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

Friday, February 29, 2008

No hiding place

Mooching round Hannigan's Truss Boutique, looking for something for Mother's Day, I bump into Ron Barmy.

"I thought you were on holiday."

"I am. But not quite at the moment."

"How do you mean?"

"I got a letter from our Human Resources people yesterday telling me that I had to go for an appointment with Occupational Health this afternoon. I've had to traipse out to the Health Trust HQ at Pardendale for a ten-minute interview with the council's medic. 'Are you fit for work?' 'Yes, I think so.' 'So do I. Cheerio.'"

It turns out that he's been caught in the machine: he had a couple of days off sick with winter vomiting sickness (it's been popular this year) and this triggered a referral to occupational health. It was just his bad luck that HR sent the letter telling him about the appointment was sent to the wrong address.

"I could have rung them up to rearrange the appointment but to be honest it was less hassle to go to the bloody thing rather than spend all morning trying to get through to HR to do the necessary. And at least this way there's no come-back about my not being co-operative and I've got the bloody thing over and done with."

"Did they do this when you came back to work after being off sick with stress that time?"

"Of course not. The whole point of this process is to get the ticks in the Caring Management boxes. It's nothing to do with actually trying to address systemic sicknesses in the organisation."

"You bitter old man."

"If it was really about a caring organisation trying to support vulnerable staff then I'd have had the appointment when I was sick with stress; HR would have sent the letter to the right address; and I wouldn't be wasting a day's leave with the performance."

I couldn't argue with him.

Tinga & Tucka should live this day

"Sheep City management team has decided that they're also having the Seventies as the theme for next season's displays and exhibitions."

"You could do outreach work at Carbootsale Library, it hasn't been decorated since 1976."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I'll signal for Margaret Rutherford

We need to demonstrate that we're responsive to comments in last year's CIPFA Plus survey.

"They asked for some teenage areas in the library."

"I'll order some bean bags."

We'd probably be tripping over the bloody things now, headlong into the stack of fifty new chairs in the fire exit corridor, had Bronwyn's husband not had a brilliant idea.

"Why not survey your teenage customers to find out what they want?"

So we are. But, sadly, not in time to spend up the money that we've been told all year isn't available for essentials.


I'm doing "What do other libraries do?" which is usually really irritating but today is a useful diversion from things even more irritating. Somebody (not me) suggested outsourcing our booksale, dumping unwanted stock onto somebody else and taking a percentage of the proceeds. I ask a colleague how their arrangement's faring.

"Oh, wonderful. Actually, it's an excellent way of making sure you're not clogged up with boxloads of old stock but it's not much of a moneyspinner to date. We signed a contract with this company last year. After a few months I rang them up to make sure that the stock we were sending them was appropriate and that things were going fine. They asked me if I wanted to know how our account stood at that stage. I wasn't expecting much by then, we'd only just started remember, but out of curiosity I said yes please.

"'You're doing really well,' they said, 'your account's two pounds in credit.'"

I wonder how much librarian you can get for your £2.

This is Funf speaking...

When Catty Library closed for repairs there was a lot of loose talk about us sending reservations for picking up at the council one-stop shop on Trebouxia Road. Then it suddenly went quiet. Now we know why: the one-stop shop's being knocked down next month as part of the Catty Regeneration Scheme.

We wouldn't have known anything about it but for a coincidence. One of the blokes project-managing the demolition work has the same name as one of the workers in the one-stop shop. Imagine the shock as you open an email and find out for the first time that your workplace is being knocked down in three weeks' time!


There's no holding Frog this week. He's now preening himself over something said to him at yesterday afternoon's "Toddlers' Rhyme Time" session held by a SureStart worker at Senebene. He felt he had to explain his presence to nearby members of the audience.
"I'm not just a passing pervert. I'm sitting in on this session because I'm doing it next week."

"Oh, we assumed you were one of the dads."
The lad is made up:
"Well, at least somebody thinks I've still got what it takes."
We'll have to get a special badge made up for him.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jimmy Clitheroe in a skin

Frog's made up and strutting about like a bantam cock with bronchitis. A couple of old dears had been in Gypsy Lane Library when he was doing a story time event. Usually the old dears complain about the noise but these were really positive about it. Best of all:

"Eee... that were nice weren't it?"

