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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

They left when my dog got drunk

It is with great sadness that I hear that they've closed the jazz club next to Sheep City. Whilst not being up to much musically it featured in more divorce cases than any other building in town, including the Town Hall and the knocking shop on Creamery Lane. It's best remembered as being the best way of finding out who Shagger Noakes was jiggling about with lately. Famously, one night a certain lady, the worse for drink, staggered to her feet and addressed the crowd:

"I thought I'd best make it clear, for all of you who listen to gossip, that I am Shagger Noakes' mistress!"

There was an astonished hush, which was broken by a voice from the crowd:

"No you're not! I'm his mistress!"

"No! I am!"

"What's going on here? I thought I was!"

My informant laughed himself silly when he told me about it.

"Imagine 'Spartacus' in action slacks!"

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The naming of parts

A colleague sends me an interesting link to a report about a library that's selling naming rights to rooms, etc. to sponsors.

This appeals very much to us. Already there have been four suggestions as to The Paxo Room, with suggestions that the occupant could be sponsored by Preparation H.

Playing the loyalty card 2

T.Aldous to new bod:

"You'll find that Helminthdale Library Service is a good jumping-off point to better things."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Standing on a peak in Dariae

Staff at Milkbeck Library are peeved: T.Aldous has decided that they can't use the newly-refurbished upstairs community room for children's events. "There have been fatalities," he tells them.

"Have there been fatalities?" I ask them.

"Next time he goes up them stairs."

Monday, August 28, 2006

You always pass failure on the way to success

T.Aldous is having one of his habitual panics about issue figures. There's legitimate cause for concern: the figures in some libraries are alarming. Unfortunately, T.Aldous' preferred method of addressing the crisis is to go round to libraries and say: "you need to improve your issue figures, they're awful," then he pisses off. As you can see, his motivational models lean heavily towards constructive development and positive reinforcement of rewarding behaviours. Attempts to increase issue by simple means like: "before we put these CDs in the book sale can we put them out for free loan," and "is it OK for me to set up a reading group?" are generally frustrated. Which is why some of the cannier/bolshier staff just do things and wait for the flak if and when Our Beloved Leader finds out about it, by which time any attempts to revert back to the status quo result in Letters Of Complaint by the public which are A Bad Thing. This, of course, is a mixed blessing as it's a bugger to try and provide any standardised services across the Borough. "Why don't staff consult the Staff Manual?" asks the unwary reader. "Go and sit in a corner with a wet flannel on your neck," is the considered response.

Anyway up, back to issue figures. Being a team player I suggested that we need to be more aggressive in our marketing of the Lending Library services in the Borough. For some reason my suggestion wasn't viewed favourably...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Dress for success

Norbert Spudulike is sporting his "Most Disgruntled Staff Member" T-shirt. He's working up to wearing it to one of T.Aldous' staff meetings.
badge: I was on leave that week
Both Frog and I have been having to address alarums and excursions at home lately otherwise we'd have finished creating and distributing the "I was on leave that week" badges to all staff.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Providence protects children and idiots

Frog's in a hurry: he's just been told that he needs to be in Preston for a meeting about meeting the needs of teenagers in care.

"T.Aldous has signed us up for meeting the proposed new standard on service delivery," he tells us.

"That's surprisingly ambitious of him. It's not like him to be held to account for anything," I replied.

"He thought it was a training course."

I'm almost as surprised to find T.Aldous arranging training for anybody.

A bell rings in the back of my head:

"Shouldn't you be finalising the arrangements for tomorrow's 'Back to School Day'?"

The wan smile I got in reply tells us everything we could need to know.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Pub lunch at The Millipede & Clogger to celebrate Lippy's birthday. It isn't Lippy's birthday but we needed the excuse to escape the confines of our captivity. We'd arranged beforehand for the landlady to make us a cheese & onion pie (it's an occasional special that's not been on the blackboard for a while). As a thank you present we bought her a wooden duck to add to her vast collection (the snug's officially called "The Duck Room"). She was moved and touched and has decided to call it Rommel in our honour.

