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

Monday, April 30, 2007

Moving Earth

T.Aldous accepts an offer to host a model of the new industrial estate just outside Milkbeck. Seth is delighted to hear the news.

"How big is it?"

"It's about six feet square."

"Where are we putting it?"

"I thought we could move the newspapers out of the reading room and put it there."

"How on earth are we getting it up there?"

"You're just being difficult because you don't want to do the work."

The open road and the wind in our heads

We're having a little local difficulty with some of our friends in the Town Hall. I'm all for nipping round with a baseball bat but Milton thinks this is a bit extreme.

"We can't expect their undivided attention, they're going though another restructure. They don't know whether or not they'll be having jobs, let alone which jobs they'll be having."

"If you take the money you should be doing the job. How would it be if we all downed tools just because we're going through job uncertainties? Nobody in this council would do anything..."

By golly, I think he's onto something!

Saturday, April 28, 2007


"What's missing from this room?" I ask Seth.

"Nothing," he replies.

"Where's all this room come from then?"

"Nothing's gone."

"Where are the bricks?"

"They haven't gone anywhere."


"They haven't gone anywhere."

"I hope you've saved copies of all the fingerprints."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Making little fists in the pocket

A colleague is in a bate: they've seen yet another newspaper article making reference to librarians' being quiet and mousy and they've taken umbrage. You know the sort of thing: "this is a tired old stereotype," "an offence to our professionalism," yadda yadda yadda.

Oh do get a grip. Of course it's a tired old stereotype, our culture depends on tired old stereotypes: milkmen are randy, accountants are boring, politicians are self-serving hypocrites, Errol Flynn beat the Japanese single-handed in Burma and London is made up of the supercilious rich mooching around in thick pea-soupers and the downtrodden poor living in abject poverty (this last one's true). Why on earth bother reacting to it? It's obviously yet another symptom of the congenital insecurity of the "profession" (it they weren't insecure they wouldn't need to keep telling you that they're professionals).

The sensible thing for them to do is to take the bull by the horns and burlesque the stereotype into oblivion. I was quite taken by the librarian doll that appeared on the market last year (ooh the fuss!) CILIP should create its own version for the local market. Perhaps with a transformer element, switching the doll from twin set and pearls to ninja outfit in an instant. I'm not sure which would make your average miscreant soil their underwear the quicker: a lady of uncertain age brandishing a samurai sword or a ninja with a date stamp.

The wisdom of ages

Customer comment forwarded to Systems Librarian:

How come every time I try to use your computers in Milkbeck Library there's a problem. The network's slow or we can't open attachments or printing's not working and we can never save files on a memory stick. When I lived in Penkage my village library never had any of these problems. Why do you?

Draft response by Systems Librarian:

Because everything this council touches turns to shit; the IT Department tells us what services we're allowed to provide to our customers and the Systems Librarian has the same permissions as the public on these computers.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I see in the paper that somebody's invented beef-flavoured Prozac. That's no good for the vegetarians on the council's payroll in need of chemical support. I'd start a lobby now for something flavoured with char-grilled serrano peppers, or perhaps artichoke hearts with a drizzle of truffle oil but I expect there'd be some pharmaceutical reason why it would be a no-go, like grapefruits interfering with blood pressure tablets.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Forty shades of green

A chappie from Building Services pops in with a swatch of carpet samples.

"Any colour so long as it's green," says Seth with an evil wink.

"What do you mean?" asks the carpet bloke.

"You'll see."

T.Aldous views the samples and selects half a dozen for staff to have a look at with a view to selecting one for the lending library.

And sure enough, every one was green.

Preserving the incognitos

IT have been "tidying up the user account database." This turns out to be deleting anybody whose name begins with A who happened to be on holiday last week. Which means that I now have to submit a form to create a new user account, another to create a mailbox and another to give them Internet access.

All the forms are on the intranet. Somewhere. I would use the search facility but that's been "coming soon" since 1999.

The good news is that it's still possible to email Shagger Noakes even though he left the council years ago.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


"I've found some plans for the library," says Seth. This isn't devastating news: we've got more library service plans than soft Mick, it's just planning we're short of.

My mistake: it turns out that it's a big box full of architect's plans of the library. Seth's unearthed it in his bid to finally dispose of the radiator that's been cluttering the dispatch room (it should have been installed in the lift lobby before we moved in years ago but the Ringo Kid Building Company lost interest in that sort of thing once it had been paid off). The box is covered in almost as much dust as the radiator so it's obviously been there a while.

"Who put that there? I've been looking all over for that, I needed it for last year's inspection audit," says T.Aldous. "I wish people would leave my things alone."

