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

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

He tried to become a hypnotist but gave up when a vicar told him that his mouth was the wrong shape

The art of précis:

"Can you summarise the library service's long-term business plan?"

"One hundred and thirty people praying for T.Aldous to retire."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Men of muscle mystery

Maybelle Googly's lending a hand cataloguing a pile of non-fiction that's been bought on a visit for the Prison Library. [In case of confusion it needs to be said that no stock's been bought for the staff library since 1983.]

"How should I classify this?" she asks.

It's a coffee-table book of art studies of muscular men with oiled pecs and thighs like small emergent nations. We spend twenty minutes running through the schedules but we can't find a Dewey number for "gay porn."

Friday, May 25, 2007

All these things are soul

"What time are you going home tonight?" asks T.Aldous. Troubled by experience and paranoia I ask:


"I need to check the CIPFA figures with you. Will you be around?"


"I should have been in a meeting two hours ago. When I get back can we just get together to go through the statistics?"

"When are you getting back."

"Oh it should be about half-three."

He arrived back ten minutes ago and shot off for a lightning inspection of the new Glass Road library site at St. Barrabas.

Me for buggering off. I'm not hanging round here for to look at CIPFA stats in the Friday evening twilight before bank holiday weekend.

Smoke signals

Daisy's turn to try and give up smoking again, the forthcoming ban on smoking in public being a big incentive. It goes without saying that support is fothcoming.

"God, this is hell. I don't know what to do without a cigarette in my hand sometimes."

"You'll have to take up masturbation or knitting."

"I'd take up knitting if I were you. You're less likely to get into lumber for doing it on the enquiry desk."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thirty minutes' worth of implausible claptrap

Bronwyn's going to be a film star! The council, in its infinite wisdom, has commissioned a film showing what a splendid place is Helminthdale, full of vim and verve and wonder, a joy for investors and a fully-oiled machine of capitalist growth. Part of the film is a series of interviews with council staff and customers telling the world that the council is responsive to the needs of its customers, values its employees and listens to both. It's Bronwyn's job to lie on film for the sake of her council. For half an hour. We can't imagine how she'll keep a straight face.

They'll probably have to use tranquiliser darts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Siege mentality

They've been having problems with hoodies in the car park at the new Noddy Library. Today's escapade takes the problem to a new level: they've barricaded the doors to the library so that nobody could get out. In the end Hettie had to kick the door open with a martial arts kick.

Julia insisted that Flossie Meredith go down from Dutch Bend to provide moral support. Quite apart from leaving Dutch Bend short-staffed yet again it's difficult to see what sort of moral support Flossie could be providing. Mind you, if Hettie gets provoked into putting aside her pacifist leanings it would take two of them to stop her killing the buggers.

Along the wires the electric message came

Julia rings Dutch Bend:

"Good news: we'll be closing Glass Road on the eighteenth of June and opening at the new site a week after. Make sure that nobody books leave that week."

We'll be spending the rest of the day wondering which bit of this is good news.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Some turned up to say they couldn't come

OK, so I was wrong. Not all Management Group's on the away day.

They should be, but T.Aldous is still floating around here with a jar of coffee under his arm, demonstrating his commitment to teamwork.

It may seem like a bit of a cliché

Management Group are having an away day to look at one of the key threads of the annual plan. As it happens, I know about it because Milton and Jim have both told me about it and asked for background information. It turns out that I'm on my own. An uncharacteristic burst of diplomacy has me rubbing out the "Wot no management group?" cartoons on the whiteboard (the one that was put on the wall so's we can say where we are) and replace it with a message: "MG out all day: all-day meeting."

The last away day was devoted to Management Group's communications strategy.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The ducks said "quack" and flung them back

I feel a bit mean about this. Pauline's just asked me if I can email her the issue figures for April. I said no. It's actually Pauline's job to collect and collate the issue stats but she still doesn't know how to do it. I spent a couple of months asking her when it would be convenient to show her how to do it but every time she was too busy. That was before Tilly retired and Pauline's even busier now, doing her job as well as her own.

