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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Leader emulation

A couple of people are pissed off about the seminar facilitator passing on attributable comments to Policy Team without giving participants the chance to challenge the notes:

"It's disgraceful. Nobody will say anything in the next one. Not if it'll be snitched to Policy Team."

"Anything you say will be taken out of context and used against you."

"We'll all be sitting there saying nothing."

"Some bloody leadership training that'll be. We'll all be anal and uncommunicative about it."

"Just like..."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Should have gone to Specsavers

Betty's struggling with her screen today. I've noticed it a few times lately. On top of this she asks me if I can do something about the invoice receipt settings as the font seems to be getting smaller and fuzzier. Taking this not-remotely-subtle hint, I ask her when she last had an eye test.

Well, what a mistake!

Ten minutes later I'd been told repeatedly that she didn't need an eye test; that her mother was 87 when she died and had perfect eyesight; that they just try and sell you glasses; and that she didn't need an eye test.

I mention this to Noreen.

"Tell me about it. I've been having that conversation with her for the past eighteen months. She won't have it that she should have an eye test. She's waiting until she's sixty so that she can get a free one. I keep telling her that the council will pay for one, but she won't have it. I wouldn't mind if she didn't keep going on about it."

Dog mah cats

I don't have the patience I used to have.

We've all received workplace questionnaires from the Narkover Institute of Management Studies. It's part of a survey that goes to inform the government's view of each council's improvement programme (every council in the country is required to have one and to demonstrate ongoing progress).

Salome's gone off on one about it:

"I don't see why I should do this. We did a staff survey just the other week." [last month]

"That was just the Helminthdale Council one. This one's different."

"Well, I don't see why I should do this one."

"It's more important because it goes into the government's appraisal of the council's improvement. Or not."

"Well, it doesn't say that in here. It's got nothing to do with the government. It's the University of Narkover."

"Don't fucking believe me then," I replied, turning on my heel.

Lucky bag

Frog's back from a SureStart meeting, bearing gifts: his sample Summer Activity Pack includes a mousemat and pen.

Mary is distraught:

"I had a meeting with them last week. Where's my mousemat and pen?"

Dead men don't need season tickets

A day's productive work down the drain and a lot of catching-up to do. And why? Because a facilitator sent the notes of a workshop to the participants' managers rather than to the participants. Leaving aside the trust issues I have to ask why on earth the managers didn't just read the document, note the contents and resolve to check up on the issues once the workshops have been completed, instead of rushing about like scorched chickens asking people what they meant by saying that communication is poor.

Actually, I don't have to ask at all.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Will the last person to leave the country please clean the teaspoons

T.Aldous, at wearisome length, has given me his views on the staff seminar business and his disappointment that what he hoped would be a staff development programme seems to be concentrating on specifics rather than principles (give the man his due, it all sounds dead right).

I gave my view as much spin as I could and he's gone away happy that I completely agree with him. Not that I do, but he's decided I do.

A pox on all of them, I say.

The anger of men with no opinions

For reasons that escape me, the facilitator for last week's staff seminar has sent the seminar worknotes to Policy Team and copied me in with a request for me to circulate them to the seminar group.

Thus it is that Policy Team has spent the past day crawling though the notes and contacting the people who have said things they don't agree with to say that they don't agree with them. When they haven't been saying that they can't understand why people say that communication and trust are issues of concern.

And so it is that I've spent the past day telling Policy Team that these are notes of a work just beginning in progress and that the next step in the seminar programme will probably involve exploring and perhaps challenging some of perceptions held by the participants. And that the practical issues flagged up as "things to do" are examples that have been flagged up so that they can explore the management processes involved in prioritising work, evaluating processes, etc.

And all the time I'm wondering why the fuck I'm the one doing this.

Adventures in office layout projects

I'm never sure whether our organisational drama is Harold Pinter or N.F. Simpson.

"Have they plugged in the telephones in their new office yet?" asks Bronwyn.

"I can't bear to look to find out," I admit. "At least two work because I took calls on them yesterday when I was talking to Milton."

"Is that dustbin still in the middle of the room?"

"Oh yes."

"It does look better."

"It does look better."

"Even with the dustbin."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The voice of God

Telephone call:

"Hello. Can I speak to Moseigneur Eddie Gravy?"

"I'm sorry, he retired quite some time ago."

"He can't have: he was preaching just last Sunday."

"Not at this library he wasn't."

Tears of salt

Another Zen moment in Helminthdale Libraries.

Tilly Floss popped in to say hello to her old workmates. T.Aldous greeted her with:
"So you would recommend retirement would you?"
Cue the sound of a dozen people thinking: "YES!!!!"

