roof sorted out. No chance of getting a wireless link to the library discretely included as the planners are going to be crawling over it like maggots on a dead mouse. There are the usual last-minute arrangements for the disposition of staff. Edie Nattercan rings T.Aldous:

"Is it possible for me not to go over and work in Helminthdale?"

"I'm not sure about that. We can't have people picking and choosing where they go. The needs of the service need to come first."

"Yes, I realise that, but can't I cover in the branches in Catty instead? I've got a medical condition that makes it difficult to work at Helminthdale."

"What medical condition?"

"Explosive flatulence. I don't know the people there. I can't very well introduce myself and then fart in their faces."

It might have been A Great Deal Worse

Himself is back and has surveyed the newly-swept decks with ill-disguised sulks. Whatever explosions that have happened are being kept in the family so far. Those of us not scheduled for meetings with him are keeping well away to be on the safe side.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Foaming nut-brown meths

Seth calls me to one side to show me the contents of the finds tray after this week's archaeological dig of the back room. Pride of place is a set of crystal tankards inscribed:

1883-1983: 100 years of friendship
Helminthdale -::- Krakatoa

forgotten spoils from one of the municipal bunfests with our twin town.

Most of the rest is considerably less spectacular, though I did wonder where that teapot had got to. Then Seth grins and unveils the pièce de resistance: two projectors and a projector stand, bought circa 1992. The projectors are, as the collectors would say, "boxed mint." The stand's unused but slighty rusty. So for the past thirteen years when we've been trawling round the council asking if we could borrow a projector and stand we've had them all the time! Where have they been?

"The projectors were over there under the carrier bags. The stand was in the attic at Catty, it's got a bit rusty where the rain got in."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Everybody rumba!

"How was last night's George Michael tribute?" I ask.

"Well, he looked like Roy Orbison. And we couldn't have a bop on the disco floor because he was busy dancing with a bunch of ladies with big hair and spangly dresses."

I'm old enough to remember when it was the Dutch Bend staff who had the big hair and spangly dresses. Mind you, I'm old enough to remember "Does the Team Think?"

Has your mother sold her mangle?

The mucking-out of the library has resulted in a general redistribution of old tat and four wheelie bins full of old papers and carrier bags leaving the premises. T.Aldous is back in the country, has got wind of what's going on and has made it very clear to Mary that he is Not Happy. He'd have been considerably more unhappy had they followed orders and cleared his office!

Bad news: This gives T.Aldous a blank cheque for unaccountability. Anything that happens he'll be able to say: "that will have been thrown out while I was on holiday."

Good news: It'll be a welcome change from the inevitable "I was on leave that week."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Trays of nuts and sweetmeats

Oh lord, it is that time of year again. Mary's started fiddling about with the disposition and distribution of cheese and onion pies again.

Just like last year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A novel idea for that odd corner

Oh goodie. And just in time for Christmas, too.

The datacomms cabinet and bits of hub equipment that the housing department left behind when they left Noddy Community Centre have come my way. "To be chucked out." Couldn't have been left at Noddy for chucking out could it? Left in a builder's skip while they were refurbishing the room for the new library? Dumped in the car park for the Community Centre's managers to worry about? Oh no, let's have it in Helminthdale Library, we don't have enough bits of old shit.


I have travelled from afar
To bring you a gift in this jam jar

It's that time of year again. Frog comes back from St. Barrabas, where the kids are all agog and excited in anticipation of this afternoon's nativity play.

"I'm the baby Joseph!" shouts one child, confusedly.

"I'm a three wise king!" cries another.

"I'm a penguin!" cries a third.

St. Barrabas is having some penguins in its nativity play. And a couple of tigers. And a polar bear. Apparently the cast was so big they ran out of shepherds, kings, sheep and the like and had to get a bit creative round the edges.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Be careful of the cobwebs, I only put them up this morning

Oh dear. Warner Baxter's just popped again in to review progress in the mucking-out of Helminthdale Library and isn't best pleased. He has ordered wheelie bins at dawn.

Novelty foxtrot

Warner Baxter pops in to check the revenue on-costs of an IT project.

"Is this right? They're asking me for £1,500 to cover this year's project costs."

"Err... no. This was the 2004/5 project for buying licences for online subscriptions. It was a one-off capital cost so there weren't any revenue consequentials. Besides, they never bought any online subscriptions in the first place."

Our backstories never get any shorter

Monday, December 11, 2006

Somebody's knocking on my door

The current craze for tidying up the library service seems to consist of moving the crap from one place to another. Not much is actually being chucked out that I've noticed. Today, to my joy (and Seth's disgust as he was the one who cleared it out a few months back), my computer room's been filled up with shit that's been ferrried over from Catty and Dutch Bend. "To be thrown out." Why it can't be thrown out from Catty and/or Dutch Bend I do not know.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Toujours la polytechnic

Our IT section have decided for reasons best known to themselves that Wikipedia should be added to the People's Network filter. I have tried asking why, but they won't tell me. Further investigation tells me this banality goes further, they have only added the ENGLISH version of Wikipedia to the filter, thus if I could read any other language I would be free to browse, but us English speakers are being discriminated against.

Does your mother know you're out?

Mary and Julia are worried: no postcard from T.Aldous yet. Usually he sends a postcard from the airport with a few additions to the "to do" list: things that have been stinking the place out for a year or so and which he requires sorting before he gets back. Perhaps he is content with what is to be done. More likely he was late for the 'plane!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Chaos from order

At last we divest ourselves of the "spare" copy of Kompass Ruritania that's been waiting for return for about six months. This was part of Reggie's legacy: he was a fiend for special offers, often buying things we didn't actually want because "it was on offer." In this case he decided to buy a copy of Kompass Ruritania for a customer with business connections there (yes, that's a customer) and got on the 'phone to the company for a price. Two problems:
  • We're contractually obliged to buy stock from the book suppliers that won the tender for supply, so we can't buy direct from the company; and

  • Reggie somehow managed to complete a telephone order for the directory. Which caused a problem because the Acquisitions team ordered a copy through the proper channels and then had a second copy delivered to them without so much as an order number.

    Reggie was all for keeping the second copy "as it's our mistake." Mary tartly pointed out that it wasn't "our" mistake and the one that hadn't been ordered was going back. It's no wonder his wife doesn't allow him to go shopping on his own.

    If you've never then you ought

    Somebody's been buying more books on Tantric sex for Helminthdale Library. At least I can't be blamed this time as I'm not allowed to order stock. Pursed lips amongst the library assistants: Minty pulls Frog to one side and points out the offending articles:

    "Look at all them mucky books! They're all about that textile sex!"

    Frog reckons he'll never be able to set foot in Carpet Warehouse ever again.

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    A thousand fancy coloured-clowns

    The MLA, God bless 'em, on behalf of its mother department -- the Department of Culture, Media & Sport -- has sent out a pile of bumpf inviting public libraries' support of the coming London Olympics.

