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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Popping into Hannigan's Truss Boutique for something for the weekend I bump into Ken Barmy. We swap tales of library managers. It's their turn to have their management team changing it's name.

"Do you know what they've called themselves?" he asks.

"Go on..."

"Library Leadership Team. Fucking hell. Leadership! I thought they were reaching it a bit calling themselves Management Team, but fucking Leadership! Team's pushing the boundaries a bit, too. Talk about collective irresponsibility!"

The voice of inexperience

"We are going to get the briefing notes for the staff consultation meetings won't we?" I complain to Jim.

"I've emailed everybody the briefing outline," he replies.

"No, you've emailed everybody the covering memo for the briefing outline."

"Leave it with me."


T.Aldous trolls over...

"The IT Service desk are trying to install something on my PC. They've asked me to log the PC off so that they can do it. I don't log my PC off very often. I know I should but I don't do it very often. Can you check that it's worked for me?"

Which explains why he keeps complaining that his PC takes ages to boot up "because it's found lots of problems and seems to be scanning the disk looking for more."

Bad techno covers and fluffy white kittens

Most of Policy Team have spent the past hour discussing the (still draft) programme and briefing notes for the staff consultation meetings. T.Aldous had Milton stuck on the 'phone till gone six yesterday trying to get Milton to suggest changes to the colour of the little title box on the front cover. They then adjourned to the staff room to discuss whether or not there needed to be a covering note.

As yet, nobody has the first idea what's to be done in the consultation meetings.

Question: How much time has been spent on these notes compared to the policy framework for library internet services?

OK, OK, it's a trick question as there isn't a policy framework for library internet services but you know what I mean.

A medieval banquet

Good news: it turns out that we're having lunch laid on during the staff consultation meetings.

Bad news: Mary's told her staff that they won't like it.


One of Maudie's odd little foibles, besides sticking labels on anything that doesn't move so that you know what it is, is a habit of finishing people's sentences with them. For instance, Maisie's talking Maudie through one of today's admin. problems:
Maisie: "So the problem is that they're asking us to pay the invoice but we haven't received the"

Together: "train ticket."

Maisie: "And I can't go paying invoices unless we've received"

Together: "the goods."
It's a really peculiar little tic and reminds me most of "The Desponds," the family of miserable northern sociopaths in Les Dawson's old radio series.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Frog glares at the map of the Town Centre on the back of the programme.

"I don't know why he just doesn't lay on a charabanc."

April sighs

In Bencup to see a demo of the latest gosh-wow library geegaw. Overheard:

"How was CIPFA?"

"Hell. How about you."

"Much the same."

"What colour pens did they insist on this time?"


"You poor sod."

I beg your pardon, but I think I'm freaked out

Joy be unconfined: Himself is back just in time to vet the latest incarnation of the programme and briefing notes for the staff consultation meetings. He has decided that it needs to include a map of the town centre for those staff who can't otherwise find out where the Town Hall Conference Rooms are (they're in the Town Hall).

I can't help feeling that "you can't be trusted to find out how to find the Town Hall" is a sad reflection on our professional capabilities as a library service.

I overhear T.Aldous' comments to Maisie, who's had this piece of work dumped on her.

"We need to say something about the map so that people know what it is... Perhaps we should say: 'Location of venue?'


"'Venue'...? No...


I don't have the bladder capacity I had as a stripling so I missed the rest.

A cowboy's lament to his dead saddle

Policy Team except Doreen is elsewhere in day-long meetings or training sessions.

"I'm just off out for a few hours, Frog's in charge," Doreen tells Maudie.

Which comes as a considerable shock to Frog when he finds out an hour later.

"What should I do with all this executive power?" he asks.

I suggest we go for lunch at half eleven.

Monday, April 28, 2008

You carry on, I'll do the visuals

An office move-around is in the offing. Sensible in itself as we have bags of room and people scrunched up in tight corners within handy reach of illogically-located telephone and network points.

It turns out that Mary has now decided on a use for my office. Most of us are arguing that it should be made available as a private meeting room for people doing return-to-work interviews and annual staff work appraisals which corporate Helminthdale says should be done once a year and which we now do nearly once every two years. Mary thinks it should be a "sorting-out room" for to store all the things that need to be put to one side to be sorted out. You can recite the list yourself.

Bollocks to that: "move out of your office so that we can fill it full of old crap."

You make me wonder whether to take a course in neurosurgery or go and watch a Care Bears movie

We've got a prodigious amount of new non-fiction hanging round on the shelves backstage waiting for somebody to put subject headings into the catalogue records (no, we don't buy in MARC records)(long story, clues: our local network environment puts a spoke into batch import processes and electing to buy in MARC records involves somebody making a series of decisions somewhere along the way).

Back in the day, Jimmy Huddersfield or Eddie Gravy would have done the work. Since then, Mary has relied on a series of strategies:
  • "I can do this myself," involving cherry-picking the easy or interesting ones and leaving anything else on the shelves for a few months.
  • Asking Lola to do some on top of her filling in for two other Assistant Librarians (Lola works job-share, though the other half of her job's been deleted. Go figure.)
  • Getting Maybelle in on extra hours to do the stuff left behind by Mary.
  • And back to "I can do this myself."
Noreen's going frantic.

"Mary, these need to be finished off and shipped out. People might have reserved them and be waiting for them."

"They weren't ordered as requests."

"No... but they might have reserved them now they've arrived. There's no way of knowing until you deal with them."

"Leave it with me."

I can't think why Mary doesn't just tell everyone not to buy any non-fiction pending the spontaneous generation of catalogue records.

Whipping us up into a coma

The programme and briefing notes for the staff consultation meetings have been printed and circulated....

...and promptly recalled because himself didn't like the look of them.

Moral of this story: if you want to make dead sure that everybody reads a memo, recall it immediately. Spite beats apathy every time.

