Friday, August 31, 2007
"She's not the only one."
"Why? Who else is?"
"I'm hoping that T.Aldous will have retired by the time I'm back from maternity leave."
Thursday, August 30, 2007
"I've lost the will to live."
We have a chat about staff training opportunities and it slowly dawns on me that he's depending on my coming up with positive suggestions to counter his despairing conclusion that we haven't a hope in hell of setting up any staff development regime with some members of Management Group being as they are. I actually agree with him but being somewhat sneakier than him I come up with some workarounds which might be viable.
Just at the point where he's perking up and starting to fire up ideas of his own T.Aldous appears in the doorway.
"Sorry to interrupt but we need to finish our conversation."
Some folk were more sprightly walking to the tumbril.
"You can tell he's been in this morning."
"He's been rooting round in all the drawers and cupboards."
"Did you not do that thing where you leave a sheet of paper face up in the top drawer saying: 'just out of curiosity, what were you looking for?'"
"You can get away with that sort of thing, I can't."
Some people are defeated before they enter the field of battle.
Pansy tells me that Gypsy Lane isn't being closed while they put in "disabled toilets." During the key phases of the operation staff will be equipped with a commode in the staff room.
"Not exactly hygenic, is it, having a commode where you're eating your lunch."
"I can see that it's not ideal. I wonder what happens if one of you wants to eat her butties and the other needs the loo... Are you ringing from the staff room now?"
"There's you are then: you should ring T.Aldous up while you're on the commode. 'Excuse me while I wipe.' If you do it often enough he'll either relent and organise something a bit less demeaning or else you'll get some time off for mental incapacity."
Jim arrives back from the meeting a little flustered. He's due in to a meeting at 1 o'clock and had been trying to escape T.Aldous' clutches since twelve o'clock (T.Aldous only set off for the meeting at twenty to eleven).
"I kept trying to excuse myself but couldn't get out."
"You could have just left."
"No I couldn't: he'd parked across the driveway entrance so that none of us could get out."
On an entirely unrelated subject, we hear that T.Aldous is filling in an extra hours form for the late nights he's working. I can only hope it's so that somebody high up and pause before signing the form and ask: "why on earth are you spending any time doing that?"
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
"I'm pregnant!"We explain as best we can that it's bad form for the publican to drain his own stock. It turns out that the lure of Bookstart goodies isn't the motive behind her condition.
"Really? You don't look it." [How some people can keep a straight face...]
"I'm hoping that by the time I get back from maternity leave T.Aldous will have retired!"
"It is a human baby you're carrying isn't it? They come out after nine months, I read that in a book."
"Ooh yes," says Betty. "We might find out something we shouldn't know about."
"Or even worse something that we should know about!"
I offer to buy some Bacofoil so that we can fashion hats to deaden our powers of telepathy so that we don't accidentally intrude unbidden into the minds of managers.
In lieu of a meeting she's had them cutting out sections of the responses and sticking them onto sheets of A3 paper "to make it easier for me to see what's what." This beggars belief.
T.Aldous negotiated an extension to the process to next week. In this service an extension provides an opportunity to put off till tomorrow what you could have put off yesterday but put it off a bit. Still, it's only people's livelihoods isn't it? Not like it's anything important.
As a courtesy Frog tells Mary what we're planning to do.
"Just so long as it's a children's interactive area and not a Frog and Kevin interactive area."
This is her one and only input to our web presence in the twelve years we've had it. I feel like telling her to shove it up her arse.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Out of the blue we're told that Senebene and Gypsy Lane are going to be closed for a fortnight while disabled toilets are installed. (I'm assuming that these are toilets for disabled people and not toilets that have been disabled. Or at least not yet awhile.) We'll have to shift furniture, computers and bookstock out of the way of gentleman builders at the same time as we'll be shifting Roadkill Library to its new home, leaving half its chattels behind it, and probably coinciding with the panic clear out of the old Glass Road site. Oh joy. Typically, the time frame's dictated by the builders' windows of opportunity rather than the diktats of service provision.
The work will take a month at each site. In weeks three and four the builders will be covering the work with a tarpaulin ("can you tell what it is yet?") and staff will be using chemical toilets for their motions. We've suggested that we string banners across the fronts of the libraries stating
This isn't normal behaviour. Even by my jaded experience this isn't natural. There's probably some evil bastard somewhere including this sort of thing in their library management courses. The UN War Crimes Committee should be scouring the library schools of the world to put a stop to it.
