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

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Hidey hole

There's a note on one of the new cupboards cluttering up the fire exit

No entry.

I'm puzzled. I ask Seth and Lemuel if anyone's been found hiding in one of the cupboard yet.

"Not yet but it's only a matter of time."

Friday, March 30, 2007

You learn something new and dumb every day

Oh goody. An email from the MLA telling us that we need to run the reports for this year's CIPFA statistics tomorrow. What a very timely reminder of something we've all been gearing up for for weeks. They make T.Aldous' working practices look like the Five Year Plan.

Blossom time

A table has appeared, propped up against some of the boxes by the reserve stock stacks. It has a note attached to it.

"This is from the old Noddy Library. Any suggestions what to do with it?"

The twenty box trick

Frog came in to find a note stuck to the screen of his PC:

"Twenty boxes of children's books have arrived from the old site at Noddy. These need to be transferred by the end of 31st March."

So instead of working up his Easter holiday events he's spending the day transferring elderly stock from the old site -- which would be unavailable and so wouldn't count in our CIPFA figures or stock replenishment indicators -- to libraries around the borough, where they will now be available and will count against us.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Impending gloom

"There's fifty boxes of booksale books coming in from Doggedly," says Seth.

"Ooh good," says I, "we've not had one for a bit."

"Sod off," says he.

Flying as high as a bird in the sky is my idea of nothing to do

For the past few weeks we've been having problems with the heating and air conditioning backstage in Helminthdale. Which is to say that one one has run amock and the other has gone home to live with its mother, and we're averaging temperatures just under thirty centigrade most days. Except last Thursday when it was eight degrees centigrade and none of us knew how or why. The insulating effects of the hundreds of cardboard boxes adds to the experience, as does the suspiciously musty smell from a couple of the boxes that have come home after a year long tour of the provinces' book sales. Today the atmosphere is imbued with an entirely new flavour as half a gallon of carpet glue is poured onto the floor by the lift lobby only for the workman to find that he didn't have enough carpet tiles to do that bit.

Doing the sums 2

Daisy is doing her nut: she's just back from leave today and she's found that nobody's done the cashing up at Dutch Bend while she was away. She's spent most of the day doing it and she can't reconcile it: it's just over ten quid adrift.

"I'm going to get a bollocking and a half off T.Aldous for this."

"Can't you say that you were on leave that week?"

Apparently that alibi only holds for Chief Librarians.

Doing the sums 1


"Why is there only one member of staff on the counter upstairs?"

"Two people are off sick and three are on leave."

"Why on earth have you let three people take leave?"

"They're taking the leave you didn't let them have last year because we were short-staffed and you've told them that they can't roll over any unused leave into the next financial year."

"Why are we short staffed?"

"Because we've got eight vacancies that you haven't let us fill and we're covering the vacancies at Grimley and Umpty."

"You really need to sort that rota out."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Groundhog decade

I don't know what the boxes of 1996 calendars are about.

I don't want to know what the boxes of 1996 calendars are about.

If we're going to reprise the past eleven years in this hell hole I'll be the one in the corner slitting his wrists.

Box For Keeps

It has been arranged for a supplier to provide us with some book approvals to look at. Unfortunately, all the places where the approvals should go are taken up with tatty piles of tatty old boxes of things that should be elsewhere. Like landfill sites and underneath car parks. So it is decided that the approvals shall go on trolleys just outside the door to my office so that once I've negotiated the boxes to get into the building and walked the labyrinth of boxes into my corner of the universe I then have to execute a series of shift-thrust-tilt manoeuvres of trolleys, boxes, chairs and desks such as to open a passage into my office long enough for me to get in before gravity takes its toll and the whole kit and caboodle retreats into its Aristotlean ideal of cats cradle impenetrability. At some stage in the near future (perhaps when the story sacks turn up) this will become impossible. Which will suit me: I'll just fuck off and leave them to it.

Business flow

This is, of course, that time of the year when all that money that we were told wasn't available to be spent on things we needed throughout the financial year has to be spent any old how in the two weeks before the end of March. So as well as the contents of the old Noddy Library, plus odd bits and bobs from hither and tither, and the seeds of a new grand book sale made up of the remnants of all the old grand book sales running back to 1974, we're taking lots of deliveries of boxes of new stock, stationery, furniture and equipment.

