Monday, June 30, 2008
"What time are you leaving?" T.Aldous asks Maisie. "I've got an urgent order that needs doing."
Maisie says something non-commital and sighes. Once himself has disappeared she confides:
"He's been doing that bloody urgent order all last week and had me hanging round at the end of every bloody day."
Well, those desks won't order themselves. At five to five Maisie comes bounding over.
"T.Aldous has asked me to check with you: there's no corporate IT support after five o'clock is there?"
"No, there's not."
"Good. The e-procurement system's down and I can't send any orders. Looks like I'll just have to go home. What a pity."
Another highlight is the copy of "Curious George Goes Quantity Surveying" which has English text but a Greek cover. Somewhere, one hopes, there's a copy of the Greek version that has an English cover, otherwise it could all get horribly complicated.
Friday, June 27, 2008
What meeting and demonstration? No idea. We have numerous whiteboards, some huge and empty; calendars, diaries and post-it notes and no end of communication tools but nothing avails. The gentleman is not happy: he's travelled three hundred miles for a meeting at half-eight. A combination of coffee and professional interrogation techniques gives Noreen enough clues to surmise that he's come to see Mary about a new model Mobile Library. Conferring with Milton, who also has no idea of any meeting, they decide to install the gentleman in Milton's old office and help him sort out space for him to display his wares.
Mary, of course, arrives at twenty-five to nine and installs herself in her office with a cup of tea.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
"You're the Fire Warden. You've got the responsibility to keep the fire corridor clear."
"I try, but the managers keep over-riding me."
"You've got the legal authority to get that corridor cleared. They have no legal authority to stop you doing it. Think on that."
The Acq. Team are starting to see light at the end of their darkness (they reckon they're now only about a month behind with the workload, so long as less than fifty boxes arrive tomorow). Over the past few weeks Bronwyn's been quietly disposing of stuff that's been hanging round for a decade. And nobody's asking what happened to the sixteen boxes of children's books that went to Panama Street Library for an event and never came back. The omens are good for an entertaining "No, you can't pile a load of old desks in the corridor" stand-off during the summer holidays.
"I've just visited the inmates in your brand new Leadership Suite. Very splendid. A hub of management activity and a foment of razor-sharp decisive thinking. Wonderful. I shall visit it again."
They must have moved the shopping trolley.
T.Aldous has decided he won't be retiring before 2011.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
"That buffet selection seems to have a lot of meat in it. Lots of people don't like a lot of meat. We need to have a look at some of the other options."
Our visitor figures are falling, our issue figures are fragile, our stock management processes are lying on their backs waggling their legs in the air and staff are thinly-spread and utterly demoralised. But there won't be too much meat.
Guess which is the only bit of the floor that's been carpet-tiled?
"That's good news."
"Maria Sharapova's going to be wearing shorts at this year's Wimbledon."
"And something over her mouth?"
"Don't be unfair. These days that's the only time I get to hear a woman grunting."
You and me both, mate.
"Now, Mister ..., are you male or female?"
"OK... Are you disabled?"
"Are you blind?"
"Are you pregnant?"
"I'm sorry, there's a queue building at the enquiry desk. I'll have to leave you to finish completing the form by yourself."
Monday, June 23, 2008
Between us we've established the correct pattern of behaviour in the aftermath of the usual nonsense. I present it here for the illumination of nations.
The Helminthdale Damage Limitation Toolkit
|Did we get away with it?|
|Can we blame somebody else?|
|Will anybody make a fuss?|
|Can we find a scapegoat in the lower ranks?|
This transformation from vague rumour to vague intention is mentioned to senior Catty Library staff.
"What happens when people wander into the library from the health centre?"
Friday, June 20, 2008
I'm relieved at having found a solution to part of the problem, right up to the point where I mention it to Noreen. Her response is underwhelming.
"It'll still be weeks before they're finally get rid of them."
By the time we finish the conversation I'm entirely deflated. The latest in a long line of disappointments. Nearly every piece of work I've done this past few weeks has been a dead waste of time. Oh, the work's done and it works OK. It's just that there's only me worrying about any of it. It would be just the same if I didn't bother.
Noreen feels similarly about her work, which is one reason why she's so down. The remorseless torrent of thousands of might-or-might-not-count-as-work books takes its additional toll.
It's all part of working in a service where delivery takes a very poor second place to attendance.
The clocks on the public clients are three minutes slow.
