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

Friday, November 30, 2007


We're approaching the end of an extremely trying week for Seth. To my utter astonishment I discover that even the worst of weeks can get worse...

Julia and Tommy, the caretaker from Catty, have been over to supervise the shifting over of a pile of shit from said library. It's all loaded into the shopping centre's goods lift so that it can be taken up to the Lending Library floor and dumped in the meeting room up there.

"You'll need to come up with me to help me get all this stuff out," says Seth.

"Do I have to?" asks Tommy. "We need to be getting back to Catty."

"Yes. I'm on me own and I can't do it all by myself."

"All right. I'll just let Julia know."

The next thing Seth knows, Julia and Tommy are driving off into the sunset.

A welcome relief from the script

"Did you know Epiphany's closing for a few months in the new year?" asks Noreen.

"Yes, for a new floor. The old one's rotten all through. They could do with a new carpet as well, it's been down to the hessian lining for the past ten years. It's closing about the same time as we're supposed to be shifting Roadkill to the new place. You know what that will mean," I say, indicating just a selection of old furniture and boxes of stock.

"Did you know that Doggedly's closing at the same time for a new toilet?"

"Oh shit..."

Lurking lumber

This is getting silly. Nipping upstairs to try and sort out an interesting variation on the theme "my printer doesn't work," I blunder into a leather sofa propped up on one end in the lift lobby. It's the one from Catty that I last fell over in Carbootsale.

If it follows me home I'm damned if I'm going to ask my mother if I can keep it.

Drop it in a forty-three foot hole in the ground

"Bad news," says Milton. "You know that five-bay study carel in ref?"

"The dead heavy one with the ground-level modesty panels that mean you need a team of four people to shift it for to plug in any new computers?"

"That's the one."

"We've not gone and bought another one?"

"But that we could. Turns out it's met with an accident during all the shifting round and we've had to chuck it out as being a health and safety danger."

"Oh that is bad news."

"It's had to be broken up and chucked out. Seth was quite upset about it."

"I can well imagine."
One down, several million to go.


Mary and T.Aldous identified the desk that Maybelle Googly will use in her new role as community cohesion thingy, whenever that starts (it wouldn't be the first twelve-month secondment we've had that started in month eleven). It's lucky that Maybelle doesn't need it at the moment as for most of this week it's been covered in a yard and a half of boxes of stock from Catty, Glass Road and Noddy.

It's now also rendered inaccessible by another desk that's been propped up against it.

"That's the new one for Maybelle," says Seth. It's the one that used to be in the corner of the reference library."

"Where's it going?" I ask. Like an idiot.

"It's staying there."

"So where's the old one going?"

"That's staying there, too."

"I should stop asking questions, shouldn't I?"

"It's been a long week."

You can set your watch by it

Every day this week the network's gone down at Dutch Bend at 11.00am. The staff there are bored with it and I can't say that I much blame them.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The only fingerprints we found were those of another badger

"Nancy reckons the carpeters will be finished in Special Needs by tomorrow morning so she's told everyone we're reopening on Saturday," says Mimsie.

"That's a bit ambitious isn't it?" I ask.

"Not really. Clement's off sick and Lippy's on leave. Billy's going to be spending all day on the Mobile. I'm going to be doing the nursing homes."

"And Nancy?"

"She's going to have tomorrow afternoon off."

"And Seth's shit-shifting at Catty so he won't be able to put the shelving back up..."

"Not remotely ambitious then. I'll be interested to see how it's going to happen."

The Librarian Leadership Course that Nancy and most of Management Team have gone on seems to be weighted in favour of "Put your faith in the night-time industry of pixies."

Sufficiently accurate for poetry

"What the hell is wrong with Mary?" asks Pansy, "she's got a voice like a slapped arse."

Dangerous garbage-infested waters

Daisy surveys the lumber room that used to be Dutch Bend Library.

"All the staff from Catty are coming over here to work for the next few months. I'd like to see where any of them are going to work."

Keeping people ignorant

Helminthdale Library's re-opened on schedule a couple of days ago. This is a very rare thing. Such a rare thing that I don't think it entirely unreasonable not to expect somebody to send an announcement to staff in the far provinces of the empire to let them know it's business as usual.

The maidens are a bit thin on the ground

"Bad news," says Jim. "I've been given the job of overhauling the customer feedback pages on the corporate web site. The current one's pants."

