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

Friday, June 29, 2007


I discover that I can get onto our web catalogue on the corporate network after all. It only involves hacking into the server from the intranet and then entering the IP address to get onto the site.

The software supplier agrees with my diagnosis:

"They do like passing the buck, don't they? They've been fiddling with the network again."

"Can you have a chat with them again? They don't believe me."

"Will do."

I'm now debating whether or not to put the instructions for connection on the intranet...

I've run out of headlines with box puns in them

"What are all these boxes?" I ask Seth as a new load of battered baked bean cartons are piled up against Frog's bookshelves.

"Stuff from Noddy that didn't go to the new library," says Seth with ill-disguised disgust.

"Why's it come here?"

"Why does anything come here?"

It turns out that T.Aldous has decided that this stock's got to come here for transfer or withdrawal by one of the branch librarians at Helminthdale. Despite the fact that that half of the borough's got more branch librarians, including one who's directly responsible for Noddy Library.

Bronwyn is not a happy bunny as she has been volunteered for the work as she's only preparing for the Big Wild Read, a programme of reading group events and covering for the reference librarians who are on leave.

"When I was at Milbeck when it was closing for two years while we put in a new floor, walls and ceiling I had to do all the withdrawals and transfers myself. There was no 'oh just send all your shit to Helminthdale for them to sort out' then, oh no."

The situation's made worse when Doreen warns Bronwyn that T.Aldous expects it to be cleared by the time he's back from leave so that Frog can be shifted into that area to make the way clear for a couple of settees to be placed outside T.Aldous' office for to make a waiting room.

I thought I had a wide vocabulary of invective and profane language but evidently I'm a rank amateur.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Oozing through cavities of unrestrained passion

A romantic novel is sent back to the Acq. Team from Windscape:

"I think this has been sent in error. It seems to be a work of erotic fiction."

I suppose the clue was in the blurb on the front cover: "Erotic Fiction for Lovers."

We have a scout round to see what's happening to the other copies. The copy at Helminthdale has been confiscated and put into the Group Librarian's office (it's still on the shelves on the catalogue I notice) while Benzedrine Drive's copy has been issued three times (mind you, they've got an active Art Group, nuff said).

Glancing through it I find that the sex scenes are a lot milder than those described in some of Alan Titchmarsh's books. Must be the pullovers.


As of ten minutes ago we can no longer get access to the web catalogue on staff PCs. It works fine from the public PCs and my colleague in Pardendale can get on it OK. Obviously someone's been monkeying around with network settings again. I log a call with IT.

"It's an application fault."

"We've been using it for years without incident; why would it be an application fault?"

"You'll have to contact the software supplier. They'll have changed something last time they were on the server."

"They're not allowed on ther server. Come to that, neither am I."

"I'm sorry, it can only be an application fault."

"If it's an application fault how come it only doesn't work on our corporate network?"

"Sorry, you'll have to contact the supplier."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Eternal happiness is rhubarb tart

Popping into Dutch Bend I notice that Daisy and Mimsie are in one of "those" moods. For people who claim not to be in middle age yet they do a very good impression of Cissie and Ada when the mood takes them. Invariably this means that they're planning on doing some matchmaking for some poor devil. I've no idea who's in their sights this time: it could be anyone, staff or public. My God, I hope it's not my turn again, life's full of shit as it is.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Can't be wrong all the time

I appear to have established a reputation for fatalism:

Kevin was walking into work when he spotted a banana skin on the pavement fifty yards up the road.

"Oh bugger," he said, "here we go again."

Monday, June 25, 2007

What about them? Now — they're not!

Good news: T.Aldous is now on holiday.

Good-ish news: Mary is also on holiday.

Good news: In the absence of obsessive micromanagers we should be able to get something done.

Bad news: Nobody else is allowed to sign orders, invoice payment slips, contract workers' time sheets or building repair requisition dockets.

So that's fine then.

All the refuse lying here
Has no life to give it cheer

I'm doing yet another bit of the catalogue maintenance that apparently isn't necessary to have anyone doing because catalogues maintain themselves and we'll soon be moving to MARC21 anyway, which transformation happens by magic and won't involve any specialised work. I've mentioned before that I don't understand some librarians' attitude to cataloguing: I can understand them not wanting to do it themselves but the utter neglect that's apparent in some organisations' catalogues is breathtaking. We'll soon be joining their ranks. Management Group can deal with all the complaints about people not being able to find anything, they're the ones who've deleted the stock manager/catalogue post without telling anyone.