Up to my arse in Barry Norman's pickled onions

Frog's having a go at setting up this year's Summer Reading Challenge, "Team Read." For some reason the materials provided this year are a bit subfusc, tending to olive greens, old golds and faded chintz pinks.

For our overseas visitors: the Summer Reading Challenge is organised by the Reading Agency and aims to encourage children's reading through the summer holidays. Which is a laudable aim and works quite well in practice. Participation in the Challenge is voluntary, so if money's tight we don't have to buy in all the necessary materiel. Unfortunately, completion of the Challenge is two of the national performance indicators (boys and girls). Voluntary, like.

There isn't room to swing an amoeba at Frog's desk so he decided it would be a good idea to use one of the unoccupied desks by the window to sort out the stuff. Mary provided a counter-suggestion:
"There's a spare desk in Kevin's office, you should use that."
Frog, to his credit, demurred, saying that he knew I was in the middle of a difficult problem sorting out some problems with the stock invoicing system. In reality, we both know that this is the start of Mary's campaign to have my office turned into a "sorting-out room." Bollocks to that: I don't mind moving out to create a private personnel interview room. I do mind moving out to create a new shit cupboard.

The Reading Agency, sponsored by Acme Storage Ltd.

The Reading Agency and their ilk have a lot to answer for. In his "spare time" Frog's juggling a few dozen projects all with the same aim: providing books for primary school children. Which is great, and which is something we've been supporting for decades without having to buy set quantities of set books in the last two weeks of the financial year and passing the invoices when the financial systems are in fiscal year lockdown. And without having to spend time writing reports on the delivery to each Key Stage year group. Or having to remember the names, websites and passwords for half a dozen separate projects. All doing the same thing.

The Acq. Team have just negotiated their way through the forty-odd boxes of Book Off books for nine-year-olds and are now grimly looking forward to ploughing their way through the thirty-odd boxes of Book You books for seven-year-olds piled up precariously in a corner of the room because there's no room left in the fire exit corridor.

Missing a point

Attending the staff meeting at Dutch Bend Library I was asked if I could change the settings on the circulation system so that they could reserve lost books. Just in case they turn up again some time. I made the obvious arguments:
  • That would do wonders for our reservation (hold) fill time performance figures.
  • What happens if the lost book doesn't turn up?
  • We underspend our bookfund by lots and lots of money, so why not order a new copy and reserve that?

So they asked me why I wouldn't do it then.

I'm not marching to the same tune as this library service.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Does anybody want to see a tiny hedgehog?

Good news! The gentleman that keeps looking at porn on the PCs in the children's library won't be gracing our doors for quite some time. This will come as a huge relief to staff who keep having to keep an eye on him and keep having to abruptly terminate his computer sessions ("The filtering software seems to have closed the session down. We'll have to investigate this to see why it keeps doing it to you. What site were you on at the time, sir?")

We've been trying to ban him from using the PCs for years but T.Aldous requires degrees of forensic proof of delinquency that would defeat Batman. Fortunately, the shopping centre is private premises and it has banned him from the building after finding him indulging in inappropriate degrees of attentiveness in the public toilets by the coffee shop. Good job he chose those bogs to go-a-cruising rather than ours otherwise we'd still be servicing the bugger.

A verandah over the toyshop

The librarians based at Catty Library are complaining that there aren't any plans for the layout of the building for when it re-opens some time before Xmas. I sympathise but can't resist asking:

"Have you put together any draft ideas yourselves?"

"No, nobody's asked us."

I'm sorely tempted to draft a plan and submit it to Policy Team myself.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Worth more than a thousand trees
Though blossomed with silver

Milton, for some reason, has decided to try and enumerate T.Aldous' many splendours. I'll go along with it up to a point: the man is only promoted above his competence, he's not entirely stupid. There comes a point where even I will draw a line...

"He's fantastically good at making the connections between the Library Service and things going on elsewhere in the council."


"Yes. He'll find out that something's going on in the Youth Service, say, and he'll be able to see that it's something we should be getting involved in."

Back in the old days I used to do corporate information work for the council and its Policy Support Officers, so I have some views on the matter.

"All these connections... Have any of them delivered any service developments?"


"Have they delivered any project outcomes?"


"Have we acquired a reputation for picking up an idea, running with it and delivering the goods and a bit more?"

"Jesus, you are a cynical old bastard."

Friday, May 23, 2008

It's bleeding Chico time

As part of our rudimentary staff development programme Jim has arranged a staff seminar for Assistant Librarians and Counter Supervisors over in Spadespit Community Centre. The arrangement was that he'd nip over at lunchtime to see how things were going and make sure that there wasn't anything missing, like flipchart paper or magic markers.

Imagine the staff's delight when the whole of Policy Team gatecrashes the seminar unannounced.

Only the most jaded churl would imagine that this was anything other than a show of high-level support and encouragement.