So why am I being awkward? Well, it finally dawned on me that I shouldn't be begging someone to give me the opportunity to train them how to do their job. Especially not with the coda "but don't worry if it's not convenient, I'll do your job for you." That's just silly.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Off us trolley

The Acquisitions Team (both of 'em) are processing a pile of incoming story boxes for the Bookstart project. The rest is inevitable...

"Where's the flatbed trolley gone? We need it for the story boxes."

"Mary sent it to Milkbeck on Monday; they needed a trolley."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Let's blame the blue tits

Overheard but not believed:

"Is T.Aldous around?"


"Is Mary?"

"They're all in a management group meeting. Why?"

"They've run out of milk upstairs."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dunsinane walks!

"Good news!" says Frog, "we're going to set up a library wood."

"Where?" I ask.

"Dunno. It's something being arranged with the countryside and parks department."

If it's anything like anything else round here in a few years' time someone will be asking: "what's them trees doing over there by those boxes?"

Escape committee news part 97

Bad news: Hettie Mistletoe at Noddy Library's the latest for the escape tunnel, having secured a job elsewhere in the council with career prospects and a real salary structure.

That means I'll be the only eye candy left. I hope there's enough of me to go around.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The electric throbbing twang their heartstrings

The town centre's festooned with posters proclaiming that "Helminthdale is a happening place."

It would explain a lot to find that this town's just a psychadelic event that somehow got out of hand.


All the old crap that got shipped out to the old Noddy Library for to be picked up when it's being cleared out is to come back because the buyer wants it cleared out by 30th April. The boys are delighted. Even more so when it becomes apparent that they can't take it to the tip because T.Aldous won't pay for it to go.

Where's the fire inspector when you need him?

An exquisite odour of leave-taking

"If T.Aldous is on leave," says Milton, "what's he doing in this morning, ringing people up and telling them to ring him back?"

"I keep forgetting you're new round here," I repy.

Bringing forth this vast leviathan

Milton's turn to find himself the senior officer of the service and up Shit Creek. The boiler at Dutch Bend has started leaking badly and they've rung in here to get it reported for repair. We have no idea what the hell we do in the circumstances, and neither does anyone else, it's another of T.Aldous' secret procedures.

Much to my surprise T.Aldous strolls in (most of us were expecting to see him yesterday, seeing as he's on leave this week). His conversation with Milton is a classic of its kind.

"The boiler at Dutch Bend's got a leak, how do they report it for repairs?"

"They can't. They have to give a cost code and they can't do that."

"So what do they do?"

"They ring in here and report it to Tilly."

"But Tilly's been and gone and retired."

"Then I'll deal with it."

"But you're on leave."

"Well I'm here now."

"Wouldn't it be a good idea to have the procedure written down so that we know what to do if something happens and you're not around?"

"There's no need, it's not as if it's going to happen."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Max Bygraves sings the decimalisation song

A puzzle.

How come the Reference Librarians insist on stock being classified to six decimal places on the Dewey Number and then they shelve the stock in an order only navigable by reference to a title key on the window ledge?

Green parties

The council's green credentials are brought into question: the lady mayoress isn't allowed to travel in the official civic car with her baby (in case she decides to breastfeed it) so the car's just used to take the mayoral chain to events and she follows behind in her own car.

Coming to a doorstep near you

We don't have all the nutters. One of the guys in Housing Repairs is very fond of dressing up. Very fond. When he went to see Spider-Man at the pictures he dressed his son up as Spider-Man and he went as the Green Goblin (it was a mid-run Saturday matinee). All last week he came to work dressed up as a cowboy, including stetson and six-guns. He was doing repairs in the sheltered housing on the Kilbey Estate near Milkbeck; I can just imagine some old dear opening the door to find a cowboy builder come to mend the windows. Mind you, the six-guns would come in useful on the Kilbey Estate.