Which makes it a splendid time for somebody to arrange for the carpet to be replaced in the corridor leading to the delivery door.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Inner beauty

For reasons which defy objective analysis, save that this is a jerry-built shopping centre in Helminthdale, we have a new phenomenon in the staff ladies' toilets. At irregular intervals a rush of hot, soapy water gushes up into the bowl of the toilet on the left. Usually this just means that the floor gets flooded and this spills out into the outer corridor. Every so often there's a piercing shriek as some unfortunate finds a gust of sudsy hotness rushing up her fundament.

The menfolk are up in arms. How come we don't have bidet and soapy enema facilities in the gents?

Surface tension

T.Aldous, having the same qualifications as a civil engineer that he brings to his rôle as inspirational manager, inspects the work that's been done on the new tarmac in the car park at Senebene Library. He is not impressed and says so:

"It's a bit coarse. I should have thought they'd have used a finer grade than that so that we had a really smooth finish to make the tarmac look good."

The staff and the public can't see a problem, though it is suggested that the workmen might have had a problem with the hardcore as somebody had stolen all the old bricks from the car park.

It might be worth pointing out at this stage that this is the man who's too busy to answer important questions because "there's too much to do, it's end of year you know."


Lemuel's first day back after a fortnight's holiday. He walks in, opens the door what what used to be the caretaker's broom cupboard and finds seventy cardboard boxes full of old books.

"Fuck me!"

He says and he goes for a cup of hot, sweet tea.

Monday, March 26, 2007

We're Going To Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line

The situation in the trenches at Catty Library is desperate: the enquiry desk has been condemned by Health and Safety; half the library has been cordoned off as hazardous (unfortunately it's the middle half, with the two end quarters available for use, which means that if anyone wants to go from the staff room to the counter, or from gardening to cookery in non-fiction, they have to leave the library and go round to the other entrance to get there); the People's Network clients are all covered with a tarpaulin; the windows are all boarded up; and the day is punctuated by an incessant banging as hairy-arsed workmen do their level best to bring all the plaster crashing down from the ceiling. Oh, and the back of the building's falling off but we're now assured that it isn't and that the fact the cracks are getting bigger is a sign that the fabric of the building is holding together beautifully.

And the library's still open.

The spirit of the Blitz has taken over the staff as they issue and return books in their war surplus tin hats. "Okay, girls, let's show Jerry that we can take all he can throw at us!" Tommy Hanley should be alive this day.

How great ideas are born

We're in the midst of leaving do's: Tilly has decided to retire early rather than endure another six months of T.Aldousery; Delphine Hackett is retiring on her 60th; and we've lost Wendell Hall and Gibbons Carroll to jobs with better prospects. Besides these, over the next two months we'll be losing between one and eight people to better jobs that I'm not supposed to know about. Frog and I join a bitter little group: not only do these buggers get to escape, they have parties and we have to buy them presents.

"We should have a 'Still bloody here' do."

"That's a good idea. It'll need a theme."

"How about the Titanic?"

"Everybody does the Titanic. Pompeii?"


"The Hindenberg!"

"Great! When was it?"

"Not sure. May or September."

"We could ask T.Aldous to be the star guest."

"We could set fire to him!"

"Dress kilts shall be worn."

"What's worn beneath the kilt?"

"Nothing, it's all in perfect working order."

It's going to be another of them weeks

The caretakers are busy so I answer the door to the delivery van that calls at the back door.

And take collection of, and sign for, a large, upholstered pouffe.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Last Remake of Beau Geste

Another blast of working reality. I pop into Helminthdale, our "flagship library" (as stated in our Best Value Fundamental Service Review). In lending there's one temporary member of staff on the issue counter, Seth the caretaker on returns and Frog on the enquiry desk. The Reference Library is manned by one untrained library assistant.

Never mind the quality, look at the open hours.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tell me when we get to the bit that's surprising

Three lots of Audit Commission inspectors have commented to the effect that our income targets have nothing to do with the Library Service's ability to achieve the targets and everything to do with providing a balanced forecast budget at the beginning of the financial year. T.Aldous is having a major panic because we're not meeting the income targets for 2006/7.
  1. Why is this a surprise?