Opinion is divided evenly between:
  • They don't trust us to behave ourselves without supervision.
  • They don't trust Jim to behave himself without supervision.
  • They fancied a free lunch.

The opportunity for adding value to the event isn't wasted. Mary tells Kate:

"Ellie's off sick, so somebody needs to be sent over to Umpty to cover there tomorrow."

Excused boots

Where else but Helminthdale would they give you a laptop that's been so nailed down that it can only be used when it's plugged into the corporate network.

This is what we get for £5,000 per laptop, including compulsory five-year very-expensive corporate maintenance fee.

Slack-jawed in amazement

T.Aldous has splendid news:

"We should have a booksale for this bank holiday weekend."


Seth is disinterring part of the management suite hinterland. He pops into my office with an old Marks & Sparks carrier bag.

"Guess what's in here..."

"I couldn't bear to guess."

Two dozen teaspoons.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Three rooms of banging Dvořak

The Branch Managers at Spadespit and Glass Road are complaining because they've had new noticeboards dumped on them.

"They're in our way," they complain.

"They've been in my way for months, that's why you've got them now," responds Seth.

"Can't you come round and put them on the walls?"

"No. You'll have to ask Julia to submit a request to Building Services."

They'll get their own back: they'll dump some boxes of booksale stock on us.

National Shite Day

Here we are so far...
  • Jim can move in once the electricians have sort-of finished.
  • The electricians can carry on as planned.
  • T.Aldous' paperwork is stacked on an island unit in the back room.
  • The comms lads are installing the new network points.
  • Policy Team are discussing the orientation of their desks. According to Feng Shui principles (that's Albert Feng Shui, who runs the Pussycat Team Rooms on Abattoir Lane).
  • Mary can move in once Jimmy Huddersfield's desk is moved in there.
  • The safe (don't ask, please!) is being moved into my office.
  • Julia can move in once Mary's desk is moved in there.
  • Mary's desk isn't available because she's decided to clear out her filing cabinet, which is staying in her old office anyway.
  • Policy Team have changed their mind about the orientation of their desks.
  • T.Aldous has offered to clear his desk (ha ha ha ha!!!) and swap it with Milton so that all the desks match.
  • The bookshelves have been moved out. Except for the bookshelves that have been moved back in.

T.Aldous tells Frog:

"You need to start clearing the area round your desk. I want to put two sofas there so that people have somewhere to sit when they're waiting for me outside my office."

In their inside pockets there are crocodiles

The electricians are in to wire up the back room for the management suite. So that the move can be completed by tomorrow. So long as everybody waits for T.Aldous to sort out his old paperwork.

T.Aldous has a problem with all the drilling and hefting about of furniture for to get to walls.

"Can't the electricians come back tomorrow afternoon? I'm not in then."

A little sacred blade of pure stupidity

Having spent ages putting the blocks on the creation of a management suite for Policy Team, T.Aldous has now decided that the job needs to be completed by the end of this week. Seth is dead impressed.

As, indeed are the rest of us when today's fun begins. Jim starts to take his desk into the back room when T.Aldous steps in.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm moving my desk in there."

"You are not! Nobody is doing anything until I have sorted out my paperwork."

Seth offered to move the stuff en bloc for him, but oh no: "you'd only mix it all up."

"I'll mix it all in a skip," mutters Seth.

At the moment we have a stalemate with Seth cast as piggy in the middle between T.Aldous and the rest of Policy Team.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Left hand down a bit

One of the advantages of working in a library service is that the continuous exposure to all that is good and great about Western culture lends a certain felicity of erudition to the conversation.

Sybil's been complaining about the effects of a recent surgical intervention:

"I'm all lop-sided now. I'll have to get one of them chicken fillets."

"But you're vegetarian, you can't have chicken fillets. Do they do something similar in Quorn?"

"They say that a bag of water's got the same consistency."

"Aye, but just think on: knowing my luck I'd start getting fruity and the bag would burst. "

"He'd think your waters had broken."

"He'd probably think I was Mrs. Incontinent."

"How about KY Jelly? That's the same sort of consistency."

"How rock 'n' roll is that? Going into Anne Summers and saying: 'can I have a litre and a half of KY Jelly, please, I'm going to a wedding reception on Saturday.'"


By some terrible method of overnight asexual reproduction the lectern that turned up the other week has a new friend, identical in every way that the squeamish layman may investigate in an open office.

This opens awful new concerns: up to now the dirty great big empty cupboards are no problem as they just take up loads of space; if they learn the lecturn's parthenogenetic tricks we'll never be able to get into the office.

And we'd have to stay at home. What a tragedy.