Let the good times roll

It's distressing to think how many of the entries in this blog involve toilet functions. Here's another one...

They've replaced the bog-standard (pun intended) toilet rolls in the staff toilets with a new-fangled thing that looks like a wall-mounted dalek that takes a roll of tissue the size of a small pouffe (no names, no pack drill). The idea is that the ginormous rolls provide a considerable economy of scale, such as to delight the council tax payers of the borough.

I would hope that the cost-benefit analysis would include the cost of the new kit in comparison with the old nail on a stick. And the fact that you end up folding the tissue four-fold to account for the fact that it's about as durable as wet rice paper. Oh, and the staff time involved in blindly groping around with your arm up the orifice while you try and find the end of the roll. I'm told this last is exactly like the first gynæcology practical at medical school. I'm happy to take my informant's word for it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Go out and buy proper prunes

Tales from the staff room. Lippy's annoyed:

"There I was, stark naked and doing my yoga exercises in the bedroom when he walks in, slaps me on the arse and says whatever it is I'm wearing, it needs ironing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


This is good. The Reference Library's now passing difficult enquiries down to the acquisitions team to deal with. I take over one of the 'phone calls and discover that the customer just wants to make sure that she's filled in the Community Organisation Database form correctly and would we want some copies of the Natural History Society's Autumn Programme for the reference library?

Obviously far too difficult for the beggars.

Looking five pounds lighter in his Cyril Lord wig

About ninety percent of the incoming "work" email is spam and phishing messages. I find it distressing to keep getting email messages asking me if I need gentlemen's medications to solve erection problems and give me a manhood that "she" would thank me for.

I find it distressing because my memory's so bad these days I can't remember whether or not I have a problem.

[Editor's note: "She" = the cat's mother.]

Monday, August 21, 2006

What's another year?

Staff at Dutch Bend tell me that poor old Mr. Bunskins is extremely ill.

"We're hoping that T.Aldous replies to his nice letter while he's still alive," I'm told.

If I'm so bad why don't they just take me away?

A comment from one of the IT guys:

"Your problem, Kevin, is that you're too damned polite."

Interesting. His boss made an official complaint about my being aggressive.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

You can't do the things with a goat that you can with a Sopwith Camel

My turn to do stock selection (everyone else is on holiday or off sick). I buy a copy of a book on body-piercing for Noddy Library. It'll give the old biddies on the committee something to think about!

Friday, August 18, 2006

The stuff that dreams are made on

There must be a charabanc arrived...

Frog's on the enquiry desk. He's just had a rather rough-looking customer come in with a question. [A quick note here: the rough-looking folk are usually really pleasant customers. If you ever see a club blazer or a pearl brooch you just know you're in for a shit time of it.] Anyway, this chap's question:

"I keep having these dreams about teeth. I keep dreaming they're falling out. What does it mean? What does it mean?"

Frog takes him over to the section in non-fiction where they find the books on dreams and dream analysis. He picks one up, checks to see that "teeth" are included and passes it to the chap.

"Here you are."

"I'm not so good with me reading. Can you read it out for us?"

"Err.. OK. It says here that dreaming about your teeth falling out is a sign that you're worrying about impotence and a loss of virility."

"By gum! That's exactly right, that's me to a 'T.' Thanks mate, that's brilliant!"

And off he toddled.

We've 'ad 'em all here you know

Lippy's on the enquiry desk (she's usually on the Housebound van). Her first customer sets the tone for the rest of the day:

"Have you got Big Breasts And Wide Hips?"

"Not since me diet, no."

It turns out that the customer was a "student of biology" and that there was a book of that name in the library catalogue. Checking to be on the safe side, Lippy found out that there really was, but unfortunately it was in adult fiction, not non-fiction.

I shouldn't be surprised by anything that's on the shelves of public libraries. Especially after the Regional Library Assistant successfully got hold of a copy of the book about the chap who wraps himself up in clingfilm for sexual excitement.

With pictures.

