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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Keep a twinkle in your eye

One of the consequences of T.Aldous' 'phone having been listed as the number for telephone renewals in the Phone Book of 1997 is that he has an excuse to have his 'phone permanently put through to his Secretary. Which means that everyone else has to take his calls because Tilly Floss, his Secretary, is never at her desk. Two of today's examples will illustrate this..

The Acquisitions team, still at half-strength, still desperately trying to catch up with the backlog of work created by their prodigious bit of end-of-year sensation, constantly being boggled by the ever-more nebulous answers to questions about their goals and work plans, also cop for most of the telephone receptionist work. During a particularly fraught hour, Noreen happened to pass the caretaker's room and there was Tilly, making notes in the community room booking diary.

"Couldn't you do that at your own desk?"

"No, it gets too busy to work there."

"How do you know?"

A bit later, Tilly's phone rings again. "Could somebody answer that for me please?" she shouts from the one and only desk on the whole floor that doesn't have a telephone. Altough there are eight other desks she could use for whatever it is she's doing, this particular desk is the one that does it best.

Earlier this year I had to complete a scoping document to see if any of our customer-facing staff should be moved to the new corporate call centre. It seems I successfully argued against any of our front-line staff's getting co-opted. I conveniently forgot Tilly's post in this review; I begin to wonder if that was a mistake.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What news of the Rialto?

The Greys are in control in Helminthdale in that they've got exactly the same number of seats as the previously-ruling Black/White coalition and as the Greys caused this year's budget crisis by vetoing last year's savings the coalition voted to pretend to be divided so that the Greys got lumbered with sorting out the mess. The new regime's immediate response is to have the budget review that they vetoed last year and to impose a jobs freeze. How this might or might not affect posts currently being advertised, including some of our more mature vacancies, who knows. As there's a jobs freeze every May and June in Helminthdale we're really not too fussed but it might provide yet another excuse for not getting on with the recruitment, whether or not the freeze has any effect.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ruby lips and eyes of pink

If you're managing a service or a process it always helps if you have some sort of grasp of the concept of cause and effect. In no particular order...

  • We don't have anybody available to deal with donated items as both the cataloguing and stock management posts are vacant.

  • Policy is still to accept donations as to do other might upset customers. Policy is that items may be put into stock if deemed suitable or else will be put into the booksale.

  • With libraries being closed for refurbishment or being emptied prior to moving to new premises there is no storage space anywhere in the borough.

  • With the huge backlog of unclassified non-fiction and boxes of stock for the attention of the non-existant stock manager there's no room at headquarters.

  • We need to withdraw about 60,000 items from stock to meet the public library standards in 2006/7, though T.Aldous is going around branches telling staff that they can't do any stock editing as it should be done by the non-existant stock manager.

  • A hard core of about twenty boxes of books have been in every booksale in libraries across the borough in the past three years.

  • Somebody who will remain nameless ordered a pile of furniture to spend up last year's budget and still hasn't decided where any of it's going.

A few members of staff have asked if we could stop taking donations for now so as not to add to the pile. Management group might discuss the idea if they get the time, if they get round to meeting, but until then it's business as usual.

"We'll have to do something about all these boxes that are cluttering up the libraries, they look a right mess. What would somebody think if they saw it all?"

asks our fearless leader.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Drunk as penguins

There's always someone worse off than yourself:

"It seemed pretty straightforward in theory, get each service point to run off a report and get them to act upon it. That was almost three years ago. Maybe it was naïve to set out instructions on a piece of paper, forward, demonstrate procedure to those in charge of the various areas, and expect thing to work.

"What do you mean you haven’t started doing the reports yet?"

"I asked on discovering one branch had far more than its far share of stock transiting in and out, being traced or claiming return.

"Well we haven’t had chance to read the procedure yet. We’ve been quite busy."

"It’s over two years since the procedure was sent out, what do you mean you haven’t had chance to read it yet?"

"Well when we get procedures we file them in a box until someone rings us and tells us we are starting to operate them."

"So you don’t use the neat yellow folder provided with a big label saying ‘Staff Manual’?"

"Yes. Once we have been rung and told the procedure has started we file things in there then."

