Friday, October 31, 2008
We got to talking about the insularity of the natives and the problems you can have socially in a new job because most of the people you know are either above or below you in the line management chain. This gave me the opportunity to try and find out where I should know her from.
"What job are you doing now then?"
"I'm working in the riding stables up at Spadespit."
So I didn't know her after all. Still, we kept talking and the conversation raised all sorts of interesting and charming coincidences. A middle-aged man's fantasy come to life.
"Shall I give you my 'phone number?" she asked.
"If you like."
"We'll just have to go over to my car. It's parked just over by Kitty's."
Kitty's is an interesting establishment just across the road from the STD clinic. What we used to call a knocking-shop.
"I'll walk you over to your car, but I've got a bus to catch, unfortunately."
"That's a shame. How about a kiss just to say goodnight?"
"I think that would be a bit forward of me."
"You really should let your hair down a bit."
"I know, I'm hopeless."
We parted amicably. There's no objective reason for me to think she wasn't just a lonely soul stranded in Helminthdale and there's no reason for me to be embarassing or insulting.
"Are you the only first-aider in the building?"
"Do you think that's enough?"
"Ah," interposes T.Aldous, "Sybil's going to be the other first-aider but she's on leave when the course is being run."
Later on, Frog asks Sybil the obvious question:
"Have you been on leave for the past four years?"
It's difficult to know who's the worse: the inspectors or T.Aldous. The rot starts early: we've not had one of these inspections for twenty years so, just like the buses, four insectors turn up all at once. Their first question sets the tone:
"Can we see the recommendations of the last health & safety inspection?"
"You've not done one before."
Seth had to make an excuse and leave when he heard this exchange:
"You seem to have a lot of clutter around this workplace. We're particularly concerned about the number of boxes that are piled around the building, especially in the fire escape corridor."
"Yes, it isn't ideal. Unfortunately we're having a big move-around within the building and we're having to pile boxes up as best we can out of the way while we get on with it."
"I've just seen one of the IT Section's vans down the road and the bugger's driven off! Who do I ring to get him back?"
It turns out that it was one of the Schools Support Team visiting The Little Sisters of the Acorn but he's still all for setting the bloodhounds on the van, just in case it's harbouring a fugitive IT bloke.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
"...of course, Bonfire Night was the perfect time for Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament because with all the fireworks going off nobody would have heard what he was up to until it was too late..."
"I don't know why you both have to be in here supping coffee. Shouldn't one of you be keeping an eye on the staff?" asks Doreen.
"I don't know why you and Julia both have to be on leave next week. Shouldn't one of you be keeping an eye on the operational management of the Library Service?" asks Lola.
Motherhood hasn't mellowed Lola any.
For some time there's been an unwritten rule or folk-policy upstairs in the library to the effect that, no matter how quiet or busy the library is, no customer will be allowed more than an hour on a PC on a Saturday because it's so busy. It would seem that this has now been extended to school holidays, too. A customer has complained that he's been debarred from a few minutes more on the PC he was working on because "somebody else might want to use the PC." He was particularly miffed because eight PCs in the reference library are not in use and haven't been all morning. When Eileen is challenged about this she explains:
"We don't let people have more than an hour on the PCs because it gets too busy and we can't meet demand."
"But if it's as quiet as this, why not let people have a bit more time? When all's said and done, the PCs are there for use, not ornament."
"We can't do that: we've got to be consistent."
Words fail me. One of the hundred-or-so perfomance indicators used by the government to measure the performance of local government is the percentage of available time in which these public PCs are in use. But at least we're applying a secret policy consistently.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"How was I to know that Bronwyn was doing the Assistant Librarian's work on top of her own?"
The kindest suggestion is that she must have thought that pixies came into the library in the still of the night.
"Well, somebody will have to stay behind to answer the 'phones."
Frog's already bought the humbugs.
He's doing nobody any harm and isn't getting in the way of any events or activities but there is outrage amongst the troops. If he's coming in to do that sort of thing he should jolly well go up to the reference library.