"Easy peasey," says I. "You can delegate it to a working group made up of a dozen people who won't ever be able to get together for a meeting about the project. This is the Helminthdale Way."

Jim looks glummer: "even worse news: I am the working group."

Gotterdammerung (indoors if wet)

Backstage Helminthdale Library looks like Santa's warehouse on December 23rd. Backstage Dutch Bend looks like the lumber room from hell. Front of house Carbootsale looks like Christmas has come early to a family who like to collect old furniture. Catty Library is still not empty and some of us are wondering what happened to the story about it all going into storage.

Seth is showing me his schedule of stuff that he's got to shift from Catty to Dutch Bend and Helminthdale tomorrow (bear in mind that Seth is the Helminthdale caretaker) when Milton pops his head into the room.

"Do you know when the upstairs meeting room's going to be cleared out?"

"It isn't. Himself's told me I've got to bring a pile more stuff to put in there tomorrow."

"That's a pity. The place has been booked solid for meetings by external organisations for the whole of next week."

Maybelle Googly's waiting to be told when her secondment starts (she's going to spend a few months being our Community Cohesion Officer)(actually, she's going to spend a few months telling managers that she's now our Community Cohesion Officer and she can't do that job and provide full-time cover on the enquiry desk). A desk has been identified for her; Milton and I have speculated as to whether or not she'll be bought a PC out of the Community Cohesion Funding that's paying for this project or whether we'll be expected to steal one off somebody else, which is the preferred way of resourcing new posts these days. It'll be academic anyway: the desk has been swamped by boxes of stuff that's been taken off the shelves upstairs.

Frog is sitting on boxes of stock and stuff that's been sent his way.

Roadkill moves house around about Christmas, leaving a pile of stock and furniture that won't be making the move and probably coming back here. About the same time, Epiphany Library will be closing for a new floor, which means that all the stock and furniture will need to go somewhere...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Psychoanalysis in Wonderland

It's peculiar how the group mind can unconsciously pick up a song and keep running with it for days. All last week I kept hearing people, including myself, singing "Abide With Me" under their breath at the workplace.

Today I've heard three different people singing "Old Man River." With particular emphasis on: "An' dem dat plants 'em / Is soon forgotten."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Planning and preparation

Nancy Bickerdike pops her head round the door.

"How much of a problem is it to dismantle the PCs in the Special Needs Section? We need to get them out of the way so that the carpeters can finish this area."

"Oh... It's no problem at all: just unplug everything and you'll be OK. It might be as well to stick a label on the staff PC to remind you which one it is."

"So it's not a problem then?"

"No, not at all. Give me a shout if you need any help."

First I know of this but then again those of us downstairs aren't in the need-to-know loop. Five minutes later she re-appears.

"Can you give Billy a hand with the PCs?"

Yes, no problem. Over I drift to join Billy in the lift lobby. Nancy puts on her coat.

"I'll leave you to it, then. Cheerio, see you tomorrow."

A classic, even for Nancy.


For the fifth time this morning every user of the corporate network has received this email:

To: All users
From: Network support
Subject: Network performance

Problem: Many users are encountering network access problems, including impaired or no access to shared network drives. Some users are also encountering problems with access to Outlook. This is caused by network performance issues.

Prognosis: There is no current solution to this problem.

We're not big on cause and effect in Helminthdale.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thirty minutes of cheerless and depressing nonsense

We are obsessed with active borrowers, as someone told the Chief Exec we would have "no problems" upping performance and reaching the target.

At the beginning of September I was asked to produce a list of all those due to lapse that month so that we could mail shot them. Now, getting data off our LMS in mail mergable format isn't exactly the most straightforward process. Anyway having spent ages selecting the data and exporting it into a spreadsheet -- seriously boring work -- I've just been asked for all those due to expire Oct to Dec.

"What have you done with the September file I produced?"

"Nothing, I haven't had time."

Roll on retirement!

'Course you can, Malcolm

It's Frog's turn for the office cold. He looks like crap and sounds like Lee Marvin talking out of a wax cylinder. Which isn't what you want when you're scheduled to deliver a healthy living event to a bunch of tiny tots.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pressing forward into the gathering twilight

Jim is in high dudgeon. Tilly Floss' replacement as Library Secretary starts in a couple of weeks. Already Doreen has put her spoke in.