  2. Isn't week 51 of the financial year a bit late to start worrying about it?

    Box numbers

    The week before I'm doing the CIPFA statistics isn't a good time for me to discover that according to the system a good number of the books in tatty old boxes lurking in odd corners in the Borough are on the shelves in Helminthdale Library.

    Or that some of the books missing at Pottersbury Road actually are on the shelves in Helminthdale.

    Thursday, March 22, 2007

    Speaking in tongues

    It takes a lot for Billy Meredith to get really annoyed so this counts as a red-letter day.

    He's just come back from a special event on the Mobile Library. Nancy Bickerdike arranged for a class of asylum-seekers' children to visit the Mobile, join the library and take some books out. You or I might have given the teacher the application forms beforehand so that they could fill them in during one of their English classes or something so they'd get some help with the forms. That didn't happen so Billy had to deal with thirty-odd enthusiastic young kids shouting fifteen to the dozen in whichever mother tongue(s) while the teacher who was supposed to be acting as interpreter and minder sat at the back of the bus having a nice cup of coffee and a bit of a gossip with Nancy. By the end of the session he was completely worn out and not entirely convinced that all the kids had been enrolled or got the books or information that they wanted but had no way of knowing one way or another.

    "How did it go?" asks Mary.

    "Really well," answers Nancy, "there were lots of kids and they were very enthusiastic. We should do it again some time."

    Billy went livid white and stayed very quiet for the rest of the morning.

    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    It's no use stroking them and saying: "puss, puss, puss"

    A friend in the States asks why Catty is so-named. It goes back to the times when they were all chapel-going mining fowk and the stools in halls and inns were the old-fashioned type with the holes in the middle of the seat (no, I've never known what for either). Local tradition had it that because the fowk in "Catty Town" all had tails they needed the holes in the stools. Hence Catty.

    Other northern towns have similar traditions about monkeys and pigs. To judge by the people you see on buses.

    Damp squib

    The Catty Examiner asks me when the public will be able to use the PCs at Catty Library.

    "Could you say when they'll be back up and running?"

    "I could but it would be bullshit."

    "What's the problem?"

    "I have an aversion to people standing in puddles while they use electrical equipment."

    Tales from Atlantis

    Just what we needed to put the icing on the cake: last night's showers went straight through the leaky colander that is Catty Library's roof and took out all the People's Network PCs and the counter terminals. The enquiry desk and the network hub, for once, are unscathed, sort of: when I arrived to survey the damage the librarian at the desk was sat on a chair in the middle of a puddle with rubber matting under the computer processor.

    It was a truly depressing sight. All the mad talk in this plan or another about how wonderful our services are going to be: this is our working reality. All the windows have been boarded up since Xmas while the workmen work on the roof and the lights have all been shorted out, so staff were issuing books to customers who chose them in the dark. The smell of damp and old pigeon shit; the plaster crumbling from the walls, and the ever-present buckets in the middle of the floor for catching the water. Wonderful.

    What makes this even more distressing is that the network connection to this library is hopeless but we're not able to upgrade it because the heritage officer tells us we can't put a network connection on the roof because it would clash with the anti-vandal railings. It's OK for the working interior to be like a derelict pissoir but let's not have a box the size of a biscuit tin on the back of the building.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Boxing clever (not)

    Oh I am really browned off. Every library you go to in the borough is chock-full of tatty old boxes full of tatty old shit, most of it booksale books on their sixth circle to Heaven. Coming back here to Helminthdale I have to pick my way through booksale boxes, children's furniture, three months' worth of incoming stock that's all finally arrived this week and assorted bits of old tat that's been sent over from the old site at Noddy.

    "We need to bring back all the chairs and tables. And the boxes of stock that got left behind," says T.Aldous.

    "Where's all that going then?" asks Seth.

    "It's got to come back here. I need to go through it to see what needs to go into the booksale at Dutch Bend."

    "Couldn't it go straight there?"

    "No, I need to check it out first."

    "Where's it all going?"

    "There's some room in Kevin's office, it can go there."

    "Can I get rid of the bricks then?"

    "No, the police may want them for evidence."

    You know it makes absolutely no sense

    There are times when I'm forced to realise that I'm not singing from the same songsheet as some of our managers. This time it's Doreen:

    "I'm told that you've set the lending stock at Dutch Bend to 'being stocktaken.' That means we won't know whether or not they're really in at the library."