And a bad tattoo.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I want to be a cowboy's sweetheart

Felicity's been covering at Helminthdale for a few days and has been receiving nothing but grief from T.Aldous since she started. She finally snapped this morning and cornered him by the photocopier:

"I've been having nothing but snide remarks off you all week. What have I managed to do so wrong so quickly?"

"You're too sensitive Felicity. But seeing as you're asking, I've not been impressed by your attitude, You didn't even look at me in the staff room, let alone smile."

Felicity's face was a picture.

"Must be love," I said.

She went white:

"Not even in jest," she hissed.

I wonder if every library authority uses back-copies of the "Bunty" comic as a human resource manual.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Have you had an accident in your underpants and it wasn't your fault?

Poor old Frog. Up to his gills and he gets stuff like this...

This morning T.Aldous told him that he'd just had an urgent job sprung on him. (Public service notice: every job T.Aldous dumps on people has been sprung on him at the last minute. By people who have spent weeks ringing him or emailing him and leaving messages asking him to ring back. We know: we're the people who have to answer T.Aldous' 'phone.)

"The council's having a "back to school" day next week and we've been asked to do something for it. Can we?"

"I can certainly do a display in the window. We've got posters and things and I can put together a "these are what your parents read in their schooldays" display with some of the junior reserve stock."

"Good. I'll leave it with you then."

Imagine his surprise when he found out this afternoon that he's also doing a storytime, a word search and a competition with prizes. He was slightly bitter:

"The winners can have the book tokens for the Easter Egg competition. If I'm allowed to buy them."

Keep your sunny side up

T.Aldous tells us that Tench Lane will be re-opening for business next week "come Hell or high water."

So naturally it pisses down for three days straight and the rain shorts out the telephone...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Secret Origins: How I became a systems administrator

The road of the systems administrator is long and hard and once trodden cannot be left. Many are the ways of joining the road: some were bitten by a radioactive computer bug at a Library Resources Exhibition; others were rocketed to Earth from the planet Emelae; yet others took a mysterious serum that turned them into shield-slinging sentinels of librarianship. This is how it happened to me…

It may be hard to believe now but once I was but a callow youth, barely a stripling, in fact I’d hardly ever even stripled (it was frowned upon in my reform school) selling newspapers on a street corner in the rough side of town. One day I was approached by a strange man in a raincoat who had me follow him to a disused subway station in a part of town I didn’t know. Pausing only to write Max Clifford’s ’phone number on the back of my hand I did as he asked. We entered the station and picked our way down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs was a huge chamber, as unlike any subway station as you could imagine. It was clean and well-lit. Along one wall were statues of the Seven Deadly Sins of Librarianship:

  • Noisy Children;

  • Overdue Books;

  • Reference Enquiries;

  • New Shelving;

  • Automated Reservations; and

  • Accurate Numbers.

We walked the length of the chamber to find an old man sitting on a huge stone throne, a copy of the Ecclesiastae by Erasmus hanging above his head by a thread.

"My name is immaterial", he said. "Fred Immaterial. You have been chosen to receive great gifts my son. Yours will be the gift of Systems Administration!"

At which point there was a flash of lightning which cut the thread and before I could move the old man was crushed by the huge tome. Horrified I rushed over, expecting to find a mangled body and perhaps a wallet and a spare set of teeth. Amazingly, there was nothing there. I stood perplexed for a moment or two and then was startled by a sound at my side. There stood a ghostly representation of the old man. He spoke:

"The gifts of Systems Administration are yours. These are they:

  • "You will spend many years carrying boxes to and fro, packing and unpacking computer equipment. Stacking the boxes up when you receive them. Unstacking them to get the delivery notes and stacking them back up again. Unstacking them and shifting them out of the way of the complaining masses and stacking them back up again in the most inconvenient places imaginable. For this you will need the strength of a Buffalo.

  • "You will also need the wisdom of an Owl. Not least because you’ll be thashing about in the dark most of the time.

  • "For problem-solving you will need the tenacity of the Limpet, especially when you realise that most of your problems will have two legs and be paid more than you are.

  • "Come to that you may as well have the mental acuity of the Limpet as well otherwise you’ll run a mile before taking on the job.