"We'll need her to cover on the enquiry desk when we're short on staff."

"Nuts to that," says Jim.

"Besides the fact that it would need a rewrite of the job description, it's about damned time someone had the balls to say that we can't open the library due to staff shortages. We keep telling the council we don't have the capacity to staff this many libraries. The Audit Commission said the same. So did the Peer Review Team. What a load of crap."

One also has to ask what quality of service we would be intending to deliver by having the enquiry desk staffed by the Library Secretary. At a time when we're telling the Call Centre managers that their staff couldn't possibly answer enquiry desk-type queries.

I'm reminded of Maybelle Googly's recent verdict on Management Group, concerning another local matter:

"What a bunch of fuckwits."

Shifting sands

"I'll have to sweet-talk Seth into doing a bit more furniture-shifting for us," says Salome.

"Why? Have they actually let you let go of some of the crap here?" I ask.

"No, but we've agreed to take the sofa from Catty. It's going to go into the reference library."

"It's at Carbootsale. I was there this morning."

"What's it doing there?"

"Getting in the way."

"No, I mean why's it there? Doreen sorted it out with T.Aldous."

"He wanted it to go to Roadkill."

"So why's it at Carbootsale?"

"Because Julia's bought a new one for Roadkill. So she's sent it to Carbootsale before T.Aldous sent it to Roadkill."

"So why didn't she send it here like we'd arranged?"

"Perhaps because she didn't know about it. Doreen's not exactly been communicative of her plans to those of us outside Helminthdale Lending Library. I'm waiting to be told that the People's Network clients are being moved over to part of the library without electricity or network connections."

"But they're going in the young adults area."

"Quite so."

MFI isn't having a sale on

Nipping into Carbootsale Library to try and sort out one of the very many problems caused by the half-arsed way that services have been temporarily diverted from Catty Library I literally bump into a sofa.

"Don't say anything," warns Verity.

"Isn't this the one that was at Catty?"

"Yes. Julia has decided that it's coming here."

"Where's it going?"

"It's staying there. There's nowhere else for it. Unless we pack up all the children's library."


"Julia's bought a sofa for the new library at Roadkill. T.Aldous asked her why she'd done so as there was a perfectly good one at Catty. Julia said that it was needed here. So there it is."

Indeed. As good a way as any to plan a library layout.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The gratitude of nations

T.Aldous has asked for it to be put about that he has no interest whatever in the England football manager's job.


A Complicated Library Song
(after Lavigne)

Panic in the library.
Nothing much that we can see:
Some boxes need to be moved gradually from A to B.
But it's not as straight as that:
Some may need to be packed flat.
A key dependency so wait and see,
The committee

Deciding which may could meet any day.
And who is to say?
It could be OK.
They could well decide
Possibly, perhaps, maybe.

Tell me,
Why must every bloody thing in here be so damned complicated?
Getting anything done round this place would be simpler
If they delegated.
It's wishful thinking: you
Can't breathe, you can't move, you can't cough
You can't blink or squint or even fart
Without permission from someone less Dragon's Den, more addle-pated.
No, no, no...

Work lands on you unannounced
All your priorities get bounced.
Where you are and where it's at, you see, it isn't me
Who's tugging out all of their hair.
You're right: it just isn't fair.
We know we're not fooling anyone: it isn't fun.

Like rats in a maze
Wandering round in a daze
With despairs and dismays
Getting anything done, by any old one,
It's just an impossibility.

Tell me
Why'd they have to go and make things so complicated?
It's a nightmare with every teeny tiny weeny farty
Process triplicated?
But work's like this, you're
The one who's required to recall rules laid in full
In the runes of a phantom manual
The stuff of legend, otherwise unsubstantiated.
No, no, no..

(No, no, no...)

Chill out, whatcha working for?
Give up, it's all been done before.
And if you could only let it be... you will see.
Some fool changes the world.
We sit back, lip curled.
We're trying to be cool, we were that fool not so long previously.