I heard this one myself... Daisy Duck had come over to Helminthdale for a meeting and I was taking the opportunity to catch up with some of the Dutch Bend gossip when T.Aldous toddled over.

"Hello Daisy, I'm sorry I haven't rung you to talk to you but my email isn't working."

Rural vastness

The project to shift T.Aldous' overspill out of the back room moves apace. It's a key element of our nod to the Framework for the Future agenda.

It's all rather splendid; the move around is for to create a management suite for Policy Team to work in so that instead of working as disparate units they might actually sort-of work as a team type of thingy. It doesn't bode well so far: they're falling out on a thrice-daily basis as T.Aldous finds increasingly desperate means of trying to stall for the status quo.
  • The old bookcases couldn't be moved because: "the Museum Services says that they're nostalgia pieces."
  • Half the room couldn't be tidied up because: "I need to check that I know where the find what I need."

And the cream of the crop:

  • Nobody could move their desks in "because they don't match."

Like anyone cares. The only things that actually do match round here are all the tatty old cardboard boxes full of stock (which makes things difficult as the brand-new stock waiting for years for Mary and Doreen to decide upon are in identical tatty old boxes to the pox-ridden old stock that's going into booksale).

Parcel post

I've mentioned the used envelope cupboard before. It now has a friend: a large, cupboard-sized parcel wrapped up in brown paper.

It's T.Aldous' new cupboard and he doesn't want it unwrapping in case it gets scratched.

Me for going for a lie down...

It's good to be in control

All the rational parts of me want to run screaming from the People's Network. The latest twist is that the young scamps at Roadkill Library have learned that if they enter the search string "Simpsons porn" in Google Images they can get rude cartoons that frighten the horses.

The solution, obviously, is to change the safe search settings to filter these out. Great, except that the settings get wiped whenever a PC's rebooted (we've got DeepFreeze on all our public PCs because we got fed up of cleaning them up twice a day). This is get-round-able, but not by me.

I have the same permissions as the public.

Pixie Hotmuffin

Catching up with my email it soon becomes obvious that I don't have it so bad after all:

From: Corporate Mailman
To: All users
Date: 20 May 2008 10:25:09
Subject: Corporate address book

In response to complaints about the format of the new address book we have reconfigured the name field so that it is no longer surname-first. You will now see that your name will be in the format First name Middle initial Surname.


From: Corporate Mailman
To: All users
Date: 20 May 2008 13:42:33
Subject: Re: Corporate address book

Just to clarify matters: if you do not have a middle initial you do not have to adopt one for the purposes of the address book.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The title's in the last line and I never get there

Day's worth of meeting setting up a co-operative user group for some of the systems software. Unfortunately it's being set up by librarians...

    A loooonnnnnggggg discussion on the draft constitution and its suggested amendments without recourse to any documentation of the amendments. After each rambling discussion around but not quite about the suggested amendment, and at the point at which we've all forgotten what we're talking about, the chair asked: "well, what does everybody think? Is that a yes?"

    Half an hour's meandering discussion about the name of the group. Needless to say, being librarians it has to be an acronym. This opens the usual can of worms (sigh). And then we get the "well then what does everybody think?" question which then becomes a discussion on how we'll make the decision. In the end I break and ask if it's possible to just make a list of all the possibles and then ask everybody to vote for their favourite and then go with the most popular one.

I could have this sort of nonsense without having to go and travel for it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dithering about whether or not to make a decision

Part of the icing on the cake of the Catty Library refurb. saga is that the building's scheduled "some time soon" to be incorporated into a brand new township service complex incorporating a health clinic, a theatre and a new council one-stop shop. "The library is an integral part of the new complex," we're told.

We are, of course, planning for this eventuality. This is why we've managed to pull together the back-of-a-fag-packet plan of the new layout that's just the old 1960s one in biro. Which will definitely pull in the punters in a state-of-the-art modern new service complex.

Oh, and as it's going to be open outside opening hours they will have self-service facilities of all kinds. These are the same self-service facilities that Management Team have been "investigating" since 1999 with nothing more to show for it than the notion that the units will need to match the furniture. Even now we are preparing the hangers and landing facilities for a crack squadron of Gloucester Old Spots.

I'll slip on some 'Thunderbirds' and nobody will tell the difference

Seth's just "persuaded" a bunch of early teens (12, 13 years old) to leave the library after being extremely rowdy. Once they'd eventually left he went back over to the PCs in the teens area to put the furniture back where it should be.

Which is how he found the half-empty bottle of gin that they'd left behind.

Overhead a rainbow appears. In black and white.

"How are you getting on with writing up the results of the staff consultation meetings?" I ask Maisie.

"T.Aldous can't decide what colour the cover needs to be."

"Can't we just have the notes in black and white?"

"Apparently not. You know how he is. I just come in and do as I'm told."