This time it's authority maintenance: I'm tidying out all the blind authorities in the subject index. It's an object lesson in the transience of fame: out go Peter Butterworth, Neville Chamberlain, Eamonn Andrews, Paul Merton and Danny Kaye. Disconcertingly, it becomes apparent that we no longer have any stock on Babylonia, Carthage, cervical cancer, the Channel Islands or metaphysics.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


We unwrap the mummy in the corridor. What a let-down. After removing about twenty yards of bubble wrap it turns out to be the most boring island shelving unit I've ever seen: two vertical aluminum poles with six open-ended aluminium slat shelves.

Friday, June 22, 2007

And some irresponsible crazies
Meander around there at will

Someone from SureStart is talking to Lola:

"We'll be starting under-fives' story time at Windscape next week."

"Err... Can I just check with the staff there to make sure they know about it and we've got the arrangements sorted."

"Oh we agreed it at the friends' group AGM meeting the other week."

"Well they still might not know about it..."

"T.Aldous was there and said it was OK."

So the staff at Windscape don't know about it, Lola the librarian responsible for Windscape doesn't know about it and Doreen the Group Librarian doesn't know about it. It also comes as a surprise to Frog, but he's only responsible for children's library services so it's nothing to do with him. But Himself does, so that's alright then.


There I am with an audience in front of me waiting to be delighted with a demo of some online magic when I find that I can't log onto the PC, which tells me my PC account is disabled. I ring the helpdesk: they can't fathom why either.

An hour later it turns out that it isn't my account that's disabled, it's the PC. Apparently some of our friends in IT have decided that if a PC hasn't been used for a few weeks they'll disable it on the network. But not bother telling anyone.


Thursday, June 21, 2007


Milton's arranged for Lola to join us for a day-long meeting about online services. In part this is because one day when I was away someody rang up and asked who was representing the Library Service in a corporate e-Implementation Meeting, T.Aldous and Mary panicked, saw Lola and volunteered her for the job. In part it's because Milton and I have been doing this type of thing for too long and need a fresh pair of eyes to cut through all the natural assumptions.

Mary is not happy that Lola's doing this so she's told Milton that she's got to pay for her day's work out of one of his budgets. Considering that we're all paid out of one service-wide staffing budget and that I seem to spend half my working life doing work for parts of Mary's empire this is a little cheeky.

Any similarity between Management Group and a working team is purely coincidental.

Nomdy Gurr

Lippy's taken the name of McMoo, probably preparatory to being adopted into the clan so yclept, though it might be a numerology thing (with Hettie having been and gone we've lost the expertise in that area). We're not sure how official this is so I'm not having her name changed on her PC account. Apparently the tartan is grey, plum and grey and a Marigold glove is carried in lieu of a sporran. I'm not sure what the nursing homes think when she turns up like this.


Apparently there's no truth in the rumour that Beryl puts peanuts in the foyer of Senebene Library so that the squirrels' jumping in and out pumps up the visitor figures.

A shame, really, that would have been a positive to put into our Improvement Implementation Report.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

And they frequently talk to a stranger


"I see your secondment's been extended to January."

"Has it? That's the first I know about it."

"Well, I've just filed copies of the extension form that T.Aldous sent to Human Resources last week."

Customer care

I get a 'phone call from Roadkill Library:

"What does it mean when the system says that money's got to be refunded to a borrower?"

"It means that we took them some money off them and now we have to give it back."

"That's a bit of a pain. Is it OK if I just leave it as it is so that it can pay off his future overdues."

How Useful Redux

Human Resources have rung Daisy to ask why she hasn't sent written feedback to one of the candidates for one of the Relief Assistant posts. Bit cheeky really as she only got the request yesterday and she then found out that HR have lost the recruitment paperwork!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

And they sometimes escape, it is true

Hettie Mistletoe's last day. I take the opportunity to nip round to have one last look at her legs.

"Aren't you having a leaving do?" I ask.

"What? And have T.Aldous insist on giving a speech before giving me my leaving present?"