"According to Pansy he does that all the time. Imagine that. And he's nobbut a lad."

Remarked upon by Pevsner

Huge fuss locally, with a flurry of letters to the Helminthdale Clarion and Catty Examiner. A readers' poll in one of the weekly gossip mags has named Helminthdale as "A Really Crap Town." Big shock to most of us, I must say.

The usual bate of local councillors and Prominent Members Of The Community have all had their say. And it's all so very predictable. I can only imagine that there are model answers to questions in some handbook for thick provincial civic leaders. Councillor Donkeyhanger's response is typical:

"What a lot of poppycock! Just a couple of minutes out of town you've got some of the best hill walking in the country."

And more in the same vein at length. They all do it. When Middlesborough got a pasting recently they said: "Just out of town is the North York Moors." Oldham and Rochdale copped for it last year and they both said: "Just out of town is the plangent beauty of the Pennine landscape," more or less.

What they're all saying is: "Our town is shite but it's lovely once you've left it."

Quod erat, of course, demonstrandum.

And I have twice victoriously crossed the Acheron

I recently complained about the project management on our new call centre service. Our experience is not unique...

"Like you, we gave our project managers all the details, costs and contacts for the licences to access our LMS last October. Three times. All went quiet for a bit until they asked us for the same details again last month. Twice. And four times again this month. I've just done the training for call centre staff on illegal copies of the client software. And we go live at the beginning of next month. I wouldn't mind, I'd done the difficult bit: we'd finally closed one of our libraries a couple of years ago so I set the call centre up as that library on the system just before Xmas, thereby saving the project one grand and roughly two months.

"We've lost the funding for one member of staff; had twenty-one generations of Visio flowcharts; a flurry of mind-boggling statements about the services that will be within scope ("This is how we see us answering the telephone call: 'Hello, I want to reserve a book.'"); and we're going to be served by a call centre with nine, count them! nine, telephone numbers. So far.

"My money's on the software being bought some time next October. In any other organisation I'd suspect sabotage or internal politics but our IT people have form such that I can only put the situation down to sheer bloody incompetence."

Earth-shaking news

Our libraries are in such a state that last night's earthquake didn't manage to dislodge anything that hadn't been dislodged years ago. Even without an earthquake this building looks like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have just finished playing a best-of-twenty-one polo tournament amongst the boxes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Well I never!

The Job That Dare Not Speak Its Start Date has a start date and it is next week!!!

Luckily for Maybelle, the funding for the project has been rolled over end of the financial year (procrastinating on a start date for months on end and then having somebody in the job for just three weeks would be going some, even for us!)

It's suggested that we could use the Nation's Biggest Whiteboard to run a sweepstake for the end date of Maybelle's contract. It's not being put to any other use: T.Aldous still isn't sure whether or not Seth has drawn enough boxes in the grid. We've been telling people that it's a sun-bleached Rothko.


Poor old Frog. He's on a book-buying visit at the suppliers' warehouse. In itself this is unsurprising: it's that time of year again when we panic-buy to make up the numbers. Worse still, he's got to buy umpteen-thousand pounds' worth of picture books on top of the usual. His joy at having to do a double-quick "selection" is matched only by the Acq. team who will both be expected to put it all through the system within a week, in between answering the telephone and taking messages for T.Aldous and Mary.

A few weeks ago it wouldn't have been so bad: an unnatural hiatus in the procurement system led to a week's worth of nothing. Now, the fire escape corridor's full of large print books, romances, crime novels, best-sellers and more chairs than the Albert Hall. There's also some more boxes of Bookthingy stuff coming in this week.

Bring it on, I say!

Leading by example

The whole of Policy Team is on annual leave this morning.

Monday, February 25, 2008


A colleague writes:

"I've been seconded to a stock management post in our library authority. It sounds like your "Booksale Coordinator" is a bit like my post! I'm not dragged off to the enquiry desk all the time, though -- we're housed in an industrial estate about two miles from the library. That's the good news. The bad news is that the funding for my post got cut before Christmas. So it's now being funded from the book sale!!!"

