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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Noreen gets a 'phone call.

"The Chief Executive has nominated you to represent your department in the Buy Local Conference next week. I'll need a brief bio from you to include in the conference pack."

"The Chief Executive doesn't know me from Adam. I'm not authorised to buy anything. And the Library Service is a member of an acquisitions consortium and we're required to do our stock purchases from the consortium contract. Aside from that I'm pretty sure I'm not the person you need to be speaking to."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Who's the bastard in the black?

Coming out of Hannigan's Truss Boutique I bumped into Ken Barmy, the systems manager for Pardendale Libraries. Last time we spoke he was being a bit smug because they'd got their act in gear and advertised internally for maternity cover in what we would imagine to be indecent haste, even before the actual birth (in Helminthdale the child will have at least reached tertiary college before the job description was written).

"Have you got a new Town Librarian yet?" I ask.

"It's delayed. We had two internal candidates and they were both interviewed. One's a Town Librarian from elsewhere in the Borough looking for a change of scenery. They've worked for us for twenty years. The other's an Assistant Librarian who's worked for us for thirty years."

"Difficult decision?"

"Who's to say? The appointment's been put back for three weeks pending external references."


"The carpeters may need to come in on Sundays to get some of the work done upstairs," says Doreen.

"They'll have to let themselves in: I'm working 72-hour, six-day weeks and I'm not giving up my Sundays," replies Seth.

Once for charity with Sir Harry Lauder

"Please could you sign these orders?"

asks Noreen, indicating a pile of orders that have built up so far this week, all requiring Mary's signature before they can go in the post. (e-procurement? don't make me laugh: between the auditors, the library managers and the IT section we'd be better off with semaphore)

"I can't, I'm being Frog today,"replies Mary.

In the time taken for the subsequent explanation, the latest about her daughter and her views on different brands of soft licorice she could have signed a month's worth of orders.

Still, what's stock ordering in the scheme of things?


Doreen pops her head around the door frame. Makes a change from Mary coming in to measure the acreage of the floor with a view to filling it full of old Bunty Annuals.

"I was talking to Milton this lunchtime and he says you've got a spare PC on one of the desks in your office."

"Jimmy Huddersfield's PC. Yes, I suppose we could put that on the desk where the other PC used to be. His replacement's not even been interviewed yet."

"Is it an old PC?"

"No, it's relatively new. The same vintage as the other one. It would have made more sense to have given that to the Graduate Trainee."

"Then why wasn't it?"

"Don't ask me, I'm just the hired help."

After all, why move one PC and set up one email profile when you can move two, disable a scanner and have to set up six email profiles?

What a moving lot of old codswallop

"When are you moving over here?" asks Jim. "The graduate trainee could do with some company."

"Well, there's not a lot of use my moving over there before the new network point and telephone point have been installed. That would mean my moving over there, moving out of the way and moving back again. Done that once. Not doing it again."


Doreen's unhappy. Join the club. She comes into my office to share her unhappiness with me.

"When are we getting a replacement PC?"

"For the one that's been taken for the Graduate Trainee?"

"Yes. I'm not happy about that being taken. It's very inconvenient."

"I share your pain. As do your Assistant Librarians."

"I suppose I could use the PC in my office upstairs but I can't really work in there."

"I've suggested to Milton that we should buy a replacement. And that it should have the scanner installed onto it."

"Well, how long will that be?"

"Dunno. We do need something for the Assistant Librarians. Especially when Milton spends all day on the PC on their desk and leaves it unattended locked on his password."

"I'm annoyed that I came down and found it had just disappeared."

"Welcome to our world. It is a function of the way we do things hereabouts, which is to say last-minute and shambolic.

Inconvenient. Pshah! Like I had any bloody say on what happened with that bloody PC. While I was putting my gear back in my office Jim and T.Aldous were instructing Seth on the commandeering operation. Bollocks to the lot of 'em.

People set their black puddings by it

Library managers and project management... sigh...

Entirely reasonably, Seth's getting nervous about the forthcoming recarpeting of the lending and reference libraries upstairs. He still hasn't been given a gameplan as to what's happening or when (allegedly all the counters, desks and shelving - including wall-mounted - are being budged to one side for the operation) and there's not many days before it all kicks off. His latest conversation with Doreen doesn't inspire...

"When's the joiner coming over to do the reccy of the shelves on the wall. He was supposed to be doing a walk-through with me weeks ago."