  • "You will need to be able to simultaneously hold the ’phone, write notes with a pen, use a keyboard, unpack a box and clean the gunge off the insides of a mouse, gifts given to you by the Octopus.

  • "Oh, and you may as well have this Xylophone; it’s been cluttering up my attic for years."

There was another flash of lightning and the old man’s words appeared inscribed on the wall before me.

"Go on, Billy, say the word!"

And I said the word. And I am now a systems administrator. And I say the word three or four times every bloody day.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A kettle talks

T.Aldous has been to Catty for a meeting with branch library staff to wind them up about the job evaluation process. On his return he tells Mary about it.

"I was parking in the Duck's car park when Pansy's car arrived. She'd given Beryl a lift to Catty. You should have seen them when they saw me, ooh the scowls! Yet when they came up when I was waiting to be let into the library they were all smiles. Two-faced sods!"

Ugg ugga boo ugga

T.Aldous's solution to the problem with the people counters is to issue instructions to staff that each morning they should take a note of the number displayed on the front of the counters. It doesn't take a lot of thought to realise that if the counter isn't recording visitor figures the number isn't going to change.

I get a message from Senebene Library:


Do I have to keep writing down the number on the people counter every day? I'm getting fed up of writing 1559. These numbers are rubbish aren't they?



Do as you're told, it's character building. You know, and I know, that the day after you pack it in he'll be on your neck for the numbers. The whole thing's crap, just like everything else about working here.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

O Lord make my enemies ridiculous

As if to add insult to injury at Dutch Bend the lad himself tells them in the staff meeting:

"Catty received a really nice letter praising staff for the service there. I forgot to bring it with me, otherwise you could have had a look at it."

Somebody piped up:

"When you're hunting it down do you think to could have a look for the letter Mr. Bunskins sent you praising us?"

Friday, August 11, 2006

I'll repeat that...

A gentleman has been found in the children's library at Catty with his flies open and salacious material on the people's network terminal.

It's his second offence in a week and staff want to ban him from using the computers (and ideally from using the children's library!) T.Aldous insists that this cannot be done for legal reasons without the proper evidence. T.Aldous' standard of proof is so rigorous as to be beyond the limits of CSI (though if Marg Helgenberger does want to pop around in one of those T-shirts I would be a very happy man).

The focus shifts... instead of our taking action to persuade this pervert to behave himself we're now having a witch hunt to find out why the filtering system let through some naughty pictures. On my desk I find a note to this effect in T.Aldous' fair hand. Mary discretely removes the copy of The Children Act I put on T.Aldous' desk before the idiot comes back from lunch.

False dawn

It's taken years of trying but I think I've finally got T.Aldous and Julia nibbling at the concept of e-government.

"What do you think is the most important consideration for a public e-government terminal?" asks the supplier.

"It needs to be green to go with the rest of the decorating," they trill.

You can lead a horse to water...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Somewhere to put your Mars Bar

I expect there's a good reason for 67% of management group to be on site at Tench Lane to oversee the workmen there. None of us can come up with a plausible explanation that doesn't make us want to toss our cookies.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Answers on a postcard

Whenever we get letters or cards of complaint T.Aldous is always quick to pass it on to the offending library for a prompt response.

Two weeks ago one of the borrowers sent him a letter to say what a good job the staff at Dutch Bend had done providing a service when he was ill recently. Each day he pops in and asks: "have you seen the letter yet?" Each day nada.

Thus are staff motivated.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Nymphs and shepherds

Children or dwarves have literally burrowed into Roadkill Library and stolen the PC that wasn't nailed down yet. The burrow starts just at the back wall and comes up in the work room, missing the big metal safe (that's been empty for years) by a couple of feet.

If we ever catch the blighters we really should co-opt them onto the Library Service Escape Committee.

Monday, August 07, 2006

At every word a reputation dies

I take a call for the Acquisitions Team (she'd gone to the lavatory). It's the reference library.

"We told a customer we'd be buying a copy of a book he asked for. He's just come in and he's asking if it's arrived yet."