    The provincial in me wonders why we never saw any "support the Commonwealth Games" stuff from either DCMS or MLA back in 2002. Or more than just cheap sniggering at Birmingham's efforts at capturing the Olympics.

    The rest of me wonders why you can rely on full DCMS involvement in metropolitan hand jobs like the Greenwich Millennium Dome, Wembley Stadium and the London Olympics but jack all to support practical efforts at a community level in the real world.

    (Actually, that last is a lie: I don't wonder at it at all!)

    It's no use stroking them and saying: "puss, puss, puss"

    Helminthdale Council's having to do a staff satisfaction survey, asking how we feel about the Council's change agenda; whether or not it's a good organisation to work for; and whether or not we'd recommend somebody's coming to work in the Council. That sort of thing. Of course, we all sing its praises to the skies.

    The online survey form is confidential. For "monitoring purposes" they ask for some demographic details. If you do happen to be the only white male between the ages of 35 and 45 working in a library somewhere in Catty there is no way that your response can be traced back to you. Staff satisfaction is at such a peak that they're desperately keen to complete the survey regardless.

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006

    A thrill-packed load of old twaddle

    Excitement at Senebene Library: the car park's being used as a location for a popular television drama series (I wasn't paying attention, it was either "Compact" or "Triangle"). Apparently the car park provides just the right flavour of local colour (I wonder if they swept away last night's condoms).

    Prior to their arrival there had been a slight misunderstanding. The film company asked if they could use the library's toilets. There was a bit of consternation until it was made clear that the toilets would be for location staff use, not as a film location.

    We take the opportunity to tease Beryl:

    "No knocking on the door asking: 'do you need any help in there?'"

    "'Do you need that shaking so you don't spoil your costume?'"

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Converting a table lamp into a
    common-or-garden stuffed gorilla

    One of the odder items unearthed by the Time Team dig of T.Aldous' office is a photocopy of a typewritten note:

    Please could we order some more large print books for Helminthdale?

    dated June 1994.

    Be you The White Tornado?

    I'm profoundly irritated to notice that at one time or another throughout the morning the whole of management group has been employed in shifting crap out of the back room.

    Irritated that is until I discover that they're making room to hide the worst of excesses of T.Aldous' office -- they're under orders to bin the lot while he's on holiday (the back story's here) -- and they've decided to do it themselves as a group effort so that they take collective responsibility and no one person cops for the blame when himself comes back.

    This is easily the most encouraging thing I've heard in a hell of a while: management group's acting as a team!

    Sunday, December 03, 2006

    Escape is verboten

    Sometimes you just don't realise you're doing it to yourself...

    Trying to avoid the usual Sunday evening depression at the thought of the working week to come I decided to watch an old movie on DVD. Only half an hour in did I realise the significance of my choice: The Colditz Story.

    Friday, December 01, 2006

    Polished with Guinness

    It's that time of year again but this time I can't resist my curiosity. I ask Millie:

    "Why does Catty Library always have its Christmas party in February?"

    Millie isn't entirely sure of the details, just that one year there were major problems with setting a date because of various personal reasons and then the local eateries were booked up solid. The subsequent party, being well-removed from the stresses and strains of the seasonal hostilities, went down well and became a tradition. Like Millie says: "It's just so much less hassle."

    Thursday, November 30, 2006

    You can get a badge in the scouts for it

    "T.Aldous has hidden depths," Henry Irving tells me. "I thought he was only good for folding cardboard boxes so that you don't have to tape up the bottoms. But no: he knows how to clean teaspoons, too!"

    "He can also price up books for the book sale," I vouchsafe.

    Tuesday, November 28, 2006

    A job like giving gooseberries Marcel waves

    Milton's only been here a few weeks and he's already identified what he calls "The Helminthdale Effect," which is his label for that deadening of the soul caused by the sure and certain knowledge that no matter what you're doing or how hard you work at it you're doomed to failure because at a key moment some muffin will stick a spanner in the works. He has good cause for already:
    • He identified Gypsy Cream Library as the best venue for a programme of events he wants to put on over the next year. It's then pencilled in for closure.
    • He was going to ask IT for project plans for the work currently being done in our libraries. Then he goes to the meeting where it turns out that Noddy Library's still not connected, more than a year after the meeting about it.
    • He's decided which online services we need to buy for the e-learning programme but T.Aldous has hidden the budget.
    • "Let's order a new PC for Eileen," he says to me. "Have they given you an IT purchasing budget?" I reply.

    Monday, November 27, 2006

    On a lilo in a sea of alright

    At long last we've finished a complete stock check and edit of Windscape Library. It's taken a few weeks (one of T.Aldous' parting jibes before going on leave was "Ask Lola when she's going to finish Windscape. I can't imagine why it's taking so long." This is the bloke who spent three weeks and nine visits getting Windscape staff's opinion on the new colour scheme for the library and then decided to ignore both the suggestions.) Staff resistance to the edit has evaporated: they can now get the new stock on the shelves (it was being kept in boxes in the back!!!) and like the opportunity to do more face-on displays. All in all, well worth the effort.

    One disappointment is that taking all the decepit old stock off hasn't had the anticipated effect on our stock figures: the thirty-odd children's books from the early seventies weren't on the catalogue in the first place. Ah well.

    Friday, November 24, 2006

    I said as my little torch I flashed:
    "I'm letting the New Year in"

    I'm in reflective mood, surrounded as I am by Xmas books, Lippy's sweetshop and bits of Santa (the gents is in full shopping mall splendour, lacking only a singing Xmas tree and some Perry Como records).

    And how the world has moved on: this time last year I was worrying about getting the 2005/6 projects bought and paid for; the imminent relocation of Noddy Library; possible closures of Epiphany and Gypsy Cream libraries; the fact I was the only person who knew how our systems worked; an utter lack of feedback from management group on anything to do with e-government; the web team trying to dictate how our web catalogue works; and a humongous amount of work to do on impact measures.

    Whereas this year...

    I think I'll get me coat.

    Thursday, November 23, 2006

    Oh, vanguard of civilisation!

    As if the ongoing saga about relocating Noddy Library isn't bad enough as it is the friends of the library add a new layer of madness to the mix:

    "Instead of moving the library it should stay where it is and we could turn the first floor into a museum celebrating the life and work of Andrew Carnegie."

    They reckon the council could provide the money for creating the museum, on top of the third of a million it would cost to bring the building to accessibility standards and to sort out the plumbing and heating. The council is looking at an eight-figure budget shortfall at the moment so is bound to open up its purse for this jest.

    Wednesday, November 22, 2006

    A million retired Nevilles watching Countdown

    'Phone call from Kenny Nesbitt in IT. He's been given the dubious honour of tying up the lose ends of outstanding projects.