Seth mentions this to Lemuel when he comes in at lunchtime...

"Who put it there? He bloody did, that's who! 'Put that box in the dispatch room so I know where to find it,' he bloody says and I've been barking me knee on it ever since. As God's my witness he put that bloody thing there last year."

Seth's all for confronting T.Aldous with the truth but decided better after seeing that Lemuel was getting worked up about it. Besides, what's the point: the truth's whatever T.Aldous decides it is on any given day.

The record time for demolishing an upright piano and passing the entire wreckage through a ring six inches in diameter

So we cleared the space in my room and we've filled it with stuff from Noddy. Elsewhere is as bad. We've just had some incoming for T.Aldous' latest booksale. And a pile of book trolleys from branch libraries incoming for the chucking-out of. And a load of Bookstart stuff that can't go to the Bookstart centre because it's full of Bookstart stuff that's not been distributed. And some new children's library furniture. And a pile of new Chinese and Vietnamese language children's books that we think were probably new when they came here a few years back. And a pile of BBC RaW bookmarks. And some RaW publicity materiel with Larry Grayson on it (he's been dead nearly as long as we've been in here). And publicity for SureStart Day 2006. And some superannuated microfiche readers. And a huge box of fluorescent light bulbs that don't fit any light fittings anywhere. And a horse blanket.

Do we want to get involved in the new government initative to give every schoolchild a book to encourage reading? The idea is that participating library services will get a pile of books dumped on them and then they've got to persuade the participating schools to let us ferry them round for them to give to the kids. I've no idea why the books can't be delivered to education departments, which are better-resourced than us and have their own distribution systems, and let us provide a support, back-up and cheerleading role. What will happen (if we go for it, as we probably will) is that we'll have these books cluttering the place up for a couple of centuries, just like all those Italian books that time.

Monday, April 23, 2007

New shit for old

Seth, Milton and I have just mucked out the computer room anew, having finally got permission to get shut of the old rubbish from Catty and Dutch Bend that came my way earlier in the year. We still await the verdict on the tatty old bookshelves that got dumped in there years ago: "we can't throw them out, they belong to the art gallery," says T.Aldous.

Our delight is tempered by the fact that we're just making room for a pile of old tat from the old Noddy Library site.

The caretakers are getting increasingly weary of being treated as cheap removals men. Once every so often is sort-of fair enough but once or twice a week, at least, is a lot above and beyond.

"I wouldn't mind but we're just moving the same old shit from one place to another. How often have we moved those old paperback spinners from Epiphany? They've been here, then out to the cellar at Noddy, then back here again, up in the attic at Milkbeck, back here again and where is it going this time? Back to bloody Noddy, that's where. If we don't want the bloody things why don't we just sling them?" rants Lemuel.

"Just go with the flow," says Seth. "You know and I know that they need slinging but it isn't going to happen so we just do as we're told, take the money and go home. If you start trying to make sense of what they think they're doing you'll just wind yourself up."

Wise words which we've all said to ourselves at one time or another and not really been able to take on board. I hope Lemuel can this time: he's looking a bit grey around the gills and obviously needs his next holiday.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Hey ho

Good news: the PC at Windscape that's been struggling to switch on and stay on has been fixed after a month's waiting and three days' not working at all.

Bad news: it turns out that the repair man came on Monday and was told to come back another time because they were busy.


'Phone call down from Doreen the Group Librarian responsible for Helminthdale Library:

"We've just had a 'phone call from a customer who says that the person using the PC next to them was saying personal things to her and gave her his mobile number."


"We should do something about that shouldn't we?"

"What do you want doing?"

"Is there anything you can do about finding out who it was?"


"We need a policy on this."

Good job this: I'm responsible for the public systems but have the same systems permissions as the public; I'm not allowed to tell staff that the police say that a customer can't use our PCs because he's been a naughty lad but I am somehow responsible for customers' chatting up other customers.

"Well he was using a PC," says Doreen.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


We had some PCs stolen from Senebene Library a couple of months ago and ordered some new ones. We took great pains to check whether or not we are getting towers or desktops and the dimensions of the processors so that we could get the right security cases for them. I asked, Milton asked, then Milton asked again and we consulted the web sites and then we ordered the cases. Five cases for towers fifteen inches tall and seven inches wide. So a couple of months later we get desktops ten inches wide and six inches tall that slide into the security cases without my having to bother the locks at all. Splendid.

No news is good news

This is good. I've had my latest update of the library service's web pages rejected by the communications team because there's more than two pieces of news on the front page.

Whenever we get inspectors in to tell us that we're not modern enough it's me or T.Aldous who get the grilling and have to account for this failure. Meanwhile there's a town hall full of unaccountable noddies coming up with this sort of nonsense.