"So how many procedures have you got in your Staff Manual?"

"Three, I think. The box we put them in while they are waiting is quite full though."

Naturally this prompted tirades in direction of appropriate Group Librarian.

"Do you know what those plonkers are doing?"

"I rarely know what they are doing, they have a unique method for everything. I tried to sort them out when I started this job, but have basically given up. They just do what they want anyway. I once did a stock exchange, or tried to, they unpacked the boxes and re-shelved the books before they left the branch. When we were on a manual system they decided one year they weren’t going to put up the fines. They even put a sign in the window saying ‘Cheapest Fines in the District’. So if you think you have a hope of getting them to run a report every now and again, well think again."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Further details on enquiry sent under plain wrapper

I've been asked why I spent a week at the beginning of April knocking myself out to get stock and circulation statistics for CIPFA when staff have been used to doing manual shelf counts for years. Well...

A colleague in another authority once referred to a branch under his charge as a "rogue" branch. Suggestion was that everything that went wrong in the world, or anything happening without logical explanation, could be traced back to this single epicentre of the bizarre. It didn’t matter that a problem apparently resided elsewhere, after a few phone calls the true source could be discovered in this one location, this one insoluble problem. The real world, he claimed, ceased to be as the threshold of this particular building was crossed, and no matter how many times he explained a procedure it was always followed by strange conversations.

"Does this new procedure start next week or now?"

"This new procedure started fifteen years ago everywhere else."

"Oh well, I’m not sure we have the right stationary, the van hasn’t been yet this week has it?"

Worse still every instruction was followed by a question as to whether a red pen or blue pen was required for the task.

For a while this notion was lost in the mists of my mind, until I came to the conclusion that if a couple of my branches just happened to be Anne Robinsoned off as weakest links, I would have about fifty percent less of the proverbial fire fighting to do. This I considered to be more than my share of the rogue branch syndrome.

For example, a simple system report detailing which branches were most proficient at sending items into permanent transit, that is they either left or arrived at location months ago yet still carried the transit status, would highlight a disproportionate percentage at branch X.

Alternatively take an overview of the items with a "cannot trace for reservation" status and even the most myopic individual couldn’t fail to note that branch Y was doing something peculiar when 58 items were so set on the same day.

Of course explanation for these happenstances there is none as "we didn’t do anything, I’m not sure we know how to change the item status".

And then along came CIPFA. Now we all know that those who decide what form CIPFA returns take have a few beers, get drunk, take a few risks with exotic fungi and then decide what they are going to introduce as subtly different this year. A challenge they would probably call it, a bloody pain I would say. Previously well thought out solutions to the enigmas of times past become redundant. Add to this the non-obvious changes they make, the ones they hope we won’t notice until all forms have been completed, at which point it is blatantly clear figures don’t balance and you have to go back to the beginning. The cocktail formed by Mr. CIPFA and Mrs. Rogue-Branch produces son Molotov.

So come early March last year a carefully worded memo to all branches outlining the necessary procedures winged it’s way towards the unexpectant, prompting the inevitable from Rogue Branches.

"Do I have to count the books on loan?"

"Have you any idea how you are going to get the stats off the system to do that?"


"Well in that case how did you expect to count the items on loan?"

"I was going to use last years figures and alter them a bit."

"So we’ve paid a third of a million quid for a system which can count these totals and you want to make the figures up?"

"No one has complained before. And what do I do with the form once I have completed it? Oh and does it matter if I fill in the bits you have asked for with a red pen, or should I use blue?"

The result of this is that you discover the figures for rogue branch do not in any way match those of the last fully manual count, and you then spend ages trying to find reasons why within the system. Mind you, if they have been making up figures for the last twenty odd years is it any wonder there is no conformity between the two? And for reasons I will never understand it is Systems Librarian who has to explain why the system isn’t producing accurate data!

Rogue branch then have to cover themselves and find any excuse to knock the system which has mysteriously taken 2,000 books off their shelves, "and heaven knows what it has done to our issue total". This last because suddenly what was once a seemingly thriving centre of activity, with apparent staff shortages, becomes a much over-staffed establishment because someone else is creating more accurate measurements of performance than the previous imaginary.