Tell me
Why'd the have to go and make things so complicated?
And at the same time why does every piece of work we do
Have to be unco-ordinated?
It's a mystery to me.
That they'll sit and they'll talk
And they'll "plan" for a million years
And end up with a progress plan that's terminally constipated.
No, no...
Why must every bloody thing in here be so damned complicated?
The smoke and mirrors, the buck-passing inactivity gets me so damned frustrated But work's like this, you
Can't breathe, you can't move, you can't cough
You can't blink or squint or even fart
Without the entire purpose of the effort being dissipated.
No, no, no....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tempting fate

Milton and I have arranged that the computers at Catty Library come back here so's they can be used to replace older kit in use elsewhere. Or else written off as needing replacement. Other than that the contents of the library are to go into storage. This is what we have been told.

Seth has just been told that he and Kevin the van driver will need to go over to Catty on Friday to clear it out and bring the furniture back here.

Rather despite myself I'm looking forward to seeing where on earth it's going.

Losing the string on the baked bean tin

Oh joy. Another Wednesday lunchtime, another network drop at Dutch Bend. The network guys reinstate the connection almost immediately we report it, as usual, but it's still a regular bind.


We've had to ask for the coloured whiteboard pens to be hidden because once it occurred to us that we could colour in the patchwork grid on The Nation's Greatest Whiteboard it was almost impossible to resist the temptation to do it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Counter intuitive

I can't get my head round this one...
  • Catty Library has to be cleared of furniture and fittings by Friday.
  • The booksale at Catty Library has been extended to Saturday.

Say goodnight to the folks, Gracie.

The Cabmen of Northamptonshire (Volume II: D to G)

I wonder why we're still buying expensive reference directories for Catty Library when it's closed for the next few months. In many respects it's to be wondered why some are bought at all: why do we need three copies of the TSO (Her Majesty's Stationery Office as was) Catalogue? The 2006 TSO Catalogue, that is, just recently published. I'd need convincing we need one, let alone three.

Luckily this is a cheapie ("only" £15 each), unlike last week's trade directories which went at £205 a go.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I've been trying to avoid saying anything about boxes...

Salome and Bronwyn are supervising the packings-up, movings-round and songs around the campfire as Helminthdale Library staff shift stock, shelves and chattels around the bits of the floor that the carpeters aren't working on. They're also covering at the branch libraries in their half of the borough because the staff who would have been covering have either retired or been promoted to branch manager posts elsewhere in the borough.

T.Aldous has told them that, as a matter of priority, they need to do some stock-editing of twenty boxes of stock from Noddy and Glass Road, which happen to belong to the other half of the borough but the three Assistant Librarians on that side don't have time to do the job. T.Aldous is insistent that this stock must be transferred to other libraries for to make space on the admin. floor and on no account must they be withdrawn as we've currently got more booksales on the go than we have libraries open to the public.

Salome opens one box and suggests that perhaps we would be better putting it into a damp cellar and harvesting the mushrooms.

After a summer of new stock famine a van's just brought sixty-nine boxes for the Acq. team to deal with. With the complication that they can't get anyone to tell them what to do with the new stock for Catty, which will be closed for months, or Helminthdale which is closed for a few weeks. So that stock's joining the story packs, audiobooks, foreign books, Books For Sharing, treasure chests, bookmarks, extremely large boxes, Larry Grayson, Jimmy Clitheroe, broken microfiches and a horse blanket.

At least the contents of Catty Library will be going into storage so we won't be having to squeeze that into this place, thank God!

Friday, November 16, 2007

With the speed of light and a cloud of dust

Milton's a bit bewildered after the latest news about Roadkill.

"Think about this, Kev, and see if it makes sense to you."

"It won't."

"Don't be negative. We're moving Roadkill Library into the new SureStart complex."


"And we should have been in there a year ago."


"And the delay's caused by indecisions about layout and furniture."


"And there's no network or electricity points available at the counter, which is the one abiding constant in all the plans."


"But we're moving in next month."


"And the SureStart complex is linked to the corporate network via the Community Housing Office on Mulberry Terrace."


"Which closes next month as part of the corporate building strategy."


"So we'll move in a year late and just in time to have the network connections switched off."

"Sounds that way."

"And I am not surprised one bit."

"You have been here a year. You are one of us. Welcome to our world."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Driven to despair

Back at the ranch, I bump into Kevin the van driver. This is a surprise as he's contracted to finish at five.

"Working late?"

"T.Aldous insisted that I take some more book sale down to Catty. Not that they've got room for it, mind."

"He asked you to do that at the end of the afternoon?"

"This was about three o'clock. Once I got to Catty Julia had me taking stuff over to Carbootsale."