It'll be a relatively quiet day today: most of Management Group has decamped to the LIS in Birmingham. The staff left behind generally fall into two groups: those who see it as a management jolly and those who are annoyed at not being allowed the opportunity to go. Amongst the latter are some people who included this in their wish-lists in their one-to-ones last autumn (the ones that staff had the week before the corporate staff satisfaction survey that asked if they'd had a one-to-one). T.Aldous' explanation as to why nobody else could go varied with the audience...
  • "It's not as good as it used to be."
    i.e. it's not full of furniture and freebies from children's book publishers

  • "It's very technical these days."
    As every inspection we've had in the past five years has berated us for not having a good grasp of new technologies that's not necessarily a bad thing.

  • "We have to go by train, it's a long way to drive."
    Spot the librarian who can't catch a train because he thinks the world should wait for him and who made damned sure we missed the train last time because he had to stop at every stall to tell people who didn't care less that he didn't have time to talk to them.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Custom and practice has it that council staff can park in the car park at the King Cole in Dutch Bend. The council owns the land and has leased it to the pub for 99 years and things have generally pootled along OK this way for the past three decades. This week the pub's landlords decide to stick a sign up and get the clampers in. The first that most of us know is when Polly comes in from her blind readers' club session at Dutch Bend.

"It's a good job that I managed to find some space in the car park at the library otherwise I'd have been clamped!"

Frog decides to send a message out to all staff warning them not to park at the King Cole. He mentions it to T.Aldous.

"Yes, Julia told me about it last week, we're trying to find out the legal position about it."

"Wouldn't it have been a good idea to tell people this was going on?"

"Yes, I don't know why Julia hasn't sent a memo to staff about it."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Caffeine blast

'Phone call down from lending. Can somebody make some coffee for the people who are using the meeting room? The staff down here in the Mary Celeste Suite are me, Noreen and and Pauline, all of whom are up to the gills in year-beginning work on top of our everyday work and the work of people who have retired or who are off sick and none of whom are disposed to add "Nippy" to our job descriptions.

"They don't pay for the use of the room so why can't we just say 'sorry no can do?'"

Pauline makes the mistake of bearding T.Aldous in his lair to ask what to do. And ends up making coffee...

Money well spent

In the absence of Tilly, who retired last Friday, T.Aldous has just spent two hours doing the post.

This is the man who told Seth that the good thing about finally filling the management group posts is that he can now spend time doing the job he's paid for.

The feet of Ozymandias

We've just overheard T.Aldous' vision for the library service:

"I'll be leaving the libraries in a better state than they were when I started."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Smells like forward planning

T.Aldous has just realised that Tilly retired on Friday:

"How will I get my printing done now that Tilly's retired?" he asks.

It's my own damn fool fault for staying in late. The Tammany Tigers are playing at home and I wanted to avoid the football traffic.

Hm? Oh, he'll do it by pressing the print button.

You can see this one coming a mile off

Frog decides to confront Mr. Positive with an uncomfortable truth.

"Staff morale's really low at the moment."

T.Aldous bridles:

"Well my morale isn't low."

So that's OK then.

A machinery whose only purpose is to be its own sweet self

T.Aldous has the hump after some comments were made at a meeting last week.

"They said that I'm negative. I'm not negative. I'll have to wear a T-shirt saying 'I am negative please come and cheer me up.'"

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A world of total predictability

"T.Aldous has asked me to check with you to see if all the furniture from the old Noddy Library could go in your office," says Milton.

"What did you say to that?"

"I said I'd ask you," grins Milton.

Like most everyone else I'm climbing over boxes to get to my desk these days.

"I suppose I could make room for a couple of desks by getting rid of those two ratty old bookcases that he dumped on me five years ago when he was clearing out the cellar at Sheep City."

"I said you'd say no."

Friday, April 13, 2007

It's just one epiphany after another

I'm pointed to a document on the library intranet: policy and procedure on what to do should somebody break our acceptable use policy, dated March 2003. I've only been responsible for this area of our service since 2001 and this document is news to me (we tried to get a couple of draughts passed by Management Group in 2002/3 but got stonewalled). It's a relief to know that we have a policy and procedure, even if I have accidentally ridden roughshod over it.

It's also a relief to know that some people still haven't cottoned on to the fact that files are automatically date-stamped when saved.

Justice once

I'm visited by P.C. Ned Strangelove who tells me that the council's IT Security people have reported our hacking friend to the police and have supplied enough screen grabs of his activities to warrant their taking it seriously. Enough so for them to pop round and tell him he's not to use our PCs. And now I'm being told he's not to use our PCs. So I send a message to all staff not to let him use our PCs. Which prompts this:

Why was I not told about this?

