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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Methodology part II

More from the Stanley Slavsky School of Library Management:

Responding to initiative

Recognising success

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


"Watch out if you go into the cutlery draw," says Tilly, "T.Aldous is going to be taking all the spoons home tonight to give them a clean. He's got them counted and he'll want to know why any have gone missing."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sleepwalking into danger

Preparations for moving Noddy Library into new premises a hundred yards down the road have started at last after nearly three years' mucking about. The shelves are in at last and we've started moving the new stock from storage into the new site. We're doing a stock check as we go along using hand-held scanners to make sure that anything accidentally left behind isn't recorded as being on the shelves and it's working pretty well. Which might explain why my guard was down when I was approached by T.Aldous.

"Are those hand-held sets working OK at Noddy?"

"Yes, it's working really well and they're steaming ahead with the job."

"So we could do the same thing at Glass Road when that moves?"


"Could we use it at Pottersbury Road as well?"

"Don't see why not."

"So we'd give the teachers the hand-held sets and they'd be able to issue books to their classes..."

"Ah... no. If you want to do self-service at those libraries we really need to put in self-service."

Exit systems librarian with soiled trousers!

Friday, February 23, 2007

There he goes with his eye out

How have I not just slapped T.Aldous? I was down at Noddy earlier this afternoon talking to Julia about the impending move when in trots The Man. He trotted straight over to the encyclopedias, feigned surprise, tut-tutted and called Julia over.

"These encyclopedias look a bit old, Julia," he said.

He then opened a volume of Britannica and said: "good grief! This is the 1996 edition!"

Which he's known since Tuesday afternoon when I gave him a print out of the publication dates of all the encyclopedias in the borough.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Taking a step back

I've come to the conclusion that I've been overplaying the "I am a loony" card lately and that I'll have to start behaving myself. It has to be admitted that when you're working in an environment where half the people you deal with on a regular basis could do with somebody looking after them this unique selling point starts to lose its cachet.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


How to get the best out of your staff: T.Aldous has just been in at Dutch Bend for something or other (who knows?) and, as usual, he had to have his Parthian shot. As he was going out he stopped at the counter, turned to Daisy and said:

"It's about damned time you sorted out all those donations in the back office, it's a disgrace."

This is doubly unfair as all staff have been instructed that while they must accept donations nothing can be done with them due to pressure of work caused by staff vacancies (in one case the post's been vacant three years); and as last year T.Aldous swore blind to a Pay and Review Evaluation Panel that Daisy didn't have anything to do with processing donations.

The icing on the cake came as one of the customers witnessing the incident approached the counter, winked at Daisy and said:

"I guess that's you told, then."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Once more on the merry-go-round

It must be spring: T.Aldous has asked me for a print-out of all the copies of Encyclopedia Britannica in our libraries and their age. This will turn into "I don't know why we've got all these old encyclopedias in stock," followed by "we shouldn't have the 1991 edition on the shelves at Dutch Bend," and ultimately "we must do something about getting rid of all these old encyclopedias and ordering some new ones."

I have a lot of sympathy with this point of view. But rather less than I had ten years ago when we first started this dance.

Monday, February 19, 2007


"I don't see why Noddy Library has to move out of the existing building," a correspondent writes in the Helminthdale Clarion.

The chemical toilet may provide a clue.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Pulling the plug

Network down at Cattermole Street Library. It turns out that all the council buildings in the area are offline. Someone from corporate comms goes over to the education office to check out the local hub. Where he finds that someone decided to do a PowerPoint presentation in that office and they unplugged the hub so that they could plug in the projector.

"I'm glad you're here, mate, I'm supposed to be demonstrating how this product works and we can't get an internet connection."

Their relief at his renewing the connection was tempered by his cutting the plug off the projector.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


We had a promotion day in January in an effort to boost library membership, it produced 50 new members of which only 20 actually borrowed anything. One of our senior managers asked if I could produce a list of those who joined.

"Do you want anything other than names and addresses?"


List produced, no problem.

"Can you let me have the number of times they've borrowed anything?"

"You mean the use count?"

"Yes, I suppose so."

"Are you sure there is nothing else you want?"

"That should do."

List produced, no problem.

"Can you put in there the last time they used the library?"

No, I don't think so.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Madness in their method

A colleague tells me that staff at their library authority have taken up "The Method," as taught by the well-known northern acting guru Stanley Slavsky. They demonstrate a couple of key emotes:

Encouraging staff input

Forward planning

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Keep young and beautiful

The Town Hall's gone mad: biscuits are banned at meetings and it's fruit and nuts instead. One principal officers' meeting started with a bout of tai chi. The basement of the building will be getting a treadmill installed. This is a bit stalinist. They don't have a room for supervisions, nor one for first aid, but they make space for a treadmill room and a prayer room. A plaintive note appears in an email:

"Maybe we could get a rationality room?"

Monday, February 12, 2007

Praise from Caesar is praise indeed

We've done well in the customer survey asking if if they found the books they wanted. They say yes, overwhelmingly. T.Aldous takes the opportunity to pass on some good news for once and flunks it. "This is down to front-line staff and nobody else," he tells an audience which includes half the acquisitions team that have been killing themselves to get 48,000 items ordered, catalogued, received and distributed in between doing every other shit job that needs doing backstage when they're not covering vacancies. This does not go down well.

"We'll have to wait to the end of the financial year to get our thank you. They'll tell us how much they value us and they'll promise to do something about filling the vacancies, then they'll wander off and nothing will change" they mutter.