Customers booking an hour's session still get their hour. Just three minutes later than it says on the clocks in the library, all of which are finally set to British Summer Time (three years of work on Seth's part but he got them beaten into submission in the end). Consequently, "lots" of people have been hanging round the enquiry desks waiting three minutes for their session to start. Big problem. Especially as there's obviously no intention of using the three minutes to sell a selection of our services to a captive audience. Seth's made it very clear that he will not be changing the time on the clocks. Especially as the people complaining most loudly are the self-same ones who would kick off the most at the idea of closing the doors three minutes late. So the problem's come to me. I have the same system permissions as the public so I can't over-ride the clock settings.
I promised to ask IT to have a look at it.
- I won't be asking them any time that we need them to get a move on delivering a new client model.
- Nor when we want them to change internet permission policies.
- Nor when we're trying to persuade them to unblock blogs and social networking sites on staff PCs.
- Nor when we need their support for a big capital systems project.
"I think you need to go and have a look at what's going on in the children's library."
Maybelle went over to check it out. A lady had emptied all the picture books out of one of the kinderboxes and sat her child in there. Said child was emptying his bladder as Maybelle arrived.
"I'm potty-training him," explained the lady.
"There's an old man in the lift. I've just sent him up to lending."
Bronwyn decided to investigate. It turned out to be the same chap.
"Nay, lass, I'm in t'right place. I only nipped in to use the lavatory."
"I wish she'd make the same fuss about finding the car allowance claim form she lost on her desk last month. It's only for ninety quid."
The reason for the panic is now apparent. I can't find Gordon Harker in the address book, even though I knew he should be in there and works in the Town Hall. Eventually I gave in and trawled all the "G"s. There he was: Gordon B. Harker. In between Gordon Ainsworth and Gordon Clough.
These are the people giving me lectures on information management. Fuckwits.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
"Well, isn't this about bloody time?"Milton and I were talking about something quite else the other week and he admitted that he has these moments where he can but stop and ask himself: "how the hell did we get to this?" I expect he's been asking it a lot lately.
More good news about Catty Library: the proposed position of the counter is the one place in the building without electricity or network points. Which is a shame as all the plastering's been done and dusted.
"Look at him. He's just jam-filled with mischief."
"I will admit that I am a Lord of Misrule."
"You don't have to be quite so gleeful about it."
"I am happy in my work."
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
In an effort to distract from the horror, Frog makes the girls "Happiness is a brown box" badges to wear with pride.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I've been asked why I didn't go. I don't think my views would have been welcome: I think this town's got more than its fair share of thick-headed, backward-looking noddies and dunderheads. "Back in the old days" used to be OK relative to neighbouring towns but that was before Helminthdale got into the habit of never getting more than one-third of the way into a civic improvement programme before getting cold feet and running back to square one, only to find that they'd demolished it as part of phase one of the project.
"It'll be Milkbeck Library's centenary this autumn. We should do something for it."
"We could have a book sale."
There is not a lot of shelving. In part because somebody has decided that a strip half the width of the library shall be the walkway from the foyer to the back wall. The counter can't go in the walkway, and neither can the public computers. So everything has to be stuck against the walls.
Except for the bit of wall that has a pile of unboxed pipes for some reason or another and so can't have anything stuck against it. So that's where the counter's going to go. Despite the fact that the proposed sightlines are such that you can only see the walkway. Well, a six-foot length of the walkway, but you get the idea.
Other than the counter there are only two detailed specifics of function/service on the plan...
The two booksale points in the foyer.
"If we take it as every who hasn't used the library in the past year there's 5,555 of them. Is that too many?"
"Ooh yes. We need a more realistic number than that. How about all those that haven't used the library since the beginning of this year?"
"There will be more of them: we'll be adding in the borrowers who've lapsed in the last six months of last year."
"How about all those that owe fines?"
"What number do you want? Give me a number and I'll give you that many borrowers."
"We need a more realistic number..."
"If I limit it to just the adults below retirement age that gives us 776..."
"Ooh... No... We need something more realistic"
"And if they owe us more than a fiver that's 147."
"Can you give us that and I'll get Dotty to check them out. Then if you give her the first list she can work through it to get a more realistic number."
I send Dotty the list of 776 names and suggest that she cherry-picks from the list, stopping when she gets fed up.
Councillor Mountebank rose gracefully to the occasion:
"Don't you know how busy I am? This is far too little notice. I can only assume that this is either poor management or an attempt at a deliberate snub to me."
Maybelle is well-behaved and mostly laid back. In her place I'd have replied that it was lousy resourcing of the service and that I was having to organise this in odd five minutes in between covering for posts that had been deleted or left unfilled to cover budget shortfalls within the council.
Monday, June 16, 2008
"How the hell did you manage to get that?"