"He can't come until the day before we close."

"What will the cleaners be doing while the library's closed?"

"I hadn't thought of that. They'll just have to take leave."

"I don't think so."

"Can you sort something out?"

"Looks like I'll have to."

The bald-headed end of a broom

There'll need to be some explaining to do at Senebene Library....

A lady customer approached Beryl.

"Can you help me?"

"If I can, yes."

"I'm looking for pictures of genital herpes."

"I see..."

"I need some pictures of genital herpes for my course."

"Male or female?"


So Beryl has spent the morning looking at pictures of diseased willies.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The devil has the best legs

I'm not one to moan, you well know, but this is not fair. Frog's come back from Epiphany Library with an unseemly smug look on his face and a bit of a twitch. He's been doing a story session with St. Wulfreda's Nursery. Because it's coming up to "Scary Day" they were all dressed up as ghosties and ghoulies and witches and things.

Except for the voluptuous young nursery assistant who was dressed in an Ann Summers devil outfit cut high at the leg and low at the decolletage.

I didn't even have to hold this back special for the 1,000th post

I'm supposed to be moving my desk today. I'm moving over to where Eddie Gravy's desk has lain vacant since August 2005. I clear my desk, close down the running back-up systems on my PC and close it down. I start to clear the space for Seth to move my desk into. Seth's geared up for a bit of quick lugging about.

You can guess what's going to happen next, can't you?


Up pipes Jim:

"That's where the new graduate trainee's going to sit. They're starting next Monday."

What graduate trainee? I ask. What graduate trainee? asks Seth. What graduate trainee? asks T.Aldous.

It turns out that we're getting a graduate trainee as part of the corporate performance development strand (slide 47 in the "Bobbing Up And Down Like This" PowerPoint presentation). And they're starting next Monday.

They'll need a desk. And a PC. And a network point. There is but one network point in the vicinity. One will need to be ordered for the new bod's PC. Which will require access to the wall in the area where my desk is to go. So what's the point of my moving there just yet?

There's still the issue of how to fit two desks together in this space. Easiest thing to do would be to move the filing cabinet holding 2005's invoices. Seth suggests putting it into the computer room (we're both slap happy by this stage so I go along with this). Enter Mary:

"Don't do anything yet. I need to think about this."

Quarter of an hour later she comes back to Seth (I've wandered off to put my stuff back and get back where I started the day).

"You could move that filing cabinet into the computer room."

"That's what I said quarter of an hour ago," replies Seth.

The cabinet is moved into the computer room. The new bod's desk is set up. We steal the communal PC from the admin floor and put it on this desk for the new bod to work with. We also have to steal the communal A3 scanner 'cos this is the only PC it's installed on and IT have taken all the installation disks away with them. Besides which, the only other PCs are on small desks and/or are the new set-up that don't allow staff-mediated installations.

So far so annoying...

Mary has decided that when I move she's going to have my office. She has spent the past hour haunting the place, pacing out the space for her desk and tidying up Jimmy Huddersfield's filing cabinets in preparation for her files. She does a lot of Estate Agent noises. I feel like the hospital patient being measured for his box in Casualty.

The BookStart worker comes in for her weekly couple of hours' touching base. To find that her desk has a PC on it.

"Ah, you've got me a PC!" she says to Mary.

"Well, actually, we're taking away your desk," replies Mary.

It's decided - by Mary - that the BookStart worker will have Eddie's desk, moved into Mary's office (i.e. mine at the moment). At first this puzzles us. Then we realise that having the BookStart worker in for a couple of hours a week means that she doesn't have to share an office with Jimmy's successor.

Mary stands in the doorway making "it might work" noises. At length.

It then transpires that Doreen is desperate to move into Mary's office. And has been haunting the place making Estate Agent noises.

In short:
  1. On the very day that I start moving my desk the space that has been empty for more than two years is suddenly urgently required by somebody else.
  2. We're recruiting staff we don't know about.
  3. We're robbing Peter to give Paul a PC.
  4. Moving a filing cabinet is a committee decision.
  5. I only have squatters' rights on an office I've occupied for fourteen years. Not because of any organisational decision but because a couple of senior managers fancy a change.
  6. I am in the fortunate position of being able to completely piss off both Mary and Doreen by doing absolutely nothing.

T.Aldous takes me to one side to apologise for the situation. He is genuinely embarassed.

