"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."
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
"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."
"Who's to say? The appointment's been put back for three weeks pending external references."
"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.
"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?
"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?
"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."
"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.
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."
A lady customer approached Beryl.
"Can you help me?"
"If I can, yes."
"I'm looking for pictures of genital herpes."
"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
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.
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.
- 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.
- We're recruiting staff we don't know about.
- We're robbing Peter to give Paul a PC.
- Moving a filing cabinet is a committee decision.
- 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.
- 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
"Do you realise that that last sentence included seven 'fuckings'?"
Friday, October 26, 2007
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.
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:
- Why are we doing this now? We don't have time to organise this. (Actually, he will be doing that)
- 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.")
- 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.)
- 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?
"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
"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.
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.
"Has anyone told you about the graphic novels being moved here when Catty closes?"
"Yes, and the Richard & Judies."
"How about... well, er..."
"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
"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."
"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
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!
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
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.
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."
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.
"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
- 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
Thursday, October 18, 2007
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
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 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
"I just wanted to let you know about this, I'm not happy about doing it behind your back."
"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."
- It might have been a good idea for T.Aldous to have spoken to Frog about this.
- The publicity's gone out already. Time's a-pressing.
- Hasn't T.Aldous got anything better to do?
- 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.
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!
"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
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?"
"It isn't working."
"Sorry, what isn't working and who am I talking to?"
"It just switched itself off!"
"Who and what?"
"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
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.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
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.
"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
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.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The usual problem has been invited to the opening as an honoured guest.
"Why would I know the address of NASA?"
"Well, you're good with computers and they have computers at NASA."
"If you get the chance could you look it up on the world wide spider's web?"
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
It was written in Microsoft Excel. Apparently Word is "impossible to use."
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...
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
"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
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
"Oh Amy! Haven't you got some annual leave or time owing you could take and go home?"
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
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."
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
"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."
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.
"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
"It isn't one of David's paying attention days," she explains.