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

Saturday, April 29, 2006

I'll have to grit me teeth when he goes on about his hernia

Writing a blog is a phenomenally self-indulgent pastime. Unashamably so in this case. If I'm to tell the truth this blog's just a way for me to get as much bile as possible out of my system before this damned job has me cracking up again. So I'm writing this for myself.

Having said that, I'm curious to know who, if anyone, reads this and why. How believable is it? Honestly, although you won't find "Helminthdale" in the Municipal Yearbook the stories are true: 90% come from one library authority, about 9% from a nearby authority (must be something in the water) and the remainder are a hotch-potch of systems administrators' campfire stories that wary colleagues have consented to be published. I dearly wish that some of the
other stories could be published somewhere, though. Perhaps when we've all been pensioned off.

In order to pander to this unaccustomed sociability on my part, just for this week I've switched the "comments" option on. I expect I'll come to regret it. (-:

Friday, April 28, 2006

The malady lingers on

The after effects of the acquisitions team's Stakhanovite labours are becoming horribly apparent: they both need holidays and as soon as possible. They're getting on each other's nerves -- not good in a team reduced to two people. Today's simmering irritation is the positioning of a fan, which involves more faffing about than you may imagine and ought to irritate me more than it does. Having achieved an optimum position, the tension racks up a little when Noreen gets back from lunch early to find Doris rearranging some of the furniture so that she "would get the benefit." Noreen, working on the basis that least said soonest mended, spends the rest of the day fuming.

The sooner they get a new line manager the better, though it may be some time yet as the post's only been vacant seven months and needs a while yet in which to mature. I don't know how people get on who fill posts promptly, it must be Hell.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Madame, you may have observed that in Casablanca human life is cheap

Seth collars me.

"I forgot to show you this before. Look: proof that the corridor was empty once!"

And there on his mobile 'phone is a picture of an empty corridor. I notice the date.

"Is that right? You've not set this up as a lark have you? It was never that clear then."

"It was, it was! Just for the one day, mind. I had to take a photo because when I rang my wife to tell her she didn't believe me either."

Any artiste mentioning football will be paid off

I've been out all day and, as Jimmy Huddersfield's successor (my designated deputy) doesn't exist yet Mary's had to field my 'phone calls. By all accounts she's had a torrid day of it. On top of her own job, which involves the wearing of way too many hats, and covering for my absence she's also been covering for Jimmy's post; T. Aldous (who's off sick) and Julia (on leave). By end of day she's frazzled and it's hard not to feel sorry for her. I can't help comparing and contrasting Mary and Julia, who's on the same pay scale. Whereas Mary's been knocking herself out to keep the show on the road, Julia's reliably reported as saying: "the rota for the week I'm on leave isn't my problem: I'm not responsible for what happens when I'm on leave."

Grunting and chunting, cantankerous

Seth and Lemuel are fuming quietly (oh, alright then, not all that quietly) about the state of the fire escape corridor. Up to the end of March it was chock full of boxes of incoming stock. For one heady day it was dead clear, then the boxes of incoming started to mount up after visit to the suppliers to get stock for the impending move at Noddy (don't mark your calendars just yet). Just as the acquisitions team started to get to grips with this there was a sudden influx of huge boxes, swamping all else before it.

"What are these?" I ask the lads.

"New shelving and display units," says Seth.

"Where are they for?" I ask before I can stop myself.

"They've not decided yet," replies Lemuel.

"If it's anything like last time, we'll be climbing over these right up to Wakes Week," says Seth.

"You'd think they'd know what they wanted 'em for before buying 'em," mutters Lemuel.

"You're joking," says Seth, "what about all them books in the corner? They've been for years and they've still not decided."

And so it went. A lot of the rest of the discussion wouldn't fit in with a family blog. In case of fire clamber over boxes in an orderly fashion.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Today I am two separate gorillas

One of the monitors on Senebene Library's counter died yesterday. I tried jerry-rigging a replacement, but that didn't work so the staff had to wait until maintenance came out with a replacement. Unfortunately, try as they would, they couldn't open the security cage of the PC so they couldn't plug in the new monitor. They tried every key in the place with no joy. I've just popped in, had a go myself and also failed. I wondered if the key had bent so I came back to pick up my copy of the key. Lo and behold, there was their key. I'd absent-mindedly stuck it in my pocket yesterday.

Readers will have already come to the conclusion that the systems guy is a prat; this will come as confirmation for them as need it.