The evil and vindictive part of me, which isn't buried anywhere too deep these days, thinks that if Mary doesn't pack it in I'll complain that I'm being hounded out of my office.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Language, Timothy

My language is going down the tubes. It was never particularly maidenly in the first place but it is getting much, much worse. I was asked about one of the latest Management Group ideas and gave what I thought was a measured, considered response worthy of The League of Nations.

"Do you realise that that last sentence included seven 'fuckings'?"

Friday, October 26, 2007

We couldn't afford Jack Hawkins

We're looking at the job description and responsibilities for Jimmy Huddersfield's replacement. Except that it isn't. Although this bod will be line-managing the Acquisitions Team we have to go a long way down the page to find any reference to them. This post's primary concerns will be reader development events and book sale. Stock management proper comes six items down after the book sale. Line managing Acq turns out to be one of the secondary responsibilities, just three items down after "providing cover for the enquiry desk."

Noreen determines to ask Mary about this.

"We don't seem to feature in this new person's job description even though they're going to be our line manager and, presumably, will be responsible for our work and our training and development."

"I didn't include you because I wanted to protect this post just in case consortium ordering ever came into effect."

The Acq. Team feel valued.

Professionals seeing the big picture

Fact one: The new library at Roadkill is empty and has been empty for a year. This is particularly embarassing politically and organisationally.

Fact two: Frog is organising some storytelling workshops for staff training. This is urgent as the inspectors told us to get this bit of the act together three years ago.

Fact three: We don't have many training spaces in any of our libraries and both libraries with space will be closed for repairs this winter.

Fact four: We struggle to make staff available for training because they're so thin on the ground. It is possible to do some workshops while two libraries are closed for repairs this winter.

Taking this into account, Frog decides that this would be a good time to organise these workshops and that the new Roadkill Library would be a good venue as there'll be plenty of space and it would show those who need to know that we are committed to the place, honestly, despite all the evidence to the contrary. He receives these complaints from Town Librarians:
  1. Why are we doing this now? We don't have time to organise this. (Actually, he will be doing that)
  2. Why have it there? It would be better at Helminthdale (which will be closed at the time; besides which every time we do use Helminthdale we get whinges from Catty Library that "everything's at Helminthdale.")
  3. There won't be any books from the Storytime Collection at the new Roadkill Library. (There are at the current site, next door. And Frog is planning on taking a crate of books with him on the day.)
  4. It would be better to have the workshop at Frog's desk, near the Storytime Collection he uses. (There's room for one slim person to stand by his desk.)

I despair. Do these people have no sense?

The immense potentiality of the unlicensed is dissipated in vapour

Much to my surprise I see Frog at his desk. It should be his day off.

"Hullo, old sport. Much as I appreciate your bluff goodfellow bonhomie at the work place should you be here?"

"Reading Game stats. If I don't get them done now they'll never get done and next week I'll be swamped with half-term."

I sympathise. If we were truly a performance-driven organisation, he'd be able to concentrate on getting the statistics done - these are a national performance indicator - and he'd leave the Town Librarians to fend with the half-term events.

As it is, if he even thought of it he'd get lynched.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hand-reared, as they say in the Navy

Back from a meeting to find a post-it note on my screen:

"After discussions (complaints!!!) with several members of staff it was felt that the renewal loan period for educational videos should be the same as books. I have amended the loan rules accordingly.

Can you send out a new message to staff telling them about this.


Local news

Seth's having a lark today and no mistake.

A year ago Henry Irving incurred the wrath of the Dutch Bend localhistoristas by suggesting that the bound copies of The Dutch Bend Bystander could be moved to the controlled environment stacks in Sheep City.

"This is the heritage of Dutch Bend and should stay in Dutch Bend!"

Instead they got dumped in the caretaker's room in Raccoonville Library.

The caretaker's room in Raccoonville Library is now destined to be the location for this season's must-have, so the Bystanders need to be moved. Seth is volunteered for the job of shifting one-hundred and sixty-eight volumes of bound broadsheet newspapers in the back of the van.

For once, they're not coming here. Not sure where they are going but I'm afraid to ask in case they turn and come my way. There's still a bit of space under my desk.

Life keeps poking me with its finger

Catty Library's going to be closed some time before the Second Coming for to have a top-to-toe refurb and a new floor and plaster on the wall and things. Preparations are afoot. I get a 'phone call from Verity at Carbootsale Library:

"Has anyone told you about the graphic novels being moved here when Catty closes?"

"Yes, and the Richard & Judies."