You were asking...?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

When Yuba played the Rumba on the tuba down in Cuba

I think I may have opened the floodgates last week:

Issuing A Book
(Country and Western, arr. Grainger (not))

I'm issuing a book,
Issuing a book.
My barcode reader's busted
And my date stamp's run amuck.
It's going to be half seven before everybody's gone
And I'm issuing a book
With my high heels on.

There's only me on here today.
You're the thirtieth person I've heard say:
"Hello dearie, where is everyone?"
Two of us retired last year;
One girl's off, she's feeling queer;
If I were allowed leave then there'd be none.
I came in at the crack of dawn
To put the new stock out so that
Customers could come and help themselves.
But, alas, it's plain to see
That the bestsellers from TV
Are resolutely sticking to the shelves.

I'm issuing a book,
Issuing a book.
A borrower wants Kafka but
I think he's out of luck.
Our closest is Jean Plaidy
Or Henry Williamson.
And I'm issuing a book
With my high heels on.

Not in Kansas any more, Toto

A member of staff who will go nameless (so long as the agreed amount arrives in my secret Swiss bank account) was observed clicking her heels together and muttering in the staff room. After a couple of minutes of this she gave up and sat down at the table, a picture of dejection.

"It worked in 'The Wizard of Oz'," she said.

There were consoling murmurs from her colleagues. Suddenly one piped up:

"Perhaps it's like Tinkerbell in Peter Pan. Perhaps we all have to believe in it for it to work."

Which is why half a dozen members of staff could be found sitting around the table with their eyes closed, fingers crossed and heels clicking merrily together as they chanted

"There's no place like home."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings and right down the back of your suit

Uh-ho Chungo! June is Surestart Month. I hope we survive it unscathed. This is the month where the costs and benefits of Surestart are both magnified to the max. We have been doing some wonderful things with Surestart projects and funding and it shows both in the statistics and in the faces of the kids in the photographs. The down side is that it is so narrowly focused geographically as well as topically. What happens is that lots and lots of things for pre-school children and their parents/carers are happening in three of our libraries -- often crowding out activities for other parts of the library community at those libraries -- and bugger all gets done anywhere else save weekly-ish under-fives' story times at half a dozen places when we can manage it. And of course the Surestart project workers can forget that they're not the only game in town and their high priorities aren't always ours, which leads to occasional tensions. (Of course, that last is always true of any specialist service: I've sometimes had to point out to our people that it's no good shouting at the IT department when we're panicking about a forthcoming inspection if they've got other departments panicking about Ofsted and the Social Services Inspectorate at the same time.)

During Surestart month the gulf grows deeper, with so many things going on at one library in particular that the staff there feel like unwanted lodgers. I can only sympathise and put a superhuman amount of effort into not winding staff up any further (which would be the work of a moment as in an earlier life I lived and worked with social workers manquées and find them a couple of orders of magnitude more irritating than professional librarians -- it's amazing how often it's the people in "caring professions" who are happiest to plough their own furrows regardless of other people's feelings).

With a bit of luck all will be well and nobody will get silly or prima-donna-ish and the libraries and their customers will reap the undoubted benefits of Surestart activities without alienating anybody in the process. I know Frog's spent the past few weeks going out of his way to smooth ruffled karmas in the hopes of calming everyone down before the programme starts. Fingers crossed he's succeeded!

Monday, May 22, 2006

You're sick while you're dancing

Poor old Frog's back from holiday, the highlight of which was a bout of bronchitis. "How are you feeling, old man?" I asked.

"I could do with a relapse,"

he said as cheerfully as any man could who'd come back in to work to find that he's got until 4.30pm to create and finalise an entire summer holiday activity programme from scratch.

Friday, May 19, 2006

As slippery as a well-buttered ice rink

I don't believe this exchange and I was a party to it:

"When will we be getting the other online reference databases?"
"When will you be telling me whether we've enough money to buy them?"
"Which will we be buying?"

"It depends on how much money there is to spend."

"No, that really won't do. I need more information than that."