I offered to send her T.Aldous for back-up support. This was politely declined.


I'm checking the metrics for the new performance indicators. The figures for the use of electronic resources look pretty good but I've a suspicion that it's a hard core of dedicated users rather than wide use by a good proportion of our customers. For the past few years I've been banging on at our staff that we need to set up our borrowers so that they can log onto these resources but I'm not convinced that the message got through: a quick check tells me that only 9% of our borrowers have the log-in keys added to their records.


Perhaps I'm being overly-harsh. After all, we've had computerised borrower records for eighteen years and only in the past three years have we been using the log-ins, we're probably just catching up. I expect that if I run a check of the borrowers added in the past twelve months things would look rather better.

Friday, February 22, 2008


There are times...

As we were leaving Catty Infirmary, stopping to say thank you and goodbye to our colleagues in the library who hosted this morning's meetings, Daisy Dormouse spotted a pile of books by the door.

"We used to get that but it's too expensive these days."

"Those are old copies, we've just got the new edition. We're throwing those out. You can have one if you want."

"Could we have two: one for Dutch Bend and one for Helminthdale. We get asked for it all the time."

Our reference stock profile in a nutshell: a pile of out-of-date books that are 'asked for all the time' with neither metrics nor supporting evidence of their use.

Knuckling to it

e-Learning project meeting in a side room in Catty Infimary (overspill from a health education information presentation). The Reference Librarians from Dutch Bend are in fine form, much to the irritation of Henry Irving, the Local Studies Librarian. They start with the usual line:

"We're far too busy to do any of this work. We're snowed under as it is."

"That's OK. You just send the stuff to us and my team will get on with it."

"But how will you be doing it?"

"We'll just get on with doing the work."

I happen to know that the Catty staff who are camped out at Dutch Bend have spent the time since Christmas wondering just what the Dutch Bend Reference Library does besides photocopy reams of paper for the local antiquarian society. Not that this is reflected in the photocopying income, mind you.

Yet again, our noses are rubbed in their professional interest in providing family history services. Right up to the point when one of them pipes up:

"Of course, I don't know anything about these family history web sites..."

They've only had access to the internet for a decade and we've only subscribed to a couple for the past two years.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Up the pole

Providence has a sense of comic timing. Yardley Barnbrush is the council's Disabled Persons' Access Officer, taking the lead on all things Disabled Discrimination Act. He can be a little enthusiastic and is given to arriving at service points unannounced to throw his weight about. He it was who tried to ban all the pink books from Noddy Library because "they aren't high enough contrast for visually-impaired people." Today he decided to visit Spadespit Library.

Kelsie was minding her own business at the counter when she noticed a bloke she'd never seen before standing in the doorway with a big stick in his hands. Holding it horizontally he then did a passable impression of a bluebottle on a window. Forward he'd march, the ends of the stick would clatter against the dooway and thus repulsed he'd try again.

"I can't get in!"

"Pardon me?"

"I can't get in."

"Why not?"

"The stick won't go through the doorway."

"Why don't you turn the stick around ninety degrees? You'll be able to get in then."

"That's not the point."

"What is the point?"

"The doorway's not wide enough."

"Wide enough for what?"

"If a disabled person tried to come into this library they wouldn't be able to come in because the doorway's not wide enough."

At which point a lady on an electric buggy drove in and parked in from of the counter to return her books.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The front of me sings tenor, the rest sings baritone

Some disquiet about the progress on the building works at Epiphany Library. Bronwyn and Doreen are uneasy about the disabled toilets as it seems that the only support given to a user trying to get up off the bog is the sink. It strikes them that this isn't entirely ideal.

The building project manager disagrees and proceeds to give them a demonstration.

"...now just suppose that I've soiled myself."


It isn't just us. I'm just back from a meeting with colleagues in Bencup. One of their libraries is being wound down ready for work on access to the building, with the inevitable consequences.