"I saw you bring over the spinners when I was there. But that was about half four."

"That was the first of three trips she had me doing. God knows what they're supposed to be doing with it at Carbootsale, they've no space left any more and everything's piled up in the front porch."


Seth's been doing 72-hour weeks since Lemuel retired, on top of which he's expected to be shit-shifter and hod carrier for all the libraries in the borough (he's actually just the caretaker at Helminthdale) and he's spent the past week (including Sunday) lugging stuff round, dismantling shelving and counters, reassembling them, carting boxes from A to B to C back to A and can you put them in B please and all the accompanying crap that comes with clearing the library for recarpeting in our working environment. He looks knackered.

"You look buggered," I remark. "You OK?"

"I am buggered. I just told T.Aldous that I felt knackered and do you know what he said?"


"He said: 'why? What have you been doing?'"

If I had my trusty derringer here

I expect there's an excellent reason why I've spent this afternoon installing a pile of Catty's PCs into Carbootsale Library while the library's open, rather than doing it when the library was closed last Friday afternoon when Catty was in the process of shutting up shop or yesterday afternoon which is half-day closing in Carbootsale.

And the same reason would explain why Lupin from IT spent this morning scratting around for a mini-hub to lend us so that we have something to plug these PCs into the network.

And also why I had to nip out and buy some four-way extension leads so that we have electricity to the things.

Unfortunately, the only reason I can come up with doesn't cover the management of the library service in jam and glory.


Overheard discussion of our betters:

"It must be bloody good in their house at Christmas:

"Hello love, Merry Christmas. Where's me card and prezzie?"

"I've not got it yet; I wasn't sure when I was going to be able to get to the shops so I didn't bother. I'll get them tomorrow, so long as I'm not doing anything more important like book sale or choosing the colour of a skirting board."

Any answer you give can only be wrong

Maureen at Roadkill has told T.Aldous and Julia that she won't join them in their latest visits to the new library site.

"What's the point? The two of you will be making all the decisions on carpets and furniture and stuff so what's the point of me going over there? It'll just wind up the SureStart managers."

"I don't know why you say that, we've asked for your opinion throughout."

This is true. Maureen was given a swatch of carpet samples to choose from.

"I like that one."

"That's too expensive."

"Or that one."

"That's too expensive too."

"Would it be better if you showed me which are the ones we can afford?"

Then the furniture catalogues:

"I like that."

"No, it will be too dark with the carpet we're having."

"Well how about that? It looks really nice at Glass Road."

"They won't be able to deliver in time. They're bad at working to a deadline."

We should have moved into the new site a year or more ago.

Taking the Mickey

On top of everything else that's going on in our libraries, Roadkill Library has an infestation of mice.

Very brazen mice.

Very brazen mice that skitter across the counter when staff are issuing books to customers.

They've spent most of this morning sitting in the children's library watching the line dancing exhibition.

"This'll be why T.Aldous is so reluctant to have us move into the new library site," says Daisy, "they must be improving the visitor figures."

Illogical, captain...

Dutch Bend Library is the only main library open today. Catty and Helminthdale would normally be open but both are shut for refurbishments.

Dutch Bend had a request to provide cover for Catty Library.

Q: Why is the one library that's open being asked to provide cover for a closed library?

A: Because Catty and Helminthdale, though closed, are open for Booksale and loan of the Richard & Judy Collection respectively.

You probably could make it up but I wouldn't have the nerve.

Hush, hush, listen who swears...

It takes a lot to upset Lippy. Today she is Very Cross.

"What a stupid arrangement this is. I'm trying to serve one of my talking book customers and all the while I've got lending library customers standing there tutting, tapping their feet and complaining about having to wait. And what for? To return books that could be left in a book drop bin or to ask when the library's going to open again. And the photocopier was dragged down and dumped on us and we don't have the first idea how the bloody thing works. And people keep asking us for change for it. The only reason why we have any money in the Section at all is that we've been told that we've got to take fines for overdue books that are being returned rather than telling them that it'll all be sorted out when the library re-opens. We've had to get an OXO tin to put the money in. So we've got all that hassle and what for? To issue and return a handful of books and to really piss off our usual customers."

I nip up and have a quick dekko at the Section again. I can see her point: it looks like a dog's breakfast.