"I have provided a list of the databases I think we should buy if we had £10k, £15k, £20k or £25k. And I included all the details of what jobs they did, how much they cost, the licensing regimes and contacts for ordering, etc. Could we work from that?"

"Can you get me more details?"

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Enterprises of great pith

Dagmar Braithwaite again. Obviously not as busy as she would like us to believe.

"What's the point of only transferring small numbers of books? I thought we were going to be transferring all the stock around. Mind you, I don't want any rubbish from Dutch Bend. Any time they send me any of their books I always make sure to send them the same number of my books, otherwise I won't be able to fit everything onto the shelves."

I now have enough experience of the inanities of our stock editing processes and procedures not to suggest that she get shut of some of the old stock on her shelves. I limit myself to the following:
  • We only got the system this week

  • There's only one of me

  • Mary and I are planning on building a wholesale rotation of large-print books a.s.a.p.
Not good enough.

"Well, I don't see the point," says Dagmar.

No. Probably not.

Junk mail addressed to the dead

To my utter surprise, a stock rotation add-on to the library management system is signed, sealed and delivered despite Arthur Sixpence having put the funding for it up as a saving on 2005/6 (he was probably so busy shilly-shallying about it that he missed the deadline and the funding was brought forward by default). So I'm having a play to establish the mechanisms and sketch out some procedures. This involves fifty popular science books from one of the travelling collections which has been sitting in a box by the clock machine since September waiting to be moved on by the non-existant Stock Librarian. I split it up into ten piles of five and allocate each pile to one of the branch libraries in the system and send them on their way, with a note saying: "please put these in non-fiction; they're being used to trial automated stock rotation. I'll be writing some notes soon, once I have you'll get a copy."

'Phone call from Dagmar Braithwaite at Doggedly Library:

"What's the point of sending me all these [five!!!] science books? They'll never go out here. Science books never go out here."

"You've got no science books. Could that be the reason?"

"We've not got any because they'll never go out."

I try to explain as diplomatically as I can that even if these books don't go out they're different enough to make it obvious that fresh stock's coming into the library and it might cater for unvoiced needs within her borrowers.

"It's always useful to test the market," I say.

I don't say: "I'm not your librarian so you can't bully me into only providing you with family sagas, true crime and cookery books for your old ladies." And I didn't point out that the analysis I did when I was number-crunching for CIPFA demonstrated that 55% of the library's issues were to ladies over the age of 60. Instead, I appeal to her sporting instinct and there's now a fiver riding on whether or not we get three issues out of those five books in the next three months.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

An expert on trills and rolls

My comments about library closures, or not, prompts a colleague to send me the following ditty.

(after Randy Scouse Git, apologies to Dolenz)

It's an interesting library
And it's mine, all mine,
With my 1950's bookstock
And my issues in decline.
I've a deal and chipboard counter
That we bought for one-and-three
And some dodgy old electrics that blow
When I make my tea.

They tried to close this library once
When Attlee was PM.
Some folks came in to use it
But they never came again.
We thought we'd put computers in
To try and drum up trade.
The public came in sparsely,
Oh, but such demands they made:

"I know all this is free.
"Why isn't it made for me?
"When I change all the settings
"Why can't you just leave it be?"

Now we've loaded all the plug-ins
And we've locked it all down tight.
A clever bit of scripting
Cleans the cache out every night.
The daily filter updates
Try to lock out the porn.
And the man with twitchy eyebrows
Gives us ire and fire and scorn:

"How dare you censor me!
"I'll choose what I will see!
"Folk died in two world wars for my
"Online obscenity!"

"I know this is all free.
"Why isn't it set for me?
"What care I who else uses it?
"Why can't you leave it be?
"How dare you censor me! "
"I'll see what I will see!
"I've put nudes on the desktop
"'Cos that's what I like to see.
"It's public, so it's free
"And this stuff belongs to me.
"I'm changing all the settings
"And you'll damn well let it be!

(It's an interesting library
And it's mine, all mine.
With my 1950's bookstock
And my issues in decline
They tried to close this library down once
When Attlee was PM
Some folks came in to use it
But they never came again.)