The piles of boxes are classified by their labels:
  • Books
  • Old books
  • Very old books

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Vimto on the rocks

Day off, thank God! Visiting friends in Noddy I notice one of the reasons for the local yob culture: a notice in a shop window.

We sell alcohol from 6am

I wondered where all the drunks littering the bus station came from. I'd assumed they'd all been at a humongous all-night party.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Oh blimey O'Reilly

Real life enquiry in Helminthdale Lending:

"Have you got that book? It's red and has a woman on the front."

Credit where it's due: we've got it and they were given it!

One law for the rich...

There are those people who aren't allowed to go for their lunch at the same time without prior agreement confirmed a week beforehand, even though they're entitled to be out for lunch at any time for as long as they want between the hours of noon and two pm.

It hasn't escaped their notice that both Group Librarians are on leave this week and it hasn't gone down well.

Kevin Musgrove is appearing at the Old Vic as a jar of vapo-rub

I'm in the middle of the training sessions for the call centre staff. Despite the first-thing-in-the-morning panic about access to our systems most of the PCs are connected up. This has been effected by my loaning them some of my software licences (Catty and Epiphany are closed for building works so I'm using theirs) and the director responsible for the call centre, who also happens to be in charge of the software auditors, has leant on people to persuade them to load a dozen unlicensed copies of the client software on these PCs for one day only(!!!) An utter shambles.

The good news is that the call centre staff are grateful to meet anybody who doesn't want to drop a load of shit in their laps and then run as far away from the customers as possible. We seem to be getting on just nicely.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Definitely that time of year.

"I'm ordering some more new chairs," says T.Aldous. "What colour do you want?"

"I'm not bothered. I'll have whichever colour's the cheapest."

"I'll get someone to send you the swatch."

This job calls for pleasing personality

The Booksale Coordinator's job is, allegedly, currently being shortlisted with a view to interviews taking place at the end of the month (closing date for application being early last November). None of us have any idea what this person will actually be doing in real life, least of all the Acquisitions Team who will be being line-managed by this new bod (though don't feature in this post's responsibilities in the job description).

Co-incidentally, Jim's just called for ideas for the next regular monthly staff newsletter, which come out roughly once a quarter or whenever T.Aldous goes on holiday and can't put the blocks on publication.

As both the Booksale Coordinator and The Job That Dare Not Speak Its Starting Date are both completely new roles in the library service would it be an idea to have short profiles of the jobs in the next newsletter so that staff could have an idea what to expect from them?

What a good idea! I'll write something now.

You mean you know?!? We've been wondering for months.

Oh no, I've not the first idea either. I'll make something up and then see what happens when it gets to the vetting stage.

Off your trolly

The Acquisitions Team are asked if there's anything need buying out of the end-of-financial-year-spendfest.

"We could do with replacing the trollies: the wheels have been dodgy for a while and the shelves aren't to clever either. And we could do with a flat-bed trolly for bringing boxes in from the fire escape corridor."

"We won't be able to get them out of this year's money; it takes eight weeks for delivery for them. I'll get them ordered in April out of next year's money."

"That's precisely what you said last February."

Place settings

"I won't say I told you so,"

I tell Jim.

"Oh I wouldn't mind so much except that four of them have been in a meeting for the past two hours to discuss what shelving to buy for Epiphany Library and they're no nearer a decision now than they were at Christmas."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Getting to be a habit with me

I must stop it.

Mary was soliciting my sympathy on the probable underspend on lending stock this year.

"Last payments go into the system in the third week in March. Usually we've got up to the first week in April to get it spent up. We'll be having an underspend because of that."

"Yes but you have had all year."

Not too heavy on the banjos

There are times when school playground analogies are inescapable in this place. T.Aldous, and to an objectively much lesser extent Mary, are in lumber because of an underspend in a key area. (Which is to say that T.Aldous has blocked expenditure out of one of our budgets and is lining Mary up to take the rap for it as per usual).

"Mary, let's get together and decide what we're telling this Brenda person."

Mary knows precisely what's going on and is being quiety uncooperative.

"I'm busy at the moment helping the girls with these orders. We won't meet our additions figures if they're not done."