"What's the book?"

"I don't know. It's about coins."

"I'd need a bit more of a clue than that to check the requests and orders file."

Amazingly enough, Noreen can find the book on her return. It's a prodigiously over-priced tome which raises the perennial question about our reference library. How come we tell lending that we probably won't buy requested titles over the price of £25 but expensive references are bought ad lib to suit individual customers?

Taking the piss

A customer empties his bladder on part of the history section of the reference library.

Library Assistants ask if he's qualified to do stock editing.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Taking back the empties

As if school holiday activities, job evaluation interviews and the endless battle to get permission to buy book tokens for the winners of the Easter Egg Competition isn't enough to shred Frog's nerves he's now been told that the prizes advertised for children completing the summer Reading Challenge aren't forthcoming. Every time a competition's suggested he suggests that the prizes should be procured before announcing the competition, every time nothing happens. Yet another lesson we never learn.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Ministry of Fear

We're sitting around the staff room over lunch when Mimsie Nettles pipes up:

"You know, I'm dead browned off. I don't know what's up with me lately. It's like all my self-confidence has drained out of me in the bath."

Of course, any of us could have told her that it's because she's working in a disorganised mess of a place with managers whose first and foremost priority is to keep everyone in their place by emphasising what they can't do instead of celebrating what they can. Ordinarily we would have, but T.Aldous was earwigging at the time.

A few minutes later he got Mimsie on her own and advised:

"I'm very concerned to hear that you're lacking in self-confidence. I'm telling you this as a friend: don't trust anybody."

You may die of a misprint

Our Glorious Leader is excelling himself with the job evaluation lark. As if using it as an opportunity to foment discord and jeapordise teamworking within the service isn't enough he's now playing fast and loose with personnel policies and procedures. This morning he had a meeting with the assistant librarians about the evaluation procedure.

"Use this job description."

he tells them, unveiling a document dated "May 2006." None of them have seen this before. Even in Helminthdale it is a requirement that new job descriptions are negotiated with the post holders and ratified by the joint union/personnel panel. Sheesh....

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tempus flux

Swapping "T.Aldous being late" stories with the union shop steward.

"It's usually buses on Cattermole Street or else he's got to move his car," I say.

"Lucky you. He always tells us he's late because he's got diarrhoea."

"That's too much information."

"I'll say. They're lunchtime meetings."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mutinies Mondays and Fridays

T.Aldous is being his usual supportive self on the job evaluation front. Latest game is for him to insist that library assistants don't do stock editing.

"So what is it I've been doing for the past five years?" asks one.

"It's stock maintenance," answers T.Aldous.

"Repairs and binding? So you're saying that I don't go through the stock on the shelves to see which are falling to pieces, which haven't been out in years, which are old and tired, or which have been defaced inside; and that I don't withdraw them from the catalogue? And you didn't tell me to pull all the stock that's more than ten years old and you didn't see me with a trolley full of old books which I was withdrawing on the computer? Is that what you're telling me?"

"You're being far too sensitive. I'm trying to be constructive so that there isn't any confusion during the evaluation interview. And you don't 'assist with book selection,' either..."

"So I didn't do a stock profile of this library, go on a visit or buy £15,000 worth of books then?"

T.Aldous had the last word. Just as he was leaving he collared the Counter Supervisor.

"We must do something about the stock editing in this library, it's a mess."

Donkey rides, a penny a glass

I'm asked why there's been a vacancy for a Group Librarian at Dutch Bend for three years. Here's a bit of a clue: the last Librarian ended his first day in tears in the staff room. Daisy Duck was aghast:

"What on earth's the matter?"


Enough said.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Happy days Toytown

At tea break Noreen and the girls were discussing T.Aldous' performance at the staff meeting where he unveiled the job evaluation interviews.

"I didn't want to hear all that stuff about who wrote what and when. I just wanted to know what it is we're supposed to do."

Mary overheard this and told T.Aldous. He in turn has spent the whole day suddenly materialising at Noreens desk every half hour or so to tell her that "not everybody could go to the briefings."