"How about... well, er..."

"What about...?"

"Has anyone told you about the PC that's being moved here?"

"No. Where's it going?"

"On the counter."

"How are you going to do that?"

"I think we'll have to get another plank of wood."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hepplewhite's Directoire

Milton and I are discussing T.Aldous' plans for budging Frog and myself to pastures new to create a new management area outside his office.

"The problem is," I say, "that I'm supposed to be going into the same part of the floor that he's already earmarked for Frog to move to so that he's got space for the two new sofas."

"Two new sofas?"

"That's the plan: two sofas outside his office for informal meetings."

"I'll be decidedly fucked off if he buys two new sofas at the same time as I'm not allowed to buy new desks for the public workstations in the new Roadkill Library."


Senebene's building works are a considerable success. Both new toilets are leaking already and the doorknob fell off one of the doors.

We think our castles in the sand are the ramparts of the universe

Beryl's having a torrid time of it at Senebene, having re-opened for business with building works still in process on the disabled bogs after a couple of weeks. This is one of the customer transactions I overheard:

"I didn't know you were closed the other day."

"We had notices up for a month beforehand. And a sign in the window. And I gave you a bookmark telling you about it."

"Well I didn't know it was closed."

"Didn't you notice I'd stamped you out with a five week loan?"

"Yes, but I just assumed you'd made a mistake."

Beryl's customer care training's starting to wobble.

"The next bugger that says 'I didn't know you were closing' gets barred."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Companions to owls

Tuesday's late night at Gypsy Lane Library and no electric supply for four blocks. Some clown had a bonfire near the electricity substation. To be fair, the bonfire was probably an innocent bystander: there are small emergent nations with more stable electricity supplies than central Helminthdale. (This is the private sector model of service delivery the public sector is told to apsire to.)

The telephones work, though the torches don't, so Pansy rings T.Aldous for permission to close shop. It is not forthcoming quickly: T.Aldous has to ring Warner for permission. This permission being swiftly delivered (I expect Warner was puzzled as to why the question even arose in the circumstances), it got relayed back to Pansy quite some time later. Not without a long preamble explaining why T.Aldous took so long to get back to them.

"Could the caretaker stay behind to receive any books brought back by borrowers who come round while the library's closed?"

"T.Aldous, it's pitch black, there's no lights for half a mile. It wouldn't be safe to leave her alone here on her own on the off-chance that someone might turn up."

"I expect you're right."

The caretaker's husband having turned up with a couple of working torches, they then saw about evacuating the library, scouring odd corners of the library for courting couples and old ladies worrying about the Kaiser. And finally closed the door not that far from normal closing time anyway!

A random dip into a seasonal bran tub

Deck the halls!

We've joined the ranks of public library authorities that are doing late evening closing on Christmas Eve.

And our staff will be joining the ranks of people walking home because public transport finishes at six o'clock.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I wouldn't leave my little wooden leg for you

I'm not beyond surprise after all. Management Group has apparently decided that counter staff will be the point of delivery for the NHS Direct book-a-bed-ahead thingy. I do hope my sources have got the wrong end of a stick somewhere.

We won't commit to programmes of activities and events to deliver core library activities like reader development; family literacy; information literacy; or informal learning because of lack of staff time and training. But we will commit to this, which is a few orders of magnitude beyond the helping old ladies with their emails that I'm told staff aren't up to. Or, to put it another way, the managers who say their staff can't stock edit the cruddy old Mills & Boons without supervision are alleged to have volunteered them to help you book your hospital bed.

I must have walked through one of those bloody mirrors again.

The laxative on a stick

Due to a distribution snafu with BookTruss Frog's not got a full delivery of materiel for the tiny tots and is trying to work out how the family literacy events are going to be serviced until next month's delivery. Mary is very supportive.

"If some nursery events have to be cancelled they have to be cancelled."

Of course, Frog'll get the blame for it, not BookTruss.

(We won't mention that Mary told him not to order so much materiel.)

Family literacy's place in the scheme of things is brought into sharp relief very swiftly. Frog has to crave a boon of Mary.

"I've had a 'phone call from Epiphany Library. They've put in a stationery order for some Copydex but that's not going to be processed until next week and they need some for the storytime event tomorrow."

"Copydex? Copydex? I didn't know we had any Copydex. What do they need Copydex for? Can you ask them why they need it. We could do with finding out how many bottles we've got in the stationery stores."