    "We didn't anyway: that's why we're doing a stock take."

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Sincerity of purpose

    True-life customer interaction:

    "Can I use a computer?"

    "There's one free in ten minutes, I'll book you on it."

    "While I'm waiting, have you any books on hacking?"

    Breathing again

    Well, Noddy's new library opened safely in the end and it seems to be a pretty positive result thanks to a hell of a hard work by the staff there last week. In the end the only down points were two PCs not working and the printer dying a death. The Friends of Noddy Library holding a silent vigil (or sulk) at the old site just provided a bit of comic relief.

    Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Time for reflection

    More than high time we pondered the important question:
    If you managed a library service that was falling to bits what would you do first?
    Suck your teeth
    Put your socks back on
    Have a book sale
    Freeze all vacancies and complain that there aren't enough staff
    Try to spend all your budget in the last week in March
    Underspend your budgets by 32% and complain that you're underfunded
    Clean some tea spoons
    Count the bog rolls
    Tell everybody that you were on leave that week
    pollcode.com free polls

    I hear your tambourines in my head

    Up trots Doreen:

    "Why is there a user manual for the old dumb terminal OPACs out for public use in Helminthdale Lending?"

    "Excellent question. Those OPACs were removed a couple of years ago."

    "I'm going to remove it."


    "I can't understand the point of having it out there."


    "Let's not have it happen again."

    From the above conversation try to work out which of us is responsible for Helminthdale Lending Library.

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    A series of catastrophes that results in a victory

    We're surprisingly close to completion at Noddy, in time for the opening of the new library on Monday. Somebody being in meetings all yesterday can't have hurt. We're mostly OK with the computers though two of the new PCs that we've bought to swell the numbers are a bit flakier than any of us like, something to do with a brand new build that IT have imposed. I suggest that we whip them out for now and re-install them some time after next week so that we don't have any potential negatives on the first day. I'm told I'm over-cautious and we'll give it a go. I probably am being over-cautious but given all the brouhaha there's been about this move over the past couple of years I don't want to give the moaning minnies any excuses for picking faults.

    A more pressing issue is the counter, which is lacking a portion of the worktop.

    "They're coming in tomorrow to do it," says Hettie in between chocolate bars.

    I tell her and Julia that in all sincerity and despite all the hassles and aggrevations it actually looks pretty damned good.

    Just being brave

    I pass Seth in the corridor. He's sat unpacking and assembling a brand new set of children's furniture in the corner opposite the pile of children's furniture that arrived last April and still hasn't gone anywhere.

    "Where's that going?" I ask.

    "I can make a suggestion," he replies through gritted teeth.

    Here to offend against reason

    We've decided to buy some more barcode scanners with some of the IT money; there's always a need for barcode scanners and they always go wrong just at the point when there's no spares left (Milton's being coy about the amount of money that's turned up in that budget but my guess is that we could buy a couple of hundred barcode scanners and still have change). Easy peasy as we only bought a couple at Christmas so we know the cost, supplier, etc.

    Not so easy peasy: the council's changed its financial system (at the dog end of the financial year, yes I know) and we've hit a snag. To save project time they didn't export the database of existing approved suppliers into the new system. Consequently, all the suppliers are being put onto the system on a need-to-order basis. And having been on the old list of approved suppliers isn't good enough for inclusion on the new system: we have to start from scratch, submitting all the required data and having central procurement check out the company and give them their seal of approval before the request gets passed on to finance for the supplier's record to be created and activated so that we can then quote the approved supplier number so that the order can be sent.

    Working smarter not harder.

    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    They'd put a smile on anyone's eek

    "Let's try and spend some of this IT money," suggests Milton and I agree. We've got to the end of the week to place orders with IT, who have to OK and order all computer purchases. This turns out to be even less straightforward than it used to be.

    "What laser printer should we be ordering?"

    "Have a look on the HP site and tell us which one you want."

    "So you'll support any printer on the HP site?"

    "It depends on which one you choose, we won't know until you tell us."

    Drowning by numbers

    Milton's been going through the budget figures. Better him than me, I get depressed too easily. We both knew that despite T.Aldous' constant protestations of poverty the library service consistently underspends its budget; he's shocked to find out just by how much.

    "I won't tell you all the details," he says.