One of the item's in this week's Global Newsletter from the council's Chief Executive is a call for teams to participate in a tug-o-war contest this coming May Day.

"It's simple and fun, all you need is six people pulling in the same direction."

Being giddy and impulsive I pointed this out to Mary and T.Aldous.

"That's a coincidence: there's six of you in Policy Team. Why don't you enter, it would be a good bit of team-bonding."

Tortoise vindaloo

I've sent Jim some detailed proposals as to how we could address the new raft of performance indicators.

"Aren't you coming to the meeting?"

"I'll lay you odds it isn't going to happen."

Going local

Catty Township Committee has decided to put together a "Catty Now & Then" booklet to celebrate the 25th anniversary of something I've never heard of. Jim got wind of this and sent an email to Policy Team a couple of weeks ago.

"Have we any pictures of Catty Library that we could let them use?"

Evidently they decided it was a good idea. Jim followed it up with another email to Policy Team earlier this week:

"This is getting a bit urgent now. We could do with some old pictures. Any ideas?"

This time he had the sense to cc. the email to Hetty at Catty Library and to Henry Irving in Local Studies. Henry immediately contacted the Committee and arranged for them to visit Local Studies and have their pick of the pictures. As Henry says:

"Why not just get in touch with me in the first place?"

Slow down, you move too fast

Jim's trying, for the third time, to arrange a meeting with Policy Team, myself, Frog and Nancy to go through the new raft of performance indicators that apply from 1st April and come up with plans/strategies/desperate bits of straw-clutching to make sure that

(a) We're collecting the data in the first place; and
(b) The results show us in a good light, ideally with improvements in key areas.

Frog, Nancy and I have made ourselves available for the previous two attempts and I think we're up for this later one, too. The problem, as always, lies in Policy Team. Jim tackles T.Aldous about the subject:

"We really need to prioritise this meeting so that we can sort out what we're doing for the beginning of April."

"Can't it wait until the end of March?"

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


A colleague sends me a gem of a memo from his Library Director:

Subject: The great "black pen" controversy...

…doesn’t exist except in the minds who are trying to make a big deal out of it. First – black pens are more expensive than blue pens and using blue pens makes it easier to determine if a document is an original. The decision was just that simple and it makes no sense to stock both.

Additional decisions like this regarding office and library supplies will continue on a case-by-case basis. We will condense our supply offerings so that we can make the best use of our supply budgets.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hi there! I'm Dick Van Dyke, hope you are, too!

Henry Irving's dead brassed off. He's spent all afternoon in a meeting trying to agree the metadata structure on the new collection management system that's to include the collections from the art gallery, museum and local studies. He's been struggling to get the museum staff to get their head around the fact that the public will be searching this system (which is how they got the funding for the thing) and that perhaps they could bear this in mind.

A case in point: a bone china tea service. You or I might want to find the whole service and be able to relate the cups with the saucers with the teapot, etc.

"They can do that by comparing the accession number prefixes," say the museum staff. "There's no need to create a parent record connecting all these items."

Even as he speaks Henry gets pinker and pinker in rage.

"If I hear one more bloody idiot tell me that they're a professional I'll scream! If they have to tell you they're professional they can't be."

I seem to have heard this before somewhere.

The joy of shared services

School holidays are busy times for public libraries and many valuable customer transactions -- visits, issues and events -- are chalked up in these periods.

So what joy to find that the head teacher at Pottersbury Road has decided that this is a good time to knock through our staff room to make a SureStart activity suite (we'll still be paying the same ground rent), and that Glass Road's having the road up to the library dug up and resurfaced.

Let us know when you're being Ofsted-ed, guys so that we can piss up your performance targets for you.

Sherbet dabs

It's starting to look a bit dicey for our meeting the national stock additions and stock expenditure performance targets and our stock health target's looking iffy because we've enough money to buy hardbacks and so don't buy "enough" paperbacks for the Nabobs' liking.

Despite this, we'll be meeting the stock replenishment targets because we've so many libraries closed with their stock boxed up in storage that there's a significant dent in the "available stock" figure within the calculation.