Rolling thunder

A lot of emotion comes my way from Senebene Library because they can't remember the password for the People's Network control system and have lost the note of it that was stuck to the keyboard on the counter.

Not sure how it's my fault they can't remember the password.

Nor why it's my fault they lost the note that should have been in the day book, not on open display on the keyboard.

Hey ho.

If you frown you get crows' feet

I notice a note on the little whiteboard (The Nation's Greatest Whiteboard still being merely a playing ground for potential grid squares.)

"Milton & Doreen: gone to the Town Hall for a software evaluation."

It isn't my place to wonder what software is being evaluated or why.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What a collection

The Books for Sharing Collection has been mouldering in boxes in a corner since Adam was a lad. We're awaiting the decision as to where they're going; we thought we knew in July but we were wrong. Noreen's updated the catalogue entries three times to date:
  • When placing the order. But Mary said not to create item records as she didn't want them showing on the catalogue. Quite how we issue items without item records wasn't a question that arose at the time.
  • A couple of months afterwards Mary decided that there should be item records and that they needed to be added to the catalogue.
  • I let slip the other day that a few months back Mary arranged for me to create Books For Sharing item category codes and loan rules, so Noreen went back in to do the necessary changes. (I should have guessed that she wouldn't have been told. My bad.)

Noreen's now dropped anchor, refusing to do any more work on this until she's given all the information required to do the job just the once more. I can't say I blame her.

Friday, October 19, 2007


'Phone call from Committee Services. Please could somebody tell T.Aldous he's put his 'phone through to the fax machine in Sheep City as they're trying to ring him up.

Camels by Abdullah

I expect there's an excellent reason why the reference library's just spent £500 on a directory of educational establishments in the Arabian Peninusla but I'm damned if I can guess what it might be.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Wandering into the staff room I see all the teaspoons in the building arrayed on the worktop like a cutler's display at The Great Exhibition. Mister Strategic has his health & safety hat on and has decided that grubby and/or wet tea spoons are a great hazard to the well-being of the staff (and certainly a greater one than the knife drawer he's left wide open at crotch height).

Mary and Noreen have had a great peroration on the evils of the tea spoons from the great man.

Not for the first time do I remember that T.Aldous is an only child and married late. Anyone who's ever shared a house for any time knows full well that common sense demands that in a communal area you always give crockery and cultery a rinse before use.

T.Aldous is too busy to discuss the options for the proposed joint service centre in Catty.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Well I never!

I'll be damned: Jimmy Huddersfield's post is being advertised next week!

Catching the zeitgest

Good news!!!

The high-priority vacancy that was Jimmy Huddersfield's post, except it's now Jimmy's plus two others bodged together into an unworkable job description, is being advertised next week.

More good news!!!!

My job description, which Milton submitted to T.Aldous as an urgent task in February, is under review.

Even more astonishingly good news!!!!!

We're all going to be given a pig each, just as soon as the flight control tower's built onto the new Town Hall annex.


Seth's reached the end of his tether as far as The Nation's Biggest Whiteboard is concerned. Having redrawn the grid of "squares" for the fifth or sixth time since its installation on the wall he's asked to redraw them "bigger" to take into account that Someone Who Will Be Nameless may need to include details of their whereabouts, the colour of the carpet and the star signs of the meeting participants. In the mean time, Milton and Doreen, who should know better, had half-hearted goes at redrawing a couple of individual squares within the grid. And then the on-board erasing tool (a sponge on a steam iron that sits in a cradle that sticks on the board) appears and compromises the structural integrity of the final column.

Seth reckons he's not playing any more.

I'm initially envious that this whiteboard has had more management group attention in two weeks than I managed to get of e-government in two years. Then, on reflection, I acknowledge that there's probably a reason why the whiteboard is a blank sheet with a bunch of aimless, half-hearted lines left scribbled on it whereas our e-government deliverables work, for the most part, without upset or incident.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The library's buzzing

A huge swarm of wasps has moved into Spadespit Library.

In the spirit of target-oriented service management we tell Tom Thunderstruck that he has to record them all as visitors.

Who goes about swatting people left-handed?

Andi takes Frog to one side:

"I just wanted to let you know about this, I'm not happy about doing it behind your back."

"Ooh, what?"

"T.Aldous doesn't like the picture of a cat that you've used in the publicity for the half term events so he's told me to redraw it."