    "Do you still want this software ordering?" he asks innocently.


    Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    We often give our enemies the means of our own destruction

    It's not just me. I'm swapping technical notes with a colleague who says:

    "Got very exasperated last week, so I sent e-mail upstairs setting out the work I thought I had on and explaining why I thought, without working about 300 hours a week, it might be difficult to acomplish. All I have got back are a couple of e-mails pointing out what I have missed off the list! In two of the cases missing off list was quite reasonable as no one had mentioned anything to me about what was going on."

    Monday, November 20, 2006

    Lights, bushels, action!

    Henry's been to Windscape this afternoon with his family history roadshow. The turn out was terrific: forty-nine people. He suggested that the staff should send an email round to library managers to say what a success it had been. "Oh no," says Norma:

    "The last time I told them we had more than ten people here I got told off for exceeding the fire regulations."

    Dishwasher safe

    Henry Irving's doing a family history session at Epiphany Library, which is another one slated for closure. Talking to Thelma, the branch manager, he asked how things were going.

    "Oh, T.Aldous came over before he went on holiday so that he could tell us about the closure proposals."

    "What did he say?"

    "He explained to me how to wash a spoon."

    Saturday, November 18, 2006

    Ordinary people

    Overheard, two staff at the enquiry desk:

    "Hasn't Johnny got a nice voice. He could do voice-overs on the telly."

    "Yes, it makes you want to mother him. Or smother him in your breasts."

    Friday, November 17, 2006

    Pour l'encourager les autres

    Gypsy Cream Library is consistently in the top three of our high-performing branches; has room for expansion of IT provision; has just started some popular reading groups; and has the space for community and craft activities which are popular not least because the library's next to a bus stop on the main road. So it's being chosen for closure because it's underperforming.

    Actually, it's the library that had the ninth biggest fall in issue in 2005/6 (the branch manager's being off sick all that year wouldn't have helped). It is only in the frame at all because the top eight are either co-located in a school (like Pottersbury Road, which wouldn't even wobble the performance indicators should it close); moving to co-located premises (like Glass Road, which is moving into the back of St. Barrabas On The Hill Primary School)(oh, and the saga that is Noddy Library); or which might move into co-located premises should they be found (the rest).

    So why is Gypsy Cream fingered? The week after Pansy Potter started work there one of her borrowers told her: "they'll be closing this place so that they can sell the land along with the old school playing field." Needless to say, we cannot believe that this could be the reason.

    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Elvis has left the building

    Warner's just come over to touch base with the library service and do a bit of work in T.Aldous' office, the idea being that he'd be around to talk to senior staff about pieces of work that need doing this week. It's the first time he's been in T.Aldous' office.

    Five minutes later he was looking for the caretakers.

    "Order a skip!"

    To start the ball rolling, goodnight

    Priceless. As per usual T.Aldous has dumped a deskful of dossiers on Mary's desk for to be sorted while he's on leave. One of which is Noddy Library's moving to the community centre (There's some of the back story here). So Mary contacts Bill Nedlow to see where he's got to with getting the BT link to the centre sorted (I asked for it to be ordered in February after Bill ignored our original request to order it in a meeting in December). Turns out that Bill still hasn't ordered it. Not what you want to hear when councillors are expecting the new library to be open before Xmas!

    "I told T.Aldous in February that the entry point couldn't go in the basement," says Bill.

    I don't know which to be the more angry with: Bill for his shiftlessness or T.Aldous for doing jack all about it for months and dumping it on Mary at this stage of the game. I'm also very annoyed at myself for not trying to get this sorted by the back door (which is difficult when you can't place orders or spend money but it can't be impossible, even here).

    Poor Mary's stuck with the job of breaking the news to Warner, whose patience with the Library Service has already been much tested lately.

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    The years have flown somehow

    "Now that management group's looking at current vacancies in the service in their meetings we're doing pretty well at filling them in a timely manner," says Warner Baxter.

    Out of sheer devilment I leave aside the question of Jimmy Huddersfield's old post (shrouded as that is in more than a years' worth of obfuscation) and ask:

    "Does that include the van driver's post?"

    "The van driver's post?" asks Warner.

    "Yes, he retired in 1999."

    It's obvious that this is news to Warner.

    Cough cough

    Even more carpet replenishment and vinyl adhesive fumes. Needless to say, the architect of our current misfortunes is nowhere in smelling distance: e'en as I write he's Flying Down To Rio.

    The air is thick with the bronchial chant of library staff and mentholyptus. Them as is not sucking on Miner's Mates and Fishermen's Friends are taking advantage of Frog's laying in a crate of MacGillivray's Patent Horse Linctus. All in all the place sounds like a depression-era TB sanitorium. There's nice.

    Top trumps!

    I knew there was a good reason for going home (relatively) early yesterday:

    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: T.Aldous Huxtable
    > Sent: 14 November 2006 18:15
    > To: Kevin Musgrove, Mary Dunroamin
    > Subject: FW: Corporate IT Budget for 2007/8 - Bids for Resources
    > Importance: High
    > Please could you look through this and then get together to discuss
    > what we bid for say in 15 minutes ?
    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: Binkie Huckaback
    > Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2006 12:18
    > To: T.Aldous Huxtable, Minnie Cooper, Jerome Munstead
    > Subject: FW: Corporate IT Budget for 2007/8 - Bids for Resources
    > Importance: High
    > Note completed returns must be returned before 27 October
    > Cheers
    > Binkie
    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: Maurice Woodruff
    > Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 2006 12:29
    > To: Heads of Service
    > Subject: Corporate IT Budget for 2007/8 - Bids for Resources
    > Importance: High
    > All Heads of Service are invited to submit details of all IT Development
    > proposals for 2007-8. These should included all bids for funding in
    > relation to the IT Development budget, all externally funded IT
    > developments and any in- house development requirements.
    > For 2007-8 it has been agreed at that all bids for funding will be
    > subject to evaluation based on a range of criteria which has been
    > incorporated into a revised IT Development Request Form. These will be
    > used to determine each scheme's ranking within the total bids received in
    > respect of the IT Development Budget. For your assistance I have attached
    > a copy of a report which summarises the Priority Outcomes and the link
    > below can be used to see full details of the Priority Outcomes which
    > forms part of the evaluation criteria.
    > An IT Development Funding Request Form must be completed for each IT
    > development proposal. A copy of the required form is attached.
    > IT related bids only need to be submitted for the IT Development Programme
    > and should not be duplicated within the Capital Investment Strategy Group
    > programme. Previously unsuccessful bids, if still required, will need to
    > be resubmitted and all costings updated. For the purposes of developing
    > bids IT is defined as Hardware (PC's servers, hand held devices, printers,
    > scanners and other similar peripheral devices), software
    > (systems/applications) other associated costs for implementation including
    > network upgrades, suppliers implementation, training etc.
    > The timescale for the submission of bids has been brought forward to
    > mirror the 'regular' capital programme.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Blow out the candles and have a piece of cake

    T.Aldous pops into my office.