The donkey's pissed on the strawberries


I've just found out why my attempts to publicise the web catalogue have been spiked... T.Aldous told Marketing to hold fire and neither could be bothered to inform me that this had been done. I only know now by piecing together chance remarks from three different people. Like a fool I go and ask himself what's going on.

"We can't publicise the web catalogue at the moment because people can't reserve books on the PAC at Catty and I don't want to provoke any complaints."

I wouldn't mind hitting an occasional brick wall: this constant spiralling into bewildering mists does my head in.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I'll be OK if I ever have to entertain wasps

To prevent thefts we've put most of our public PCs into chunky metal safes. Two unprotected PCs' going walkies from Senebene Library the other week illustrates the need. This is not without its problems, especially when the time comes to try and sort out a problem with the hardware. There is a definite knack to getting the safes open and virtually all the front-line staff have agreed that I'm the only person on the books what has it. Which is usually fine, if inconvenient, though it makes a splendid excuse for getting out of the office when nerves are particularly frayed. Today it isn't fine as I seem to have lost the knack at Noddy, neatly snapping the key in the lock at the first turn. There was only me and the PC guy there so I can't even blame the staff for distracting me. Luckily the bloke who makes the safes was very understanding and only took the piss a little bit.

Monday, May 15, 2006

No matter who you vote for, the government always gets in

The dust's finally settled after the elections and the upshot is that nobody's actually in charge so everybody's going to work together. This has been the official result of every local election for the past couple of decades, which means that every election ends in confusion because nobody can guess which way the mavericks are going to jump and leads to confusion as the new "everybody working together" dismantles the workings of the last "everybody working together" to make sure it makes its stamp on the scheme of things.

A particular issue this time has been "saving libraries," which translates as "no library closures unless expedient and in someone else's ward" but doesn't translate into any of the additional resources necessary to bring all our buildings up to a habitable standard, let alone staffing, etc. Which has also been the result of elections for the past couple of decades...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Waits and measures

Mary's been told to come up with stock procurement costs so she's going about it in our usual way: including as much as possible that could make us under-perform in an over-zealous effort not to look as if we're fiddling the figures. So far the costs include:

  • Acquisitions staff salaries, including those of the two posts that have been vacant for more than a year-and-a-half; and Jimmy Huddersfield's post which has been vacant for eight months;

  • The cost of the furniture and equipment;

  • The maintenance costs of the ordering software;

  • Stationery costs;

  • The cost of having librarians and other staff choosing books for stock.

So far so justifiable. The point at which I departed from the exercise was when she had Seth measuring the floor space used by the section. Why? So that she could work out how much of the service charge we pay the shopping centre to include in the costs: if it's x% of the library's floor area then it's x% of the service charge.

"Why not include a proportion of the Chief Executive's salary?" I asked.

There was some quibbling as to whether or not to include the floor area used by the half of the double-sided bookshelves holding the donations that need to be looked at by the non-existant Stock Librarian. The crowning glory came when she instructed Seth to measure half of the office I used to share with Jimmy. This involved him stretching a tape measure across the office umpteen times until Mary was finally convinced that they were measuring the correct area.

"In what way has this office been involved in stock procurement since Jimmy's retirement?" I asked.

By this stage I was getting truculent:

"You'll need to subtract half of the pathway through the section that I use for egress from my office," I pointed out.

"We don't need that sort of detail," replied Mary.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

How many pies can a porpoise poise on purpose?

This was floated by me at close of play tonight...

I've been checking up on the targets for this autumn's satisfaction survey. T.Aldous has committed us to:

Found the book they wanted: 94%
Found the information they wanted: 93%
General satisfaction: 95%

Is this achievable?

I looked around at all the books that hadn't been catalogued yet because Jimmy Huddersfield went and retired after only giving three months' formal notice. And all the books in boxes waiting to be transferred to other libraries by the non-existant Stock Librarian. And the chaotic state of Helminthdale Central where the priority has had to be "try and keep the doors open with the staff left after taking into account vacancies; sickness due to stress; and covering vacant posts at branches." Then I think of the depth and range of the in-house staff training on enquiry and information work and the library assistants dumped on the reference library desk at a moment's notice to make up numbers. I do a quick Google search and have a look at the actual figures achieved by a dozen library authorities, including some that we're always told are red hot good. They average out:

Found the book they wanted: 77%
Found the information they wanted: 75%
General satisfaction: 94%

Do I think it's achievable? What do you think, chums?