Oh dear

Oh hell. It turns out that Lemuel has had three heart attacks. He was rushed in for emergency surgery yesterday and he's had to have angioplasty. Seth breaks the news to everyone, most of whom are suitably shocked. I can't imagine that all the hassle with all the sequences of pass the parcel has done him any good.

Needless to say, despite the fact that we've got a couple of months' worth of shifting and lumbering crap about the Borough; a whole heap of early summer events for kids; and another Big Book Sale up in the library next month Seth's going to be working single-handed. Let's hope the usual suspect has the tact not to piss him about so much as usual or we'll have someone else in Accident and Emergency.

How useful

Bad news for Daisy at Dutch Bend: whenever we interview candidates for jobs we have to fill in a Recruitment Scoring Matrix for each candidate, marking against the person specification and interview questions, and submit this to Human Resources so that it's on file in the event of query.

Daisy's chaired the last lot of interviews for Relief Assistants and one of them has asked for written feedback. Daisy got in touch with HR for a copy of the Matrix. Only to find that they've lost it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A futile but joyous irony

Maybelle's been lobbying to have maps and street maps in the lending stock at Helminthdale for the best part of a year now. She's just had another row with Mary about it and has been quietly steaming in the work room since then. Enter Mary:

"I'm going to a meeting in Pardendale this afternoon but I'm not sure where the nearest parking is. Do we have a street atlas?"

"There'll be one up in the reference library," replies Maybelle innocently.

"That's no good, I'll need to take it with me."

"What a pity there aren't any lending copies."

Calm down dear

I'm steaming a little less about the continuity plan now I've seen the emails Jim had to deal with. It's apparent that "somebody" sat on the forms for three months and then forwarded them to Jim, telling him: "The deadline for this was four days ago. We need to fill this in as soon as possible. Please fill this in and return it to me by tomorrow."

After a chat with Jim we've settled that the result was unsatisfactory. Then we both start to wonder why we've got a secret business continuity plan. It isn't unknown: after all, we're the library service with the stock selection policy that's so confidential that half of management group aren't allowed to see it. Even so...
It turns out that it's never been sent on to the Business Management Unit in the Town Hall. It should have arrived in January. Jim and I resolve to rewrite the thing into something that people can actually use and then see if we can't slip it under the wire in a couple of weeks' time when T.Aldous is irritating the natives of far Amazonia.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Highly collectable dragons


"Where's T.Aldous going this time?"

"He's on a boat trip up the Amazon."

"I hope a fucking crocodile eats him."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Flinders Petrie

As if we don't have enough impedimenta we receive delivery of a disturbingly-familiar, unlabelled, bubble-wrapped package.

Disturbingly-familiar? The first job I had was in a museum of ancient antiquities (my career has come full circle), so when I see an object that's the height of a sarcophagus, the shape of a sarcophagus, the width of a sarcophagus and the depth of a sarcophagus I can but surmise that it is a sarcophagus.

Nobody has ordered a sarcophagus and knows nothing about the package.

I would have thought the archaeologists would have been coming round to take stuff out not put stuff in.

Mabel bathes in axle grease

What kind of person leaves an open tube of vaginal lubricant in the children's board books?

Who told you to stop doing star jumps?

Jim took a day off sick last October after catching a really bad cold and spending a day shivering and throwing up.

We had a sickness monitoring briefing this morning. It turns out that we're the third worst service for sickness this year after social services and the one-stop shops. Something must be done says T.Aldous. To my dying day I'll never know how nobody said: "why don't you retire then?"

Instead, T.Aldous stares at Jim and pipes up:

"Well one person here had a day off sick last year."

This appears to be the sum total for his strategy for progress.

Spinning blancmange on a nail in the ceiling

Let the welkin ring! The staff newsletter has finally been published and circulated. (This is issue one of the regular monthly newsletter that's been published since December). It's OK-ish up to the point where T.Aldous' responses to the long-abandoned staff suggestion scheme appears in print.

There is spin and there is spin. Even the questions are rewritten to fit T.Aldous' peculiar mindset. My suggestion that we put the stock in the reserve stacks to use in displays and historically-themed stock promotions is turned into: "What's the point of having reserve stock? Let's get rid of it all."