    "You will make sure that Milton doesn't spend all the online reference budget on online references, won't you?"

    "Well, it is his budget..." I protest.

    Milton's also my line manager.

    It's all a lark isn't it?

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    A springboard to oblivion


    "There are some communication issues in this service, aren't there?"

    "Let's put it this way, until management team was expanded a few weeks ago we felt like we were walking around with bags over our heads while someone stole the floorboards from under our feet. Now it's pretty much the same, just with more people shifting floorboards."

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    The baked bean and its role in world peace

    We're all giddy as larks and gasping for breath. T.Aldous has decided that patches of the carpet backstage need replacing. Fair enough. He decides also that instead of doing it on a Saturday when there won't be anybody backstage except at lunchtime it can be done during office hours so that we get the fullest possible effect of the carpet adhesive. The effect lingers particularly because we've got a closed air conditioning system that just recycles the air in the office (the conditioning part of the equation amounts to cooling the air down when its cold outside and warming the air when it's warm out up to 27°C, at which point it sends blasts of Arctic gales throughout the office).

    Tilly cops for it worst as not only does her office get replacement carpet but T.Aldous insists that she keeps the door shut as it is a fire hazard.

    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    You might as well enjoy it as you lose

    Julia's moved over the borough to take over Dutch Bend and Catty. T.Aldous caught wind of the fact that Julia was having a team meeting with her new team so's she could set her stall out and get the introductions made. So he arranged a meeting with her at Noddy for the same time and ordered her to attend. Fair does to Julia, she put her team meeting first and arrived late at Noddy.

    I do hope she used the "I'm sorry I'm so late, I got stuck behind buses on Penkage Road" defence.

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    It's all in the stars

    A surprise regular staff meeting, ostensibly to introduce the new bods and for T.Aldous to talk through the report to committee recommending the moving or closure of Panama Street Library. Ten past nine, Frog turns to Lippy:

    "He'll arrive at quarter past, spend ten minutes explaining why he's late, introduce the new people and then everyone will have to leave because it's time to open up the library."

    And lo, it came to pass...


    If there's ever a masterclass on how to deal with the posturings of elected members this has to be one of the set model answers...

    Panama Street Library's been identified as being ripe for moving into a school or closing down completely. The local councillors are Not Happy and have brought forth one of the Ghosts of Christmas Past to fulminate on their behalf.

    Godolphin Penkage (for it is he):

    "I'll bring six hundred people to protest at the Town Hall about this!"

    Warner Baxter:

    "If you had brought six hundred people to the library we wouldn't be having this conversation."

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    And you thought that the Glasgow Empire was tough!

    There's a huge pot of money available nationally (well, a huge pot of money if you don't do the sums and work out how much each library authority would get if they were all successful in bidding for it) for increasing community involvement in public libraries. If the bid's successful then the library authority has to involve the community in the running of the libraries. Actively involve the community... As many library authorities don't actively involve their staff in the running of their libraries this is quite a challenging option. I'm happy with this idea in principle but only with certain provisos. Consultants and the people far, far away from the dirty end of public service delivery generally have a view of the general public as being made up of extras from the wheatybangs adverts. And so some are. On the other hand...

    The "Knuckler's Elbow" in Carbootsale had a comedy night last Friday. The comic wasn't very good and was dying a death. After ten tortured minutes he stopped and asked: "why's nobody laughing?" In answer a chap stood up and said:

    "Because you're not fucking funny."

    and shot him in the leg.

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    The darkness in my eyes will go away

    What a difference a few hours make.

    Mid morning:
    Seth: "I'm going to have to buy a load of lightbulbs for Lending, it's starting to get too dark these days."
    T.Aldous: "You can do what you want, it's nothing to do with me."

    Late afternoon:
    Seth: "I've ordered fifty lightbulbs."
    T.Aldous: "You shouldn't have done that, I don't know if there's enough in the budget."

    Thank you Santa for bringing happiness to the children of Mars

    T.Aldous has been to Catty.

    "There's a lot of broken equipment that's been in the attic there for years and it needs to be shifted. Is it OK for it to come back to you?"

    I'm past caring, so it'll be on the van tomorrow. Seth sees me a bit later:

    "There's a load of broken equipment coming over from Catty. Is it for you or is it for chucking out?"

    Before I can even open my mouth he says:

    "He's told you that you've got to check it all first hasn't he?"


    Friday, November 03, 2006

    Stretch goals

    I spend a lot of time in this job wondering just what my job is. I'm obviously not alone. I receive this from the Library Secretary:

    Please could you answer this.

    Dear sir/madam,
    Please could you let me have details of children's events at Seenbene Library.
    Thank you.

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Form: the having thereof

    New girl Gracie Furbelow asks me a question:

    "Is there such a thing as an annual leave card here? I asked T.Aldous but he didn't give me a straight answer."

    "Yes there is. One tip, though, when you finally get it you'll want to photocopy it because you won't see it for months after you give it him for signing."

    "Julia's already warned me about that," she replied.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    Forensic evidence

    Sitting at the staff room table, Jessie Postick took a bite out of her sandwich then looked down in horror.

    "Eee! These aren'y my butties!"

    Panic-striken, she wrapped them back up and put them back in the fridge. A couple of minutes later Billy Meredith comes in from the Mobile Library, gets his lunch and sits down.

    "Ee, that's rum: why have my butties got teeth marks on them?"

    Jessie owned up before the inevitable dental pantomime ensued.

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    I won't unscrew my elbows, I'm not stopping

    A trying day. I'd arranged for Milton Bradshaw, our new Reference Librarian, to have some meetings with me and a couple of suppliers. Yesterday he told me he couldn't make this morning's as T.Aldous has decided that it was more important that he accompany him on an Imperial Tour of the Provinces. Unfortunately, I couldn't reach our guest in time: havng spent all day driving up from the south coast he didn't pick up his voicemail until he was at his hotel.

    Despite everything we sort of got two meetings after all. Leastways, Milton managed to have a half hour's chat with the rep before T.Aldous appeared at the doorway tapping his watch ("sorry to interrupt but it's important that we go soon.") This afternoon's rep turned up on time, which is more than Milton was allowed to do. He arrived in a rush a few minutes late with a butty in his mouth.

    "You definitely get a tour when you're on tour with T.Aldous, dont you? I told him I needed to be back by two and he finally let me go at five to. Then I got stuck at the roadworks round the back of the abattoir."

    I thought he'd done damned well to get back at all. The staff bookies missed out on making a killing: none of us would have staked money on his escaping.

    Monday, October 30, 2006

    Mephistophelean engines of pleasure

    Frog's surveying his spam with interest:

    "If I got a bigger manhood and larger breasts I could just stay at home watching the rugby and enjoying myself."