You were. I told you that IT would probably report this to the police and that they'd take whatever action they thought appropriate.

Why did I not see the police?

They came to see me.

They spoke to lending staff. They should also have spoken to me.

Could you have provided any useful information about this customer's use of the library?

You are missing the point.

I don't see any problem. Unless you're suggesting that I can't receive any visitors with their being vetted by you beforehand.

The point really being that once Doreen and T.Aldous passed this idiot's emails on to me to sort out they washed their hands of the whole affair and gave no thought as to what would happen if he was caught. Not that I would trust them to do anything about it anyway, not after the case of the man caught doing naughty things in the children's library at Dutch Bend.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Waste management

The bin's not been emptied for two weeks at Gypsy Cream Library. Pansy rang up to find out why not.

"Our contract with the council ended at the beginning of March."

"Oh. Sorry to bother you."

She mentioned this to Julia.

"Oh yes, T.Aldous mentioned something about that. I can't remember who we contact now."

The satisfaction of a job well done

I never thought we'd manage it but we've successfully negotiated year end on the stock ordering and receipt system, all the invoices have been reconciled, budgets closed, outstanding orders rolled over and standing orders renewed. Noreen's copped for most of the work herself as Betty's been off sick after getting a gyppy tummy on holiday (a present to herself for successfully completing two months' orders in the last two weeks of the financial year). I offer to help and am reminded how little I know of the invoicing process.

But 'tis done: save for twelve problem records all is well with the world.

Turns out that these problems are (hopefully!) the last of the ones caused by someone in IT deleting the programme files for the system one day last autumn. The subsequent disruption of live transactions broke some of the connections between the orders and the invoices and I'll have to manually edit the records and reindex them. We could safely leave them alone as they're not doing any harm but as we're crawled over twice a year by auditors it's as well to fix the links. It would be just our luck for those twelve to be picked out of the quarter of a million on the system. Not that we'll be telling the auditors than I can do this: that opens a storeful of cans of worms.

T.Aldous is overheard telling somebody that year end went very smoothly this year. Damned if I can imagine how he'd know one way or another. His understanding of the workload is immense:

"Why did it take three weeks to process these items?"

"Why has it taken three years to fill our vacancies?"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pro bono public houseo

Tilly's just back from her latest "goodbye" lunch: she's having more farewell performances than Frank Sinatra. There's a strict hierarchy to these lunches and nobody's allowed to go to the "wrong" lunch, whatever the excuse.

It's all building up to a Friday climax when she's invited everyone and his mother in law to come for a buffet lunch at the library.

"Can you bring in a tray of sandwiches?" she asks Noreen.

Apparently she's been asking lots of people to bring stuff in:

"I could do some baking I suppose," says Noreen.

"Oh no, Lippy's doing the baking."

Empathy II

Daisy's not the only one having problems with T.Aldous...

Amy's parents are getting on a bit now and both have been very unwell lately. So much so that she's only been going home for a change of clothes and to check the post before going over to their house to look after them. She told T.Aldous all about this and he set the sympathetic machinery of the council's human resources systems into motion.

Three months on and he's now kindly allowed her to take half a week's unpaid leave ("you can't have the whole week, we need you to cover the enquiry desk on Friday.")


I'm in Dutch Bend to check out a couple of things. Half the staff have colds and the other half have sore throats. A 'phone call Daisy takes from our fearless leader doesn't help any...

"The first thing out of his mouth was 'Hello Daisy, it's T.Aldous. First of all can I just say that I can tell by the strange tone of your voice that you're not happy.'

What I should have said was 'Oh T.Aldous how very perceptive of you.' What I actually said was 'The reason my voice sounds strange is that I am streaming with a cold. Marcy answered the phone and I didn't know it was you, so that's why I sounded a bit distant when the call was put through.'"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

No hiding place

Seeing a brown friend to the sea I overhear T.Aldous showing a workman the cracked lino in the gents' (caretakers are for staffing the issue counter).

"Why's this light on?" he asks.

"Because somebody's in here," I reply.

He turns the light out anyway. He'll only be happy when we're pissing out of the staff room window.

Oh it's nice to be back

Deep joy at being back in this rat's nest of a dump. Everyone's come in early, to get it over and done with I suppose. At least that was my motivation. And indeed my only motivation: the combination of the utter despair of trying to get anything achieved remotely properly here and the effects of the antidepressants I have to take to survive being here pretty much do for what little get-up-and-go that this old fart had left. I deeply resent having to take the antidepressants but seeing as the day I forgot to take them I was literally weeping with relief at getting home in the evening I suppose they're a necessary evil.