"Well, himself wanted those notice boards putting up at Roadkill and Glass Road and Spadespit and Milkbeck p.d.q. but didn't want to pay for Building Services to do it."
"So I recall."
"So I was telling Jim and Milton about this and Julia was earwigging and they said that they couldn't understand what the problem was. So I asked T.Aldous again and he said to tell Maisie to check out the prices and set up an order. So that's what I did. Central Procurement told Maisie to get the drill from Argos because the council gets a discount; she set the order up; I went over and I come back with the drill. Cost less than it would for the council's joiner to go over and just do Glass Road."
"So I went over and did Roadkill and Milkbeck and Spadespit. Done and sorted. When I come back T.Aldous said: 'I've authorised the order for the drill, you'll soon be able to get it.' So I telled him: 'I've got it.' Priceless."
"Done and dusted?"
"I've still got to go out to Roadkill. I was going to go out this morning but he said no way. 'We have to decide where some of the stuff on the wall needs to go so that it's clear for the noticeboards.' Just imagine that: paying for a chippie to go out to put up noticeboards and telling him to come back another day because you've not decided where they're going!"
No wonder you can't move in this place for stuff that's been bought years back and is still awaiting decision as to where it's going.
"I've just pinched a keyboard from your stores."Sigh...
"Oh. How come?"
"Well I noticed an 'Out of Order' sign on a PC up in Ref. I had a look at it and it was just that the keyboard had come out but when I looked at it I noticed that all the pins in the end had been bent so I came down for a replacement. Is that OK?"
"That's brilliant, thanks."
"Apparently it's been out of order three days but they didn't tell anyone."
"I can't pass these invoices. The budget's run out of money."
"What? It's only June."
"Not the Book Fund budget. It's the account for recharged grant expenditure."
[Technically we buy and pay for the books for these projects as usual but pay for them from government grant money, not the Book Fund]
"I thought Mary adjusted that account to pay for this lot."
"You know what she's like. She put in another five hundred pounds."
"But you've got fifteen hundred books...!"
Mary's not in so I did the necessary adjustments so that work could resume. This is a notional budget anyway so I thought bollocks to it and stuck in another twenty grand.
"This book's reserved. It's the only copy and we've contacted the borrower who's got it out and they still haven't brought it back. What do you want me to do about it?"
I'm frankly dumbfounded by the question but I try my best.
"What's the usual procedure when a borrower doesn't return a book that's on hold?"
"I've no idea."
"I'd contact them again but to be on the safe side I'd order an extra copy. It's not like we're short of money for books at the moment."
I mention this to Noreen.
"Oh God. Is that the one Posy Fluff was banging on about last week?"
It turned out that it was.
"Catty Library's been on computerised circulation for nearly twenty years. What did they do about reserved books that hadn't been returned before the library was closed?"
"They rang me or Betty and we told them the same as you."
Saturday, June 14, 2008
It's not really such a surprise: let's be honest, the Library Service isn't a particularly good employer. We don't value staff; we don't have a training and/or development plan; and the pay's so bad and the "professional" boundary so rigid that Dotty's in her mid-twenties and is already as far as she's ever going to get in her career in this organisation, coining in the luxurious figure of three thousand pounds below the national average wage.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Out all day in Lancashire, nice to get out of the office. For some reason, ever since it was first suggested that I move my desk over to the windowsill the temperature in my office has rarely dipped below 30°C and there's no fresh air from the bus station blowing in through the air conditioning. If I thought for one moment that Policy Team could run a bath I might decide to put two and two together. As it is...
I was very much surprised to see that Lancashire still have corporation gulley suckers to keep the drains free of debris. I can't remember the last time I saw a corporation gulley sucker either at home or in Helminthdale. Which explains so much of the localised flooding last summer.
(I'll be ashamed of this tomorrow. I'm feeling demob happy 'cos I'm having a day out.)
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
"We're just in the process of revising the policy. We're devolving the decision-making out to service managers."
This is splendid news. The money our managers saved last year by telling staff -- untruthfully -- that they weren't eligible for paid-for eye tests would just about cover the cost of the new cupboard for pre-owned envelopes.
200 people at the Silver Surfers' Open Day at Windscape Library. Amazing: I can't imagine how one hundred people could fit into the library. I expect that the first thing that'll happen is that Norma will get a bollocking for breaking health & safety rules.
On investigation, I find out that most of the crowd stayed outside the library in the waning summer sunlight. This puzzles me the further:
- There isn't a lot of "outside" at Windscape Library
- What were they all doing?
At least the gazebo didn't make another appearance.