    The lad's due a holiday.

    Utter redundancy

    The strapline on Saturday's edition of the Helminthdale Clarion says: "Don't forget to put your clocks back!"

    You can't keep a growing lad down

    God, I hate coming back to work after holidays. Three-hundred and six unread emails. All the incoming emails from anyone I know has been autoforwarded to the "Deleted" folder and my inbox is full of spam. If I took up one-tenth of the offers of gentlemen's pharmaceuticals, larger body parts or ladies of dubious repute I wouldn't be needing a holiday, I'd need an undertaker.

    Most of today's emails are from staff complaining about spam in their inboxes. Welcome back Kevin.

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    These are a few of my favourite things

    Printing isn't working for any of the People's Network clients in any of our libraries so none of our customers can print anything. Again. There isn't a day where it's not malfunctioning somewhere or other. And seeing as our IT people have decided that they can't save anything you really have to wonder what's the point of our having MS Office on these PCs. It's being looked into (this is the third new system we've tried since it was decided that the original wasn't technically fit for purpose).

    What's even more depressing is that only four libraries report the problem. The rest have given up on the thing.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    Every day's a re-run and the laughter's always canned

    Coming into work I hear my name. Is it angels calling me to better things? No, it's Seth hanging out of one of the upstairs windows:

    "Run, Kevin, run! Escape while you can before it's too late!"

    I reckon it's too late for us all already. The best we can do is pull the deckchairs a tad closer to the band and hope for a decent sing-song.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006


    It occurs to me that it isn't every job that gives you the opportunity to find out what noise a turnip makes.

    Volume control

    Exchange of notes attached to a copy of Peter Rabbit's Noisy Book:

    "Frog —
    The sound for the turnip on this book is very, very quiet. Please can it be replaced?"

    "This is the Library Edition so is very quiet."

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Lose your blues and laugh at life

    Here goes, the best ever: just had a call from one of the branches to say a mouse isn't working.

    "Have you cleaned it?"

    I innocently asked.

    "Yes. We know they don't work when they are dirty"

    "So there is no dirt around the rods in the mouse?"

    "Don't know."

    "Well how did you clean it?"

    "With a sponge and warm soapy water!"

    I give up.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Keeping the same plot because
    it was hardly used the last time

    T.Aldous: "Haven't the new guys been set up on the PC network yet? How long does it take?"

    Me: "It depends on what else is going on and how much time IT have got to work with."

    "I would have thought it would be quick enough, like one, two three. I can't understand why it's taking so long."
    It took him two months to give me their names.

    Full of wise saws and moral instances

    He's been in again, with the poor new bods in tow. This time to show them round the computer store room (I'm not making any of this up). He's showing them "the server" (the network hub and central heating unit).

    "Every so often the shopping centre toilets that are immediately upstairs overflow and the water runs through the ceiling. It isn't often that noxious materials come through."

    I can't think what sort of an impression that made!

    A change of pace

    Message from Catty Library:

    "Please can these people have access to the back-up drive. I won't include the new library assistant as they won't have been set up."

    My response:

    "Who is the new library assistant? It might be a good idea to get them set up on the network and with access to the back-up while I'm at it."

    And so...

    "That's an idea. Their name is T. Tedwell."

    "I need full names for them to get on the network."

    You can't make rubbish like this up

    T.Aldous has spent the past five hours talking at the new bods, poor wretches. God alone knows what sort of an impression he's making on them. I know what impression he's making on me...

    Having arrived at work I went to get my beginner's caffeine fix.

    "They're in the staff room," I was warned.

    Ah well, never mind. In I went. As I stepped through the door T.Aldous was holding the fridge door open:

    "As you can see, we have a choice of milks: skimmed or normal."

    I made a quick exit, collapsing into a giggling heap in a corner. Having recovered my professional composure I returned to the fray to retrieve my tea cup.

    "...the clock's really good because it tells you when it's time to go back up to the library at the end of lunch break."

    Perhaps my favourite quote of the morning was:

    "And this is where the Stock Procurement Manager used to sit."

    I didn't say: "more than a year ago."

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    Let us be thankful for fools

    Remarkable. T.Aldous sent me an email at quarter-past nine last night with the names of the people who are starting on Monday morning. I won't be able to do anything about it until the IT Call Desk is open on Monday morning. Sigh...

    Evidently he was busy last night. He's rearranged a lot of the furniture downstairs and nobody can find the pedestal cabinet that holds the safe key so Seth has to go and ask the shopping centre security guards to change a fiver for the till.

    Seth's already Extremely Happy, having found a long shopping list of things to be done left by Himself last night. The list begins with "clean out and wipe the drawers of the desk by the clock machine" and goes on at length, the true message being: "I have done jack all about this over the past two months and now I'm panicking and want to make a good impression." It must be good to live in hope.

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Act as if it were impossible to fail

    We have a bunch of new folk starting on Monday. After weeks of asking I'm still none the wiser as to their names or which PCs they'll be using so I can't set them up. T.Aldous' reason is that he's waiting to find out how to spell the name of the girl who starts at the beginning of next month. (uh?)

    If they end up sitting twiddling their thumbs on orange boxes it'll be as good an intrduction to Helminthdale Library Service as any.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    "Is anyone there," cried the traveller

    One of the more irritating petty nuisances of this job is Tilly's habit of not answering telephones if she can possibly help it, her being Secretary and the rest of us available to answer 'phones for fun. Putting her 'phone through to the Acquisitions Team while she goes for a fag and forgetting to bring it back is just sort of one of them things. The real teeth grinder runs:
    1. Telephone rings

    2. Tilly gets up and walks into the centre of the room, well away from any 'phone which could pick up the call.

    3. Tilly shouts: "whose 'phone is that?"

    4. Pause

    5. One of the rest of us (usually one of the Acq team) gives up and takes the call.

    6. It's a call for Tilly or else for T.Aldous, who has his 'phone put through to Tilly.

      Wednesday, October 11, 2006

      As grumpy as the rest of us

      Grey, wet & miserable. As good a description of me as the environment. It's often assumed that working in a library couldn't possibly be stressful. Of course it can: staff on the counter or enquiry desk dealing with the public are subject to pretty much the same stresses as any other front-line staff. Most people see libraries as A Good Thing, thank Heaven, so most interactions are neutral or positive but the public being the public, you never know which time things will kick off. It's years since I worked at the front line (that was advice work) but every so often I have to deal with the public, usually because of a problem or a complaint. This time it was because someone in the car parking section of the council put their 'phone through to the reference library where I was sat setting up a PC.

      "Hello, Helminthdale Library."

      "Is that parking?"

      "No, sorry, it's the library."

      "It is parking, that's who I've rung."

      "I promise you, I'm sitting in the reference library."

