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

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.