And what would we then do with the poor damaged creatures left behind to fend in the wild with nothing more than a library manager's salary to support them? I suggest that they could undergo a comprehensive course of retraining by smacking them about the back of the head with a plank. Or they could be humanely euthanised by smacking them about the back of the head with a plank. Whatever course of action is chosen, smacking them about the back of the head with a plank looks like a sound option.
Friday, August 24, 2007
"While you're not doing anything, could you have a look at some of the boxes that have come in from Glass Road?"
Library management in a nutshell: sitting for an afternoon cutting ribbons into 2cm lengths is work; statistics and reports necessary to justify funding streams is 'not doing anything.'
Thursday, August 23, 2007
"Acquisitions Team, Noreen speaking, how can I help you?"
"Do you play dominoes?"
"I'm ringing to chase up an invoice."
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
"I need a full analysis of the stock at Catty and Carbootsale libraries this morning for a meeting I'm having this afternoon. I need the amount of stock, the age, and so on so that we can have a look at completely reviving the stock in the new year. Can I leave it with you?"
Okay, okay, yes I can do it, but that's not the point. I've run the report, using some code I wrote for some analyses I did a few weeks back, and it won't take more than ten minutes to pull it into a spreadsheet and tart it up. Then I'll go for my lunch. When I come back I'll send him the analysis.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
A chap's just popped into Milkbeck Library to apologise for his behaviour this morning. This morning's conversation with Molly went like this:
"Can I help you?"
"I'm ordering some things on the internet and they're asking me for an email address. Can I have yours?"
"You don't want to give them ours. They want your email address so that they can send you a receipt and if anything goes wrong you've got something to work from."
"No, I want to give them your email address."
"Honestly, you have to give them your address."
"I don't have an email address, I don't hold with them. I don't trust computers, people get all your details and pretend that they're you. That's why I shred everything at home." [Bear in mind that he's paying for this online order with his credit card!]
"Well, I'm not letting you have our email address."
"I'm not going to do anything untoward with it. I'm just ordering some underpants from a shop in Manchester."
"You're not having our email address."
Exit customer in high dudgeon. Anyway, he cam back to apologise:
"I'm really sorry about my behaviour this morning. I lost my rag for no good reason. I think you misunderstood what I was asking for. Can I have your email address..."
Molly reckons they'll be seeing him again. I told her to give him the Chief Exec's email address.
Monday, August 20, 2007
"You know all that stuff on lis-pub-libs about open source library management systems? Does that mean the MLA is going to be giving every library service a new, free LMS to fit in with all the new programmes we're supposed to be following?""No," I explained.
Hettie's desperately trying to persuade people to re-jig their home lives to do a few extra hours to help out. Not for the first time I can't help wondering if it would be more cost-effective and efficient to get vacancies filled (and with permanent staff, not temps from the agency) rather than having supervisory staff spending at least five hours a week juggling time tables and ringing round to try and get enough bodies in the right-ish places at the right-ish times.
"I thought you don't start work till nine?"
"I don't but I've got a new girl starting today and there's only three of us in all day so I thought I'd best get in early to do the timesheets, sick returns, petty cash and the monitoring returns before she got in so's I can give her some time for introductions and a bit of induction and she doesn't walk into some big panic or other because I've not done some admin. work in time for himself or the people in the Town Hall. I want to give her a few days before she realises we're a shambles."
Sounds fair enough to me. But what do I know? Julia noticed the time on the monitoring returns emails and gave Daisy a bollocking for starting work outside her set hours.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
"Nil desp," I tell him. "In a few month's time we'll be able to sell them to gardens for mulching their garden beds."
Friday, August 17, 2007
"Jim's looking a bit pissed off."
"He'd arranged a Management Group meeting about stock management targets and stock selection policy so that he can do the report to committee about the MLA performance indicators."
"Yes, that'd piss me off, too."
"That's not what did it. When it came to the meeting Jim and Doreen were sat there for half an hour wondering where the others had gotten to."
"Typical. If Management Group doesn't want to manage stock, and I know they don't want anything to do with personnel management, what exactly are they managing?"
"The colour of carpets and the disposal of sanitary towels."
Thursday, August 16, 2007
This, apparently, is the MLA's preferred model of stock delivery to one-man-and-his-dog branch libraries in small country towns.
"Where's she had it done then?"
"At the tattooists."
"No... whereabouts on her body?"
"I don't know. It looks ominously white."
"Is that shaving stubble?"
"It'll be her back then."