Jimmy Saville is the grey shadowy figure in the background

Nancy Bickerdike's been off sick for the past couple of weeks. For the life of us we can't see any appreciable difference in service in her section. Lippie and Mimsie organise the staffing rotas as per usual and work with Billy, Clement and Polly to deliver the services, as usual.

She must do something. Surely?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Blake's Seven with cheaper sets

Bogged down today, delivering a bit of training. But not so bogged down to avoid getting part of the next big cock-up waved under my nose.

Catty Library has been closed for yonks for reburbishment with a view to re-opening late this summer some time. They've ripped out the electrics and the comms so that they can replace the floor, three walls and the roof. This has, of course, been a golden opportunity for us to reconsider the layout and function within the building. Except that:

  • Hours of work by highly-trained professionals has resulted in a back-of-a-fag-packet version of the existing layout.
  • The project manager from the architect's department insisted that the electricity and network points be mapped prior to plastering the wall, which was done last month.
  • The project manager didn't include costings for furniture, a new counter, etc. in the project.
  • He didn't include costings for electricity or comms. either.
So far so familiar. The options would seem to be:

  • Pay for the furniture, electricity and comms. from the People's Network networking budget, the staffing budget and the DDA funding, thus stiffing ourselves for the year but getting the project manager out of the mire.
  • Reinstalling the old (1960s) furniture; paying for the electrics and comms from the networking budget and hoping that the ensuing row shames the council into stumping up for proper replacements.
I bet I know which one they'll go for.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Staff library

Some stories just can't go on this blog, at least not for a long, long while. Today I was putting together some reading lists for the OPAC and was disposed to add "libraries: personnel management" to the "Topical themes" list.

Having a look at the fabulous titles we have on this subject in our Catalogue (all five of them, including 1978's sparkling best-seller "Managing A Public Library Team" - you'll have copies yourself) I discovered that T.Aldous has had our copy of "Recruit, Retain and Lead" for seven years. I can only suppose that he means to suppress not to learn.

It sounds like something in IKEA, doesn't it?

Sixty-four boxes of Bookstart stuff for Frog, ten boxes of something or other for the National Year of Thingy, a lectern, a secretary's chair and a cupboard have just arrived to fill the space in the fire exit not already occupied by the new stock the Acq. Team are still catching up with after the Year End fiasco.

I look at the furniture and ask Seth:

"Where's that for?"

"Fuck knows."

We're well set for Christmas then.

Jimmy Young's sister does all those 'phone calls

Another one... One of the other 'phones is ringing so like the good boy that I am I pick it up. It's a call for Mary. sigh...
"I've a 'phone call for you Mary."

"Who is it?"

"Mary Forbush."

"Why's Mary Forbush ringing your number?"

"She isn't I picked the call up. She rang your number."

"My 'phone's through to Betty."

"Betty's on her lunch."

"What does Mary want?"

"If you want to take her call to find out she's on my line now."

I don't know how Betty and Noreen don't run screaming from the office.

Off again, gorgeous day

Himself has bumped into the World Wide Web, or more probably has had something pointed out to him.

"The fees and charges list on the web site is wrong. The fees were updated in April."

"Really. Well, if you let me know what they are now I'll make the changes."

"I don't know why you don't know."

Perhaps because you still haven't told me what they are, you berk.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sultans of swig

In the little boys' room, watering the petunias, I notice a sign on the ceiling of the men's toilets.
Apparently, it's from one of the books of Nostradamus.

I shall only look up and say, 'Who am I then?'

Catty Library's closed for building works. The original plan was to reopen the library in a month's time but the work uncovered more than the expected nasties, as usual, so we can add a couple of months to that.

"The library will still be closed when the loans are due back. They'll all need renewing. Can I leave it with you?"


Popcorn at the ready

We've been told to rationalise our vacancies so that Warner can establish either a business case for more staff or, more likely, a budget commitment that stops the money being diverted towards the corporate efficiencies delivery budget. There is, however, a problem...

We officially still don't know how many vacancies we have.

Nor do we know who is working for the Library Service.


Human Resources are waiting for a list from the Library Service and the Library Service is waiting for a list from Human Resources that T.Aldous is prepared to accept. God alone knows whether/who Payroll is giving money to.

It'll make your eyes pop out like warts on a mangle-wurzel

I've found out what so boggled Milton and Jim in the Policy Team debriefing...

They were half an hour deep into the feedback on staff empowerment opportunities when T.Aldous got up and left the room. Five minutes later he returned with a swatch of carpet samples.

"We need to select the carpet for Catty Library. It's re-opening in July."

Expense management

Frog's had something interesting in this morning's post. It's April's car mileage form that he gave Mary last week.