I know that I'm often marching to a very different beat to this service but this time I don't just not know what they think the problem is, I really don't want to hear about it either.
Rather than upsetting their world view I have decided to allow the remedy to take its natural course.
Mary and Frog come up with a bazzing idea: why not allow teachers to borrow more than twelve items from the collection at a time? It has fallen at the first hurdle.
Which is, as ever, Policy Team...
"We can't let them borrow more than twelve items! What if somebody else wants to borrow these items and can't because they're on loan?"
Mary is so astonished and angry by this argument that for the first time in recorded memory she's telling her staff what's been said in a Policy Team meeting.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Clearing out the library was interesting. Not least because we found four gross of toilet rolls in the back work room.
It turned out that early in the nineties library staff were told that they would have to indent for toilet rolls for their libraries and that usage and supply were both being monitored for to save money. (Not that they actually needed to save any more money at the time but the Chief Librarian of the time came from Yorkshire and was regarded as tight-fisted even by the natives of that area.) The branch manager had indented for four toilet rolls and, after three days' worth of interrogation by telephone the order was duly permitted. Unfortunately, somebody slipped up and ordered four gross instead of four rolls.
Luckily, only use and supply were being monitored by the Chief Librarian, not expenditure, so all concerned decided that the wisest course of events was to pretend that four rolls were ordered and four were received. The rest was archaeology.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Not for long though: there are complaints from across the veil that the management suite is too cold and he has had orders to switch it back on again.
The Green option would be for our managers to join us out here in what passes for the real world but that is objectionable on so many levels we'll be screwing the planet instead.
Friday, October 24, 2008
I don't know what the subject of my talk will be and after I've finished neither will you, which makes us even
I pay no heed. They've been telling us that books are dead for the past decade but we still manage to loan them more than a million times a year.
Mary sends Frog an email: "We don't buy annuals."
Next to Frog's annuals are twenty-seven copies of The Guinness Book of Records, the annual CILIP Handbook, Utterthwaite's Definite Price Guide for Electrical Components, Dod's Parliamentary Yearbook and Where To Stay In England 2009.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
"How's it going?"
I asked as I came in this morning.
"We're completely fucked, aren't we?" she replied.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
"You've been struggling lately," I say to Lupin as he wrestles with a People's Network workstation. "You usually come out to the public PCs pretty quickly when they go up in smoke. Are they running you ragged on the new leisure centre already?"
"Oh no, there's plenty of time yet for that one. We've just not been able to get out much lately."
Something about his demeanour tweaked my curiosity.
"Not been able to get out much?"
"Any particular reason?"
"No particular reason."
"Are you sure?"
"(sigh) If you must know, the business administration team forgot to renew the tax and insurance on the van fleet."
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
In the old days they'd have been blanco-ing the boxes, too.
"Wotizzit?" I ask.
"Catty Library's fridge freezer," replies Maisie.
We've got Catty Library back and it's being shelved and snagged even as we spoke so there's no very good reason why it couldn't have been delivered directly. There's absolutely no need for me to ask why it's come here, like everything else has to.
It took me twenty minutes to guess the correct misspelling of the administrator's password for the thing.
Some schools and their teachers are brilliant to work with. They're communicative, positive and encouraging and their children have a grand time of it and we're glad to have seen them and hope they come back soon. Other schools are not. In fact, if some teachers are taken as examples set before their charges it goes some way to explaining why we live in a society full of pig-ignorant oafs and cloth-eared idiots. Two examples this week, sadly...
Frog's just had an author visit. It was arranged some time ago, the idea being that schools would be invited to bring kids to the event. This involves the usual business: sending emails out to the schools and getting no reply; then sending an article in the schools bulletin; then sending a letter to all schools; then ringing round and being told that they got no email, no schools bulletin and no letter and they'll get back to Frog shortly; then a follow-up letter; then a follow-up ring-round; then confirmation from one or two teachers that they're interested; then confirmation that they'd like to come; then another ring-round; then confirmation that they're coming; then a panicky 'phone call from the school asking for the details of the event. It's a well-trodden path. Nothing new there. The author, well-known and popular (which is to say that real children borrow his books, even during the school holidays), duly arrived and settled in. Frog provided the hospitality. And they waited.