Unannounced fire drill. It might not be a coincidence that the Fire Inspector called last week and T.Aldous is on holiday this week.

Up the Scrubs

These days half of us are rattling like Smarties Easter eggs. It's Frog's turn this time: he's had a massive allergic reaction to something or other and is on big white pills to control the itching. We're putting it about that he's got the clap and he's quite happy about this as it suggests that he's got a racier lifestyle than he's up to these days.

A few of us were sitting around comparing the side-effect warnings on our medications. My tablets have a great long list of close-typed terrors. I generally never read this bit but my doctor insisted that I do so: "once you realise that have have nearly none of the side-effects you'll feel so much better." (Note from one who knows: you don't ever want to hear your doctor say: "you'll have nearly none of the side-effects.") My pills "may induce yawning." Someone else's warns: "if blistering occurs discontinue use." Everyone's includes: "may cause drowsiness." But then again all medication "may cause drowsiness," Nitty Biffen in the Benefits Office is on stimulants and even they say "may cause drowsiness."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Smearing doves' wings with clay whilst singing to a troupe of frolicking beetles

They've just finished knocking down the offices at Riverside after a few weeks' delay caused by the higher façade falling into the road instead of the dirty big hole in the back. There's a bit of a row about it because the sandstone facings were supposed to be being sold for reclamation but went to landfill instead (we're told).

This is the first phase of town centre redevelopment (how the waters freeze at those words). Riverside is to be the site for the new town hall and council offices. Typically for Helminthdale ambition overstretches reality: the site's about the size of a football pitch and is to hold the new council offices, a bus station, a tram terminal, an extension to the shopping centre and a plaza with trees and fountain-adorned rills. I expect we'll end up with an Anderson shelter and a bus stop.

A colleague (he knows who he is) tells me that his council's town hall was Hitler's favourite English building and that the council was so flattered by his approval that they've worked against the best interests of the nation ever since.

What horrors rise,were nauseous to relate

Another reason why public library staff aren't as keen on providing public toilet facilities as are Audit Commission inspectors... Three brand new books have been found torn to pieces and wodged down the pan in the gents' in lending.

Even if we left a supply of Rizlas on the side of the sink they'd still bloody do it.

Not the usual cover problem

We're getting a new, green, carpet in the lending library, T.Aldous tells us. We ask how we're going to be organising the closed days. To our surprise he tells us that the library isn't going to close. He really thinks that we'll be able to rope off part of the library whilst workmen dismantle all the shelves and counters in the area, shift it all to one side (where?), roll out and lay that bit of the carpet, shift all the furniture back and put it back together, rope off the next part of the library and repeat, rolling the carpet along as they go and slicing off the margins as necessary, all the time having the public at large on the other side of the ropes. You might like to have a go at this game in your back parlour.

Seth and I have visions of the fitters taking the carpet over to the car park so that they can cut it to shape, cutting out counter- and shelving-base-shaped holes in appropriate places so that they can leave the old as is and just overlay with the new.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


This is the tidiest that this place has been for years (at face value anyway, it's as bad as ever if you open any doors). Even so, the fire inspector is grim faced and spends the best part of an hour pointing out the obstacles that get in the way of anybody trying to leave the building in an orderly fashion for their lunch. The set of his jaw suggests that he doesn't fancy our chances in the event of fire. I won't have any problems, I'll be too busy trying to overcome the barricade of trolleys and boxes of CDs that Mary routinely leaves across my doorway.

Seth tries to relay the results to T.Aldous who, in typical fashion, blanks it completely:

"Have you made room in that corridor for those noticeboards?"


Frog's had to go to the doctor's first thing. Lippy, who took the call, has told everybody that he's down at the clinic with a funny rash. Frog, in turn, is telling everyone that he's been prescribed viagara (he says it doesn't help with the rash but it makes it easier to scratch). The pity is that T.Aldous hadn't noticed that Frog wasn't in: we were looking forward to answering the inevitable query with the response "he's at the doctor's with an itchy dick."