In the path of the lovesick monkey

One of the longer-running soap operas is the saga of T.Aldous' telephone number. Back in 1997 it was erroneously listed in the Phone Book as the number for telephone renewals. It still is, which gives him the excuse not to pick up his own calls.

You or I would either:
  • Make efforts to get the right number listed, not that difficult, says the man who, in a much earlier life, was once responsible for the council's entries in the Phone Book and Thomson's Local;


  • Change your 'phone number.
Not him. Not a week goes by without one or more of us being told that we have to take his calls because his 'phone number's wrong in the Phone Book.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Let's call the whole thing off

Catty Library's been bellyaching about not having a PAC for ages. Every Catty Library staff meting results in me getting an ear-bending about the PAC. The guys from IT Support delivered, installed and set up the PC and spent about three days getting comfortable that it did what we needed, all the while with library staff hovering about asking them to hurry up. At last, last week, it was live. I popped in today to have a look at it.

Late morning and the damned thing hadn't been switched on yet.

In defence of reason

Renewed discussion on a new playbus for the borough. Frog attends the meeting. He reports that Councillor Oblong coruscates intellectually.

"I don't hold with playbuses. They have kids pissing in yoghurt pots."

That seemed to end the discussion for now.

Monday, April 24, 2006

On a sinking ship a seaman yearns

Yet more problems with the porcelain tuba, this time at Dutch Bend where the female library assistants are up in arms because male library assistants are using the staff toilet, which they insist should be ladies only (or at least, female). I have visions of the male staff having to go out of the library to pee in the kerbside grids and gutters. Come to think of it this might be an important means of preserving an important part of the local culture. You don't see many parents encouraging their children to pee in the grid these days. I well remember the father of one of my friends saying: "See if you can't pee on your shoes while you're at it, Tracey, let's see if we can't get some of that dog muck off the soles." Another part of the spirit of community that didn't survive the millennium. Sigh... Mind you, I expect the MLA to adopt this as a new performance indicator any day now.

Meanwhile at Bencup a fifty-two year old lady is picketing the library, signs and everything, in protest at having been banned from the reading group. I have no idea why she's banned: sometimes your instincts just scream to leave well alone.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

We've got the staggers as well

The door to the admin. offices is hanging off its hinges. Actually, it has been sort-of doing so for the past week but today Lemuel decided to fix it by giving the offending hinge a sideswipe clout with a big hammer. For some reason this doesn't seem to have worked. Shame really: had it worked we were up for sorting some strategic issues the same way.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A phantom of delight

Warner Baxter pops in to see T. Aldous. They're going into London on Monday for a meeting with some high-ups as a result of one, other or all of last year's inspections. He's come over to work out a game plan and to make sure they've got whatever they need to take with them. In the middle of an open-plan office we hear T.Aldous say:

"I thought we'd work on it on the train going down."

The look that Warner gave him could freeze-dry raspberries.

"I'm all out of fag packets."

Her highly polished instrument is indicative of strong narcissistic traits

We'd been wondering about the state of the dishcloth in the staff room (and/or the state of some of the meals people have been having): even though it's changed daily it's always grimy and grey when anyone comes to wash up. Today we find the reason why: one of the library assistants polishes her shoes with it.

"I need to clean my shoes when I come in. What else should I be using?"

Some days you can only wonder that the sickness record isn't even higher.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Where's the exotic eastern mystery in a length of hosepipe?

Our only remaining librarian in this half of the Borough, Lola, is worrying about next week's rota at Helminthdale. She asks Julia, her line manager, for advice. Julia's response?

"I'm on leave next week."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Absurda non acta

A reader writes:

"You've been telling us for months about the preparations for libraries moving to new locations. Have any of them actually moved yet?"

Clue: the answer's "no."

Howl, howl, howl, howl

I want the reference librarians to go to the Library & Information Show next week so that they can see what's on the market that might be useful for the modernised fab 'n' groovy reference and information library services that we were supposed to be implementing after the Best Value Review four years ago. They, too, want to go, which is excellent news as it suggests that they're starting to bounce back from some of the nonsense that's been going on up there. I ask T.Aldous if they can go.

"That would be a good idea. I've no objection in principle to their going."

"So they can go?"

"Well, it's difficult. I can't see being able to send them both together."

"So if one goes one day and the other the other day...?"

"That's a possibility."

"Could we do it?"

"In principle, yes."

I had to leave it at that, my soul was crying.

Two scotch eggs and a jar of marmite

Ha! Pansy Potter's hoist on her own petard. Her replacement at Epiphany discovers a 1892 book on the shelves in adult lending and sends it in to be added to the catalogue.