Only bit the tree twice

Salome is fed up. The Branch Manager post at Windscape Library is a job-share and the two of them have been squabbling about the library's Christmas party since last November and they're building up a new crescendo.

"I think I'll ban Christmas," she mutters darkly.

Accessibility issues

An old dear, not one of our own, wanders into the office looking lost. She is closely followed by what looks like a charabanc full of pensioners. It turns out to be The Talking Book Club. The Special Needs Section is now so stuffed with a photcopier, Richard and Judies and trollies for returned books there's no room for them and they've had to come downstairs to meet in our training room.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Magnolia cum louder

Oh brilliant...

Some of the Lending staff are complaining that the new carpet doesn't go with the walls.

"Red flock wallpaper!" we cry in response.

Escape Committee news

Discouraging news.

It turns out that we will have to scrap the plans to dig tunnel "Ernie" through the book sale boxes. The problem, as always, is what to do with the spoil from the dig.
diagram: trouser legs tied up with string and bits of paper fluttering about
The plan had been to borrow the method employed in the last unpleasantness (see fig. 1). The spoil would be deposited surreptiously around the library by our tying string around our trouser legs, filling our trousers with booksale books, wandering over to an unfrequented patch in a studiously nonchalent manner and then, when we were sure nobody was looking, releasing the string and dropping the books.

The plan foundered because having looked at the state of the booksale books none of us wanted any of them anywhere near our lily white skins.

Come and spit on the hundred guinea carpet

The carpet's laid in Helminthdale Lending and very nice it is too. Unfortunately it isn't green. It is a very fetching shade of kingfisher blue. T.Aldous has pointed this out. Unfortunately for him this is precisely what was ordered.

I'm happy enough, I had a cup of coffee riding on this wager.


Verity's busy unpacking a million and a half boxes that have been deposited in the foyer at Carbootsale Library. In the midst of this, and sundry commonplace horrors, she is called upon by the health and safety man. He's a bit put out because she dealt with the fire inspector herself.

"If I knew you exist I'd have let you deal with him yourself, believe you me."

He's even more put out when they go into the children's library.

"That model of radiator's been against the law for the last ten years."

"I expect they'll be replaced when we're redecorated, they've been promising us that for thirty years."

Coles to Newcastle

With fulsome apologies to the great man himself... the problem is that the originals are so strong that once you get an idea that gets hooked onto the lyric the hack writer's just along for the ride.

Every time I go to work I die a little.
Every day I feel a berk and wonder why a little.
Whene'er I ask a question of those who're in the know
They say "just leave it with me,"
When I want "yes" or "no."
When we're there
There's such an air of doom about it.
Pervading each and every room
There is a gloom about it.
Watching years undermine a
Cataclysmic change
That's really just minor.
Every time I go to work.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hush, hush, whisper who dares...

Helminthdale Library's been closed a week now. We've told the papers and we've told the councillors but nobody's told staff outside Helminthdale Library yet.

"We should have a library service intranet for information like this," says Milton.

"If nobody can be arsed sending out a whole-service email with the news there's no way they're going to be bothered updating an intranet page," I retort.

According to the papers we're providing "limited services" in the Special Needs Section, which has a separate entrance and is partitioned off enough for it not to have to get involved in the carpeting and joinery excitements. None of us know what these "limited services" are, least of all the people staffing the Special Needs Section. When I pop in to try and bring an errant printer to heel (successfully I might add: the secret is to keep aniseed balls in your handkerchief) I spot one clue to the "limited services:" there's a trolley loaded with Richard and Judy Club books and there's a sign on the public PC saying "sorry, no internet."

Catty is marginally better: we've all been told that the library's closed. I suppose it would be precious of me to sulk about having to refer to newspaper reports to find out about collections which are being moved to other libraries, after all I'm just the guy who has to make them available on the circulation system. Millie and Verity warned me about the Richard and Judies and Graphic Novels going over to Carbootsale and Millie warned me about the computer books going to Gypsy Lane. Saturday's Catty Examiner tells me that the Sounds Like A Story collection's following the computer books.

"Yes, Julia's decided they're coming here," says Pansy. "No idea where they're going, though."

Carbootsale looks like the Argos warehouse which box upon box of stuff dumped there from Catty Library. I dare say Gypsy Lane's destined for the same fate.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Yaks dangling from balloons

Milton's at Windscape Library with a guy from Procurement who's trying to convince him that all our libraries will have multifunction photocopier-fax-printer-goblin teasmade facilities installed by the end of the year. Milton's trying to convince the guy from Procurement that some of our libraries don't have the physical space for one of these beasts.