    "I especially don't want to know about the six-figure underspend in staffing," I reply.

    "How do you know about that?"

    "Simple mathematics: leaving aside all the confusion as to how many library assistants posts are vacant or are being filled by temps there are six senior posts that were left open for more than two years up to last autumn and three posts still vacant that have been left open more than a year."

    "You really don't want to know about the underspend in the IT budget either, do you?"

    "No. Especially as over the past decade I've been led to believe there isn't a budget."

    "It isn't as big as the staffing underspend."

    "That's reassuring."

    "I don't understand why the central servicing charge is so enormous, though."

    "Ah, that comes from the decision to make the direct labour organisation an arms-length company. In its first operating year it made a two million pound loss, which rather defeated the object, so to avoid a repetition all the client departments' charges went up to make up the shortfall, with yearly incremental increases to keep pace with inflation."

    "That would explain it. I wondered why we were paying more to administer the contract than we were on contracted services. Here's one you'll like: there's sixty thousand pounds in one staff budget heading that's there solely to be presented as a saving at the end of the financial year: every year sixty thousand goes in, every year that sixty thousand is taken off us. It's actually headed 'projected saving.'"

    "What's the point of that? Why don't they just not give us that sixty thousand in the first place?"

    "The danger is that if they did that, next year they'd still take sixty thousand off us but we wouldn't have that money to give up."

    "You've been working here too long already: you're starting to understand how the buggers think."

    "Well, you can't be too careful. I think the point is that they can use this figure to demonstrate that we're spending enough on staff to satisfy the Audit Commission."

    "Ever wonder why our cost per issue is so much higher than Bencup's or Pardendale's?"

    "Makes you think."

    "This is it..."


    I've done as much as I can do now at Noddy and I'm now just getting in the way. Me back off to the broken biscuit factory methinks. As I put my coat on Julia catches my eye:

    "Can't you take him away with you? Please?"

    All but one face in the room sings out a mute appeal so I steel myself and shout over to T.Aldous:

    "Did you say that you needed to sort something out back at Helminthdale before your meeting with Warner this afternoon?"

    "Oh yes, thanks. I've got to ring John Fishley about Cattermole Street and I need to check with Lola what's happening about the parking at Windscape. Do you want a lift back."

    "That would be good, thanks," I lied.

    Well, what would you do, chums?

    Tick tick tick...

    At long last the counter at Noddy's ready for the PCs to be installed on them. So long as we don't try and use the foot-wide stretch of the worktop that doesn't have any worktop on it or try to thread cables through the holes in the corner unit that open onto the cross struts holding the thing together. Or try to sit the processors on any of the shelves under the counter. Or try and plug the right-hand one in without the use of an extension lead.

    It's good to know that this is bespoke furniture designed and built to our specified needs.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    Elephants drinking to forget

    T.Aldous is having his usual end-of-year panic about performance figures again. Those of us who have paid attention to performance figures throughout the year and taken whatever measures are available (officially or unofficially) to address them don't do any of this nonsense: what can be done has been done, what can't be won't be and it's a tad late in the day to be panicking about it all now. This year I resolve to give the idiot only the end figures and none of the working out: he doesn't understand it, makes something up and passes this on to auditors as gospel, which leads them to query the returns.

    "What's being done about the stock check at Pottersbury Road? The auditors were very critical of the stock figures there."

    The auditors were very critical of the stock figures there because somebody told them that we didn't know that the stock that's "in" on the Catalogue are actually on the shelves because we'd only just put that library onto the system. The auditors neither knew nor cared until the point at which gobby chipped in with that little snippet of information.

    "What are you doing about Pottersbury Road?"

    I don't ask why the Systems Librarian is responsible for stocktaking in branch libraries, any more than why I'm responsible for stock withdrawals or visitor figures.

    "It's all in train."

    "Well, what's being done?"

    "We're organising a stock take over the next couple of weeks and I'm doing a bit of work there and at Dutch Bend on the lending stock, similar to what we've done at Noddy and Gypsy Cream."

    "I don't want problems with auditors like I had last year."