  1. It might have been a good idea for T.Aldous to have spoken to Frog about this.
  2. The publicity's gone out already. Time's a-pressing.
  3. Hasn't T.Aldous got anything better to do?
  4. Andi definitely has better things to do. The time she's spending doing this might have been employed in catching up with her wish list entries like delivering another reading event or doing some stock-editing of the stock at Catty so there's less to worry about packing up when it's being refurbished.


Thank God all my spreadsheet training was delivered to me in the 1980s.

The new corporate monitoring spreadsheet has been made available and needs to be filled in with the new payroll numbers for all members of staff (if you've not been sick a null event entry has to be submitted). Unfortunately, all they're all six-figure numbers starting with 000 and the payroll number column is number-formatted so that 000001 is recorded as 1 and the submitted spreadsheet is sent back with a "no such payroll number" message attached to it.

Smugly, I tell Maybelle to stick an apostrophe in front of the payroll numbers. et voilà!

We rang and nobody was there

'Phone call taken by Noreen:

"Please could I speak to Tilly Floss?"

"I'm sorry, she retired earlier this year."

"But I've just had an email from her."

Guess who won't let me get Tilly's email and PC network accounts deleted because he wants to keep all the emails in Tilly's Outlook folders and won't let anything be done about moving it all to a shared folder.

You can make up all the rest and be very close to the available truths.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Flying buttresses

I usually avoid personnel issues in this blog but this one's illustrative.

A colleague elsewhere in the organisation was interviewed by Inhuman Resources and T.Aldous as part of the intervention required by the corporate sickness programme (whereby we're all sick of this council). The intervention is required because he's had three days off sick this year. The interview began with him being handed a list of sickness absences for the past couple of years.

"We're very concerned that your sickness records show a lot of days off, perhaps one or two a month over this period."

"You might have noticed that I was off sick for a couple of months with a nervous breakdown caused by work-related stress and that the periods of odd days off increase immediately before the breakdown and after the breakdown when I returned to work early against medical advice because I was worried sick about the accumulating workload I had to look forward to."

"We're having this intervention now to see what can be done to address your sickness record. You've had three days off sick and this is a concern given your earlier record."

"Then perhaps the intervention might have been better timed to coincide with my return to work after a nervous breakdown?"

Career progression

eMail from Ken in Pardendale with news of their reorganisation:

"I've some new responsibilities. As well as being responsible for the fax machines I am also Head of Doorknobs."

Ghosts in the machines

"It isn't working."

"Sorry, what isn't working and who am I talking to?"

"It just switched itself off!"

"Who and what?"

"The screen."

"What were you doing when it went off?"


"Are the others working?"


"Are the others working?"


"Are there any loose wires at the back of the monitor?"

"No. There's one wire coming out of the back all right."

"Ah. There should be two wires."

"Well, there's something like the wire that goes into the back of the kettle hanging loose."

"That's the one."

"Doing nothing" turned out to be moving the monitor a couple of feet to one side to make room for a teddy bear.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Separated at birth?

the rabbit from the big wild read and a panel from Pip, Squeak and Wilfred

Am I the only one to have noticed the uncanny similarity between the rabbit that appeared in this summer's "The Big Wild Read" and Wilfred, eponymous star of the legendary "Pip, Squeak and Wilfred?"

Good to see the old boy still in paid employ.

Gug! Nunc!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Simple people of our kind

Coming out of Hannigan's Truss Boutique I bumped into Ken Barmy, the systems manager for Pardendale Libraries. We swap depressing tales of work and do the usual point-scoring. The job advert for Jimmy Huddersfield's post is allegedly at the printers' (like "the cheque is in the post" it's been dragging on since Chrimbo) and once that's filled we'll have finished the reorganisation that started three and a half years ago. Ken's reorganisations has been going four years and counting, though I argue that they're cheating by reorganising the reorganisation (for instance Ken's Internet Librarian colleague became Learning Development then became a saving). I toy with the idea of labelling this a metareorganisation but then realise I have just enough self-respect to do no such thing.

Conversation moved on to the latest tales of our colleagues in Bencup. Their server's so slow that it takes two minutes to issue a book. And they're having another reorganisation, the third in four years (their reorganisations are more in the way of Stalinist purges). There's always someone worse off than yourself.

There's a flea loose in the harem
And the favourite will have to be scratched


"So there was nobody else in the library, not surprising as you weren't open; you were yards away from the counter shelving your Mills and Boons; and the monitor leapt into the air and dived onto the floor? Was there an earthquake?"