Ideally the dent would have been unnecessary because there'd been a programme of stock-editing throughout the year. As it is, the Group Librarians are desperately trying to catch up with decades' worth of anti-stock-editing and can't whip the tatty, broken-down and stagnant stock off the shelves fast enough. One of the reasons being that T.Aldous has instructed that stock that's been edited has to be transferred to other libraries and not put into booksale. (eh?) The reason for that being that boxes of booksale books have been skittering around the borough for the past umpteen years and have collected enough Air Miles to travel first class to Wollameroo. Rather than chalk up more mileage, T.Aldous has decided to stem the flow of "new" old books, to improve our chances of hitting the booksale income targets. (you may need a cold flannel on your neck at this stage) One of the other reasons why the stock-editing can't progress is that most places are full of boxes of stock to be transferred to other libraries from libraries that have moved into smaller premises or, in the case of Helminthdale Lending, slung out a pile of children's library shelving without buying anything to replace it. Dutch Bend is so full of transfers to closed libraries that the stock to be transferred from the branch libraries in the Dutch Bend and Catty townships has all been sent to Helminthdale to deal with, together with the stock from the Helminthdale, Milkbeck and Spadespit townships which are stock-edited from there anyway. When stock-editing's being done, of course.

So we're doing very well, really.

Stock query

An item's been sent down to the Acq. Team by Helminthdale Lending.

"This is the wrong book for this language set."
Dead right it is:

  • The book's a Romanian phrasebook accessioned in 2002;
  • The cassette case is a Romanian language course accessioned in 1998; and
  • The cassettes are a Ukranian language course accessioned in 1999.

Infinite joy of health

Seth's turn to be ill: he's got pneumonia (lucky it's not Weil's disease). With the council's strategy on the control of infectious diseases ("get back to work early so that you can be sure to spread it round") we can be sure of a full roster at the tiller this month.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Overture and beginners

There are worse project managers than librarians!

The call centre goes live in a couple of weeks (brilliant timing on the council's part). Milton, Bronwyn and I have spent the past couple of weeks constructing help sheets, FAQs and model scripts and I've constructed a pile of HTML pages taking the call centre staff through the recursive elements of your typical library enquiry where a customer wants to renew overdue books and it turns out that we need to correct their address because the notices have been returned to sender "not known at this address." I've done some work with the operational manager to work out the training requirements and pencil together a training schedule. We're getting there.

Except for a pile of panicky emails and 'phone calls this afternoon from the project managers who want to know how to give the call centre staff access to the library management system. Milton told them in principle in writing last summer and I told them in detail, including prices and suppliers, twice in October and once again in December. What have they been doing? Drawing increasingly inaccurate flow charts which they send us once a week, we correct and they ignore, that's what.

Last year the council outsourced its business management processes so as to improve its project management. Obviously getting its money's worth.

Piss artist

"You've hurt your hand Seth."

"Yes, I've just decked a bloke in the shopping precinct."

"How come?"

"I was just walking along, minding my own business when along comes this bloke with his trollies and underkecks round his ankle pissing everywhere. He shouts: 'hello mate!' at me and come over and tries to piss on me. So I walked off, I wasn't having any of it. And he does no more than he starts running after me, still pissing. What could I do? I turned round and thumped him."

"Hell. What happened next?"

"The security guards came up and said: 'what's up, Seth?' I told them and they said: 'you go back to the library and we'll sort this bugger out.' They've done him for drunk & disorderly, anti-social behaviour, pissing in public and indecent exposure."

These are the people we have to consult on service delivery.


Good news! The fire exit corridor is now full of forty-odd new chairs.

It's that time of the financial year again.

Standing in the rain all day

Frog's stuck outside Roadkill Library waiting to get in ready for a ten o'clock children's event, it being half-term. Getting a bit nervous, he rang Dutch Bend to make sure that somebody was available to let him in, it being half-term. Dagmar answers the 'phone...

"I'll just find out what's happening, hang on a minute. By the way, we didn't get any scissors with our activity table materials at Raccoonville. Will we be getting scissors?"

"You should have got scissors."

"We only got two pairs last summer."

"Is anybody coming to open up the library?"

