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

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

But for an hour to watch them play,
Those heroes dead and gone

Over the past week I've visited every library in the Borough with Milton. We're scoping out a couple of fairly big projects which I'm not looking forward to but should do a lot of good. It's been depressing but instructive.

The good news is that we still have very committed staff out there in the branch libraries. Absolutely shattered, but committed. Only one branch library was less busy than the main libraries, and we arrived there at the end of a very long day. Kids were drawing, reading, writing, talking, making things and having their faces painted. Grown-ups were reading, writing, talking, using the computers, helping the kids, helping the staff. And the staff were running round like blue-arsed flies making sure that everyone was being looked after and trying to provide as good a service as you can when you're out-numbered by customers twenty-to-one.

Which makes me wonder how on earth we would have coped had we not a main library and a full-time branch library closed for building works.

One of the Branch Managers mentioned, in passing, that this summer's holiday activities are a bit on the thin side. I pointed out that there are good reasons for this:
  • Frog's working alone, with the same budget as in 1993 when six people were involved in the planning and delivery of the summer holiday programme.
  • There weren't any planning meetings this year because Julia didn't see why two of the Assitant Librarians from her side of the borough were involved but none from Doreen's side of the borough. Julia has five Assistant Librarians. Doreen has one Assistant Librarian, another on Maternity, a vacancy and a vacant post that has been axed to save a bit of money.
  • When Frog asked Doreen and Julia to make sure that staff would be available to support activities. He was told: "don't assume that staff will be available."
  • Mary's signed us up to six or seven Reading Agency programmes (we're not sure which, they're a blur) which involve our getting something like eleven thousand books for kids all at once, to be distributed in set ways in set blocks and with stickies and stuff.
  • And since T.Aldous and Mary let the funding for the BookStart project manager lapse all the administration and distribution work of getting umpteen hundred BookStart Treasure Boxes out to the deserving public has gone his way. But there's no administrative work involved in BookStart, oh no...
  • And then there's the project T.Aldous accidentally signed us up for to encourage young men to read books...
  • And Sheep City's summer holiday events brochure includes Frog's doing a day-long poetry workshop, which came as a shock because they forgot to ask him to do it.

Cattermole Street Library came as a hell of a shock.

Normally it looks the very picture of a cheerful disorganisation of activity. The other day it looked like a place under siege. Everything: trollies full of returned books, dump bins, boxes of new stock, craft materials for kids and Team Read materiel, was pulled together at the counter like a motte-and-bailey castle. The end of a long day of holiday activities, reading groups and workaday stuff in a busy, single-staffed library. Lily, the Branch Manager, gamely waves a white hankie and asks for fainites.

Milton's almost as shocked as me and resolves to have a quiet word with somebody about giving Lily a hand some time.

He'll probably be told "not to assume that staff are available."


The Topiary Cow said...

Single-staffed, that means one person runs the library?


Kevin Musgrove said...

That's the one. We have many. Not nice.

Lavinia said...

Gee, and I thought summer was a quiet season for librairies....

Yet it sounds like all hell is breaking loose!

Kevin Musgrove said...

Lavinia, summer is the busy season for public libraries. For the kids we have a summer reading game, umpteen holiday events and activities, plus the good old English summer's day (indoors if wet). Hell on wheels.

We don't do much for the grown-ups, except baby-sit their kids while they go shopping.