One golden spoon of ten shekels

Last week, Daisy Duck asked T.Aldous if it was OK to buy some new teaspoons for the staff room out of petty cash.

"I've a better idea," said T.Aldous, "I can buy some from Connor's Hardware. They'll be cheaper and they have nice gilt edges."

This morning a small package arrived at Dutch Bend. Daisy opened the package: there were ten new cheap teaspoons. With nice gilt edges.

And a memorandum:


From: Chief Librarian
To: Daisy Duck, Dutch Bend Library
Date: 10th May 2006
Subject: Teaspoons


These are the teaspoons I promised.

Please make sure that they are put on the library inventory.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Three times in the past fortnight Gypsy Cream Library's telephone has been out of order. Three times BT have come along and strung a new line between the library and the telegraph pole at the corner of the road. This time we get a solution to the mystery...

"Oi! What do you think you're doing?"

shouts a workman from the building site next door (they're putting up some neo-Georgian executive dovecotes)

"I've just cut that down!"

It turns out that the telephone line was in the way of one of their gantry trucks so they cut it down ad lib. Needless to say, the bills for the reconnection fees will be going to the builders, though we suspect that they are only subject to law west of the Pecos.


Advice to gentlemen readers of this blog: if you ever give a lady a willy made of seaside rock, don't hang around to watch her having a go at it with a toffee hammer!

The veneer's peeling off my dressing table

Reality bites... Day five of the "trying to get the OK to buy British Standards Online" game. None of us in the Library Service are allowed to sign licence agreements. I ring one of the most helpful people I know, who tries his best:

"As far as I know, Fiery Jack's the only person in the authority who's allowed to sign licence agreements. If you send it to him he'll deal with it... oh dear... it occurs to me that there's a complication. It might have to go to the IT Partnership [outsourced as of last month], someone spent a lot of last year transferring licences from the authority to the partnership. I'm afraid you're going to have to talk to them. I'm really sorry."

My heart sinks. I have a nasty feeling that this may end up involving Arthur Sixpence, in which case I'll need to buy a sleeping bag and an elephant gun.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Just like any other man except more so

Me and Frog have a day out in Blackpool for a meeting.

"It's alright for some!"

said the Library Assistants, so we promised to pick up some rock for them. A couple of blocks back from the library we were visiting we spotted a rock shop and popped in. Amidst all the usual suspects -- giant humbugs; rock dummies; and those big red lollies with the cat's face on them -- they had some rock willies. Exactly the thing!

Actually, to call them rock willies is to understate the intimidating dimensions of the things. I spent a few moments looking for toes, or at least fingers. Anyway, we bought them to take back to the library. Only after we had parted with our money did we spot that purchases were placed into clear polythene carrier bags.

Still, we got a bit of space on the train back home.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A smile, a song and a boa constrictor

book cover: teach yourself tantic sex For some reason, whenever something odd happens people ask me or Frog if we're to blame. The latest example is somebody's reserving a copy of "Teach Yourself Tantric Sex" for Deidre at Senebene Library, who's not been well lately. I proferred my alibis, as usual, which weren't believed, as usual, and ditto Frog, as usual.

What's unusual here, for me at any rate, is that there is a book called "Teach Yourself Tantric Sex" and that we have two copies in stock (at Catty and Dutch Bend, the latter making a sort of sense). How the hell do you teach yourself tantric sex? I suspect this is one I don't want to think about lest it joins the ranks of three-in-the-morning mysteries.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Palpable proof of God's existence a posteriori

A colleague sends me a picture of the New Model Library Building planned by the council:

new model library -- Shit Creek paddle store

Friday, May 05, 2006

Tha can carry a duck up t'mountain but tha can't mek it quack

Talking to a colleague in IT support about our People's Network computers. He's perplexed:

"They're all the same model and make of PC. They've all got the same software on them. In fact, they're all copies of the same image, so they should all be identical clones. But they're not, are they?"