Greased piglets

Luckily enough, I wasn't involved in Saturday's Join A Library Day brouhaha. Maybelle and Norma spent half the day trying to persuade passers-by into the library. Judging by the membership figures seven-inch heels are no match for a slack shopping Saturday in Helminthdale, where even the pound shops are struggling for custom.

The other half of their day was spent jumping through the appropriate hoops as Mary came up with one idea or another for last-minute publicity for the event.

With a little more time and forethought we could have put down bear traps.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The world smells of diesel fumes and old men's raincoats

One of the great benefits of working in a creaky old Victorian building like most of ours is that you can always be sure of plenty of ventilation. Unlike the modern go-ahead mock-Gothic horror that is Helminthdale Library. We've been recycling the same stale air for more than a decade and a half and it tells. A day in here is like running uphill with your mouth full of old socks.

It wouldn't be so bad if we could open a window. Admittedly, it could be a lot more wholesome, mostly consisting as it does of bus fumes and damp shellsuits, but at least it would be a change. I can understand their not having opening windows in the Town Hall, given the real possibility of the Housing Benefit Team defenestrating at least one of their managers, but us?

Ah well... Oxygen masks at the ready lads!

Friday, April 25, 2008

I wandered through Greenwich Village with a tea chest on my back

T.Aldous has told Seth to unpack the latest load of new tables, check that they're OK, pack them back up and ship them out to their prospective libraries.

Seth has told T.Aldous that he will take them out to the libraries, unpack them and, if they're not OK, pack them back up again and bring them back.

"Oh well, if you can't be mithered,"

snaps T.Aldous as he stalks off. Seth's spent the past ten minutes giving him the V's.

Did some magical fairy visit in the night?

Bronwyn and I are trying to make a bit of space in one corner. We moved aside the boxes of Italian story books from our friends in the twin town of Geronimo, a little village in Calabria, and found a whole pile of children's picture books that turn out to be on the shelves upstairs as far as the catalogue is concerned.



We're gearing up for tomorrow's Join A Library Today Day. Brilliant idea but scant notice for getting the work done. NYR, like all the other alphabet soup quangoes, assume we've lots of people and space aplenty straining at the slips to deliver their works.

Maybelle and Bronwyn are preparing chloroform pads so that they can induce passers-by into the library tomorrow.


We'd been wondering what the new dirty great metal cupboard was for. I notice that there's a laminated notice on it.

This cupboard is for the storage of old envelopes for re-use

And yes, inside the cupboard is a pile of tatty old boxes full of tatty old used envelopes.

A dab hand on the old greased crook

The proposed staff consultation meetings have prompted a debate as to whether or not Seth is a member of staff.

"He's just the caretaker at Helminthdale," says T.Aldous.

Which will probably come back to haunt the idiot next time he wants Seth to shift shit from one library to another or put up noticeboards at other libraries.

It looks like the rest of Policy Team may be ganging up against T.Aldous on this one.

Heavy falls of surgical lint in Leeds

Some library authorities are getting themselves bogged down with transformational government, National Year of Reading and/or preparing for Cultural Olympiads. This year's big project in Helminthdale is shifting T.Aldous' overspill out of the back room again.

This time the project is hampered further by T.Aldous' constantly complaining that last time was a "painful intrusion and loss" which has further determined him to forbid any shit-shifting except by himself.

Jim has asked Warner for permission to set fire to T.Aldous' office to make room for the crap. Warner says he'll have to check with Health & Safety first.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ankle-deep in King Edwards

A colleague writes:

Hello old stick,

Saw your book of the month. It will astonish you not one bit to hear that we've been going along with a P.O.W. vibe for quite a few months now. Much to my surprise, a zamizdat copy of the "Escape Committee Update" has lingered on the staff noticeboard since November. All the more amazing as our Principal Librarian insists on vetting all notices!

We were starting to build a glider in the reference library, which is on the top floor of the building. We've recently come to the conclusion that downstairs in the cellar would be more appropriate. We've also set up a dummy for to cover for absentees. It's very realistic so long as the absentees look like big orange toy sharks. Which they do, luckily.

Per ardua ad abusrdum!

I like the idea of the shark. I'll get him to volunteer a photo.

CBeebies: the director's cut

A spat between Frog and Lettie, the children's librarian at Dutch Bend....

A teacher went into Dutch Bend Library and asked if she could join the library on behalf of her class on borrow books en bloc. We don't have a schools library service in Helminthdale but we have lots of informal arrangements letting this happen. It provides a service and keeps the visits and issue figures ticking over. The complication this time is that the school in question is in Pardendale, the neighbouring authority. They do have a schools library service, which schools buy into or not as the case may be, so there's a question of etiquette involved. If the class came to visit the library then we could stretch the point. But otherwise no, sorry...

Lettie is sore affronted and takes it out on Frog.

"Nothing personal, but the Children's Projects Manager is telling me that I can't issue a class' books to this teacher in my library?

Nothing personal my fanny. If she doesn't want an answer why ask the question?

To my mind, I don't see why we should make a special case of this teacher. Oh, yes, it's because it's a teacher... a Fellow Professional. Conkers. Why should teachers be allowed thirty books at a time when the same staff who are sniffy about people like Mr. Paycek borrowing ten books. What's the difference? They're both just ordinary customers.

In fact, if it were down to me I'd put thirty about-to-be-withdrawn books to one side and next time Mr. Paycek came in I'd let him borrow those thirty books. And I'd let him keep them ad infinitum, just renewing the loans as and when required. He can't read them but he likes books and cherishes them and would be thrilled to bits to be allowed to have thirty books.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I'd have to give myself a sedative

Maybelle mentioned that she'd half-remembered something on the news about Greenpeace invading Port Sunlight, which sounded unlikely to the rest of us as nobody could remember any whaling activities in the lower reaches of the Mersey. In the end she was half-convinced that it was a dream. It turns out to be true.