Pansy's excuse is that when Reggie Clockwatcher went down to review the stock a few years back he looked at it and said: "Oh just leave it there."

"Didn't it get picked up when you were checking stock that's not issued lately?" I asked. "It was last issued in 1995."

"Oh yes. I could even tell you who borrowed it. But orders are orders, you know what they're like."

And so I do.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ben Gunn and his musical cheeses

Staff meeting. The papers are full of rumours of library closures; we've a whole new reporting régime, including a bewildering array of monthly local targets and annual national targets; the place is full of new kit and new stock and scant few people; and there are two new reading initiatives to take on board. So we spend an hour hearing about Lola Ptitsa's parking problems.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

He looked in the mirror and there was nobody there

Peculiar day. On the way into work I realised that for the first time in a long while (five or six months at least), I haven't thrown up before leaving home for work. Strangely disconnected all day.

Break-in at Seenbene Library; two PCs stolen. "Have you got the serial numbers?" asks T.Aldous. "Oh, I expect not," I reply. "That printer that went to Epiphany to replace the one that was stolen, where did that come from?" "It was one of the two in the ladies' toilet." "What did we buy it for?" "No idea." Any proper boss would have given me a bollocking. Mind you, any proper boss wouldn't have spent a month making an incomprehensible muddle out of the equipment inventory because he couldn't wait two days for me to come back from Xmas holiday.

"How are you getting on with the people counters?" I'm asked. "Oh, we get by," I reply.

I've just realised: I've not had any pains in my chest today either.

I'm probably already dead and too stupid to realise it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Say goodnight to the folks Gracie

We're obviously all knackered. We were talking this lunchtime and Frog came out with:

"What day was Pancake Tuesday this year?"

And it took us ten minutes to realise the futility of our checking our diaries.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Oh it's obviously a good day at Catty. Ten minutes before closing time and they ring to say there's a problem with the printer for the People's Network.

It hadn't been switched on all day.

Curb your enthusiasm

We had to take the PACs off-line last year because the part of the network they used had been obsolete for a couple of years and it was being decommissioned. We'd been given a year's notice of it but I couldn't do anything about arranging replacements because of the usual budget problem (i.e. there ain't one so any time I need to do anything I have to rattle the charity tins for a few months and hope for the best). Cutting a very long story short, the first of the new PACs went live at Catty yesterday, that library having been chosen as they've been moaning long and loud about there not having one.

I rang this morning to make sure it was still behaving itself. No idea. They'd switched it on but nobody had looked at it.

Monday, April 10, 2006

We should have stamped little lions on them

Frog gets a 'phone call from Pansy Potter at Gypsy Cream: they've hidden one of the Easter eggs so well they can't find it. Please can they have another?

Oh to be in Helminthdale now that April's here

I hear that an urgent delivery of Easter events posters was slowed down on Wednesday by T.Aldous insisting they were all sent with (individually signed?) compliments slips.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Too easy

Himself pops his head through the doorway:

"Did you have any achievements last year? I need to do a list for committee."

"I've not killed you yet for a start," I thought.


Frog's set up an Easter activity for all the libraries next week: each library's been sent a six laminated cut-out Easter eggs plus a laminated quiz sheet and some competition forms. The idea is that staff "hide" the eggs somewhere in the library and children use the clues in the quiz sheet to find the eggs and answer the questions.

T.Aldous collars Frog:

"Who's supplying all these eggs and who's clearing up if any of them are broken?"

Alexander Graham Bell afflicted with laryngitis on the occasion of his inventing the telephone

I keep asking why the phrase "networked CD-ROMs" keeps cropping up in proposed notices and publicity materials for the library. Our resident Harry Potter look-alike (and resident Bungle Bear think-alike) explains:
"Well you will be networking CD-ROMs on the People's Network computers won’t you?"

"Well I could, except there aren’t any CD-ROMs to network because no one’s bought any."

"Can’t you put BBC Webwise on it?"

"Yes, but it won’t be available on all the People’s Network workstations. There aren’t 122 licences for the networking software."

"Can’t you buy some?"

"I don't have any money. Besides which, I’m not prepared to make a case for funding an additional 110 licences on the basis that you’d quite like to use them to network CD-ROMs you haven’t identified and haven’t bought in over six years' non-use of a CD-ROM network."

"Well, couldn’t you start small by just using the licences you’ve got to set up the CD-ROM network just in Helminthdale, say, and make Webwise available that way?"

"No. Don’t imagine that on top of all the other work I’m going to be expected to do over the next month I’m going to do a crash install of a system no one’s bothered with for the past six years just to make one free CD-ROM available at libraries that already have it on stand alone PCs."
Any clues as to why the Audit Commission say we score poorly on IT and marketing?