"No," I reply.

"I can't understand it. Anyway, I've taken the picture of the bloke in his vest off the desktop on PC1 again. And I've turned the sound down on 2 and 5 again. And I've put the Flash plug-in back onto 6 again. And when I'm logged on I haven't been able to replicate that thing on PC 10 where the Word document's in portrait orientation right up to the point where it gets printed: how the hell it does that I don't know, it only happens to some of your customers. We've been talking about this back at the office: what would you say to our blitzing the whole lot one evening?"

"Fire bombing's a bit extreme isn't it?"

"That's not what I meant but I'll take it back as an idea."

Like walking through Alaska in your underwear

I begin to understand why I want to shout at T.Aldous all the time. And, as usual, it makes distance to make things clear...

There's been a cock-up in the "Hooray for Literacy" campaign being run by the Young Persons Directorate. For some reason their publicity states that the library's doing a story time workshop next month despite the fact that nobody's asked the Library Service if it can be done. T.Aldous approaches Frog:

"Have you seen the Hooray for Literacy booklet?"

"No, has it come out yet?"

"It says that you're doing on story time workshop."

"Does it? First I know of it. When?"

"Have a look..."

"Well it won't be me doing it: it's not my Saturday and I'm on leave that week anyway."

"Nancy's got no right to do this without talking to you first. We can't not do this, we need somebody to do it."

"Well, I've got a meeting with..."

"Who can we ask to do it?"

"I've a meeting with..."

And so on for the next fifteen minutes, with T.Aldous rotating between "Nancy's got no right" and "who can we ask" with scarce a breath between. Until...

"I know! We could ask one of the SureStart workers to do it? Could they do it?"

"As I was saying, I've a meeting with them on Tuesday, I'll ask one of them to do it."

And there it is in a nutshell: when you hit a difficulty and need to sort it out urgently do you want to try and sort it out or do you want to listen to your boss going on and on and on about whose fault it is?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Your rosebuds are numbered

Being a bit paranoid about the people counters I was paying particular attention to the one in Pottersbury Road Library when I popped in this morning. I suppose it's just as well, but I'm not convinced. I was irritated, but not surprised, to see that the little red light didn't flash and the count didn't move when I walked past, nor when I wafted various body parts past the sensor.

"Looks like it's buggered."

I suggested with all the technical gravitas I could muster.

"Coo, look at that! Should it do that?" Says an elderly lady.

The numbers were spinning round like a fruit machine.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

How many fingers am I holding up?

That's just Jim dandy that is: the people counters that have been installed in all our libraries have no moving parts, but we found last week that they can stick somehow (!!!) and three weeks' worth of stats for Noddy are lost forever; now we find that resetting the counter by pulling the plug isn't reliable either. T.Aldous discovers that giving the counter a vigorous shake and calling it "you sod" seems to do the trick.

"I didn't want to buy this model," he tells me.

For once I sympathise.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

An old man going bonkers in the rain

I'm obviously in need of a holiday myself: it's taking me all my powers not to shout at T.Aldous and the strain is killing me. And in fairness, the man himself isn't being particularly irritating or stupid. If he pops his head through the door I want to shout at him. If he says hello I want to shout at him. If he says thank you for sorting a problem out I want to shout at him. I just can't cope with his "I can't do anything without the use of huge doses of adrenalin so the merest thing has to be A Major Problem that needs to be explained over and over again because It's Very Complicated" way of doing things. (Or not, as the case may be.)

Today we did hit a major problem caused by the very complicated procedures forced on us by the corporate support team's new Working Nimbly To Achieve Results Flexibly régime which means that none of us in the library service are allowed to actually buy anything that isn't a book and that we have to allow at least one week to get the OK to order anything and be glad about it. By the time T.Aldous had talked us both through to the inevitable impasse for the fourth time I was crawling the walls. As soon as he left the office I had to slink into the computer room, sit cross-legged on the floor and take lots of deep breaths to try and centre myself. I'm not sure that what I'm trying to do here is worth the pains in my chest.