He was rescued by the arrival of Dotty Trampoline, who'd been held up by the traffic.


The fire exit corridor's been empty for more than a week now and it's very unnerving. The Acq. Team are getting increasingly worried because no stock's coming in and this is traditionally the time of year when it's expected that they'll get three month's additions added to stock in the space of two weeks.

Not helped by Mary's response to Group Librarians' telling her that they've not been able to use the supplier's e-commerce site on their PCs:

"Well, it works just fine on my PC."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The only critical assessment of the French Nouvelle Vague that some families have seen for weeks on end

Oh lovely. Our online subscription services have stopped working on the public PCs. It took the work of a moment to discover that the council's IT people have changed the IP addresses without warning us again.

Life's too short for spun sugar

I've been having another look at the new suite of performance indicators that have been wished on us by central government. They've simplified it by doubling the number of indicators we'll be measured by. And we've (mostly I've) got to set everything up for collecting the data from 1st April. Good job I've nothing else to do, then.

An emetic on the cheap

How on earth does a whole town centre smell of sick? When I got in I thought that a lorry might have shed its load of pig slurry, but no, the smell's not right for slurry, it really is vomit.

If this is how the day's starting I think I want to go home.

Friday, February 08, 2008

I'm waiting for the film to come

I was supposed to be at a communication strategy meeting with our esteemed Policy Team. I turned up at the alloted time and place and there was nobody there. Getting back to my desk I emailed Jim, who organised the thing, to ask if it had been cancelled and nobody had told me.

Quite some time later, Jim responds:

"Oops! Sorry. We moved the meeting downstairs because we couldn't all make it. I forgot to tell you.

"I probably did you a favour anyway: I thought we'd best start with a run-through of the points raised in the last meeting and then move on to agreeing an action plan for getting things done. T.Aldous said he couldn't come, then he did. We spent three hours hearing the back-story on each and every thing in the list."

And no action plan to worry about!

Brief encounter

There's a touch of scandal in the air in the lending library. A young couple sneaked into the "mother and baby" toilets (the one with the changing table) and stayed in there for fifteen minutes. Much tutting and similar all round.

Me, I was impressed by fifteen minutes in the circumstances. Other than that, so long as they left the premises as they would wish to find them I'd rather they were in there than in the carpark or the fire escape stairs.

"After all, everybody's had adolescent sexual experiences in a library, haven't they?"

Apparently not.

The count was a beautiful dancer

Work continues apace at Catty Library. What that pace is escapes me for now, but apace it is.

It has been discovered that the frontage isn't falling off the rest of the building. The rest of the building is falling off the frontage. This comes as a great relief as it means that the subsidence in the north half of the building won't get much worse and will, in the course of time, be matched by the subsidence in the south half of the building. Which means that for some wonderful moment the floor of the library will be level for the first time since 1923. Meanwhile, work has been done on the floor to try to even out the eccentricities of slope with the West Col being pretty much filled in with the spoil from the North Face of the Children's Library. What was once a poorly-defined indoor crown green bowls pitch has become a classic inclined plane. We may need to set up a funicular railway to help the old dears get to the Family History section.

The council's Heritage Planning Officer has decreed that the floor shall be re-laid with parquet flooring (the old one was removed during a salvage campaign to help build Spitfires for our brave boys in the late unpleasantness). I suppose his thinking is that the parquet is more likely to flex during the subsidences than would a roll of linoleum.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Frog and I have just done the maths and it works out that there are more central-government-directed give-a-child-a-book programmes being channelled through our distribution services than there are board books on the shelves at Windscape Library.

The latest one involves his having to buy fifteen grand's worth of picture books by next Wednesday week. This runs in parallel to the boxes of books being distributed to schools by the Library Service as part of the Fooked Up project and all the other stuff we're trying to be in denial about.

Needless to say, the Acq. Team are delighted at the idea of forcing through a few thousand picture books in a rush at the end of a financial year where it looks like there'll be another attempt at buying, receiving and paying for one quarter's new stock in two weeks and with long-standing vacancies still left unfilled. Especially as none of this stuff counts as "additions to stock" in the new performance indicators.