Which is why Maybelle burst into my office shouting: "palm oil!"

And why she's now sat in a corner giggling like a drain while I try and get down from the ceiling.

After the daring rescue of Miss Johnson, the hermit, from a treacherous marsh, the Four Marys prepared to return to St. Elmo's

Some meetings are fiendishly boring, even by our standards.

Mum is making models out of old banana yoghurt

Sometimes you need to waste an hour and a half in going out to a library after a demand that you put the training in hardware maintenance that you've never had into use only to find that they've not plugged the monitor in.

Back to the world of dreams

There's been yet another reorganisation in the IT department. Once the piano music stopped Norman Inskip found himself back as the Library Service's account manager.

He's already told Milton that the public don't need to save Word documents.

Happy days.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wonder-packed days

It's a sobering realisation... Just as I was boggling at the number of blog entries I've made this month I recalled just how many stories I've been ethically unable to include.

No wonder there are members of staff wandering round with one sock on.

Screen shot

T.Aldous, in a meeting with senior managers from elsewhere in the council:

"The problem is that sometimes I get so many emails that they drop off the bottom of the screen."

That's right: when he did his ECDL training he didn't cotton onto the idea of scrolling up and down.

This explains much.

We'll sing the dirty lyrics to the Rites of Spring

A world of thanks to the anonymous correspondent to The Annoyed Librarian's blog who posted the link to this video.

I think I'll put it about that this will be the model for the staff consultation days.

Yesterday's uncertainties

I get a 'phone call from a member of staff at a branch library.

"Is it right that we can get the council to pay for our eye tests?"

"Yes. You might want to have a chat with Human Resources about it."

Tell it the way it is, baby

Telephone call:

"Hello, please could I speak to Mary?"

"Sorry, she's not in today." [She's taken today off. Something to do with bags. I didn't ask.]

"Oh flip."

"Can I take a message?"

"No, it's OK. I'll email her."

Best of luck cherub.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Up in the scullery a man I don't know is rinsing out his socks

I expect there's a reason why there's an unpaired sock on the staff room table. I don't think I want to know it.

Hypnotising earwigs with a billiard cue

I'm getting heartily fed up of the Shakespearean mutterings about the staff consultation meetings. After years of muttering that nobody listens to them, staff are now muttering that they don't want to have to say anything.
"I don't do ice-breakers."
It's not helped by the utter lack of information coming from our betters. We've been told nothing save the date and that lunch will be prepared.
"I asked Mary about the lunch and she says it will be spicy. I shall take my own sandwiches."
I can cope with most of it until somebody accidentally hits one of the recurring banes of my work here.
"There won't be any rôle-playing will there?"
Aaaaaargh!!! What is it about this place and rôle-playing? Any time you mention anything to do will training you're asked:

"There won't be any rôle-playing will there?"

"Yes of course. You will be issuing books on the new management system in the style of the Medieval mystery play. You will be Jack-the-Devil. Your costume is in the box over there; we had to guess at your tight size."

To be fair, we have so little training or development activity in this service that we have not yet been able to erase the racial memory of training sessions back in the eighties when librarian-managers conducted the compulsory August Bank Holiday Training Days in the style of 1970s drama workshops.

You can take the librarian out of the corduroy but you can't take the corduroy out of the librarian.

Ask her about the handles on their spin-drier

The staff at Gypsy Lane are Not Happy. Pansy reports that Posie's been on a corporate staff induction morning and has come back depressed because our esteemed Chief Executive, Bentley Furbilow, stood on his hind legs and told them that they work for an organisation filled with caring and responsive managers who support their staff and listen to their views.

Waltzing with you is hell

I am being grouchy.

"The printer up here has died," says Doreen.

There are three printers up there. So I ask which one and in what way it has died. I am told to get the details from the staff upstairs. I ring the staff upstairs and get the voicemail. I give up. Once I find out which and what I'll be able to report the problem to our IT service desk.

I decide to wait to be told.

Film Fun

The votes are in. I asked you "Which dead film star is your library?"

Nobody works anywhere like Lassie, John Wayne or J. Carroll Naish. One lucky soul works in a library with the winsome charm of Mary Pickford and another in a bumbling, ineffectual Edward Everett Horton.

Jealous though I am of the 12% of respondents working in a Douglas Fairbanks Senior of a library I have no words for the envy I have for the person working for William Powell.

The Three Stooges In the end, though, reality prevailed. 68% of respondents said that their library reminded them of any one of The Three Stooges. Thank you for confirming my world view.

Thanks to everyone who voted. Next time we'll be addressing the fabric of the library building; look out for the poll appearing soon after Mischief Night.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A joyous time of year

T.Aldous spots something in a presentation he's been looking at.

"What's year end?"

"Err... Settling up last year's accounts, reconciling invoices, rolling over orders, closing last year's budget hierarchies and opening this years..."

"Ah... And these new systems do that?"

"Err... yes."

"Good. Year after year we have such a struggle with year end."


Friday, April 18, 2008

No nuts

I don't often go into the staff room fridge. I might not again for a while. I find it very disturbing to find half a banana wedged tumescently at the front of the top shelf.


It says a lot for the economy of Helminthdale that Lidl have pulled out of the town centre due to lack of trade.

Bizzarely, the shop on Bannockburn Avenue still stays open. It sells nothing but piano accordions. Piano accordions featured highly in some of the free 'n' easy pubs I frequented in my youth but I've never even seen one in any of the pubs in Helminthdale, let alone one used in anger. Perhaps it's a tax dodge: some people put their money in secret accounts in Liechtenstein or the Cayman Islands, others in a piano accordion shop in Helminthdale.

Walter Mitty writes our personnel reports

A long and difficult morning as Milton and I get on with some personnel issues. This includes the first annual employee appraisal I've had in all the years I've worked in the Library Service, despite it being a compulsory corporate requirement since 1991.

