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

Friday, August 31, 2007

Playing the gender card

I'm at Glass Road, setting up a learning workstation. Chatting with Rosy, the assistant there, I say: "Did you know Lola's pregnant?"

"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

He sighed

Milton creeps into the office, sits down and puts his head in his hands.

"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.

For some of us the world smells of shit and blackberries

A 'phone call from Pansy at Gypsy Lane.

"You can tell he's been in this morning."

"How come?"

"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."

For you, Tommy, the meeting is not over

Management Group's meeting this morning is at Gypsy Lane. I don't know why, nor do I care that much save that none of us know who's in charge in their absence (of the second-tier officers, Frog assumes responsibility, I'm happy to let him and Nancy hasn't been known to be responsible for anything much other than her cocoa).

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."

He comes in here reeking of Ovaltine...

Somebody - we couldn't imagine who - ordered rather a lot of healthy living for the over fifties magazines. About five thousand of the things. Somebody, possibly the same somebody, has been creeping upstairs in the dead of night to lay out large numbers of copies in fans and ripples on every available flat surface. Before shuffling the book sale stock and fussing about the display thereof.

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

How swell

Lola's been putting on weight lately in a very noticeable fashion. You don't like to say anything really, well we don't 'cos we're nice like that. She finally confesses:

"I'm pregnant!"

"Really? You don't look it." [How some people can keep a straight face...]
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.
"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."

Who should run the public library service?

This is the question that The Bookseller's asking at the moment. I can't say I'm enamoured of the choices. Blogger lets you build polls these days so I'll have a bash at doing a better job of it.

Knowledge is power

For the umpteenth time today somebody's said: "you don't expect them to actually tell us about that do you?" If it's not pay and grading it's the current status of one or other sets of boxes or the timing of the moving of libraries or the names and details of new members of staff who seem to think that we'd have sorted out their pay codes, payroll numbers and/or access to the network, email and the internet before they arrive at work and not some time in week two. It occurs to me to worry about the ethical issues arising from the mind-reading powers it is assumed that we must have.

"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.

Yesterday's playthings

More mutterings in the Acq Team. They've been trying and failing to get a meeting with Mary about the Pay & Grading Review before next week's deadline for response to the response. A meeting in this context means her being in the same place as them for more than five minutes and talking with them about the Review results and what, if anything they need to do about it, as opposed to talking about sweeties, squirrels, class numbers and pencils. Every day they ask: "are we going to talk about this today?" And every day they're told: "well, I'm busy today but I've got a meeting tomorrow morning so we could get together before that."

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.

He laughs at scars who never felt a wound

Frog and I have arranged to set some time aside to work on some children's interactives on the web and setting up some publishing space for reports, statistics and peer-to-peer conversations about the services we're providing for children in our libraries (which is something we do surprisingly well in the circumstances). We both need something positive to do: he's knackered after the usual gruelling and gruesome summer holiday programme and I'm in one of my "the web catalogue's the second-biggest source of issue figures in the Borough and nobody gives a flying fuck" moods. This is something positive and it's something we'd have done a long time ago if it hadn't been for a few corporate problems which still haven't been resolved.

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

Gurgling, gargling, belching and leaking while the world tidies up its image

Toilets feature distressingly often in this blog, which I had hoped would be a haven of organisational analysis and literary appreciation.

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

Committed to excellence.
We'd sooner shit in a bucket than close the library doors!

Any colour so long as it's blue

There's always someone worse off than yourself. One of my colleagues has just received a circular memorandum from his director telling all staff that from now on there'll only be blue pens available in the stationery supplies. He tells them that it's a wasteful duplication to be stocking both black and blue pens. By my reckoning, even taking into account any price differentials and increased discounts for volume the annual saving couldn't be much more than half the cost of his time in thinking up this nonsense.

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

Je suis un exhibition et non une artiste

Frog's wading his way through the number-crunching for the Big Wild Read, Bookstart and one or other of the bewildering variety of new give-a-schoolchild-a-book initiatives when Mary comes along.

"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

Some trains of thought shouldn't ever leave the station

I'm assured that this is a true tale of telephone calling people:

"Acquisitions Team, Noreen speaking, how can I help you?"

"Do you play dominoes?"

"Err... no."

"I'm ringing to chase up an invoice."

Another for the spotter's book

eBay Man has thrown another wobbler at Milkbeck Library. This time it's because he's missed out on the camera he was bidding for because the staff wouldn't close any of the other customers' sessions so that he could get on and put on his killer last-minute bid. Tosspot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Monkey magic

T.Aldous popped his head round the doorway half an hour ago.

"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

Nondescript or Imperfectly Known Animals

Democracy's all well and good but look at the type of people who have the vote...

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

Opening a can of worms

A note from Jim:
"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.

Isn't it just the most amazing thing?

Poppy at Catty Library has had a bit of a shock. Looking at the rota it turns out that she's running the library on her own all day Saturday with two Relief Assistants. To add piquancy to the mix it's the first day for both of them.

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.

The early worm gets eaten

I noticed that Daisy was logged on just after eight this morning.