After half an hour Frog rang the school and spoke to the teacher he was expecting.
"Oh, we decided not to come. I handed out a couple of his books and the kids weren't interested so I decided not to bother."
And now Maybelle's copped for one. She's arranged a Black History Month event involving some Francophone Africans who are coming over to talk about their experiences as refugees and their reactions to arriving and learning about living in Helminthdale. The whole point being that it's going to be all in French, which is an opportunity for older children doing their French A-levels to get experience in listening to, talking to and doing a writing workshop with native French speakers. Quite a lot of schools were interested and one in particular was so interested that they block booked all the places for its sixth form. Really encouraging, lots of potential and the sort of thing we should be doing.
Imagine Maybelle's chagrin when the teacher rang her two days before the event to say they couldn't come after all.
"It's too close to the mock exams."
(Note for readers: The mock examinations are the formal practice runs for the real thing. The date of them hasn't changed any since well before this event was set up and advertised. In fact they're the same as when I did them myself back in the dark ages. Not for months yet.)
Monday, October 20, 2008
I'd like to imagine it was the power of this blog that achieved it, but more likely it's a culmination of more than a dozen years' meetings and consultations as to the most desirable configuration of arrow and font.
"I keep forgetting how big that shop really is. I'm just used to popping in to have a look at the new books and the local maps, I don't go into the local studies section in the side room. The only problem with that shop is that he will insist on having his remainder bargain bins prominently on display when you go into the shop. You can't see the Richard and Judy display for the "six for fifty pence" promotions."
"I wonder where he got that business model from?"
Bad news: For some reason this requires our switching it off for six weeks.
Instead of sitting around in an overheated box with stale air being regurgitated every so often we're sitting around in an overheated box with stale air hanging stagnantly like fats on the landing.
True to form, those libraries that have managed a good response from their customers scraped together some spares for their comrades. And others, quiescent in their glory, claimed not to have any, when they bothered to respond at all.
Imagine Frog's surprise when two hundred Mister Stretches got dumped on his desk this morning.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
"How difficult would it have been to send a global email or put a note about it on the staff whiteboard?"
"You should have heard about it. It was mentioned in Management Group the other week."
A passing comment in a shambles of a meeting passes for structured communication to staff. Bollocks.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
"I'm not worryng about it at all," lies Noreen, "I'm in complete denial about the fact that we're drowning in boxes and any day now I'm going to be told that instead of us buying the new stock for Catty over the past few months in small, manageable doses I'm going to be given less than a week to order, receive, invoice and process all of it. I'm just not worrying about it at all. Happy days."
"Sorry to bother you," says one of the Library Assistants. "You've put funding bids in before now, haven't you?"
"We've got a customer who's looking for funding to start a new business and he's looking for something to help him write the bids. I've tried searching the catalogue for 'funding bids' but can't find anything."
"Try doing a subject search for 'Small businesses: starting up.' He might also find it worth his while going up to reference to get the details of the Small Business Centre on Wyandotte Avenue and there's also the Regeneration Office on Bencup Road but I don't know if that's a drop-in. They ought to be able to tell him in ref."
"Thanks. We knew you'd be helpful."
The reference librarians really need to work up their image within the community of this building.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
"I don't know why we're bothering," complains Bronwyn, "he was a drunkard and a womaniser."
"Someone for the locals to aspire to," remarks Noreen.
"You'll have to watch yourself," warns Frog, "T.Aldous has got them all counted."
I dutifully laughed.
"No," protested Noreen, "he really has got them counted and he's trying to track down the missing spoons."
"Oh hell, he's not doing an inventory check is he?"
"They're not on the inventory are they?"
"Didn't you know?"
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Ah well, back through the looking-glass tomorrow.