By rights we should have had this meeting last year, or else not had it at all. This is supposed to be a top-down process so we shouldn't have had the meeting until after he'd had his appraisal, which is fourteen months late and counting. Milton marvels that the Library Service is allowed to treat these as optional. I just take it as read that the Library Service doesn't take staff management seriously and in this council, once you reach a certain pay grade you will never be held to account for your inactions.

I think the worst part of all this is that Milton lays himself open to too much of my anger and hassle as a result of his trying to do the right thing. We've spent the whole morning tripping over bits of baggage from years ago. One thing it does prove is that my judgement's well out: I'm seriously under-estimating my frustration with this service.


Where else but Helminthdale would Human Resources send letters to the home addresses of all staff asking if the address in the HR database is correct?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

There's a big brown thing in the coalshed

I'm upstairs in the community room. I need a box to kick and we've a shortage of them downstairs.

Up here there's boxes full of leather chairs and books from Catty and Epiphany. There are playaways that never will and piles upon piles of 'inconvenient' stock. There's a metal cupboard and a few old tables. And stacking chairs. And more thingie than you could poke a stick at. I turn to Seth.

"Aren't we due a booksale in here?"

"Don't even go there."

The Empress of Blandings

Frog comes into the staff room to find that his coat's in a heap on the floor. As he picks it up to put it on the communal coat-stand, Doreen pipes up:

"That coat of yours made the coat-stand fall over when I put my coat onto it."

National Year of Reading

Staff Library book of the month

book cover: The Wooden Horse by Eric Williams

Not just here, then...

A colleague sends this news link.

Sadly, the Wikipedia entry's being scoured clean.

Slapstick of another kind

My finger ends are shredded; my teeth ache in the grinding; the pains in the chest are back with a vengeance and I can hear the blood thumping its way through my veins.

I have been sitting through a software demo with my betters.

Milton made the arrangements and emailed Poxy Team to ask them to invite staff to come and have a vada. A few were asked on Tuesday evening and a couple of others this morning. Mary told Frog about it in passing on Tuesday as he was leaving the office.

"I'm too busy to go but you can go."

Running between meetings and phone calls he's collared by T.Aldous this morning.

"When's this demonstration?"

"What demonstration?"

"Why haven't you gone to it yet, Frog?" asks Mary.

The demo is OK, rather better than the product in fact, which isn't actually bad. I struggle with these because I find that most of the innovations posited are things I've been trying to get Management Group to take on board for years. This isn't because I'm particularly brilliant, just that it generally takes two or three years for the library software industries to translate bullshit to beta. It generally feels like I'm having my nose rubbed in it.

Things are made worse by Julia and Doreen. I've spent most of this morning fighting the urge to stand up and shout at them: "You girls! You sit over there and you sit over there. Keep quiet and hands on heads!" Especially as much of Doreen's commentary is ignorant bollocks about our library systems.

Doreen: (whispers) "Our system doesn't do that, we should be able to do that."

Kevin: (thinks) "It does do that. I've shown you how to do that. You just don't want to do that."

Demonstrator: "Here's how you can feed news about events in your library to customers' personal pages or Windows Vista."

Doreen: (whispers) "That's good. I've always said we should do that."

Kevin: (thinks) "It would help if you could tell us what's going on in this building, love."

The last piece of the demo aims to show us a management information overlay on our library management system. Only Milton and I stick around for this as the others are managers who need information for managing services. Doreen's Parthian shot is:

"Ah well, back to our rubbish systems..."

Ignorant cow.

Frog gets downstairs and is confronted by Mary.

"Where on earth have you been?"

Getting back to my desk I find that the whole of our People's Network has collapsed. Happy days.

Whatever happened to impetigo?

Lovely snow. It tops the hills like icing sugar. Sadly, it never properly covers the town centre, which could really do with it.

Actually, it could really do with a few cubic miles of concrete and a glacier but where are you going to get that on a Thursday morning?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


T.Aldous has taken to getting a lift into work and the bus home, being concerned about his carbon footprint (and nothing to do with the council putting up staff car parking charges by 400%, which in turn is all to do with the council encouraging staff use of public transport and nothing to do with this year's budget shortfall).

"It only takes Harry ten minutes to get in," he marvels, "it usually takes me forty-five minutes."

At marvel at this myself: I know from experience that it's a forty minute walk from the town centre to the community centre just down the road from his house.

I've just taken a 'phone call for T.Aldous. It's his wife, wanting to know where he's got to. What happened is that he went for the bus and missed it. This service runs every ten minutes "or better" so he came back to the library to wait for the next one, which was just leaving the bus stop as he got there. So he came back to wait for the next one...

His wife's coming to take him home.

Chairs IX

Well, bugger me sideways...

I've just gone into the computer stores room to dig out a replacement barcode scanner for Milkbeck Library and I've found that some muffin's stuck a secretary's chair inside the comms cabinet.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

About as funny as King Lear

The Silver Surfers' Club at Windscape Library are up in arms because we've bought new furniture and installed two more public PCs so there's nowhere near the window for their tutor to plug in his laptop.

God help them if we ever install the multifunctional fax machine they keep demanding at Town Hall meetings.

Rum tiddle-tiddle-tiddle i-do

Frog's chafing a bit. He's found some brilliant books that unfold and become child-sized space shuttles and tractors. The children's librarians aren't sure that he should buy them for their libraries because they won't fit on the shelves and they'll get the usual comments from the usual managerial suspects.

Another triumph for our furniture-first policies.

Cosmic ordering

Noreen and Bronwyn were discussing the recent influx of new stock. Noreen complained about the extremely sporadic nature of our stock selection and ordering processes. Doreen, who was earwigging, remarked:

"I'm glad that's not my responsibility!"

Doreen is line manager to half the people responsible for stock selection in the Library Service.