"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

Forgotten canyons

"There's thirty boxes of books in the cellar at the old Glass Road library," Seth tells me. "The heating's not on and the weather's been awful so it'll all be sodden damp."

"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

eBay gum

We've found out why we're not allowed to sell booksale stock on eBay. The council's worried that if we get a PayPal account we'll be flogging off the old buildings, too.

Just walk on by...


"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

Summer stock

Another day, another non-delivery of stock. Like the rest of us the suppliers have been trying to cut costs by outsourcing functions, in this case the delivery drivers. What happens now is that instead of the suppliers "inefficiently" packing the books up, putting them on a van and getting them to us in manageable batches within a day or so they now pack them off to a delivery company's warehouse where they wait their turn and come to us in huge doses in between famines. Noreen's taken the day off and Betty's leaving early to wander around the garden centre but they're still scratching for work. When the log jam finally fails there'll be another delivery of seventy-plus boxes and T.Aldous whinging about there not being enough room for him to arrange to bring back all the shit from one or another far-flung outpost of the empire.

This, apparently, is the MLA's preferred model of stock delivery to one-man-and-his-dog branch libraries in small country towns.

Paint your wagon

One of the girls has had another tattoo for her birthday and has sent a photo of it to Frog on his mobile 'phone. An audience clusters about his shoulders.

"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 patience of Jobs

More mutterings in the staff room about the pay & grading review. I've not heard mine yet but I was late doing the paperwork as I held out as long as possible on the not-unreasonable grounds that I have no idea what my job is any more. The acq team is doubly pissed off because they're still waiting for their grades to be reassessed from before the millenium (it's hanging about pending review, delayed by our implementing automated ordering (1999), the retirement of van driver (2000), the first Best Value review (2002) and sundry other factors, like T. Aldous "has ideas about restructuring how the team works", and is now further in abeyance while the library service decides how the MLA stock procurement plans affect what we're doing, or not).

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."

We're being good and not telling the ludo joke

Seth and Kevin aren't having the best of days. Mary had arranged for the SureStart Centre at Sorry to take delivery of a palette of bookstart freebies and one of our unused desks. (The desk's unused because we've not been filling some of our vacancies for years and it's to go to the Centre because it's in the way of a pile of boxes due to arrive from the old Glass Road site.) So the boys load the van and tool over to Sorry. "Pile it all up against the grey wall," Mary tells them.

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).

The pursuit of the twelve-pound bluebottle

As I come into work I notice some prat fly-fishing in the River Helminth as it passes in between the NCP car park and the skinners' depot. The river at this point is six inches deep, save in those occasional dam pools created by shopping trolleys, condoms and old dog shit. I can't imagine he'd be catching anything save cholera.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The bears survived but were shot on reaching landfall

Oh what's the point?

Monday, August 13, 2007

You might want to mill about a bit to make up numbers

All the main libraries in this Borough is being staffed by three people each. Bear in mind that that's to provide lending and reference functions and school holiday activities, summer reading game and the such. Backstage is no better: aside from the vacancies we've got one person on leave so we're struggling to keep up with taking T.Aldous' 'phone calls.

Just around the corner there'll be blue skies ahead

Pottersbury Road Library was interesting: they're having disabled access doors installed and, as the school caretaker refuses to allow them to use the school entrance or the new doorway (the workmen having engineered a corridor of safety for customers which might have involved people walking in some brick dust) customers have to go around the back of the building and go in via the fire exit. Unfortunately there is no hand hold on the exterior of the fire exit door so they can't get in without banging on the door. I managed to get in by using my screwdriver as a jemmy. Hedi tried propping the door open with the only heavy-enough object available — a pedestal drawer unit — but people with trolleys couldn't get in. I'd say that this must be a killer for the visitor figures but we discovered that somebody's covered the counter sensors with blu-tack.

Just see what cultural influences you'll get out of that then

Henry's pissed off. He's just had a 'phone call from Dutch Bend:

"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."

Without justice, what are kingdoms but great robberies?

"Maximising the potential of the workforce" is evidently the latest local government vogue, as the latest "Bobbing Up: An Excellence Toolkit" bumpf is jam-packed with it. Sadly, the sincerity of its impact may have been compromised slightly by Human Resources' sending all staff the results of the Pay & Grading Review, which (due to financial constraints) has led the assessors to declare that it doesn't matter if you and your boss both agree that you're doing a piece of work you can't possibly be doing it on your scale and you may be dropped a scale or two for unfounded boasted. (I paraphrase slightly). To add insult to injury, people were sent each other's results.

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)

Snippety snippety snip

Frog's sat sitting at his desk cutting two-inch-long strips of ribbon. Lots and lots of two-inch-long strips of ribbon: he's got to convert a five metre length of the stuff into bits. And he's not happy about it. So why is he doing it?

"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

A place belonging to nowhere

Millie took her mum to the bingo last night, parking in the municipal car park in the centre of Catty. As they were getting out of the car her mum pointed at the building next door, covered in scaffolding and with all its windows boarded up.

"What an awful building. When are they finally pulling it down?"