The library's set in a shopping mall, which is good. Unfortunately, although we've a huge shop window we don't put anything in there that says what we do or how we do it. Not that anyone would be in a position to take much notice as we don't light the window, to save money. The entrance to the library is a flight of stairs. There's nothing at eye level to say that this is a library, this is our library, or that we do quite a lot of neat stuff that people might like to use. No pictures, no posters, no opening times, just a flight of stairs going somewhere...
And nothing to tell anyone that if they're likely to struggle with the stairs there's a lift to the library round the corner.
Once they've ascended to the North Col of the library, they come to a landing with a trestle table with some leaflets on it and some orange boxes with booksale books in them. Nothing that says 'library.' Then there's a big glass door, installed to reduce the draught in lending.
Once through the door, somehow, you're met with an unmanned desk and a choice of a path to the left or a path to the right. There are no clues as to where to go next, you must divine it by providential guidance.
If you take the path to the left you eventually reach an impenetrable barrier: you are trying to go inthrough the exit. If you take the path to the right you eventually pass through a security gate and see your first human being, unless we're having one of our habitual frontline staffing crises. This person is not allowed to tell you anything about the library: they are only allowed to return books and that is all. Should you ask them a question they are required to point you towards the enquiry desk, some fifty yards distant.
(We won't ask why, when we've a counter the size of Wembley Stadium and only two staff on the floor, these two staff would be on two service points, each not allowed to help the other serve customers.)
Slightly more distant from the enquiry desk and unsullied by sight lines or eye-level guiding is the stock we're desperate for you to be beguiled by to the point of wishing to borrow them.
And if you wander the maze of seven-foot shelving long enough you bump into the children's library. Dead obvious really.
What a good job we took advantage of a few weeks' closure this time last year to rethink the layout to make it more user-friendly.
We are the special people
We've got special cups.
There's saucers, too
If we would use them,
Barred from view
'Cos you'd abuse them.
Would you like our dinky milk jug?
Would you share our toys?
Well, we don't think that would be right
And so they're stashed well out of sight
In a cupboard locked up day and night.
We're special girls and boys.
Monday, October 13, 2008
The good news: my network connection's eight times quicker, it's capable of keeping a connection to the internet for longer than ten minutes at a time and I won't be interrrupted every half hour to ask my opinion of that table over there. (sigh)
The bad news? Some people have no sense of irony.
"The problem with working from home is that I won't know what's going on in the library."
"Yes, that is a problem. You'll be in email contact so you'll be able to contact us every so often to ask if there's anything you need to know about."
"So that's what you did on your holidays," says one wit.
Some people are common. Actually, she's just spent half an hour putting them back into some kind of order so that people can find them. Half have been set to "not found" on the catalogue because people have toddled over, had a quick sken and given up trying to find whatever it was they'd been asked for.
"Praying?" I ask. "The network's not that bad is it?"
Actually, yes it is.
"What's it for?" I ask.
"Why do we need a new cupboard for visitors' cups? There's an empty cupboard in the kitchen units."
"Ah, no. We might use them then. These are special cups for special visitors. So they need to be kept out of our reach. They used to be kept in a cupboard in the management suite but they need the room."
"I see... We used to have a box of cups for visitors. Whatever happened to them?"
"They're in that cupboard."
"Special cups for special people?"
"Special cups for special people."
This morning my colleague was tasked with finding a working laptop, difficult enough round here, which had the latest version of Flash on it. Head of Service "needed" it as he was to be at a meeting regarding the Town Hall, and he had some 360 images of the building interior on CD he wanted to show everyone at the meeting. Having sorted out the laptop, we then discovered where the meeting was.
You guessed it, the Town Hall.
Asking the question of why you needed a laptop to show images of the building you were in was met with looks of "we never thought of that!"
Friday, October 10, 2008
To rub my nose in it I can't restart the PC because it won't close down because the System Idle Process won't close down(!!!)
Henry and Bronwyn come back from a meeting with The Umpty Antiquarian Society where they've been trying to make arrangements for this December's celebration of the bicentenary of the Great Local Literary Character Ederic Ploog.