A box of frogs

Obviously dairy week in the library...

Deidre's just asked Noreen: "The milk in the fridge labelled 'Lending Library milk,' is that for Lending, upstairs?"

Monday, April 14, 2008

Celebrate the irony

Mary is giving Noreen and Betty a grilling about our not meeting invoice payment targets for the fourth month running.

For the fourth month running Noreen gently points out that the invoices go through our system withing two days and then sit in a tray for six to eight days waiting for Mary to sign the batch header slips.

How to catch a ferret with a banjo string

Up to my eyes in cleaning up after the latest madness I get a 'phone call from Doreen up in Lending.

"A customer's stuck a floppy disk in one of the PCs and can't get it out."

"Oh dear."

"Is there a way of getting it out?"

"Jiggle it around a bit with a pair of tweezers or some such."

"So you'll come up and sort it out then?"


"Ha ha."

"Seriously no."

"But I've not got a pair of tweezers."

"Neither have I. Use a scissor blade or something."

The follow-up came a little later:

"I nearly electrocuted myself with that floppy disk drive."

"You did turn the PC off first?"

"No, of course not!"

Chairs VIII: nothing to see, move along sir

Seth's had a good morning. He's spent the past couple of hours taking each of twenty-four leather chairs out of the box; out of the cellophane wrapper; upending it to inspect the works; checking for scratches; matching the mahogany varnish against the Pantone swatch; replacing the wrapper and putting the chair back into the box, prior to him and Kevin the driver taking them all out to their prospective libraries. Where, in a sane and just world, they'd have been delivered in the first place.

If the disposition of new stock is anything to go by, we'll be finding unopened boxes full of leather chairs tucked away in back rooms in years to come.


We can all make mistakes when we delve through our short change but I can't see a lot of excuse for leaving an old halfpenny piece in the staff milk kitty. Noreen has almost as much hassle about the milk kitty as she does about reference periodical invoices. Here's another of this morning's:

"Why do you have to go and buy another packet of teabags?" asks Mary.

"Because we've run out."

"There's some in Kevin's locker."

"That's Kevin's hospitality stash that he's bought himself so that he can make visitors a cup of tea."

"But there's already tea and coffee for hospitality. You just need to ask T.Aldous for the jars."
[Aside from the practical difficulties we shall treat this with suspicion. This comes as news to all of us: T.Aldous is always moaning that the council won't let him buy coffee and milk from a hospitality fund.]

"Obviously he doesn't know this."

"So we can use his teabags then..."

"I'll just go and buy a fresh packet."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

It's a gift

Mary to Noreen:

"You've worked really hard this year, especially as Jimmy's job has been vacant so long and we've not filled the vacancies in the Acq. Team. I was going to ask T.Aldous about getting an honorarium for you but then I decided that he wouldn't agree to it so I didn't."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Let the trainee take the strain

Maisie and Noreen are back from training and not a lot the wiser. The trainer's idea of teching people how to use the new financial system worked on the basis: "If you pressed F12 on the old system you'd now click here, unless it's a creditor's record in which case you'd treat it like pressing F5 on the old system and click there."

Having the training in the Billy Meredith Leisure Centre wasn't such a hot idea either. Maisie's hard of hearing in one ear and struggled to hear the trainer over the noise of the piano in the Over-50s Step Aerobics lesson next door.

Journeys beyond the three dimensions

One good thing about the sudden influx of large leather chairs is that there can't possibly be any more boxes of litter coming into the office.

Can there?

I ask Seth.

"He's on at me to shift all the stuff that's left at the old Roadkill Library. It's got to be cleared by June for the new by-pass."

"Is there a lot?"

"Not much. There's about thirty boxes of toys stacked up in the back of Dutch Bend and a pile of boxes of kids' books. Himself's on about bringing about forty boxes of books back here for Bronwyn and Salome to transfer."

"They'll be pleased about that. They're still livid about having to do Noddy and Glass Road despite them being the responsibility of the librarians at Catty and Dutch Bend."

"They've told me that if any boxes come back here they're staying unopened."

One to look forward to.

Chairs VII : tales from the bunker

We have just taken delivery of twenty-four large leather chairs. The only space left anywhere in the building is in front of the windows on our admin. floor.

Still, we'll be OK in the event of an air raid.


Working my way through some usage stats on the system, auditing the data used in some reports Maybelle ran off earlier in the week. She's just started the community cohesion project and has spent the larger part of the past month contacting local groups, getting them in to have a chat and literally leading them by the hand to the collections that had been bought to support the project before Christmas. Consequently I was not much surprised to find that the use of this collection had gone up twofold in March compared to January or February.

Mary's response was: "Oh, that looks artificially high!"

We couldn't possibly have an increase in loans because we've now got somebody in post and they're selling the collection to its intended audience.


Maisie and Noreen are having their training on the new financial system today.

12.30 to 2.00pm, at the end of Week Two of the financial year.

Gentle let-down

There's so much arising from yesterday's management away day that they've all been hauled off for an all-day debrief.

Utter bliss.

All day yesterday, amidst the banter, was the gentle silence of people getting on with work uncluttered by micromanagement. Mid afternoon the office sounded like a Pennine hilltop in the August twilight.

Back to business as usual next week. Monday will be the cruellest day.

Suits you, sir

Frog's decided to wear his suit to work today to help him ease down gently from yesterday's heady sense of power. He bought one of those ludicrously cheap suits from ASDA (Walmart's UK subsiduary). What did he get for his ten quid? Actually it's not all that bad, no worse than most young lads' first suits in fact.

Frog will admit that he is not a young lad any more. He also suffers from duck's disease, so the legs are a bit on the long side. Turning up the hem gave him turn-ups just over the knee. His workaround is to double up the turn-up and then tuck the inner fold into the top of his socks.
"What if you have a devastating bound of diarrhoea?" he's asked. Like you do.

