Escape at last. The last lot of ersatz alarums and excursions involved performance indicators. Earlier this week I'd made the mistake of noticing that we'd actually achieved a public library standard. This set T.Aldous and Mary to the task of debunking the figures so as to prove that the services we provide aren't any good. For the fourth time in two days I find myself explaining: "those figures are the number of items added to stock this financial year and these figures are the number paid for out of this year's funds. Bear in mind that we spent two weeks in April desperately trying to spend up last year's book fund because you put the blocks on any spending the previous summer because you wanted 'to review the way we're targetting our stock buying.'"
Key to this is a fundamental gulf in the mindsets of myself and my managers. I will quite cheerfully tell any man and his dog just how bad we are organisationally while marvelling at the daily miracle of our not just getting the doors open but also providing a wide range of surprisingly well-delivered services to an unsuspecting public. My managers will tell anybody who'll listen — and many who won't — how bad our services are whilst claiming it's all somebody else's fault and nothing to do with the fact that they won't spend the money we're given and won't fill vacancies.
In the dark hours of the night I'm haunted by the thought that perhaps there is a management strategy in play in the library service after all. And its keystone is a scorched earth policy.