It looks like I'm not alone. A zamizdat version of T.Aldous' responses is now doing the rounds. Starting off with:

Staff ask:
"When are you going to fill the staff vacancies in the branch libraries?"

Management hears:
"Well done you for managing the service so well."

T.Aldous replies:
"At the turn of the century, explorers regarded the North Pole as the last prize in the Northern Hemisphere. The quest for the Pole turned into an international race with teams from Britain, Norway and America vying for the distinction of reaching it first. Robert Peary, a Commander in the U.S. Navy, made his first attempt to reach the Pole in 1893. Two more expeditions followed (1898-1902 and 1905-1906). Both fell short of the mark, but the efforts propelled Peary to the distinction of America's foremost Arctic explorer. "

We all know where this is going. The next time we get inspected, Himself will be asked about staff consultation and he'll say:

"We have a staff suggestion programme but staff don't use it."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Servus interruptus

I'm trying to set up a vote of no confidence motion with regard to our IT section. They have spent thousands on the room housing servers etc, only for the air conditioning to blow on Saturday and take five servers with it, and last night a power cut took out the lot.

I innocently asked what happened to the UPS, "Oh, that must have failed as well".

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Marshalling resources

"We need to get the Library Service Strategic Plan onto the web," says Milton. "Jim's going to send you the document."

"It should be easy enough. We just need to find someone with a pdf writer so that we can convert it," I answer.

"I've got one on my PC. I got it installed when I got my PC. I got Visio, Photoshop and a few other things as well while I was at it."


I confined myself to mentioning that it's always useful to know what resources are available to the Library Service.

Another of life's mysteries

Something catches my eye as I read some auditors' notes on the CIPFA stats collection:

"...In the event of system failure these data are secured by the implementation of the Business Continuity Plan."

This is news to me. I ask Jim if we do have a Business Continuity Plan.

"Oh yes, we wrote it a while back."

I'm not impressed. I'm even less impressed when I read it. I manage to persuade myself that I really do need to make the effort to get this revised into something that might actually work.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Marching backwards to a brave new tomorrow

A colleague writes:

Much to my delight I find that our council has a Maximising The Potential Of Our People Project Board, charged with creating a culture with a "can do" attitude, which is flexible, nimble, inspirational and focussed on making things happen.

So yah boo, sucks to Helminthdale! We got there first.

And damn me, he's right: we have no such thing. I intend writing a stiff memo to our Performance Team telling them that I'm worried that we may be quartile dipping on our non-deliverable bullshit outputs.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tomato! Thou art like the mind

Our Corporate IT Newsletter comes a-pinging into our Outtake mailboxes, sandwiched in between the offers of cheap Rolex watches; offers of cheap v!agra and "press releases" from some bunch of rogues determined to have us believe that Helminthdale appeared in the top quartile for customer satisfaction in the last perfomance cycle.

"Investing for a better infrastructure!" proclaims the screaming headline. Actually reading the article (I know, I know) it turns out that the sole strategy for transforming our network architecture is "we will be attaching our Outlook server to a spam filter."

The Michigan Insane Asylum
Is up on the top of the hill

Some more of the furniture's arrived for the new Glass Road Library, round the back of St. Barrabas' Primary School, but it can't be delivered. The school's commandeered the library to provide office space for the OFSTED inspectors who are in this week and they won't let us in.
  • The new library opens at the end of the month.

  • We've been paying rent on this place for the past two and a half years.
    Doesn't bode well for the future.

    Friday, June 08, 2007

    A noble structure which has many charms

    Jim's been working out the floor areas of libraries for the performance reports. Much to my surprise it turns out that public floorspace only accounts for 52% of Catty Library. Surprising because there's nowhere for staff to work at Catty, the workrooms barely having room to swing a cat. We think it through: the 48% staff area has to include the five small rooms off the entrance hall (each the size of a broom closet); perhaps the entrance hall itself (it accounts for a good third of the building) and the attic.

    Catty Library: a great façade on a derelict bike shed.

    Thursday, June 07, 2007

    Why, is it possible that 'tis the same!

    By one of those coincidences beyond the nerve of creative writers, Daisy tells me that she's spent all morning looking stuff up for one of the planners at Dutch Bend.

    "I told him that he could do it on the web but he said that the connection in the planning office is so slow that he can't do anything on the web without it timing out on him."