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
The sense of resentment is further heightened because Betty's been waiting all this time to have her job title changed from "Clerk Typist" to "Acq. Assistant." This entails no change in status or pay but confers on Betty the recognition that she does, indeed, order, receive and invoice stock and it isn't just some strange, exotic dream. In the mean time the members of Management Group have been re-titled twice and had two substantial upward regrades. There is a truly peculiar attitude to job titles here: Jimmy Huddersfield was Acquisitions Librarian for twenty years and ran the Procurement Team (as was) for twelve of them before they finally relented and changed his job title from "Catalogue Librarian."
When they get there it's not plain sailing:
- The people there know nothing about it.
- They say there's no room at the inn.
- There isn't a grey wall there.
- "While you're here, can you move all those Bookstart packs from over there?"
They ring Mary, who rings the bloke who was supposed to be making the arrangements at the Sorry end.
"Where should these Bookstart packs go?"
"I'm not bothered."
So they come back with more than they went away with.
In too many respects this place reminds me of the blind, stupid bureaucratic processes in "The Good Soldier Švejk" (no, of course we've not got it in stock: it's a classic of European literature).
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Monday, August 13, 2007
"Is it OK for this customer to photocopy a chapter from this document? She wrote this chapter herself."
"The college owns the copyright but I don't think they'll kick up a fuss in the circumstances."
"Should I give her a discount on the photocopying?"
"Why on earth would you give her a discount?"
"Leave it with me, I'll sort out some arrangement."
This is particularly hard on our Library Assistants, who get a lot of responsibility dumped on them for some of the worst pay in the council. There are times when some of them drive me crackers but I can unequivocably say that they're worth the money, and most of them are worth considerably more than that if only they'd realise it. And because they don't realise it and don't play up their positives they get treated like crap.
They don't all do themselves a favour. Dagmar at Doggedly will run through all the worst-case scenarios possible to the point where you're just ready to give up completely but when you get there and start preparing an activity or event you'll find that she's done as much preparation as you could hope for and is keen to make sure that it goes as well as possible. We were doing some publicity materials for branches as asked around for information about what's going on when Maureen at Roadkill told us "I can't think of anything really." Besides the fact the library's moving house soon, it turns out (after ten minutes' conversation) that she's got a reading group going; a monthly writing group; twice-weekly art and craft activities; home safety sessions with the local gendarmes, etc. etc. etc. And Hedi at Pottersbury Road can paint a long picture of despair about her library which is entirely at odds with the picture you see when you're spending an hour sorting out some of the hardware problems: there she is, cutting out pictures of butterflies, helping small children make bookmarks and making a miserably wet summer holiday afternoon quite a nice experience for them.
Why on earth do they persist in underselling themselves and everything they do? I suppose part of it is that so much local service development has to be done under the management radar. (The week T.Aldous was trooping himself round the libraries saying that visitor counts were dangerously low and we should do things like have reading groups and the such he was also telling somebody on no account should she start a reading group as it wasn't her place to do so.) (And somebody else did get a bollocking for letting somebody start a reading group who "didn't have a good degree.") And so much of what passes for management in this service is devoted to making sure that people know their place. I suppose we're all just cowed into submission. Which might be our maximised potential. (sigh)
"It's for this week's craft events in the libraries."
"Why not just send them a length of ribbon each?"
"It takes as long for me to do this as it does to answer all the 'phone calls asking how long the pieces need to be; what happens if there's a bit left over; who gets to use the scissors; etc. etc. etc. and so on. And they would. You know they would. Remember what happened about the face masks. Never again."
It's true. Every library was sent a batch of photocopied face masks to cut out as required during one of the early summer events. The 'phones were red hot: who does the cutting out? what happens if they want to colour them in? "I spent three hours straight cutting these out and now I've got RSI" (Frog's nicer than me: I'd have used the word 'pillock' in response to that one).
Friday, August 10, 2007
"What an awful building. When are they finally pulling it down?"
"That's the library I work in, mum."
Thursday, August 09, 2007
The problem is that although the printer needs to go under the desk Dagmar doesn't want to have to kneel down for the paper. I'm not sure how that works.
"Any inspirations as to where to put the printer?" I ask Lupin.
In the end we jerry-rig a network point and move the printer from any of the previously objectionable locations. To my utter relief and amazement Dagmar is happy about it. Job done. Is it time to go home yet?
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
"Which are these?"
"Books for Sharing," replies Noreen. "Urgent job we had to do for Mary."
"That box is for Helminthdale. That's for Roadkill. That's for Noddy. Or at least that's what they were bought for. They'll be down here until it's time to withdraw them."