Ah well, perhaps next time.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Seth's wearing a beatific smile as he strolls along our box-ridden corridor.

"Fire inspection tomorrow," he explains.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


My turn to answer T.Aldous' 'phone.

"I'm just checking the insurance details for the model of Milkbeck Industrial Estate. Is there security in the shopping centre?"

"Yes, the shopping centre has 24-hour on-site security guards."

"Thank you."

Ten minutes later...

"I'm just checking the insurance details for the model of Milkbeck Industrial Estate."

"I know. We just spoke."

"Ah yes. Is the library alarmed?"

"Nervous about the future but not necessarily alarmed."

"Does it have a burglar alarm?"


"Thank you."

Two minutes later...

"Has the burglar alarm got 24-hour response?"

"Yes, by the 24-hour security in the shopping centre."

"Thank you."

Uh? Who'd steal the bloody thing? And how???

I mention this to Seth.

"You'd have thought they'd have checked the security beforehand. I wonder what would have happened if I'd said no."

"I wish they had. Himself won't let me switch on the burglar alarm. Not since he cocked it up and we had to pay the call-out fee to get it reset."


"Business a bit slack?" I ask Noreen. It turns out that they're waiting for Mary to sign the orders.

"We usually keep things ticking over with the large print standing orders but we've not had any for a couple of months because we're waiting for her to sign the form."

It's an odd thing but when Noreen was soldiering on by herself last month (Betty being off sick) there was no sign of Mary from one day to the next. Just lately, with both of them being in and with a couple of people working extra hours to do some of the cataloguing, Mary's all over them like a rash.

But not so much as to sign the order forms.

As if by magic

"What the hell's that?" I ask Seth, pointing at a huge glass box in the reference library.

"It's Milkbeck Industrial Estate."

"All of it?"

"No, just a model."

"How on earth did you get it in here?"

"We brought it up the shopping centre's service lift, then through into the car park then through the fire exit and down the stairs. We were told we weren't allowed to up-end it but that was the only way it was getting through the fire exit."

I studied it at length for a minute or two, taking care not to lean on the box, seeing as it was on a couple of dodgy tables pending the arrival of some sort of plinth. For the life of me I can't work out where it is: there's a hill in one corner and a motorway in another but no other geographical indicators whatsoever.

I decide not to care.

Friday, May 04, 2007

All the news that fits we don't print either

Maisie's been given the job of putting together the regularly monthly staff newsletter that's been being published since Xmas. Staff provided enough copy for several newsletters last November and the little that is left after it's passed the T.Aldous vetting process and is still of other than Local Studies historical interest has been sitting on he PC since Easter. Every so often one or other of us will ask her:

"How's the regular monthly staff newsletter?"

And every so often she'll tell us to sod off.

What's the problem. Here's a hint, just overheard. No clues as to the speaker...

"There, you see, that's a much nicer font...
...I thought you said that this was a four-page document. Can I leave you to sort out that problem?"

We look forward to the newsletter's being launched in one of our regular monthly staff meetings that we haven't had since October.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hands up if you work for the library service!

Jim's trying to build a staff training matrix. The main stumbling block is that he can't get a list of staff, let alone what their training and developmental needs may be. He sent a note out to Management Group asking if they could have a look at the list that Human Resources had provided and make any necessary amendments. That's when T.Aldous stuck his oar in:

"This is the list I have tried to amend several times and it is still wrong in many places. Many of these errors are of long standing and will not be understood by most of Management Group. I need to check the final version."

This puts my ongoing inability to get anyone to tell me when staff need to be added to or removed from the systems in the shade.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It must be the numbers

You know how it is, you produce some stats and they then become the basis for negotiations to start and claims that they must be wrong...