"It'll act as a replacement network printer but you'll be able to keep the existing one as a back-up in case of problems."

"We barely have space for the network printers we've got and they've got half the footprint."

"They don't have to be on the counter. They can go against any of the walls in the library."

Which is why Milton took him to Windscape, which is our fourth-smallest library physically, has shelves on all walls but the five-foot stretch that give the public access to the People's Network, and which has just enough room to swing a cat.

A very short cat. A very short Manx cat.

"If you had a multifunction device here you'd be able to use it as a fax as well as a printer or photocopier. You can plug it into one of the spare network points."

"We don't have any spare network points."

"Never mind. People will be able to scan and save the files."

"That's good, will they be able to save them on a USB stick?"

"No, they would email them on the internal network."

"But these would be public devices. The public would want to email them to themselves or to external organisations."

"They could send the emails to the library and then your staff could forward them on to the external destinations."

"No. I don't think we'll be doing that."

The current state of play is that the Procurement guy's gone away to try and see if any of the devices in the preferred supplier's catalogue has a smaller footprint than your average cyclotron and then there'll be discussions about how/whether any of this kit could be physically installed in many of our libraries. And then further discussions as to how we manage the service being provided (probably a few months post-implementation, but there we go).

And then the shock of our lives when we see the income target!

Service development

Pansy is explaining the background noise to her side of a telephone conversations:

"Sorry about that. Jocelyn's just pulling something off for one of the old regulars."

"What? I know we're expected to expand the portfolio of services the Library Service is providing but we're not going that far are we?"

God knows what the income target will be for that one!

The idea of the council being imprisoned for living off immoral earnings isn't an unpleasant one, though.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bored shitless

Another day another ennui...

The usual listless day's hanging about wondering what I'm supposed to be doing for a living. I missed out on yesterday's power cut, which took everything out for ten minutes and left a little bit for me to clean up first thing this morning. That would have made a pleasant change from the usual entirely self-inflicted crises that the Library Service manufactures every other day.

I am bored out of my skull. Not by the work: I really don't mind the number-crunching and systems maintenance and there are times when I quite enjoy it. I'm bored by the job and even more so by the organisation.

"Ho hum, it's another last-minute panic."

"My word, it's another unplanned bit of work with all the key dependancy factors out of control, we've not had one of them for, oooh, it must be a day."

"Good heavens, you tell me that the project you've been wittering on about for the past eighteen months is now overdue and you expect me to guess what you need me to set up for you. How unprecendented."

Somebody mentions burn-out. For one giddy moment I think we're stock-editing the reference library. Ah well, you live in hope.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

How news travels the empire

Helminthdale Central Library is closed for the next couple of weeks while the carpeters come in and have a series of fits.

Those of us in the building know the library's closed because all the lending and reference staff are in box-packing mufti and Seth's shifted the photocopier downstairs from the reference library. The public who have been in the library in the past two weeks may have noticed the signs on the walls. Other than that, publicity is confined to a press release which was sent out on Monday to the local paper, which goes on sale today.

There hasn't been a broadcast email to staff saying that the library's closed and what's happening with returns, reservations, requests, etc. Bit much to ask really.

And as for telling the world on the web site... sigh

Our custom is not required

Noreen's received a novel cancellation report from our book supplier:

"The publisher will not provide this book because they say that it is unsuitable for library use."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


T.Aldous: "What time are you going home tonight?"

Pauline:"About half four."

T.Aldous: "I've got some urgent work that needs to be sent out tonight. I'll just go and get it."

T.Aldous: "I won't be needing you to do that work after all Pauline."

Twopenny enigma

"It's a funny thing," muses Head of Service Warner Baxter. "I keep being told we can't possibly close any of our libraries for staff training or service development workshops. But it's OK to close them so that we can install new lavatories."

There ain't no use working so hard

Two libraries are closed for refurbishments: Helminthdale's shut for the rest of the month (I think) while we have carpets and shelving sorted; Catty's closed for the long run for a sequence of undisclosed refurbishments which probably involve the floor, the roof and the wall that's falling off the building.