"No, you've got it wrong. The cleaner was in at the time."

"And what was she doing?"

"She was in the cellar putting away the vac."

Somehow the monitor survived to skydive another day.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Smoke signals

"Have you started smoking again?" I ask Daisy Duck after she tells me about yet another particularly stressful week.

"Only from the top of my head," she replies.


There's a corporate stress management policy: I suspect it's got more to do with generation than palliation. Daisy's so annoyed with Julia she's likely to blow a gasket.

Apparently, Julia's miffed because Amy had a doctor's appointment at the same time as a long-standing one of Daisy's. Now, anybody living in the real world will tell you that the odds on being able to arrange that two people have medical appointments on the same day, let alone the same time, are pretty remote (there's usually a seven-day wait between my ringing the doctor's surgery and the appointment and I know that's not unusual). When Amy came back, Julia stormed in the back and asked:

"So what's your problem then?"

Amy tried to explain that she's suffering from anxiety attacks and depression (that's fifteen members of staff to my knowledge). When challenged as to the causes she tried to explain further. Julia broke her off:

"Stop it, you'll have me feeling bad, too."

Daisy's spent the day trying to tidy up the mess and isn't best pleased at this latest display of management empathy.

Board Games

sign: welcome to Helminthdale, home of the worlds biggest whiteboard
Seth's spent the morning redrawing the grid on The Nation's Biggest Whiteboard. Someday we hope it may be put to some sort of use we know not what.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Let's not hold us breath

Big gala opening day for the SureStart Complex on Dogtwitcher Road, home of the new Roadkill Library. Except, of course, that we've not moved in yet because of the usual problem.

The usual problem has been invited to the opening as an honoured guest.

Reference enquiry

"I know you're on your lunch, but do you know the address of NASA?"

"Why would I know the address of NASA?"

"Well, you're good with computers and they have computers at NASA."

"Sorry, no."

"If you get the chance could you look it up on the world wide spider's web?"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Letters from a cell

I was trying to work out why the format of a letter was so peculiar and decided to ask the writer what was going on. I thought that perhaps they'd fiddled the tab settings to death.

It was written in Microsoft Excel. Apparently Word is "impossible to use."

Print jam

Panicky 'phone call: "My printer's jammed!!!"

Previously I had never believed this to be an ambiguous statement, a printer jam is a printer jam, right? Wrong.

The printer wasn't jammed with paper. The counter was jammed with printer. In trying to tidy up they had managed to wedge it between innocent bits of debris. Innocently I asked how the printer had managed this wonderful status of wedgèd, expecting to find that it had gone down to the pub the previous evening, got smashed on toner and fallen into this all too small gap on its way home. Well, not really, but the real explanations are often equally fanciful. On this occasion I was told that they were going to try it over the other side of the counter, to improve the feng shui. The fact that there's no electricity over on the other side did't enter into the calculation...

Pill bugs

Gretchen's mum is not well and has been prescribed antidepressants. The good news is that Gretchen works in Helminthdale Library Service, which is pretty much like having a subscription to the National Pharmacopoeia. It turns out that four people here are on the same medication and can provide experience and reassurance.

Is it April the first already???

"My PC won't work," says T.Aldous.

I plugged it in. You finish the rest.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Lights on, nobody at home

"My PC doesn't work," says Nancy Bickerdike.

I plugged it in. It does now.

Lohengrin without the laughs

I can't believe this pay and grading nonsense is dragging on so long. I can't remember how many extensions they must have had on the appeals by now. The latest twist is that Counter Supervisors do not do cashing up and petty cash accounting. It's in their job descriptions and they've been doing it for ten years but Management Group has decided that they don't do it. God knows why not, it doesn't have any bearing on the pay and grading scoresheet. Amusingly enough, Human Resources are almost as pissed off about it as the Counter Supervisors:

"Your bloody managers have created more work for us than the whole of Social Services! And what for? God alone knows!!!"

It came to a head today. Julia insisted that she is responsible for the cashing up and petty cash accounting. Daisy threw a wobbler (she had one in her pocket at the time):

"I'll leave the safe key on your desk then shall I?"

We're now in a Mexican stand-off and waiting for developments.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Board part ∞

So we've got the biggest whiteboard in the catalogue. What next? Well it goes on the wall doesn't it?