      The guy on the line wouldn't have it that I wasn't sitting in an office a mile away and didn't want to know when I found a direct number for him that couldn't be diverted to 'phones in the library. Quite rudely (him, not me).

      I can still do the patter but I don't have the patience that I used to have and am still profoundly irritated by this idiot.

      Tuesday, October 10, 2006

      They like their bit of magic from a younger bit of stuff

      I knew there'd be trouble... We're having what Julian and Sandy would call "a little bijou do and drinkettes" to mark some occasion or other in the annals of the department (I sincerely can't remember what). Amongst the dignitaries haunting the reference library is Satchmo Flannelback, my old boss in the one-stop-shops. Camp as Christmas, he sees himself as a Friend of Dorothy Parker. The name plate on the enquiry desk catches his eye:

      "Eileen Moody BLib ALA. Blibala. Blibala: that's an odd name. Is it Albanian?"

      Monday, October 09, 2006

      The Belle of the Horse Meat Shop


      "Why's Lippy been singing Cole Porter songs all morning?"

      "I expect she got laid last night."

      I only work in libraries for the posh chat.

      Saturday, October 07, 2006

      Paying tribute

      The girls at Dutch Bend have arranged a George Michael tribute act for their Christmas do. Apparently he drives onto the stage and falls asleep at the wheel.

      Friday, October 06, 2006

      Winter wonderland

      Since the beginning of the week Helminthdale High Street has been festooned with Xmas decorations. All along the length of the street the eye is bedazzled by two snowflakes and a reindeer with a broken antler.

      A brown study

      A colleague's AV facilities are in the main reading room and in a rather bijou space called the auditorium, (it's like a great big drawing room in a country house - it's huge and it has a stage and all the gear). You can plug all kinds of things in there (PCs, Video, wireless PA with microphones, etc. etc. and it has wireless Internet too, not that I'm envious at all). There's also a switch for lowering the motorised blinds on both floors of the main reading room - all very Bond-like I can assure you. It occurred to them the other week that they needed audio out so that people videoing lectures, events etc. could plug directly into the PA and not have to use their own microphones for recording the audio track.

      The controls for all of this are in a number of little panels/switchplates which are either on one of the walls of the auditorium or discreetly on a pillar in the main reading room where the audience can't see them

      So, he got a quote from an electronics company we use and kicked it upstairs for approval. The quote is approved. But with a caveat. "The chair of the board of trustees objects to the brushed stainless steel face plates quoted for this installation - we would prefer a smooth brown faceplate" It's mentioned to the Great One that *all* the faceplates installed to date are stainless steel, (except for the two white plastic ones some divot used for the switches for the blinds) and said do you want to continue and try to get a brown one given all the others are stainless or white?

      Well, now he has to go back to the company and ask them if they can install the XLR audio out connector as quoted, except on on a BROWN face-plate, and by the way can they quote for changing the other six or seven they have in different parts of the library and make them brown too.

      The spirit of T.Aldous walks abroad!

      Thursday, October 05, 2006

      A man whose work has been spread over many fields

      Leaving do last night for "African" Brown, who's got his 40 years and packed it in. Astonishing opening to his retirement speech:

      "When I started in the 1960s we didn't have to bother with all this crap like Equal Opps and Performance Monitoring."

      Wednesday, October 04, 2006

      All kinds of everything

      Five of our branch libraries closed last Saturday for good. Have spent all day with a caretaker in a van going round and taking all the IT equipment out of them. Apparently it is a risk to leave equipment in empty buildings. They have been empty but for eight hours per week for the last however many years; how much greater risk now, and what are our priorities really? Cost of van hire, salary of caretaker, salary of Systems Librarian, huh! Feel a strop coming on.

      Tuesday, October 03, 2006

      Oh! Don't the wind blow cold!

      My turn for the latest round of daft in-house reservations. It's always interesting to see what other people come up with. This time I've received a book on male sexual fantasies. I am very much against our having books like this in our lending library stock.

      There aren't any pictures.

      A view from the other side of the mirror

      I'm not enamoured of the new council web site. I understand the whats and whys and hows but I'm still not enthused. So I understand what people mean when they say to me that they think it looks dead boring. But like I say:

      "Just as we're being kept securely under the thumb as to what we can and can't do on the web site by the Press Unit, they're having to work to central government expectations as to what is and isn't on the site and how it'll look and feel. In the end we're going to have to accept that it's written by suits for suits, and not for libraries' preferred target audiences."

      It doesn't escape me as I say this that the Press Unit all wear jeans and I'm the one wearing pinstripes.

      Monday, October 02, 2006


      For various reasons, mostly sentimental, I'm doing a lot of printing today and my ink cartridges are running low. I can't get replacements as I need to fill in a stationery form to give to Tilly so's she can give me the cartridges. But I don't have a form and can't get one because I've not filled in a stationery form asking for one. Luckily, Noreen comes to my rescue and lets me know where they keep their secret stash.

      Saturday, September 30, 2006

      With my shovel and my pick and my lamp and little wick

      I once went down a coal mine. It took considerably less time than it takes our lift to go up two floors. It's this slow so as not to frighten old dears who may worry that they are falling to their doom. Instead they panic that they'll never escape the damned thing. Today it's playing up: as well as being phenomenally slow it's shuddering about like a jelly in a hurricane.

      I mention it to Seth the caretaker. Apparently the nylon casing's worn off one of the wheels on the cabin. The engineer says its safe but needs replacing for a smooth ride.

      "Should we let people use it?" Seth asks.

      "It's up to you," says the engineer.

      "It's up to you," says T.Aldous.

      Which in both cases means: "whatever happens, you're to blame."

      Friday, September 29, 2006

      Imagine me on the Maginot Line

      Up until a couple of weeks ago I was really looking forward to getting on with the Library Service's contribution to the new council web site, with lots of plans ready for getting the existing stuff online plus a range of new reader development resources.

      A fortnight is a long time in Helminthdale. None of the child-centred stuff is being allowed on; the reader development material falls outside the editorial guidelines; the results of our local studies digitisation project are going down the pan; and the stylesheets make things like the Mobile Library schedule pretty unreadable. And I'm engaged in trench warfare in the hope that I can stop the Press Unit's wrecking the web catalogue.

      Fuck 'em. I'll do enough to fulfil our obligations for e-government. For anything more clever we'll need to work in collaboration with other organisations and have the results hosted on their sites.

      Thursday, September 28, 2006

      A chorus girl went fishing

      Trying to get some after-hours work done when to my horror himself appears, armed and ready to talk at length about the auditor's report again. Just as he takes a breath the 'phone goes. It's Daisy with a problem with one of the PCs which isn't closing cleanly. T.Aldous hates hanging around waiting for people to finish 'phone conversations so off he goes. The problem's sorted pretty quickly, I notice that he's gone to mither Mary, I put my coat on and do a runner.

      With one bound he was free!