    I don't tell him to keep his mouth shut then.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Suddenly it's high summer and your banana's all gone

    Well, the counter's now been uninstalled in the new Noddy Library and we're wondering when it's getting put back in. Not any time today I think, though I'm told I'm being overly pessimistic. It's been a performance so far. Luckily I'm not wasting my time too much hanging around as there's always the need for a spot of help with unpacking and shelving. Especially as "somebody" has decided that the biographies need to go over here not over there, necessitating the complete reshelving of all the fiction that was done yesterday.

    "We need to do something about all those empty boxes piled up over there," says T.Aldous.

    "Just bend over," somebody mutters.

    Less lucky is the guy from IT who was led to expect (not by me!!!) that the counter would be ready this lunchtime and has just arrived ready and eager to get on with the installations. Ah well, at least we can get the public workstations installed as far as we can without access to the staff PC that's going to be controlling the booking and printing systems.

    Monday, March 12, 2007

    Going dizzy with pleasure

    Noddy Library. It's been "going to move" for the best part of three years and there have been more management meetings allegedly to discuss this than soft mick and yet we are where we are. It's day one of the move and things are not going well. Hetty Mistletoe, the librarian in charge there, is trying to oversee the orderly unpacking of the stock that's already on the new site while also overseeing the packing up of the last dregs from the old one. That bit's going well. Not so everything else:
    • The counter's being ripped out tomorrow, together with the part of the shelving that T.Aldous has decided is six inches too wide.
    • It turns out that the shelving is actually two inches too low. Hetty and her team have had to remove a shelf from each bay so that they can shuffle all the pegs and shelves so that the books can stand upright. This means that they've lost 20% of the expected shelving.
    • Julia came in at start of play and decided that the non-fiction would go on the shelves over here instead of over there.
    • Mary came in an hour later and said that if the non-fiction's going over there then it would probably be best not to interfile adult and junior non-fiction as planned because it wouldn't all fit on those shelves.
    • T.Aldous came in ten minutes later and asked why all the junior non-fiction had been stacked up on the shelves out of sequence. (Answer: they'd been put there out of the way to be sorted out later.)
    • He then asked why none of the books have been put on the shelves in face display (Answer: they've only been unpacking for an hour and weren't even thinking about displaying anything at this stage.)
    • He then asked why the staff PCs haven't been put on the counter yet (because we hadn't moved any of the computers yet and he's having the counter ripped out tomorrow.)
    • And why aren't the kinderboxes arranged properly (Unspoken answer: why don't you just go away and leave us alone to get on with our work?)

    I popped in to check where we're dumping the computers when we move them tomorrow afternoon. Hettie's just back from her sixth fag break of the morning but still looking frazzled. I decide to cut the tension with a bit of flirting:

    "My God but you're lovely when you're angry."

    "Fuck off."

    "Oh shit, he's been in already hasn't he?"


    Less than a morning is a new record, even for T.Aldous.

    Friday, March 09, 2007


    I'm trying to set up a training session for some new equipment so I check up the availability of rooms.

    "You can't use the training room," says Tilly, "T.Aldous is thinking of having a book sale."

    Playthings of providence

    Seth and Lemuel are Not Happy. After packing up all the New Year Book Sale and lugging it downstairs and piling it in the corner with all the children's furniture that was bought last April they've been told that they need to make arrangements for picking up all the old stock and furniture from Noddy Library so that the place is clear for sale once it's moved home at the end of next week.

    "Where's it going?" asks Seth.

    "It'll have to come back here," says T.Aldous.

    "Where's it going here?"

    "There's some room where you cleared those boxes last week."

    "We had to clear those boxes because that is a fire escape and people need to be able to escape the building if there's a fire."

    "Well, it'll have to go there then."

    "But that's a fire escape, it can't go there."

    "Well, it'll just have to go there."

    "But what if there's a fire?"

    "You're fire warden. You'll be able to get everyone out."

    We've only been moving Noddy Library for the best part of three years. If this is an example of the pre-planning for the event it's going to be a torrid week!

    Milton and I have already roped off the toilet cubicle we're going to be using for storing the new PCs we're ordering for the new learning centres.

    This one doesn't look like Shirley Temple

    Dillie's helping Frog with the decorations for tomorrow's Family Fun Day.

    "Can you do me a favour," he asks her, "can you nip out and buy a pump for this balloon?"

    She looked at him pityingly.

    "Three blows and I'll have it sorted."

    We both of us suddenly felt quite old and inadequate.