Did you see that news report about the Japanese lady found living in some chap's wardrobe? We did. And now we're terrified to move any of the boxes in the fire exit corridor.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I'm pointed to a page on the intranet telling me not to do this. I elect to take no notice:
- I happen to know the Corporate Branding Policy isn't written yet because the person writing it and signing off the project is on maternity leave.
- Unless you're given the address it's impossible to find the "do not put the address of the library catalogue in your Outlook signature" page in our utterly impenetrable intranet.
I'll refer to the policy document saying I can. It'll be on the intranet somewhere.
Monday, June 09, 2008
"I've suggested something that can be written on The World's Biggest Whiteboard," says Milton.
We all get that way some days.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Our good friend the Webrarian shows us an interesting new way of promoting the BookStart programme.
Friday, June 06, 2008
And I thought I knew some choice language!
"So what happens when Catty re-opens and needs its fax machine back?"
"We'll buy them a new one."
"So why not buy a new one for Windscape Library?"
"They want one now."
I come back to find it gone. Alwyn's been told to take it to Roadkill Library. We don't know what actually for. It may be a jape of some sort.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
"Well of course, we can't do anything with the online encyclopedias because we haven't had any training on them."
And for the umpteenth time this week I quell the rising urge to ask how much training a Professional Reference Librarian needs to use the Online Britannica edition aimed at five to eleven-year olds.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Unfortunately for Mr. Constantine, the Leader of the poetry group there — a lady of a certain age and forceful character — has got wind of this. So delighted is she by the idea of getting a man into her group that she's virtually stalking the poor beggar.
"I can't even go to the chemists without me balaclava helmet on."
Milton and I were having a chat about this, which we both think is a pretty positive news for our chaotic change process.
"We're going over to the next workshop to let them know that they've got the permissions and authority to just get on with the work without having to keep referring back to us."I disagreed, at length, and intemperately, that going out to tell people that you're leaving them alone was counter-productive. Giving Milton his due, he listened despite the bad language. In the end he still disagreed with me but "people will say things to you they won't to us. Leave it with me, I'll have a chat with the others."
I hope I'm right.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
They've convinced themselves that this isn't a workplace at all. After careful analysis of behaviour patterns and outputs they've come to the conclusion that this is actually some sort of day care centre for the bewildered.
Which was funny at first but now they've started cackling and talking about imaginary grandchildren I'm starting to worry.
It's been nudged out of the way by a shopping trolley.
This is as good a time as any to introduce Seth's new oppo, Alwyn. Alwyn's a nice bloke who's already completely shell-shocked by the way we do things here. He's settled on a strategy of reacting to the worst by standing back, smiling and hoping it will go away. He'll go far.
Where we are now:
- Jim's got his old desk back, moved into the new room.
- Doreen's got the desk that was left in my office when they took Jimmy Huddersfield's desk to give to Mary.
- Julia's got Mary's old desk.
- Milton keeps his old desk, once Seth managed to unstick it from the lift after it got jammed.
- Jim's old new desk is now moved out into the main office to replace Jim's new old desk.
- Two ginormous cupboards have turned up (each twice the size of the new pre-owned envelope cupboard) and now cover up The World's Biggest Whiteboard.
- T.Aldous' new cupboard has been unwrapped and lent to Mary "while I sort my things out."
The mood gets gloomier with the arrival of twenty boxes of Tagolog novellas.
Monday, June 02, 2008
- 7% said: "Art Deco loveliness"
- 14% said: "1950s deal and chipboard," "1980s nursery school," "Solid Victoriana" or "Ultra-modern, sleek graphite and clean lines;" but
- 35% said: "Cash & carry warehouse"
Which suggests that the 'Designing Libraries' agenda may have some way to go.
It's difficult to know who's the more thrilled:
- Seth, because it's yet more stuff to have to lug about out of the fire exit corridor;
- Betty and Noreen, because it's a pile more work that doesn't count towards their performance targets; or
- Frog, because he'd been rather hoping that this initative might go away until he'd sorted out the other national initiatives that have to be delivered this month.
Needless to say, there's a lot of bad-tempered folk about here today.
I hope she's providing them with lunch.
"Are we having a launch event?"
"Oh yes. I think. Sort of, probably, yes."
This surprises me as Maybelle's not one of our cast of inveterate dissemblers. Until it dawns on me that Mary's holding the purse strings.
"What's the activity for the launch event?"
"She wants drums."
"Not because most of them are Africans... ?(!)"
"I couldn't possibly say. She's just got it into her head that it has to be drums."
"I suppose we should be grateful it's not corn dollies."
Which is why he's had to spend all morning cutting up sugar paper for Helminthdale's story time because nobody's been available to do it for the past week.