I expect I had this in mind when I was making myself a cup of coffee in the staff room. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have twigged the significance of the conversations around the table. Two people were debating the pros and cons of having a fanciable counsellor (pro: having someone you fancy hanging on your every word for an hour has to be good for your self-esteem; con: if you start drooling and babbling inconsequentially you could get sectioned). Someone else was telling a story about the dreadful effects of forgetting the doctor's advice about mixing alcohol with their prescription (two glasses of wine and she was singing Tina Turner songs in the car park). Others were comparing their IBS symptoms, the pains in their chests and/or the number of times they threw up before setting off for work this morning. I didn't join in, I'm a rank tyro in comparison. Besides, I was too busy being shocked: this isn't an out-patients' waiting room, a field of war or a high-octane emergency service, it's a public library service and it's taking this sort of toll on the people working in it.

I know that none of this is new but it still comes as an unpleasant surprise when I get my nose rubbed in it.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The voice of doom

Oh I suppose we were due it sometime but I'm really not in the mood at the moment. We've just had an email from a would-be hacker telling us that he knows all our passwords, has complete control of our network, yadda yadda yadda.

You have a network you'll get this sort of nonsense, as sure as day. My instinctive dismay at being on the receiving end of a threat from an anonymous miscreant is tempered by the anonymous miscreant's having left his name and address on his email signature.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The editor's decision is final

One of the rare joys of working in the public library sector is the opportunity to meet colleagues from other library authorities and share working experiences. On the one hand it's a relief to find you're not alone in having to deal with workaday stupidities. On the other it's thoroughly depressing to see how rife workaday stupidity is these days. I've just been in a meeting with colleagues looking at how our library management systems could cope with the MLA acquisitions offer. (I'm not getting started on that subject, I'll be here for years).My counterpart from Pardendale is looking a bit frazzled.

"It's our library review. It's putting years on me."

"I thought you'd finished it," said Fred from Bencup.

"Oh I have, it's just that my boss keeps insisting on my doing a rewrite of it."

"Nothing like that ever happens to us," I grinned mendaciously.

"I'll just have to rewrite it in the style of Jackie Collins, see if that works."

"I shudder to think what would be on the cover," says Fred.

Whose party?

T.Aldous approaches Tilly:

"I think you should invite Marjie Salian [one of our retired librarians] to your leaving do."

(As it happens, she already had her on her list, together with folk that T.Aldous will be less happy to see like Reggie Clockwatcher.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


CIPFA stats, end of year accounts management and the public library management environment do not go well together. I've just spent the past three hours unpicking all the mistakes I'd made this afternoon while I was trying to work with T.Aldous yabbering around the office.


Communication block

Tilly's preparing for her retirement lunch. She approaches Noreen:

"I want to ask Jimmy Huddersfield to come along."

"That's nice."

"Have you got his address?"

"Yes. I've got his 'phone number, too, if you want to ring him."

"No, I don't like to ring."

"Or his email address."

"No, I don't like sending emails."

Tilly is the library secretary.

Nursery slopes

It turns out that we've got until 30th April to submit a bid for funding to rebuild one of our libraries.

"We'll be able to do a proper rebuild and refurb of a library and get a learning suite and community room in the bargain," he says.

It'll be either Carbootsale or Panama Road. The former would make more sense as we'd be able to pull in the health promotion centre and the children's centre, both of which are on the same block and both of which are subject to bids for regeneration money. We'll see how it goes.

"Starting early," I say.

"Can get it done by the end of next week," says Jim.

I can but smile.

"How often has he told you that he usually ends up running to the post office at five o'clock on the afternoon before the deadline?"

His look said the lot.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

You'd slap children's legs for this

Email exchange:

Date: 24 March
To: All library staff
Subject: Easter colouring pictures
Easter picture colouring sheets have been printed and sent out to all libraries.

Date: 2nd April
To: Frog Dropmore
Subject: Re: Easter colouring pictures


Why have I not been told about this?


Monday, April 02, 2007

A magnet for pests and diseases

As some of you will be only too aware it is difficult to do anything at this time which is not related to year end, stat gathering, but that doesn't stop folk trying.

I've just been presented with a malfuctioning laptop with the usual "please fix" note. I haven't managed to fix it yet, but have harvested a fair stock of finger nail clippings from beneath the keys!


Email from Doreen:

I've had a message from Windscape saying that the computer isn't working. Can you do something about it?

I'll give Windscape a ring later to find out which of the six computers isn't working and what it is it isn't doing.