Every library authority has its own Great Local Literary Character, nearly none of whom are known beyond the district boundary, and Ederic Ploog is ours. His stuff's written in broad Lankyshire full of jugginses, taytahs and Mary Ellens all muck and nettles about a thrutchin' in the ale yard. There are a couple of Victorian local lads I really enjoy but I find old Ploog a bit too overly-mannered, pretty much what I'd write myself if I were pretending to be a Lancashire Dialect Writer. Needless to say, he's lionised hereabouts.Henry is bemused. He, like me, isn't a local and so is astonished to find that the Antiquarian Society insists that his name is pronounced "Pleuff." He is now insisting we all call him "Plug."
"And that'll be where the teen area will be..."says Milton, showing me the latest back-of-a-fag package from Catty Library. I'm in that sort of a mood and can't resist it.
"Teen area...?" I giggled."Teen area" !!! Give me strength.
"Like the one at Epiphany."
"A sofa," blushed Milton.
"A selling point in the library?" I asked.
"What's the betting they put up a notice saying 'No Heavy Petting'?" sighs Milton.
"It's Mary's birthday today," Julia tells Noreen.
"Yes, we know," replied Noreen.
"Is it OK for us to buy us flowers or some chocolates?"
"I expect so. We've bought her some chocolates. I think she'd like a second lot."
All the myriad things that we don't get consulted on and then the Acq. Team are asked to make management decisions on Mary's birthday present.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
"I'm just going upstairs to meet the Mayor," Mary tells Noreen.
"Why's he here?" asks Noreen.
"He's here for National Sight Day. He's popping in to have a cup of tea with Nancy."
Is it National Sight Day? Apparently so: Spadespit Bullocks have blindfolded the Mayor and he's gamely spending a couple of hours wandering round the town centre to get an idea of what it's like to be blind. It's become a tradition, and as an earlier Mayor said:
"I was so relieved to take of the blindfold after a couple of hours: I'd found it so difficult. Then I realised that some people can't take it off."
We didn't do anything for Make A Noise With A Library Day because Nancy was off sick. I don't know why we've not done anything for National Sight Day, except giving the Mayor a cup of tea, 'cos she's been pottering about the building for weeks now. I'm annoyed with myself at not spotting this event myself; I shouldn't wait for the information to be communicated by the librarian in charge.
I am further delighted to be dragged away from an urgent piece of work to come up and chat the Bullocks about the talking PCs in Nancy's unit. They'd asked T.Aldous who wasn't sure of the details of the service they provide and Nancy was even less forthcoming. It irritated me no end to see that she was spending all her time serenely drifting about the room nestling her mug on her belly.
There are days when I feel guilty that I'm paid the same as Frog and Bronwyn. I am disgusted and infuriated that we're all paid the same as Nancy.
Filled with anger and self-loathing I escape and get back downstairs to a piece of work that had a lunchtime deadline and find that the corporate network's fallen over again. Luckily, the work's done remotely via the browser so I can get it completed and sent off on one of the public PCs.
To raise the tone a bit...
I'll tell you a story about our library
Full of potential like the nuts on a tree.
Racks of magazines
That you can browse
So long as you like textile industries,
Or you smith, gild or dowse.
"Modern Madder" and
"Fluffed-up Flannel News."
And we don't buy "The Oldie."
I've got the periodical news.
Our serials lists are set as in glue,
Reflecting the needs back in 'seventy-two
Of two firms who used to subscribe
To the coffee mornings of the librarians' wives.
"Lady Milliner," and
"Three-Ply Rayon News."
But we don't buy "The Beano."
I've got the periodical blues.
The mags that we get
Have a certain cachet:
They're never read before
We throw them away.
Change our selection?
Don't make me laugh:
If it's popular
It'll only bring in
All the riff-raff.
Spend your service's worth
On these luxury
No, you can't read the paper.