Forwarded on from Bencup Community College where Mary left it last Friday.

Leadership by example

It hasn't escaped the notice of the people who aren't allowed to go for lunch together (because there might not be anybody to answer T.Aldous' 'phone) that two thirds of Policy Team are on leave this week.

It hasn't escaped this writer's notice that staff are congregating in corners and laughing out loud at the word "leadership."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Psychedlic question

I wonder why the Reference Librarians are sending past examinations catalogue to the Acq. Team when it turns out that Milton told them last week not to order any because they're all available online.

Beige with anger

Policy Team have been having an in-depth debrief on last week's staff consultation meetings. At the end, Jim and Milton wander out and stagger into the staff room looking grey and shaken.

"That bad?" I ask.

"What?" asks Milton.

"The feedback."

"Oh, that was predictably robust. That was OK."

"Then why are you two looking so shaken?"

"I can't tell you. If I told you you'd take the piss until Christmas."

"Go on, you can tell me."

"I need lots and lots of coffee. Leave me alone until I've had lots and lots of coffee."

Jim just sits there staring blankly into space saying: "unbelievable..."

Psychedelic rubbish

Most stock selection orders in our organisation are usually either online shopping baskets or request forms filled in with title, ISBN, required location, etc. Not so reference requests for past examination papers. (I know, I know, can of worms, let's leave that one alone for now.)

Ref. have sent down a copy of the catalogue that's been "marked up." I think "marked up" is one of those euphemisms like "slightly foxed" or "utterly bollocksed." The titles with the circles round them are probably the ones being requested, though that begs the question as to what the blocks of titles that have been circled and crossed through mean. Ditto the crossed-out titles. And the titles in brackets. And the ones with little stars next to them.

Given that the first love of the Reference Library is the typing out of lists I can't fathom why they didn't just supply a list of the required code numbers.

Not long now before lollipop men are called Darren

It occurs to me, yet again, to wonder how come somebody has two line managers and yet it's me who takes the time out to do pre-course preparation and post-course review with them.

I know who I was when I got up this morning

Telephone call from the Reference Library:

"We've a customer here who wants to know if he can get onto his web site on our computers. Can he?"

"Have you tried?"


"Could he?"


"Looks like the answer's 'no' then, doesn't it?"

Monday, May 12, 2008

The cutting edge of the mind

Early feedback on the staff consultation meetings from The Great Communicator:

"I notice that some people have said that they feel that initiative is stifled and that if any of them take any initiative then they'll get told off. I haven't found that to be the case, but if people are saying that it must be true."


We've got the usual staffing problems next week, coinciding with a class visit double-booking and Frog's having to go out to a meeting in Pardendale to cover for T.Aldous and Mary, both of whom are having the day off.

Luckily, we have staff available who owe time back from our being closed on Easter Saturday and who are willing to volunteer to do the class visits.

Unluckily, we have managers who say that staff can only pay back like-for-like and so can't pay back a Saturday by working a Wednesday.

Chairs X

Over at Spadespit Library, Kelsey's a bit pissed off...

"Every year I ask for a pair of paperback spinners and every year he tells me that they can't be delivered in time and he'll buy them 'next year.' Then every year he buys me a pile of new chairs. We're OK for chairs, though.

"Perhaps I should put all the paperbacks on them."

I gave up hope, ironically, for Lent

Poor old Sybil, she's back at work at the Regional Library desk after a week's freedom.

"I'd got as far as Richard Todd," she avers.


If T.Aldous doesn't stop pottering round telling everyone that "communication is a two-way process" the next staff charity event will be a raffle for the privelige of throwing him off the multi-story car park.

While the cliché is true, a bit of leadership by example wouldn't go amiss.

Not everyone who offers you lollipops wants to be your friend


"What do you think of the chances of Policy Team learning to communicate with staff?"

"I don't want them to communicate with me. I want them to sod off so's I can get my work done."

Friday, May 09, 2008

Any minute now he'll sing the dirty words to "Trees"

T.Aldous takes the opportunity of the staff consultation meetings to update staff on the latest outpouring from the Council's Pay & Grading Review process:

"I really don't know anything about it but we must all do it and it's important because it could affect your pensions."

The Council's legally obliged to have implemented the review last April.

Mr. Wet Underpants in 1989

Some customers cause hearts to drop when the walk through the door of a library. Some cause consternation when the 'phone. Not many cause the staff of three libraries and backstage staff to erupt in fury at their name. Harbi Barnowl is one such.