    Some rare bits of brain lie here

    We're having a problem with one of the library portals. It worked fine yesterday. It works fine on public PCs in the library. It works fine when someone logs in at home. It is completely inaccessible on library staff PCs. We're used to it timing out on our PCs — everything on the internet times out on the corporate network at one time or another because it's so damned slow — but this is a new wrinkle.

    I log the call with the corporate helpdesk. They proxy into my PC and see for themselves. After twenty minutes' worth of trial and error they find that if you search for the server's name and then enter the IP address as the URL then it'll open up a session on the portal. Which stays open until you change pages. This is peculiar on so many levels I'm boggled. But not any more so than when I'm told:

    "It's an application problem. You'll have to contact the supplier."


    "How is it an application problem? It's working for the public but not for us. What's changed overnight? I'm not allowed on the server. The supplier's not been allowed on the server since the software was installed."

    "Well it can't be a network problem. It must be an application problem."

    I do as I'm told and report it to the supplier. My account manager 'phones me up:

    "This isn't so much passing the buck as throwing it bodily out of the window."

    "Can you tell them that? They won't believe me."

    Wednesday, June 06, 2007

    They might throw pennies

    Compare and contrast, from the world of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport:
    • Cost of execrable 2012 logo for the London Olympics: £400,000, cash on the nail

    • Budget for the national Framework for the Future Library Improvement programme: £4,000,000, to be paid in instalments

      One to bear in mind the next time some politician starts banging on about the return of investment of the public library sector.


      Lemuel's off sick (he's been looking peaky for weeks), so it's down to Seth to look after the ship single-handed. This doesn't stop T.Aldous' providing him with more things to do elsewhere. Today it's shifting a pile of crap down to the old Noddy Library site (it's some of the crap that was brought back the other week and it's the old Noddy Library site that should have been cleared out by the end of April). T.Aldous has hired a skip for an hour and Seth's to fill it up with the aid of Kevin the van driver. If they've the sense they were born with they'll make a day of it.

      Dust and yesterday's greasepaint

      An odd morning for posters...

      There's a new one at the railway station saying: "Go back in time... ...Travel with Northern Rail." I thought this was very appropriate as I decamped from my 1985 Sprinter and got onto the Transpennine Express (like the Pony Express but slower and less reliable), built in 1988.

      Walking down from Helminthdale Station there's a new one put up by the Regeneration Unit:

      Put on your dancing trousers and boogie on down
      To the bars, pubs and clubs
      In Helminthdale Town Centre

      As the local nightlife is made up of The Monkey's; The Duck & Pullet and O'Rafferty's Catholic Ukrainian Club I can't imagine John Travolta strutting his stuff of a Wednesday evening.

      Tuesday, June 05, 2007

      Library –2.0.1

      Investigations show that the corporate ban on blogging sites only covers those sites with the character string 'blog' somewhere in their URL. The only thing more fun than an irrational ban on online resources is a lazy irrational ban on online resources.

      Library –2.0

      Picking up a reference about online learning resources for public library staff on a site in the States I make the mistake of trying to check it out at work. Access denied By Order Of The Management. I log a call with the corporate IT helpdesk asking for access to this site.

      Sorry, this site's blocked because it's a blogging site.

      It pays to talk

      T.Aldous is disputing the architects' costs for the move to the new Noddy Library. He insists on an itemised bill.

      By far the biggest item on the bill turns out to be "telephone conversations with T.Aldous Huxtable."

      Monday, June 04, 2007

      You really don't want to read this one

      One of the cleaners, a lady in her sixties, has just come back from her holidays in Blackpool.

      "My daughter bought me a vibrator for me holidays. Does anyone want it? I've only used it once."

      To sunshine and song I but just awaken

      A wave of optimism surges round the staff room table. And hits a breakwater.

      "When's T.Aldous going on his holidays?"

      "End of the month."

      "Ooh, I can't wait: three weeks' bliss and getting stuff done."

      "He's only going away for two weeks."

      "Shit... Ah well, at least it'll be two weeks without his meddling interference."

      "Nobody's told you the story about the postcards from China, have they?"

      Friday, June 01, 2007


      Noreen comes back from leave to find a note on her desk:

      Half a bottle of milk was thrown away last Thursday because it has gone off.

      Perhaps we should hold a wake.