"That's the library I work in, mum."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Escape Committee update

We've had a message from Lemuel: he's been told to retire due to ill-health. It's a shame, really, as he's a nice bloke but he's much better off not getting wound up here. Especially with the upcoming carpet drama.

Almost all that separates us from the barbarians

There are some consolations. If CILIP wasn't so damned useless at public relations we might have to suffer drivel like this.

A monograph on a difficult order

Urgent 'phone call from Doggedly: having agreed with Dagmar as to where we should put the new printer, which she insists has to be under the counter, she's kicking off about it. Poor old Lupin from IT has been getting a major earache about it; he just thought he was going over to install the printer and is regretting it massively.

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.

"Oh yes."

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

We may begin where we please,
We shall never come to an end;

We have a new set of very large boxes cluttering the Acq. Team's corner. The waves of resentment seething between the team and these boxes can be seen shimmering in the half light. I should know better than to do this:

"Which are these?"

"Books for Sharing," replies Noreen. "Urgent job we had to do for Mary."

"Where for?"

"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."

Eternity in an hour

Bronwyn's pulling her hair out trying to work out the leave entitlement for one of the new Relief Assistants. She asks me for help (desperate woman). The problem lies in the model examples provided by Human Resources:

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

And here's a list of missing persons

Nipping into Dutch Bend I find things a bit spare. Jessie was scheduled to be lending a hand with the Big Wild Read Big Wild thingy at Catty but has ended up staying at Dutch Bend where Daisy and Bunty are otherwise holding the fort all day.

"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.

Ah yes...

"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."

It's all in the label

Jim's been co-opted onto the council's new Bobbing Up: An Excellence Toolkit Implementation Plan Working Party. His initial enthusiasm is soon dashed.

"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.'"

An audience with The Bash Street Kids

Frog can at last bear to talk about yesterday's frightfulness at Senebene. He turned up with the poet who was going to be doing the event to find that Beryl and Deidre had spent a couple of hours having to cope with a bunch of lads who probably could have done with a bit of a poke with a cattle prod. They settled down for all of ten seconds before playing up again. Eventually, Frog had to play the heavy and tell them that if they didn't settle down a bit they'd have to go away. Which is what had to happen. And lo it was that there wasn't anyone else left (they'd pigged off any less raucous kids).

"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

Objet trouvée

Jollop vapour

One of the computer screens at Gypsy Lane has gone up in flames. Pansy sees the bright side:

"I'll tell you what, the smell of it's great for getting you to cough up a pile of catarrh."


Frog's pissed off. He's come back in from a particularly fraught children's event at Senebene Library to find that his desk is covered in nearly-empty bags of compost. They've been sent in by branches who've been doing seed-planting activities for The Big Wild Read.

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


Popping into the Millipede and Clogger I bump into the Chair of the local Unison branch.

"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

Spot checks

Helminthdale Council's started a series of spot-checks to make sure that nobody's found smoking in any of its public buildings, as per the recent change in law. It's our turn today. The chappie came in and let on to the counter staff as a courtesy. They rang down to let T.Aldous know, also as a courtesy. T.Aldous storms upstairs and upbraids the inspector:

"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."

Grace under pressure

T.Aldous is just going into his meeting about the Children's Centre Bookdrop Project. He's decided to drag Lola along for the ride so that he's got someone to blame if he makes a tit of himself.

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."

We've had the pixies in

Seth invites us to test our forensic skills.

"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

Knowledge workers

Bear this in mind...
  1. Lola is leading the children's centre bookdrop project.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
T.Aldous is having a Children's Centre Bookdrop Project meeting with the regional organisers tomorrow morning.
  1. He's told Lola to collate all the statistics this evening so that he can answer any questions that may arise.
  2. Frog knows nothing about this meeting.
  3. 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.

The uttermost coil of her bowels

Poppy Cloverdale's the latest with the lurgy. She was sick a few times before coming in to work at Catty Library and she's not too clever at the moment. Luckily, her shade of green doesn't clash with that of the carpet. A few of us have asked her why on earth she's dragged herself in (the answer, predictably, is because they're so short-staffed there'll be nobody to cover for lunchtime)(and of course we can't close for an hour because of staff sickness)(nor could we actually staff our libraries adequately in the first place). Eventually, she gives in to her illness and tells Julia that she needs to retreat home. Julia's response bears all the hallmarks of our human resource support strategies.

"Tell you what. If you work through your lunchtime you can go home at three o'clock."

Be Prepared 2

Probably not the same group's just turned up at Helminthdale unannounced. A panicky 'phone call tears Frog away from his preparing this afternoon's event at Gypsy Lane to talk to the group leader. He quickly improvises some things for them to do with the Big Wild Read craft tables and shows them where to find books and story discs suitable for this age group.

"Can somebody do a couple of hours' storytime for us, too?"

Frog made his excuses and left.

Be Prepared 1

Someone from one of the SureStart projects rang Thelma at Epiphany Library on Tuesday:

"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."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Green dilemma

Frog's having a crisis of ethics about servicing the next batch of Big Wild Read Wild Happenings: should he buy another bag of compost or should we start strip-mining the peat deposits in T.Aldous' office?