"I've got built-in guttering," he replies.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

We’re the fairies from hell

I am exhausted.

The best day at work in years. We have whooped and we have hollered, like a basket full of spider monkeys, and the word "bondage" was heard from the talking book service. We have coloured in The World's Greatest Whiteboard with facsimiles of postcards from Policy Team. Seth the caretaker offered to work from home. The Lending Library created a pretend toilet emergency for Frog to deal with. I don't have words to describe the explosion of delight and derision I have witnessed today.

And we provided a service and got all today's work done and some of tomorrow's.

On her majesty's secret service

Bronwyn's going to a meeting in the Town Hall, deputising for Mary who's at the away day. The meeting's about consortium-buying audio stock and supplier selection, the intention being to agree a joint specification with partner authorities.

Mary's had the documentation for weeks but wouldn't let Bronwyn have a copy until last night "because it's confidential."

Going native

This is scary. Frog has just said to one of the library assistants:

"I'm glad I've seen you. I was going to ask you to take a thermos flask out to Windscape Library on your way home but you don't need to now because Salome's popping in on her way back from Pottersbury Road."


Frog's in charge today, which is to say that he's been told to "be around the office." In the event of an emergency he is entirely empowered to do jack all except perhaps dig out the first aid box or else leave a note on T.Aldous' door to tell him that there's been an emergency and please could he deal with it now he's back in the office.

Sticking notes on T.Aldous' door is the tried-and-trusted way of keeping the service ticking over in the man's absence. It's a magical property best left unquestioned because it works perfectly.

I've just heard somebody singing (to the "Sheila's Wheels" jingle):

"If you don't want to be a whore
Stick a note on T.Aldous' door."

Lending have taken advantage of the situation. They told Seth to go missing for a while and then rang Frog up to say that a customer was stuck in the lavatory and seemed to be having breathing problems. They did an excellent job of keeping straight faces as Frog tried to check that the "customer's" obvious moans of pleasure weren't some sort of seizure.

Chairs VI

There are no chairs in the upstairs meeting room. The ones that were in there were removed and sent to the old Glass Road site in readiness for the delivery of new ones last week. T.Aldous has sent the new ones back because they're the wrong shade of blue.

Getting by

Jim emails me from the away day.

Somebody who is nameless has yet to arrive (how embarassing is that?) While we're waiting, could you forward me the service monitoring notes we put together yesterday?


T.Aldous has just rung Maisie asking her to see if he left his scarf in the post office...

Work generation

Last week I emailed Policy Team to ask which libraries were closed for polling on 1st May.

Maisie brings me a note. T.Aldous, having read the email yesterday, rings Maisie today to tell her to tell me the libraries that are closing.

Carpe diem

PT are off on their service review away day. As a result we have had a group unclench. No having to take 'phone calls for ignorant nits who spend all day leaving messages for people to ring them back and say: "why are they ringing me?" No long wittering discussions about having discussions to talk about thinking about investigating something or other. No bloody stupid questions that elicit exactly the same answers as the last time they were asked quarter of an hour ago.

Eventually, anyway. Once we got T.Aldous' 'phone calls out of the way. He was going to come in before going away but seems to be running late (natch!) and so is ringing in the instructions that he would have issued in person. Maisie is sick to death of him: four 'phone calls so far. Good job the away day session starts at 9.00am...


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Ideas you don't want returning in the dead of the night

You know how it is when ideas rise unbidden from the dark reaches of the brain. Especially in conversations in pubs.

"...it's his wife I feel sorry for. I mean, she's so impatient and he's the way he is..."

"Oh my God... Can you imagine T.Aldous making love to his wife? She'd be on her second cigarette before he'd got his flies open."

Seth tells us that at the Christmas party he got talking to Warner Baxter. Warner pointed out the manager of the council's printing section.

"Maddy's got a burning ambition to shag T.Aldous. Isn't that right, Maddy?"

"Oh aye. I see it as a challenge. A girl has to have a dream to chase."


Jim and I convene in the meeting room to review the new raft of central government performance measures, our CPA targets and local indcators. He's been trying to arrange a meeting of this sort with Policy Team since January. We're both a little concerned at doing this so late: the measuring period started 1st April. I think I've got everything set up for collecting the right data and we're both reasonably sure that the monitoring systems are OK. Neither of us have any faith that PT will take any notice of the data or even take any responsibility for non-performance.

Jim's mood is summed up at the beginning of the meeting.

"As we seem to be the only two people who care about the performance management of this library service I call this meeting to order."


Seth's joy is complete. The network problems have taken out all the computer applications in Building Services for the past five days. At first they got by with the morning crossword and copious amounts of strong, sweet tea but the managers are bored now and have gone walkabout.

Which is how Seth's boss, who he usually only sees on the Monday after Mothering Sunday, found out that we've given him a PC and set him up with email and Internet access.

"Ooh good. I can send you emails now!"


I do Frog an injustice: he's had his children's reading groups getting themselves logged onto the NYR web site and registering for the consultations, etc.

And Bronwyn's trying to arrange some author visits without knowing whether or not she's able to do it because Mary's holding the purse-strings and is co-ordinating events.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A puss in the boot

Beryl's got her hopes up: the latest version of the Senebene and Montecrick Estate Plan includes a sports pavillion adjoining the library in the park. She's already pointing out that the only hot water for the rugby players' shower is in the staff room.

National Year of Reading: a dispatch from the trenches

The plan to celebrate NYR, which started last Tuesday, is confined, so far, to receiving a box of bookmarks which have been dumped unceremoniously, destined for oblivion set aside for an opportunity for focussed impact next to the boxes of 'Jimmy and Alfie go to the library' and ten boxes of BBC RAW materials awaiting distribution to the grateful masses.