Boiling the bottoms of chrysanthemums

Today it is laptops. Went to a seriously boring meeting this morning at which some woman from aforementioned IT dept was giving a presentation. Now if I hadn't witnessed this due to enforced participation I wouldn't have believed it. I walked into the room to be greeted by plaintive cries of "do you know anything about laptops?"


"Where do I plug my projector in?" remember this is someone who works in the IT Dept. Opening the panel at the back I plugged in projector and sat down.

"What about this?" She said holding up the power lead. Again I plugged it in and sat down.

"Do I need this?" She continued thrusting the comms lead in my direction. Repeat previous manouvre. And finally, and again this is someone from the IT dept,

"Where do I switch it on?"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Communing with imps

Daisy Duck had begged Seth not to take over any more boxes of books, bits of furniture and antediluvian sundries from the desks of librarians long-dead until they'd managed to sort themselves out after the panicky reopening. This afternoon Seth tools up with another vanload.

"What's this? I asked you not to bring any more yet."

"I'm really, really sorry, I've got to do it. T.Aldous' orders. He says you've no right to talk to me and that I've to do as he says because he's in charge not you."

The next time winter vomiting sickness hits the families of Dutch Bend I can see T.Aldous having to ring round to persuade people to do extra hours and put together a timetable for the five libraries Daisy ends up being responisble for (in lieu of the appointment of a Group Librarian to the post that's been vacant for three years).

General joy

I'm up to my ears in CIPFA stats; People's Network's going tits-up; I've got a thousand orders to roll over with no Procurement Librarian to share the burden and no possibility of using a batch rollover because of the way we do standing orders (my, they were fun, thank God Jimmy Huddersfield came in for a day gratis!)(I think he's crackers); Dutch Bend Library re-opened today after six weeks' closure (don't ask why re-open in a mad rush on a Thursday instead of letting staff do things properly and opening the following Monday); I'm climbing over boxes to get into my office because 20% of the year's new stock arrived in the past three weeks; I've been badgered about details of the moving of two libraries to new (crap) locations; we may or may not be moving to a new regional library system in the next month depending on somebody staying still for one moment and making a decision; and I'm trying to take up some of the MLA online reference offers by the deadlines despite not knowing whether or not there's any money for doing it. T.Aldous walks in and says:

"I've been worrying about Tench Road [closed since the beginning of January for repairs and it now turns out it'll be closed until the end of June]. If somebody was due to bring a book back the week the library closed and they brought it back to Tench Road when it re-opens then they'll just get four days' fines. If they bring it back to any other library then they'll get weeks' worth of fines. What will we do?"

"If they could bring the book back to any other library they could have done so any time since January. If they couldn't then there's not an issue."

"I'm just thinking: what would happen at the other libraries?"

We've only been doing things this way for sixteen years. We don't have enough problems as it is so he's casting about to invent some new ones.

I think my poker face must have deserted me. He left the office.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Plan view

In the space of half an hour Jim Lettuce and I find seven strategic plans for the library service for last financial year alone. Strangely enough, none of their outcomes include our being up shit creek, unable to open the doors without having to ask people to do extra hours with demoralised staff running round disguising the cracks like Preparation H on a cheap actress.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Please don't tell your friends...

All the staff from Dutch Bend turn up at Helminthdale as instructed by T.Aldous.

Julia rings down to Mary to ask if she's got anything for them to do as she can't cope with having so many staff upstairs in Lending.

It's clichéd to be cynical at Christmas

That's just what we need:

Frog and I have repaired to the Duck and Pullet for a pub lunch. We look out of the window: it's snowing.

Monday, April 03, 2006

My Fair Hound of the Baskervilles

"You need to think about changing the shelving sequence before you re-open on Thursday," T.Aldous tells Daisy Duck. This is six weeks after the library's closed, mind.

"What do you want?" asks Daisy.

"Consult staff and see what they think."

The staff are consulted and unanimously decide to stick with the status quo because they're all knackered and just want the place sorted before Thursday morning. Especially seeing as T.Aldous wants everyone up at Helminthdale on Tuesday afternoon as the heating will be off. (It was OK for them to all be working with no heating last week, mind). Daisy passes on the result of the consultation and she and her team get back to work.

For the next two hours T.Aldous wanders round like Banquo's ghost, muttering to each one she passes: "I don't know why you're putting those there. Now's the time to come up with a new shelving plan."

How nobody said: "sod off," I do not know.