      Wednesday, September 27, 2006


      One of the girls in the Acquisitions Team is deaf. As the team's generally assumed to be the people answering everyone else's 'phones they try to make sure to arrange that somebody else is around to cover that function. A neat trick given how few of us there are backstage. Today, for once, the arrangements fall down for an hour or so because of hospital appointments and meetings off site. Which doesn't stop our senior managers and Tilly Floss putting their 'phones through to the Acq. Team for the afternoon. Sigh...

      Drowning by numbers

      We might not be having our accounts qualified after all: apparently, our supplying the issue figures for the Mobile and for Roadkill Library should do the trick.

      Don't try and work it out.

      Tuesday, September 26, 2006

      I wish I was back on the farm

      The Press Unit is seriously getting on my wick. Now they're demanding that we (I) remove unspecified "superfluous links" from our web catalogue. In the name of branding.

      Bad enough that the IT Department dictates so much of our service provision. If we're at the stage where the Press Unit tells the Library Service what services it should be providing to its customers we may as well all go home.

      Monday, September 25, 2006

      I always get to bed by half-past nine

      There are so few of us backstage these days that invariably one or more of us end up working late to try to catch up with work undone. And invariably one or other of us has that attempt foiled by T.Aldous' coming along and talking at us until we see a bright light and start hallucinating. This evening's a rare opportunity: himself is out of the building. Mary and I are heads down to our tasks when Julia comes over.

      "What time did he say he'd be back?" she asks.

      "Round about now," answers Mary.

      There followed an unseemly rush to clock out and leave the building.


      Every day's a revelation. I've been working here 13 years and only today do I find out that every waste paper bin in the building has a typewritten card taped to its underside to say whose bin it is.

      Friday, September 22, 2006

      That'll do nicely sir

      There's Clement the Mobile Library driver filling up the tank for the day's lurching round the backstreets of Helminthdale. He goes to pay and finds that the council's petrol payment card's no longer acceptable. We have a whip round and send the hat over to the garage. Why is the card no longer acceptable? Mary rings the transport section to find out what's going on. Apparently the council's got a contract with a different company and it starts today:

      "You should know about it love, I sent an email to some folk about eight or nine months ago."

      Thursday, September 21, 2006

      The mountain comes to Mahomet

      Yet another car window broken in the car park at Senebene Library. That makes the third in as many weeks. T.Aldous' solution is firm and simple: he tells the caretaker to collect all the stones and bricks from round the library and send them to Helminthdale.

      Perhaps we're going to have a rockery.

      Wednesday, September 20, 2006

      Setting an example

      They're working on some activity sheets for the children's library when I overhear this exchange between Mary and Tina:

      "Tina, I don't think we should be using this picture. Don't we have a picture of a burglar who isn't smoking?"

      "What for?"

      "Well, I don't think it sets a good example to the children."

      "So breaking and entering people's houses and stealing things is a good example?"

      Tuesday, September 19, 2006

      Continuing the ceaseless fight against literacy and good taste

      I have a conversion with the Press Unit, who have overall control of the new web site as part of the Corporate Branding Initiative. All goes awkwardly OK as we reach a modus vivendi in principle about the fact the Library Service (i.e. me) intends continuing to use the web site as a means of service provision and not merely a promotional information tool. Primarily because I've given up the fight and I'm resigned to the fact that I'm going to lose most of the good stuff on the current site. Then it gets nasty: I'm told I've got to dismantle the Library Catalogue and rebuild it to fit in with corporate branding. I politely decline.

      What is it with this council? It took four years to get IT to install the system; IT keep telling us that the Catalogue should only include books; and now the Press Unit are telling us that we have to pull it to bits and take out all the stuff customers and inspectors have said that they like. Next time some bloke from a quango takes us to task for not doing this, that or the other online we should make these idiots take the rap. I'm sick of being held accountable for the decisions of these people.

      Monday, September 18, 2006


      Lovely start to the week: "training" on the council's new content management system, which consisted of two hours' worth of increasingly convoluted non-explanation of the National Local Government Navigation Scheme taxonomy and long-winded but unilluminating discourses on information to the public but no information as to how to work on the council's new content management system. As I've been working on e-government for the past five years and was one of the people who worked on the spec. for the CMS this was a bit of a waste of my time. Especially as I've spent donkey's years working with information systems including the best part of a decade working on information systems (not IT systems) for council one-stop-shops.

      After half an hour I was mentally bouncing off the walls. An hour later I had an epiphany: this must be how librarians feel when they have to deal with me. I'm almost but not quite sympathetic.

      Friday, September 15, 2006

      Up in the air and down in the dumps

      A colleague shares an internal email:


      I've had several folks report hearing phone calls to elevators over the last few weeks.

      The elevators have emergency phone lines so you can call out in case you're stuck in an elevator.

      The phone lines are set up so that the monitoring company can call you back if they get disconnected.

      So, if someone else happens to dial that number, they're going to get to talk with whatever random staff member happens to be in the elevator at that time... annoying the poor staff member and confusing the heck out the person who's calling.

      I wasn't terribly worried about this because the phone lines for the elevators aren't part of the (number) groups, so folks aren't going to get transferred to them accidentally by us.

      Unfortunately, the $#*%&(*#&$% phone company has messed up. If someone calls Directory Enquiries and asks for this library, they're given the phone number for one of those elevators! Argh. I've got a call in to the phone company to fix the problem.

      And it's an hour before I can go drink some lunch. :(

      More when I know more.

      You can just about get two vests in a turnip

      We're having our accounts qualified by the Audit Commission because when we did our annual submission for the Chartered Institute for Public Finance & Accounting we didn't include a separate figure for the book stock for the Mobile Library. We didn't because CIPFA didn't ask for it and don't want it but that's not good enough for the auditors and so the council will lose some of its central government finance next year. (This is the Audit Commission, the one that nods through multi-billion pound cost and ten-year-plus time overshoots of defence projects and Health Service IT programmes.)

      Colleagues in London are having their accounts qualified because they couldn't say how much of the stock available on 1st April 2006 had been overdue at some time or another in 2005/6 (eh?).

      Madly enough, a colleague elsewhere in the north of England has discovered that the numbers in their submission were made up by his predecessor; and their figures were accepted nem. con. by their auditors!

      Thursday, September 14, 2006

      It's no good, Alice, we'll have to lay off the lettuce

      We're all getting to that age now. Between us we've had a spate of funerals of friends or relations and many of us are concerned for the well-being of the elderly and infirm amongst us. Every so often the pressure gets to us and we either explode or get ill, or both. Poor old Frisby Dyke at Dutch Bend is a case in point: both his parents haven't been too clever lately and his mum's just had a hip operation. Pile on top of that the pressure that he and Daisy have been under with T.Aldous' constant meddling at that library and it's no wonder he's not so good himself. Even T.Aldous has noticed: after a particularly bitter argument in today's staff meeting he pulls Frisby to one side for a talking to.