I've been entirely unsuccessful in my attempts to persuade the corporate web team that this is information that should go on the library web pages. "You've provided too much information," I'm told in response to the one-hundred-and-twenty-eight-word piece of copy I try to include. I protest that customers need this information.

"The library web page isn't for information."

My mistake, then.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Penny for the Guy

The Scriveners' Arms is having its big Guy Fawkes do on Donkeyhanger Common to celebrate what a colleague who will go nameless describes as "The Nation's Tribute to the Last Honest Man in Parliament." He isn't enjoying himself:

"Wandering around aimlessly in the dark with a crowd of screaming idiots dancing in the firelight amidst the stench of sulphur: if I wanted that I might as well have stayed at work."


The Nation's Greatest Whiteboard now has a new grid drawn upon it. In the four weeks it's been on the wall it's had umpteen generations but aside from the word "Name" which graced a corner for a fortnight and "Kilroy farted here" which lasted an hour there's been sod all other use of the thing.

Each time I walk past it I have to quell the urge to start playing noughts and crosses or battleships.

Friday, November 02, 2007

We can all look forward to despair

Browsing around the potted shrimp counter in Hannigan's Truss Boutique I bump into Henley Parmilow from the Town Hall. I've not seen him in well over a year just before he had a nervous breakdown after his marriage failed in fairly awful circumstances and things going on at work finished the job.

"Hello, Henley, how are you? I've not seen you in ages."

"You know I've been on long-term sick."

"Yes. How's things now?"

"Not too bad, I guess. I'm back in work."

"That's good."

"I suppose so. Couldn't stay off much longer: I've had to remortgage the house and half-pay on the sick couldn't cover the outgoings. Been paying the mortgage by credit card."

"Ouch. That's bad. You are OK now, though, aren't you?"

"Oh yes. Strong enough to survive working for Helminthdale Council. Do you know what Arthur said to me when we sat down to do my return-to-work?"

"I shudder to think."

"His opening gambit was: 'You have to realise that your sickness record may jeapordise your job, don't you?'"

I'm human enough to still be able to register shock. There's a layer of line management in this council populated by utter arseholes.

Vast, rolling empty places

The Nation's Greatest Whiteboard is suddenly a blank again.

There's no obvious reason why and I daren't ask Seth, he's already sick to the back teeth of the thing.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Short fuse

Not my most edifying day. I'm tired and unwell but in work to conform to the corporate policy "if you ain't dead you should be in work, unless you are dead in which case you might be able to have time off for the funeral." Beryl's similarly unwell: absolutely chock full of a cold and rattling like Rafferty's coal van.

I'm replacing the equipment we moved out of the way for the new bog at Senebene. All goes well up to the point where a rather harassed Beryl tries to put somebody onto PC number 3.

"I'm trying to put George onto PC number 3 and nothing's happening."

"That gentleman's already on PC number 3."

"No, that one's number 3."

"That's number 5."

"It's number 3."

"It's number 5. It was number 5 when it was over in that corner and you've just watched me move it over there. Why would it suddenly become number 3?"

"Well, it should be number 5. This is just going to confuse everybody."

Instead of both of us leaving this silliness alone and coming back to it later we both gnaw at it like rats on a bone. In the end I lost my temper, which is entirely unprofessional and inexcusable. Losing it in a public place is definitely not on. Utterly, utterly stupid on my part. I'll have to try and patch things up with Beryl.

Trumpèd volunteer

Beryl makes the mistake of telling her superiors that a young lad has asked if it's possible to spend a couple of hours every Saturday doing a bit of voluntary work in the library. Ah well...
  • Is he doing it as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme? No? Ah...
  • He's not doing it as school-organised work experience? Dear me...
  • There are better ways of starting a career as a librarian. Voluntary experience doesn't really count at library school.
  • We'll have to check with Humane Resources to see how we stand with volunteers.

Ball kicked into the long grass.

A few points:

  • We don't have any of these questions when volunteer tutors come in to do Silver Surfer sessions.
  • Nor when volunteers do local studies work.
  • A lad who volunteers to get some Saturday work onto his C.V. rather than loll around watching telly or hanging around street corners should be supported.
  • Who gives a flying stuff whether or not voluntary work counts for anything in library school? There are other audiences out there in the job market, many of which proffer better prospects for hard work than do library school.
  • Is it any wonder front-line staff get their work done in secret?