"Haven't we just got the display stands for these?"
"Yes, but we can't send the stuff upstairs because Doreen doesn't know where they're going and she thinks it won't be worth putting them out if the carpet's going to be replaced this November."
"And we're supposed to be moving Roadkill some time in the next few months..."
"And we can't send them out to Noddy because they can't put the stand out because of the photocopier."
"But there isn't a photocopier at Noddy. T.Aldous kiboshed it.... Yes, yes, I know, I know, I'm sorry."
"We had to drop everything to get them ordered and invoiced and processed. Dead waste of time that was."
"Is there any way for me to retreat gracefully from this conversation?"
"Not gracefully, no. You should know better."
Jane works 20 hours per week. Her entitlement is:
20 / 37.5 x 140
= 74.6666 hours' holiday
= 75 hours 6 minutes
Between us it took us ten minutes to realise just what the problem is here. And another ten to believe it had become official mathematics.
*(To spare you our agonies: .66 of an hour is not sixty six minutes)
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
"I told Julia that we'd be struggling today. Do you know what she said? 'Well I'm on leave on Tuesday.'"
Sounds like someone aspires to T.Aldous' dizzying heights.
"You know how you finish a conversation with somebody and then five minutes later you realise that it made no sense whatsoever?" asks Milton.
"All the time," I confess.
"I've just been talking to Dagmar at Doggedly. She's read that report in the Daily Mail about laser printers giving you cancer."
"Oh yes, another one..."
"She was telling me how she was having trouble breathing and kept catching her breath. So I promised I check up on it with Health and Safety."
I knew what was coming.
"It was only when I put the 'phone down that I remembered that it hadn't been installed yet and was still in the box in the back room."
"Our first meeting was to decide on some outline aims for the Implementation Plan Working Party. I suggested that we should include 'Encouraging a can-do culture within the council.' In the end they decided on 'Looking at ways of encouraging greater involvement in implementation plans.'"
"I've been doing this for twenty-three years and never lost an audience before," says Frog.
Sad to say, in real life there are always some people we're not going to reach, no matter how much we try.
Monday, August 06, 2007
In any ordinary organisation they'd hang onto the stuff or chuck it out or something. Not here: everyone's so worried that they'll be held to account for every pennyweight of dirt and the bags besides that they've sent it back to Helminthdale to be on the safe side.
Just at this point I pop my head over the filing cabinet.
"Haven't you got this place cleared out for T.Aldous' sofas yet?"
"Don't talk to me about bloody sofas."
I think he needs his lunch.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
"I had two meetings with that bloody idiot last week," is his opening conversational gambit.
It's a while later before it occurs to me I didn't ask who we were talking about.
Friday, August 03, 2007
"If you want to come and check the library you should have made an appointment."
The response was magisterial:
"I don't have to make appointments."
Lola's told both Frog and Mary about the meeting and they're not wholly impressed with the fact T.Aldous hadn't deigned to do so. Mary decides to be a bit firm about this one. T.Aldous concedes the point:
"You're not invited but you can come in if you want."
"When I left last night everywhere was spick and span and the workroom was tidy, with just a couple of dozen boxes of booksale stock stacked up in the corner. This morning there's nothing stacked up in the corner of the workroom and there's empty cardboard boxes littering the lending library."
The work of a moment. We wonder what time Elvis left the building last night.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
- Lola is leading the children's centre bookdrop project.
- Frog is temporarily line-managing Lola and is responsible for the children's centre bookdrop project, together with all the rest of the children's library services.
- Mary line-manages Frog and is responsible for children's library services, inter alia and is the signing-off officer for the children's centre bookdrop project.
- T.Aldous is Chief Librarian and his only input on the children's centre bookdrop project was to hold up Lola's appointment for six of the twelve months of the life of the project.
- He's told Lola to collate all the statistics this evening so that he can answer any questions that may arise.
- Frog knows nothing about this meeting.
- Mary knows nothing about this meeting.
T.Aldous' parting shot to Lola:
"Make sure that you show that the statistics can be audited if necessary. I don't want to look a fool in this meeting."
It's to be hoped he keeps his mouth shut then.
"Tell you what. If you work through your lunchtime you can go home at three o'clock."
"Can somebody do a couple of hours' storytime for us, too?"
Frog made his excuses and left.
"We'll be bringing our SureStart group to the Library tomorrow afternoon. It'll be about twenty children, plus a few parents."
"You won't, you know. The library's not open on Wednesdays."
"It must be: we've sent letters out to parents and everything."