    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    Let's wear that pullover we got at Narkover

    Some people are better at absorbing ideas than others. Mildred, one of our new library assistants, isn't the type to be told what to do and how to do it. Pansy was struggling to explain the library management system to her. It very quickly became apparent that Mildred wasn't that bothered about policy or process:

    "Oh it's near enough."

    "Near enough doesn't really cut it, does it?"

    "I can't be arsed. I've only another eight years to go."

    Wednesday, March 07, 2007

    Title of the Year

    An early contendor comes in with the children's visit.

    "Let's Explore Uranus: Blast Off"

    Tuesday, March 06, 2007

    Never underestimate the power of shaving stubble

    "Bloody hell!" cries Lippy, "me thong's snapped!"

    She demonstrated the effects of the calamity by pulling her thong up to her chest. The trick would have been more impressive twenty years ago.

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    Changing rooms

    Cattermole Street Library was knocked about a bit this time last year and still looks a state. The problem started when it was decided from on high that there needed to be disabled access to the boiler (we still don't know how many wheelchair-bound heating engineers are engaged by the council and they'll have a job of it anyway as the boiler's still six foot up on the wall). This involved knocking out a partition wall and moving it a yard into the library, which in turn involved taking an old three-bay set of bookshelves off the wall. Unfortunately, the council's architect's project plan costed in replacing the partition wall but didn't include making good. Which means that we've got a bare wall complete with cracked plaster and unplugged plugholes as the main feature as you enter the library.

    T.Aldous has tried and failed to get this rectified but is starting to believe that the council's finance department has him beat this time. It turns out that he can't pay for it out of the capital budget because it isn't a refurbishment. And he can't pay for it out of revenue budget because it's building work not redecoration.
    The best suggestion so far is that we should kill two birds with one stone by getting our engaging with youth in the community tick in the box by asking the local yobbos to set about the wall with seldgehammers so we can get the builders in to repair the damage and make good.

    With our luck they'll make too good a job of it and some clown will decide to declare it a drive-in access point for disabled drivers.

    Elvis has not yet left the building

    Lemuel was a bit late out last night, leaving at half eight. As he went through the security gates of the shopping centre he shouted over:

    "You may as well leave them open. The Queen Mother's still in."

    "No surprise there, mate. He's in till ten o'clock every night."

    Those of us not wondering about his home life are left bewildered: what's he actually doing?

    Saturday, March 03, 2007

    Time travel

    Every so often (three or four times a day) I wonder what job I'm really supposed to be doing. I think I'm systems librarian but I appear to be mistaken.

    This lunchtime's "why me?" question:

    "Why on earth have we got the 1988 Berlitz Guide to Yugoslavia?"

    "I guess it might come in handy if 1988 comes back again."

    Well, a stupid question deserves a stupid answer.

    Friday, March 02, 2007

    Flogging a dead horse

    What an afternoon! I only work here for all the intellectual chat.

    Yuk yuk! (TM Baby Face Finlayson)

    Probably understandably, Daisy's obsessing a bit about this Jim Corbett Grill business and is havering between wanting a full CSI-style investigation of the case and running off to throw up in a corner. We've established that we're not going there but she's still wanting proofs of the matter. Helpfully, I suggest that she asks the Local History Library to do a search of the Catty Examiner microfiles to get the reports on the matter. It wouldn't be the maddest request for information that Henry's had from Dutch Bend. I don't think I'll tell him that I suggested it, though.


    Just when I thought I'd heard every stupid curry house rumour ever... Daisy's organising a birthday do for one of her library assistants and suggested the Jim Corbett Grill in Catty.

    "Ooh no, I wouldn't go there. That's the one that got closed down because the cooks were coming in the curry."

    "What?!? Have you any proof of this?"

    "I haven't got pictures. It's true, though, it was in the Catty Examiner."

    So it must be true then. The mind boggles.

    Thursday, March 01, 2007

    What can you say in the circumstances?

    T.Aldous is, quite fairly, irritated by a squib that appears to have been published by the friends of Noddy Library and pushed through all the local letterboxes (it's bravely anonymous and devoid of printer's details). One point in particular upsets him:

    "They call me patronising. Me! Patronising? I think you'll agree with me that I may be many things but not patronising."

    My poker face has deserted me of late, I hope it behaved itself this time.