We installed three self-service online renewal terminals upstairs in lending just after Xmas. The service target is that these will account for 60% of all renewals at this library (God knows where the number came from). In the event we're struggling to reach 4%, not least because we're so under-staffed that we struggle to have enough people to open the door, let alone sell a new process to a very conservative clientele.

Needless to say, I've been told to find out "why the equipment is badly under-reporting."

Harry Potter and the Deadline of Doom

Like most everyone else we're all agog at the forthcoming Harry Potter book. The pressure on all libraries will be to make sure that we have copies available on the day of publication and for special events. So we've all been sent notifications of the suppliers' processes. In essence it's no different to last time: orders will be dealt with on a first-come, first-served basis; orders for delivery before publication date need to be in by the deadline accompanied by a signed form agreeing to the embargo conditions; and the stock will be supplied a couple of days early so that we have time to distribute to our libraries.

From our perspective there are a couple of logistical issues which are easy to deal with and a technical issue which needs a bit of thinking about: ordinarily we encourage customers' reserving titles on order but the combination of pre-publication hype and long lead-in means that there'd be so many pre-publication reservations as to play hob with our performance targets so we need to close the window a bit. Had anyone asked me my solution would have been to create a non-reservable item loan type for these books and then, at the given moment, I could switch them to the ordinary loan type ready for business as usual. Pretty easy really.

Mary's solution is to lose the order form that Frog filled in a couple of months ago. She'd originally hung onto it because she wanted to modify the distribution (sigh...) Every time that Noreen asks if they send out the order Mary says that she needs to find the form and amend the distribution (about ten minutes' work on the system).

So rather than making sure that the order's in and we're OK for stock and then deciding where they're going we're risking missing the deadline.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Building death camps for our dreams

A true tale of the Systems Librarian's lot; a 'phone call from the Reference Library:

"Hi, we've got a lady up here who wants to print back-to-front."

"Printing the back page first or printing a mirror image?"

"Printing a mirror image."

"What's she using?"

"Can I put her on to you so that she can tell you?"

"No. You find out then I'll explain it to you so that if you get asked again you'll know what to do. Is she trying to print a web page or a Word document?"

"...I think she's using Word."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, she's using Word."

"OK... Ctrl and P to get the print menu [our security settings lock out the File Menu], then click on 'options'..."

"Here's Mary, she says she knows about this, I'll pass you on to her."

"Hello? Hello?"

"Kevin, it's Mary. I can do this on my printer at home."

"Each printer does it slightly differently. Can you see the 'options' button?"

"On my printer at home I just click on a button that says 'Mirror.'"

"That's what we're looking for. If it's available it might be in a different place to..."

"I can't find what I'm looking for. I can do this on my printer at home."

"Each printer does it slightly differently. What are you looking at at the moment?"

"I'm looking at the printer properties."

"Is it the laser printer that's on the desk?"

"It probably is."

"Is it? If we're looking at the wrong printer we're wasting our..."

"I can do this at home."

"I know. Each printer does things differently."

And so on for ten minutes. Sigh...

Any time you hear the person on the other end of a support call say:

"It's going to be somewhere around there someplace. I'll leave you to it then."

You'll know what you've been guilty of.

(when micromanagement is just too hands-off)

Julia's upset, and rightly, with T.Aldous. She's just been on the receiving end of a bollocking because he didn't know that Daisy's chairing the interview panel for the Relief Assistants and he hasn't seen a copy of the interview questions. If anyone asks why we don't fill vacancies for years on end it's nothing to do with him but every jot and tittle of the interview has to go through his mill for approval.

T.Aldous has told Seth to expect eight large notice boards that were accidentally sent to Roadkill Library. Seth, who should know better, asks where they're going.

"They're going out to libraries but they'll have to stay here until I get back from holiday so that I can tell you where they're to go."

...so they put a monocle on the chicken

Overheard in the staff room:

Mizzi: "Why have you got a rubber chicken in your locker?"

Lippy: "Because I can!"