Seth drills the holes, puts in the plugs and then gets told that the holes are in the wrong place. The whiteboard needs to be exactly centrally-placed on the wall. This involves moving the desk for the fax machine eighteen inches to the left, blocking the main doorway. Still, what's a few barked shins and bruised hips if the aesthetic is just so?

So the whiteboard's up and in use then?

No. No no no no no.

The lines need to be drawn onto the board. Seth spends a morning doing this. He has to create a 10 x 13 grid: ten people, one header row and six half-days. So he draws it, with the aid of two yardsticks tied together with Sellotape.

So the whiteboard's up and in use then?


"The squares aren't big enough," says Himself.

I suggest replacing the whiteboard with a sheet of stretch rubber.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Almost inevitably Claire Rayner appeared

Amy's come into Dutch Bend Library with a streaming cold and is sitting at her desk shivering, sniffing and coughing. She feels like crap and she's highly infectious. This is a case for Decisive Personnel Management. Enter Julia:

"Oh Amy! Haven't you got some annual leave or time owing you could take and go home?"

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Not bitter at all

I leave a bag of sweeties on the Acq. Team's desk as a thank you for covering my 'phone for me while I'm out.

"Thanks. We won't unwrap them just in case you need to take them back."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ah'll buy thee a better pair tomorrow

"Better Stock Better Libraries" being called in by DCMS for a risk-assessment ought to be giving us a little breathing space to worry about some of the other stuff going on around our ears. We're not convinced that there's that much scope for this particular model's providing us with greater efficiencies: we're lean to the point of emaciation and the BSBL model appears to shift most of the local administrative overheads onto the front line, where we're struggling to keep doors open at all, let alone do the receipt processing on top of all else.

We're not going to be having a breathing space: Mary comes back from a meeting to say that one of the larger partners in our buying consortium wants us all to carry on regardless, arguing that as it's got a big procurement team we should all outsource the work to them. As Noreen says:

"If they're so damned well-managed and efficient they wouldn't have that sort of over-capacity in the first place."

Tripped up by relativity

We've all been given calendars. They appeared from who-knows-where in our in-trays this morning. They're all 2007 calendars advertising community safety.

Care bears

A sudden influx of small teddy bears promoting BookStart. What to do with them? Nothing's planned so Frog gives them to the Acq. Team as a thank you for work done and 'phone calls taken.

Five minutes later Mary comes along as confiscates them: "put them back in those polythene bags, they're for promotional work."

What promotional work will they be doing? One will be sitting somewhere on each of the counters at Helminthdale, Catty and Dutch Bend. There's no more promotional activity planned for them: they'll be as actively involved in marketing the service as the gnome, the paper daffodil or the pile of torn postcards. But the point is made.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

We're getting all nostalgic about dried eggs and Geraldo

"How long has Jimmy Clitheroe been dead?" asks Frog.

"Yonks," I reply, "why?"

"I've just found a pile of leaflets in the shipping room showing Jimmy Clitheroe and Alfie going to his local library and getting some smashing books."

"Where the hell have they come from?"

"I was moving one of the broken microfiche readers to try and make some room for the SureStart treasure boxes."

I dreamt I was translating Sandy Shaw's LPs into Aramaic

Catty Library will be closing some time soon for major building work lasting at least six months.

Imagine Seth's delight at taking delivery of seven big boxes full of brand new bookmarks for Catty Library. They join the packing cases of Xanadu currently cluttering up the fire exits.

The parish council laid a taxi on

Jim's fighting hard to keep his hands in his pocket and not round T.Aldous' neck. The reason? Travelling expenses.

"You've consistently got the mileage between here and Catty Library wrong: it is 6.2 miles, not 6.6 miles. I know this as I measured it myself when we first moved in here. You'll need to recalculate your expenses form."

When T.Aldous did his measurements he was driving a car with so much wrong with it that a faulty odometer would be almost obligatory. He was also doing his measurements before the one-way system in Catty was jiggered around; before the new roundabouts were added to the Noddy Road and before they closed the Bingo car park here in Helminthdale (which means that all staff except T.Aldous and whoever's driving the housebound van have to walk half a mile up the road to the old bomb site car park near the skinner's yard).

I am so glad the beggar doesn't sign my expenses forms.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Muscular Christianity

Frog's spending the day with the Little Sisters of Mercy, storytime for the tiny tots. He's a bit surprised when he arrives as he's greeted on the doorstep by Sister Fortissima who is holding a child in a headlock.

"It isn't one of David's paying attention days," she explains.