John Snagge's been on at me about my dishpan hands

Another salutary lesson in the generation gap.

Over the past six months we've actually started filling vacancies at the front line, which mean that having been one of the younger members of staff for the past decade and a half I'm suddenly hovering close to the median age. Which means that most of my cultural references are about seventy years too old for a lot of the people I'm dealing with. While you and I, dear reader, are comfortable with a world of Gibson Girls, Stanley Baldwin and cigarette card portraits of Henry Kendall some of these people are too young to have seen Timmy Mallett on "Wackaday."

Lucky buggers.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Coming back from a meeting I give Eileen the Reference Librarian a pile of European Commission information booklets and publications catalogues.

"No thanks, I don't believe in it."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Futile attempt at problem-solving

I suggest to Mary that we use the spare PC on the desk that once was Jimmy Huddersfield's for Maybelle should she ever ascend to The Job That Dare Not Speak Its Start Date. No. That's for the Book Sale And Filling In On The Enquiry Desk and A Bit Of Reader Development In Between Stock Librarian when they start. It was only advertised three months ago so we could be looking at interview dates some time in June. Factor in another six months for deciding on a start date and the PC will be up for replacement anyway.

Just gently swaying in the breeze suspended by my toes

Mary has re-identified the desk to be used by Maybelle Googly when she eventually takes on The Job That Dare Not Speak Its Starting Date. It needs to be excavated of the boxes brought over from Epiphany Library last month. Mary tells me that we'll be taking a PC off the Group Librarians for Maybelle to use. The fact that the three Group Librarians can't get to either of their PCs most of the time because they keep being appropriated by Policy Team members who don't want to go to their own offices isn't factored in.

Meanwhile, the Assistant Chief Executive keeps asking Warner Baxter why none of the project money's been spent yet.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Some things never change...

Mary's just popped in with an interesting bit of paper. It's a specification for one of next year's service delivery agreements, due to be agreed and signed off by last Friday. It's been on T.Aldous' desk since 15th January.

"Can you just check that it's all technically possible for me. I know a lot of it isn't really probable but you know how it is."

Charm numbers

Only in Helminthdale (I hope!)...

Helminthdale Council is setting up a call centre which will be the telephone user interface to all services in the new financial year. So as not to make people think this is a remote, faceless call centre the council has decided that the call centre won't have a single telephone number. Any customers using the call centre must first of all determine which of a dozen service groupings they need to contact and ring the appropriate number.

Transformational government seems to have passed Helminthdale by.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Music While You Work

It occurs to me that one of the major failings of this workplace is the lack of a backing track. This could compromise our hopes of one day being made into a major motion picture. I expect every other library has backing music (and sell copies of the soundtrack on CD to unwary customers).

Spoke too soon

Wandering into what should be the community meeting room upstairs in Helminthdale Library I stop and stare at all the boxes of books stacked up in the corner. These aren't booksale books; this is the stock that Doreen found 'inconvenient' when they were rearranging the library last autumn.

I hope that these aren't more piles of stuff that's allegedly on the shelves as far as the Catalogue's concerned.

I wonder how many have been reserved. This library's reservation fill time figures have been fairly bad since it re-opened. Almost certainly a coincidence.

Glove your library

I enjoyed this posting on the "@ The Library" blog. I think we've all been there at some time or another.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The nation speaks!

I asked you "What are your predictions for Helminthdale in 2008?"

You spoke:
  • Everyone will live happily ever after 0%
  • A library will be closed by an influx of badgers 6%
  • Somebody will say: "Sorry, that was entirely my fault" 6%
  • Library management will make a decision 13%
  • A library will be closed when the floor caves in 13%
  • T.Aldous will be awarded the O.B.E. 13%
  • A reality TV show will be used to fill staff vacancies 13%

And the option of choice:
  • Somebody will say: "I was on leave that week" 53%
Sucker bet really.

Gardener's world

Frog tells me that the movie prop by the back door is the old "reading tree" that was in the display window upstairs.

I won't repeat my response but it featured the letter F.

"We had that in the window?!?"

"We took the precaution of hiding it under a tarpaulin."