      "You're not looking too well Frisby. I know you too well: you're not eating properly. I've got two bananas in my briefcase that you can have."

      Well meant but bizzare.

      Lydia, oh Lydia, have you seen Lydia?

      Lunch time in the staff room and they're comparing their tattoos, or at least those ones on body parts that can be shown in the staff room. One of my friends often wonders how all these young girls with tattoos will fare in later life when their skin is less elastic. Well I know now. It has to be said that the onset of bingo wings brings a certain abstraction to even the most clearly delineated image. Common sense prevails and I don't ask if it's Elvis or Frankie Howerd.

      I remember the days, not so long back, when the only people who had tattoos were sailors and war criminals (well that's how they always identified them in the movies; must have been a major drawback to their incognitos, like burglars having to wear stripey jumpers and carry bags marked "swag"). I've come to the conclusion that half the women I work with used to be in the Merchant Navy. Thank God they're not likely to be reading this!

      Wednesday, September 13, 2006

      Insincerity of purpose

      I'm in a meeting with staff from other library authorities to discuss a collaborative project and none of us have the power or authority to commit to any action because none of us are the people who should be there. Some are first reserves for people who are off sick or on leave. Others, like myself, are covering vacancies. And then there's Debbie Potterthwaite:

      "Looking forward to your new job Debbie?"

      "Yes, it should be good."

      "When's your last day?"


      Tuesday, September 12, 2006

      Court jesters of the Apocalypse


      "I'm right fed up. Give us some good news."

      "We're all going to die."

      Monday, September 11, 2006

      Icing on the cake

      Urgent meeting with the architect dealing with the new site for Roadkill Library. By pure happenchance T.Aldous blundered into a site meeting last Thursday and was told that the job's nearing completion and when are we moving the books in? This was news to T.Aldous, and the rest of us. Especially when he heard what the architect imagined "nearing completion" to be.

      By now I have enough experience of these matters to know that T.Aldous' usual communications problems notwithstanding the blame will lie entirely with the architects. The meeting is the usual miscellaney of surprises.

      The plan bears no relation to any of the plans for this library we've seen at any time over the past two and a half years. "What's that?" asks T.Aldous. "That's the worktop for the computers," answers the architect.

      "What worktop?" Turns out he's decided that the only full working wall — where we'd quite like to have shelves for books, etc. — would be taken up by a worktop "like the one at Sheep City." That particular worktop is a long, ply-and-formica fixed work bench that has the ugly utilitarian look of the benches we had in the chemistry labs at school back in the sixties. As well as being ugly and inflexible it also cost a four-figure sum (how???) We gracefully decline the suggestion, me suggesting off-the-shelf desks for the PCs and T.Aldous suggesting a library design company for the library design. We further disgrace ourselves by insisting that the electricity points are distributed more usefully in the room rather than all being clustered around where the architect has decided that the counter's going to be (and won't be if Himself has any say in the matter).

      "It's a bit late to be making changes like this," says the architect.

      "The library has to be functional or we can't move in," replies T.Aldous.

      Afterwards T.Aldous has a completely justified rant about the stupidity of the situation and our always having to work in the dark up to the point of the last minute panic. Sadly, he cannot take the next step and recognise that this way of working isn't good within the library service either. Ah well...

      Saturday, September 09, 2006

      Time management

      I don't have any particular story about time management to stick here. I just needed to confirm that the phrase actually exists and wasn't just a figbox of my imagination.

      A flood of lyric melody

      Euterpe works her magic again (see: it isn't all lavatories)...

      (Apologies to HMHB)

      When it gets hot
      You'll never guess what:
      I've got Library Service Management.
      When the shit hits the fan
      And I'm carrying the can
      I've got Library Service Management.
      I've got Library Service Management.

      Oo-ooh, last-minute decisions.
      Oo-ooh, thinking on your feet.
      Ambushed more than three times daily
      By my Library Service Management.
      By my Library Service Management.

      Have you just heard
      I haven't heard a word
      From my Library Service Management.
      No matter what you ask
      Reply’s a no-no task
      For my Library Service Management.
      Oo-ooh, try and guess your work plan.
      Oo-ooh, if you get it wrong
      You're left holding the tar baby
      By my Library Service Management.
      By my Library Service Management.

      [guitar riff and book sale]

      Aimless drift and stagnant flow.
      We’ve got Library Service Management.
      No new blood when old folk go.
      We’ve got Library Service Management.
      Talk to the wall, talk to the wall!
      We’ve got Library Service Management.
      Bash, bash, bash, bash!
      We’ve got Library Service Management.

      Oo-ooh, tied up, gagged and helpless.
      Oo-ooh, mushroom-managed mess.
      We’ve been stitched up like a kipper
      By my Library Service Management.
      By my Library Service Management,
      Management, management, management, management….

      My grandfather’s clock was too tall for the shelf
      So Point Eight were asked for some plans
      By my Library Service Management.
      By my Library Service Management.


      Reet petite and gone

      We bid farewell to yet another member of staff. Bosko Huckaback's going off to work in a school library. His departure wasn't without incident: having established with Personnel that his period of notice started at the point he gave Julia the nod verbally he was a bit dischuffed to find T.Aldous sticking his oar in and insisting that nothing could be done untile he'd received the notice in writing. Strangely enough this wasn't one of the instances when T.Aldous sat on the reference for a month or more.

      Bosko and Julia have had a stormy relationship. Which might explain why a book on employee relations appeared on the staff room table. I thought no more about it until I opened it up and read the inscription:

      "To Bosko, Merry Christmas,
      Love from Julia"


      Friday, September 08, 2006

      A reassuring idiom of melancholy

      Crumbs: it's Pansy's turn to be off sick with stress. Three other branch assistants and at least two library assistants are under the doctor with stress-related problems, at least three others should be but are "being brave" and I'm hanging on by the tips of my fingernails myself.

      Good to know the ship's on an even keel.

      Captain of the space ship

      I've upset Himself. I emailed everyone to tell them not to email visitor stats to Jessie as she's left. I also said that I'm not doing anything with the stats as all year I've been trying and failing to get a decision as to what needs doing.

      "Kevin, why have you sent this before asking me? This is unacceptable."

      "As you haven't replied to any of my questions about this there didn't seem any point. The whole subject is unacceptable."

      "Emails need to be sent to Jessie's PC for continuity."

      "Sending emails to Jessie won't send the statistics to that PC."

      "Your whole tone is unacceptable."

      As I was busy mucking out the debris after Wednesday's system crash (while I was on leave my non-existant oppo did a lousy job of preventing a simple server crash becoming a wholesale corruption of the borrower file) and he'd also just dumped a load of auditor's questions in my lap I thought my tone was quite reasonable in the circumstances.