Why he couldn't have taken the opportunity to emphasise the value of the teamwork involving all the people, front- and backstage, who provide the books that our customers want I do not know. Actually, that's not true, I do know: we have a deeply-entrenched silo mentality that cripples a lot of our potential.

Mary pointed out the error to T.Aldous, who decided to make an apology to the acquisitions team. This is almost unprecedented. Having overheard the conversation I'd advise him not to bother in future. It all started okay with him saying that he hadn't meant to overlook the team, he was just wanting to make sure that people realised that the praise wasn't due to anything that management had done, it was a reflection of the work done by the staff who get their hands dirty. They explained to him that they understood what his intentions were but that it hurt to be sidelined yet again as they feel that their hard work is undervalued, especially given that one post's been vacant a year, another for two years and another for three years and not only have they taken up the slack, they've increased productivity and are expected to cover posts elsewhere backstage as and when they arise.

"We just don't think that anyone takes the work that we do seriously and nobody cares how much pressure we're under until something goes wrong or one or other of you starts panicking because we're falling behind on targets or the boxes are stacking up in the corner."

"Well, you have a think about what we can do to take some of the pressure off you."

"You can fill some of the vacancies."

"Mary and I need to get together to plan what we're doing with those posts. I'll get back to you on that. In the mean time, bear in mind that it'll soon be the end of March. I'll be thanking you for all your work then."

Ouch. When you're in a hole, stop digging.


The Money Advice Team is being "enterprised." My friend tells me that she's been told that she's "transitionally thick." Like an idiot I forget that she's got a mean left hook.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Hearts and flowers

"Are we doing anything for St. Valentine's Day?" I ask innocently.

"Don't kid yourself, sugarbutty."

Friday, February 09, 2007


Tilly's annoyed by somebody at Catty Library.

"When they answered the 'phone they didn't say who there were, where they were or anything. They just said: 'hello.' Mind you, I did wonder whether they were going to answer the 'phone at all. Just imagine what would happen if I didn't answer the 'phone: that's my whole job."

I nearly bit through my lip.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity

As if the transmigration of Noddy Library isn't a prolonged catastrophe as it is, T.Aldous and Julia have put a new spanner in the works. The counter's been in place at the new site for the past couple of months. Only now, two weeks before the proposed move, do they decide that it needs to be modified with a new unit including a fines drawer.

"Audit won't allow staff to handle the fines money: the customers have to put the money in the slot themselves. We're not allowed to put money in cash tins,"

says himself, which I expect would come as a surprise to both the auditors and the thirteen libraries (including Noddy) that do put the fines cash into tins. Anyway, we've got to dismantle the counter, put in a new bit and then reassemble the whole shebang. Which involves getting the electrician and the network contractors in to uninstall all the wiring in the counter prior to its being dismantled and install a whole new fresh lot post-rebuilding.

Deep joy.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


It's that time of year again when the Acquisitions Team (both of them) do their damnedest to order, receive and invoice half the year's stock in five weeks flat. As we don't have electronic ordering all the orders have to be printed (besides which, the auditors require that a printed and signed copy of every order be placed in a filing cabinet upstairs).

Imagine, then, their surprise when Tilly potters up and removes the ink cartridge from their printer. "They need it upstairs," she says.

It is quickly made clear to her that she should put it back.

Apparently there are no ink cartridges in stock. Which prompts us to wonder just what it is she's doing when she's spending hours at a time locked in the stationery cupboard. I'm not sure I'm willing to speculate on the subject.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The sound of one hand clapping

Tilly has taken to spending most of her time sitting at the only desk anywhere on the floor without a telephone. Functionally this might be a disadvantage to a Library Secretary but suits Tily down to the ground. This has not gone unnoticed. A telephone rings stridently.

On the eleventh ring Tilly shouts out: "Is that my 'phone?"

"Yes," responds a chorus of people making no move whatsoever to pick up the call.

"I'd best answer it then," shouts Tilly, making a show of running slowly to her desk. A good twenty yards away from the desk next to the one she was sat at, which has a 'phone that could have easily picked up the call.

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake

Some folk have all the luck. One of my colleagues is upgrading his library management system this week and the system's down for the next two days. His boss has obviously taken this on board:

Have you got ten minutes this morning? I need some information for a meeting this pm.
I need a list of all the names and addresses of borrowers who have not borrowed any books for the past twelve months and/or owe fines or charges and also those who will become "inactive" in February or March 2007.
You can see where I'm going here.

My colleague has a few suggestions. Naturally he is crushed that he is unable to accommodate.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Franz Kafka Roadshow

Jim's in lumber. T.Aldous having told him to get staff input on the draft library business plan he dutifully emailed a copy to selected members of staff. Himself is now giving him a bollocking:

"You had no right to circulate that document, it's only a draft."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Gardener's world

All the windows in Catty Library are boarded up to stop them getting broken by the workmen who have been swarming around the roof for the past month. Staff are working with miners' helmets. The roof is in bits. The plaster inside the library has been cracked to buggery for years. The floor sags. The walls drip water. The electrics aren't clever. The network is buggered because the Heritage Officer won't let us connect the library to the building next door. And bits of old pigeon drip onto the enquiry desk.

For the third time this week a lady from the Leisure Trust Committee comes in to complain that there's a dandelion growing in the gutter on the front.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Is it deja vu again already?

Himself pokes his head into the office. "Can you get me the current cost of..."