Noreen's first encounter with him was:
"Hello, I'm Harbi Barnowl from Human Resources. Remember me? I dealt with your regrading request. I'm ringing to find out why it's taking so long for the book I reserved to arrive."
He's known in the Reference Library:
"Oh, he's in all the time, asking why he can't borrow this week's magazines. He gets quite shirty about it"
He's recently thrown a wobbly at Carbootsale Library about because they didn't have the magazines he wanted to borrow. No one else visiting Carbootsale actually would want to borrow them, but they're published by someone he knows.
"Do you know who I am?" he asked. Really.
Thank God our staff are very professional.

And today in Helminthdale he throws a major strop and calls over Warner Baxter, who just happens to be passing through after a meeting with T.Aldous. After a five-minute rant about the inadequacies of our systems and whatnot he finishes by turning to Norma and saying:
"You have to telephone me at 3.45 to tell me what is happening with this reservation. Not a minute more or less. Do not send me an email, I am not computer literate. You must telephone me at 3.45."
Warner congratulated Norma on dealing with him extremely well and not letting a stupid question become a public drama.

The story soon gets round the service, leading some library assistants to ask the obvious question:
"If he's high up in Human Resources and isn't computer literate, how come I can't move up from Scale 2 without ECDL?"

A black belt in chastity

Frog's just come back from Senebene Library looking dejected.

"The car park was obviously busy last night. It was full of condoms. And they're all huge!!! Makes me feel really inadequate.

Sugared almonds

The staff consultation meetings seem to have been negotiated with minimal casualties.

Much to the surprise of anybody who pays the least bit of attention to Policy Team the buffet lunches weren't a selection of curries, curries and curries. Staff got the opportunity to put forward their views and ideas, albeit in such a way that they still don't realise it and never will because nobody can be bothered summing up the work that's been done in the process.

Except for T.Aldous:
"It's plain that you all think that Policy Team needs to communicate better with staff, I shall do my utmost to make sure that they do in future."
Delusion is like a second skin to some people.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Because you're worth it

The awful thing is that I know precisely what they mean:

"Have you seen that tan?"

"Oh I know. Whatever was she thinking?"

"She looks like an antiqued foreskin."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Mary's showing round a management consultant. The consultant has just come out of a meeting where T.Aldous and Mary have stressed how important staff are to our service and how much they are valued by our managers. She does a few introductions:

"This is Bronwyn...

"And this is Salome....

"And you've met Frog already."

"And this is...?" asks the consultant.

"We're just starting to launch our next phase of the National Year of Reading..."

"And this is...?"

"We're doing a lot of work with Booktrust..."

"And this is...?"

"Oh, this is Noreen. She's in our Acquisitions Team."

Dawn's quiet splendour

Thelma's agog with excitement. She's finally been given a copy of the plan of Epiphany Library with the proposed diagrammatics for the counter, shelving, desks, etc. It all looks very encouarging until we begin to wonder what scale it's at.

Or, more particularly, if the same scale is used throughout.

We can't help wondering because an hexagonal desk for six People's Network workstations is the same size as the photocopier.

Unless they're getting an A0-sized photocopier...

National Year of Thingy

Bronwyn's trying to compile a list of reading group activities in our libraries for the National Year of Reading events lists. She rings Milkbeck Library:

"Hello Molly. What's Milkbeck's reading group going to be discussing this month?"

"Probably Marks and Spencers' sausage rolls. That what they did last time. I tried to get them reading some Kathy Lette. They did, but I think they were just humouring me."

Look in the sky!

Today I had a conversation with our esteemed head who wanted to project poetry onto the side of the library building. Sarcastically I suggested we should project such into the clouds like a "Bat Signal", I was tasked to go away and see if this was possible!

I am not on the same page as senior management, I am not even on the same chapter, sorry, even in the same book.

They call me Salmonella

Maudie approaches Noreen:

"This milk was opened and left out in the lending kitchen last week. I think it's starting to go off a bit. What should I do with it?"

"You might want to throw it away Maudie."

I can only wonder that it's not boxed up and piled in the fire exit with all the other crap.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

There's a dirty great snag somewhere...

Milton tells me that he had a meeting with Norman Inskip last week to start a scoping exercise on the next lot of systems that I'm going to be responsible for. (These days my being cut out of the loop barely wobbles my radar.) The good news is that it sounds like we can replace a lot of the People's Netwok PCs with a new, hopefully more stable, build. Naturally these PCs will have MS office facilities on them, but the IT section won't sanction the use of removable storage devices, so not a lot of good really.

Coining it in

We're constantly tripping up over bloody stupid income targets. The one consolation is that they're as nothing compared to Arts & Heritage who also have great problems, especially as some idiot set an income target for the Grimley Heritage Centre of £69,000 a year.

This has to be considered somewhat optimistic as all the income currently comes from sale of a few pens. Apparently, though, this is a very attractive "Venue."

Depsite the fact that there is no bar, no licence for a bar, no catering facilities, and one toilet for the whole building.