A trolleyload of carrots

The lady in Human Resources who doesn't want to talk to Mary any more has emailed T.Aldous to say that it is corporate policy that every member of staff in the Library Service is entitled to free eye tests.

Sadly, she doesn't know that this is the electronic equivalent of kicking the ball into some very long grass near some crocodiles.

Signs of the times

Kitty, one of the Early Years Librarians, has been doing another story-and-song session at Senebene Library today. One of the regular customers has deaf parents and has British Sign Language, so she signs the session to add another dimension to the fun. I'd like to see it, it sounds really interesting.

Today Kitty was doing "Twinkle, twinkle, little star," with the movements, when she got to "Like a diamond in the sky," making a diamond shape with her thumbs and index fingers.

The lady signer blushed bright red.

"What have I done? What have I done?" asked Kitty, worried that her flies were open or something.

"I'll tell you later," said the lady.

It turns out that that is the BSL sign for "vagina."

Stafford Cripps should live this night

Mary's in high dudgeon and has found something to tell the Acq. Team for after their recent mutterings.

"I was in on Saturday and there were only four licorice allsorts left in the tin."

Damn me, are they on ration, too?

All torque

T.Aldous has asked Seth to put up noticeboards at Glass Road and Spadespit libraries. (You might bear in mind that Seth is the caretaker for Helminthdale Library.)

"Have you put up those noticeboards?" asks T.Aldous.

"No, I can't do it. They're brick walls and my little battery-operated drill won't do the job."

"How did you put the noticeboard up at Roadkill? That's got brick walls."

"I used my own power drill from home and bust it in the process. Remember? You said you wouldn't replace it."

"Well I need those noticeboards putting up."

"In that case, why not buy me a power drill for the caretaker's toolbox?"

"I can't do that! What's the justification for buying a power drill?"

"You keep asking me to make holes in walls."

"No, I can't buy a power drill."

"In that case you'll have to submit a request to Building Services. Once you've filled in the docket they'll charge you £30 to come out and size the job up. Usually two or three week later. Then they'll put it on a worksheet and someone will come out to do it when they're in the area and they'll charge you £75 for it."

"Well, I can't buy a power drill. Can you go out and see how you get on?"

"I've already been out and saw that I couldn't get the drill into the wall."

"Well I need those noticeboard putting up.."

And repeat...

Clay builds characters

The archaeologists are packing up their tents and leaving the hole in the ground that once was Philip Snowden House, one of the victims of the latest town centre development plan. We don't know what, if anything, they found and we're not very likely to ever know. All we do know is that the dig hasn't involved Tony Robinson capering about like a monkey on a mattress.

We've toyed with the idea of inviting them in to put a test pit in T.Aldous' office but we're afeared that there may be a curse on it. That would explain much about this place.

Monday, April 07, 2008


As part of the corporate better services doo-wap we're to undergo a whole-service management review, which sounds like a Best Value Fundamental Service Review with less intrusive paperwork (he said optimistically). Policy Team are brought together to discuss the work programme and Milton decides that the first thing they need to do is have an away day some place that isn't a library and work out how PT is going to address the key service priorities over the next eighteen months.

This is a big and scary topic so naturally there are questions arising...

"Will it be all day?"

"What time will it start? I like to leave home late to avoid the traffic on Bencup Road."

"What if somebody's off sick and one of us has to cover the enquiry desk?"

So it's looking good so far.

The bulldog breed

As part of this 'Improving Council Services' thing we're going to be involved in staff consultation meetings asking for our ideas on how improvements can be made.

Betty's jaw sets like concrete:

"Well! I shall have nothing to say."

Like so many of the staff in the Library Service, Betty wants "them" to listen to "us" but won't tell "them" what "us" want.

Relativity in action

Some customers test your customer care training...

Salome's on the enquiry desk in Lending all day today. She was dealing with a customer with half a dozen enquiries when another customer trotted up, made a big "I have arrived!" mime and, when it became apparent that Salome wasn't about to jettison her existing customer to pander to her she went over to the counter, complained that she'd "been waiting twenty-five minutes" and, on her return to the enquiry desk, flounced onto a nearby chair and tutted loudly.

"I'll show you where to find these books," Salome told Customer One.

At this, Customer Two tutted loudly, sighed and did that "I'm going to fold my arms and be patient" pantomime so beloved of adolescent girls.

Returning to the desk, Salome asked Customer Two how she could help.

"I've been waitin twenty-five minutes you know."

"I'm sorry about that. How can I help?"

"Is there only you on? It's ridiculous, having to wait that long."

"How can I help?"

"I reserved a book and I've been told that it's arrived."

"OK. Which book is it?"

"I've been waiting here for twenty-five minutes. How can I be expected to remember it?"

Here comes the anxiety

The second of today's network outages contrives to take out the Recycle Bin on my local drive. This does not bode well for the week.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

They smuggle women in in cello cases

Still working my way through the CIPFA stats. Every step is the more depressing. Our issue (=checkout) figures are up; our active patronage is good but the stock actually on loan is low and visitor counts are down.

Evidently, people come in, join the library, take out a book or two, then renew them repeatedly by 'phone or online until such time as they have no alternative but to return the books (anything rather than come back to the library which has evidently traumatised them).

So, like a fool, I check the circulation system... We don't get a high proportion of repeat trade.

Friday, April 04, 2008


"How's the new furniture at Senebene and Windscape?" I ask Milton.

"Senebene'll be good when we get the electrics in."

"And Windscape?"

"It'll be good when the table legs arrive."

Hoof in mouth

Mary won't learn...

"Ooh! Where are all these books coming from?"

"The supplier?" suggests Betty.

They've had me in stitches all week with their deadpan insolence.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I'll stay down here till I'm somebody else

We've all been invited to fill in an online staff survey. The confidential element, which none of us believed, is thrown into further doubt when six of us get sent an email telling us that we've given the wrong answer to question eleven and please could we try again.