I've got the periodical blues.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
"It'll be interesting and it's good for my personal career development but I feel like I'm not actually doing the job I'm supposed to be doing. I don't feel like I'm delivering what's expected of me."
"Do you actually know what's expected of you?"
"Well, no, but you know what I mean. I spent all last week sorting out the domestic arrangements for that staff training course. I'm just not delivering."
"Bollocks. Besides the fact that you did all that last week you're now trained and experienced in the doings of it so that if you decide to do something like a reading-and-sharing event for the asylum seekers or a bigger version of your tea shop conversatione you know you can do it."
"Yes... I suppose it is experience..."
"Experience isn't what happens to you, it's what you do with it."
"I know, but you know what I'm like. I don't like the idea of coming in, clocking off, doing nothing then going home. I want to get things done. I'm not happy if I've not actually achieved something with my woking day."
She continued in this vein for some time. Halfway through, I noticed Nancy Bickerdike pottering about just behind me. It became very quickly obvious that Maybelle knew she was there all along. Eventually Nancy pottered off.
"You terrible old woman!" I protested. "And people say that I'm bad!"
"Well, you are. I didn't mean anything about Nancy at all. That wouldn't be like me."
Actually, no it wouldn't really. It's a sign of just how much Nancy's been getting under Maybelle's skin lately.
"You must remember to support your verbal communications with physical cues such as hand and arm movements. Your body must communicate as much as your mouth," explains the facilitator.
Henry, having spent his formative years as children's librarian in a small library just outside Cockaleekie, is dead smug and almost hugs himself with glee as he recounts The Professionals' acute discomforture during the ordeal.
I can see him requiring them to do a few public sessions once the memory's faded.
I am a chap: I don't do multi-tasking.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
My head of service has decided to give our customers the option of either paying us their overdue fines or having them added to their Council Tax bill. Now bear in mind our library management system isn't linked to the Council Tax system. Anyway they wouldn't exactly be amenable to our adding odd coppers to the tariff on an ad-hoc basis. And what do we do with the fines on the system? So I asked him how we're going to this.
"I'll leave the details with you."
Roll on the auditors!
That's the third week running he's won our inter-authority Really Stupid Library Management Competition. Our mob must be losing their edge.
There are seventy-two boxes waiting in the fire exit corridor and another twenty-six by the Team's desks. Oh, and another thirty boxes of Book Off books.
"Don't worry," says Bronwyn, "you can only do what you can do, and if it has to wait to be done then it's not a problem."
Except that there's bound to be some silly beggar who'll make it into a problem.
* It's the same sudden cold realisation Mary and Julia had a month ago. And in June. We're consistent like that.
Mrs. Lily Nattercan
Cattermole Street Library
Suitably impressed, I ask her if anyone else knows she's changed her job title.
"I get sent them from a lady on Windie Road. She's ever so nice and I haven't the heart to tell her what I really do for a living."
"Are you getting business cards made?"
"Good idea. I'll ask T.Aldous in the morning."
The sad thing is that we all joined the excursion and still ended up in bloody Helminthdale.
Monday, October 06, 2008
"Eee, Maybelle! Your tits look ace in that picture!"
Maybelle is suitably embarassed.
"What on earth are you supposed to say to that?" she asks later.
I had the good sense not to answer for once.
Friday, October 03, 2008
The engineer's come in to set up the scanning and faxing functions on the new photocopier.
"Can you switch the noise off?" asks Noreen.
"Oh yes, you don't want the noise on. It gives loud, prolonged beeps."
"We know, it's been doing it all week."
"My God! I'll switch that off before I do anything else."
Sadly, we couldn't find any laurel wreathes for the hero.
"Why haven't you put the programme of events on the library web site?"
"Perhaps because I've spent the morning scrounging round the reference library picking up the booklets so that I can find out what events we're putting on and what I'm expected to be providing technical support for."
"People will want to know what we're doing."
"I can entirely see their point of view."
"They're for next week's marketing workshop," she explains.
"Have we not boxes enough?"
"It would seem not."
Obviously spent a long time under T.Aldous' blue pencil.