There's two white horses in a line


Every day the Reference Library rings down and asks Betty or Noreen if their post has arrived yet.

Every day Betty or Noreen tells them that the Royal Mail hasn't delivered to the library before 11.00am since 1999.

Every day when the post arrives Betty or Noreen rings the Reference Library to say it's arrived and it's in the book lift.

And every day this oh-so-urgent correspondence spends the rest of the day bobbing up and down in the book lift ere it's being retrieved by somebody in the Lending Library who then takes it up and tells Eileen that "I found this in the lift."

Monday, May 05, 2008


Here's a toast to Saint Bank, whose blessed life we English celebrate today by taking the day off and mowing the lawn in the rain!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

An Irish genius having a fight with himself in a big vat of Guinness

I bump into Ken Barmy in the garden centre. He's still banging on about his management team.

"It's like your Uncle Harold going on a mini-break to Casablanca then coming back and telling you to call him Deidre."

Friday, May 02, 2008

Can I do you now sir?

Looking at Sybil's desk I can't help feeling that we may be taking the P.o.W. camp theme a bit far. Somebody will be throwing a major wobbly soon.

It also occurs to me that I've no idea where I would buy sandbags in the event of flooding.

A puzzle for the weekend

A colleague writes:

"Our managers have decided that they're going to 'agree segmentation.' Any clues? 'cos we're baffled."

Perhaps they're going to be replaced by grapefruit.

Experimental method

Salome and I have established that two people saying and doing absolutely nothing can render even someone with Lippy's brass neck entirely incapable of eating a banana.

Libraries exist to expand the wealth of human knowledge.


Being a local government officer and so subject to draconian English law on political comment I have to be careful about yesterday's local elections. We pussyfoot all the more locally as Helminthdale is a four-way marginal council. Which is to say that in most wards you would scarcely slide a cigarette paper between the votes of the three main parties and then no matter what configuration officially gets elected there's a couple of months' worth of in-fighting, back-biting and the settling of old family scores and when the dust settles the administration consists of the largest group of people who don't actually hate each other.

The results are in and all the maps are coloured in and it's business as usual. So that's all right then.

All to pieces without good gravy

There's talk of there being a new baby café in Sheep City. I hope it's a facility for toddlers and not a new style of kebab.

A song going off in the night

Corporate Leadership Team has decreed that all Service level Management meetings should follow the same agenda headings, one of which is “Step back and reflect.”


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Open fire on that thing out there whatever it is

The Joy of Shared Service Premises.

I logged a problem with the IT Service Desk this lunchtime: Grimley Library was completely offline. It turns out that somebody in the community room had switched off the comms box because it was "too noisy."

My God, how "instead" can you get?

Maybelle's found a discarded sheet from one of the myriad printings-to-be-corrected of the draft briefing notes for the staff consultation meetings. It's had her in fits of laughter. Apparently, Policy Team is:

'an open and honest team taking collective responsibility for communicating with staff, delegating wherever appropriate and mentoring staff so that they can take on new responsibilities.'

It's like small children who can make the noises but not understand the words.

Keep it real and shove as much in your trolley as you possibly can

I've been puzzled about something I noticed the other day.

"According to the stock analysis I did for CIPFA we should have fifty-two of those DVDs from that visit. There's a lot more than that in that corner."

"Didn't you know?" asks Noreen. "When I finally got to do the invoice it turned out that half of the DVDs weren't on it. Mary's been 'going to ring the supplier to tell them about it' for weeks."

It would be just our bloody luck for the auditor to come round, pick up one of those DVDs and demand to see the order and invoice for that item.


"Will they be providing tea and coffee with these staff meetings?" somebody asks.

"Oh, I expect so. And a choice of milks," replies Noreen.

Under the counter

Jim gives me a zamizdat copy of the briefing notes for the staff consultation meetings.

"Let the others see it but keep quiet about it; T.Aldous has decided that they're to be issued at the beginning of each meeting."

I can't help noticing that one of the aims of the meeting is "preparing in advance."

Synchronise your watches!

Half of the libraries in the borough are closed tomorrow and we're all closed on Monday for the bank holiday. The first of the staff consultation meetings is next week. This morning is the last time that staff in the branches can receive their programmes and briefing notes before this meeting.

They may be ready some time this afternoon. T.Aldous is fussing about the position of the library logo on the cover.

"Bollocks to logos!" says Maudie.

I can't help thinking that this is the library service in microcosm.

Ladies and gentlemen, you can well imagine what I'm feeling just now

We've sorted out the problems with the printer and the photocopier.

Some highly-paid idiot had put scrap paper in the paper trays. Frog's draft staff training notes on the Book Ahead scheme were overprinted on somebody's shopping list and a photocopy of the cover of last week's Catty Examiner.