Milton's had a couple of days off and is paying the price.

"I came in, checked my email, and you know what? I got an email from T.Aldous' wife telling me that new tables are being delivered at Senebene and Windscape tomorrow and I need to organise an electrician to disconnect the old ones and then go out to meet the delivery men and supervise them putting in the new furniture."

Stock hell

Still working my way through the stock analyses for CIPFA. My God it's depressing.

I raised a little cheer in my office when the first library -- Carbootsale -- turned out to have a two-figure percentage of children's non-fiction on loan (10.0%, as it happens).

Audio stock is much, much more depressing. Possibly because although we have a colossal income target for audio rentals we don't allow anyone to have more than four CDs out at a time.

Are mice electric?

An interesting customer in Helminthdale Library. Suzy, one of the Library Assistants, had spent an age showing her how to log onto a People's Network PC, get onto the internet and have a look round. After half an hour (which time she didn't have) she excused herself:

"I can't sit and teach you it all. I don't have time and I'm not really supposed to do it."

After a while the lady collared Andy, another of the Assitants, who tried his best to help, too. In a loud stage whisper she said:

"I'm glad you're helping me. I'll ask for you next time I come in. She wasn't any good at all, hopeless."

"Well, we're not able to teach you how to use the computer. We can try and help but we're not able to do computer lessons."

"I've come all the way from Norton Wayne. They teach you how to use the computer at Norton Wayne."

"They obviously do a good job of it," muttered Sammi.

Fatal mistake

Sammi's being cold-shouldered by the rest of the Lending staff and has been told to say sorry to the teddy bear.

Her crime was to ask Deidre how her sciatica was. They reckon that she'll be wittering on about it all day now.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

We fill your larder up with sick

I'm girding my loins in preparation for starting to do Helminthdale Library's stock statistics. Foolishly, I ask Noreen:

"Whatever happened to those e-books we bought last year?"

"They're still in boxes in Doreen's office."

"You're kidding me."

"They're still deciding what to do about batteries and earphones. And Doreen wants Mary to buy some furniture for their display and Mary doesn't see why she should be buying Doreen's furniture."

"So we've got this brilliant new stuff that might appeal to young adults and we're doing jack all with it because it's in boxes in the librarian's office..."

"Along with all the classical music CDs and the Disney books."

I can see why the Acq. Team are getting sick of boxes of new stock hanging round for months or years on end.

Everything is going wrong but we’re so happy

The Acq. Team (both of them) are working their way through the Berlin Wall of boxes of last year's new stock. Meanwhile, we're receiving more than thirty boxes a day of this year's new stock. Another courier's van turns up.

"Oh! Why on earth are they bringing us yet more boxes!?" cried Mary.

"Perhaps because somebody organised a buyer's visit to the suppliers a couple of weeks ago," replied Noreen drily.

My dreams are getting better all the time

Jim has just been in to complain that somebody's disconnected the PC that runs our A3 scanner, which he needs for something to do with the staff newletter. Having reconnected it all I find that somebody's swapped the PC and this one's not got the scanner software on it.

It's good to be in control.

I'll have porridge like everybody else

I'm up in the lending library having a look at something that can't be fixed but which I have to look at for to cover my back.

Salome toddles over to the counter.

"What's the teddy bear doing up there? It should be on the counter looking friendly to customers."

"We had to put it there out of Sammi's reach. She had it on the floor, throttling it."

"Is this true Sammi?"

"It was either the bear or the customer."

"Leave the bear alone."

Adventures in stock analysis

Mired in CIPFA statistics. For those of you who don't have to suffer this: once a year in the evening of March 31st we have to check the status of all our stock for a report we have to send to central government. The really unlucky of us also have to physically count the stock in our libraries and fill in daft little forms and tick-sheets. There's more to it than that but there's enough misery in the world as it is.

Misery is the word: I'm having another "why do I bother" session. I've collated the figures for half of our libraries so far and we've got more lending stock in boxes than on loan. Catty and Epiphany are closed for repairs, but even so...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Common envy

Just glanced at this month's poll. Whose library is like Douglas Fairbanks Senior?

And are there any vacancies there?

The Reference Library

Apologies to Mister Gershwin and even more apologies to Messrs Kern & Hammerstein...

The Reference Library

Here I am sat in the Reference Library
Hoary old stock on the shelves to see.
Anything useful is in the back room.
Librarian's on leave and she's got the key.

Old man library, that Reference Library,
It must know something
It don't say nothing.
It just keeps mouldering,
Just keeps mouldering

It don't stock-edit.
There ain't no guiding.
And them who might help
Have gone in hiding.
That Reference Library
It just keeps mouldering along...

You and I
We sweat and strain,
Hope for something useful
But we search in vain.
Search that PAC.
Send email.
Look amongst the shelves.
And you'll likely fail.

I am weary
And sick of trying.
The stock ain't used none
But they keep on buying.
That Reference Library,
It just keeps mouldering

Powder your face with sunshine

Jim's putting the finishing touches to this year's annual service work plan.

"I'm hoping that this year Policy Team will take the hint that the column headed 'Action' is a list of things to do."

"Are you due any annual leave? I think you need it."


This is an intensely frustrating time of year.

T.Aldous, as always, is on end-of-financial-year annual leave ("I was on leave when the budgets were closed down;" "I was on leave when the CIPFA statistics were pulled together," etc. etc.). Trouble is, though, that we're all too bogged down in end of year donkey work to enjoy his absence.

Day by day

"Have you had your meeting with the Assistant Chief Executive yet?" I ask Maybelle.

"No... but I have had a meeting about it."

Dangerous ennui

We are all so demoralised that we can't gee up the energy to start a rumour that T.Aldous is finally retiring this year, even on April Fool's Day.

Best wishes

"It's April Fools Day!" Mimsie.

"Happy birthday," says Lippie.