Thursday, December 31, 2009
So let us consider 2009. We've had worse years. I, personally, have had much worse years. And other people have fared far, far worse than we. Even so, it will be nice to see the back of 2009. Or would be, if only we weren't dead sure that 2010 is going to be substantially worse, what with the budget crisis; the pay cuts; the vacancies freeze; the uncertainties about the management, or even ownership, of the service; and the unyielding promulgation of fresh hells from the body corporate. If it wasn't for the fact that the council's not accepting any more early retirements (on account of its reckoning that it can't afford to give people the necessary pay-offs) half its staff would be packing its bags right now. [Helminthdale Council still wants a substantial number of people to leave the payroll but doesn't want to pay for the wheels to be set in motion. A substantial amount of the 2010/11 budget may need to be going towards servicing defences against claims for constructive dismissal.]
Here in the Library Service it isn't business as usual. This, you would imagine, would be a good thing. Sadly not. We have been to too many funerals this year (one is too many to my mind, but we weren't that lucky) And otherwise, all is confusion. Or, if you're going to pick nits, all is even more confusion than usual.
The big news of the day is that T.Aldous has finally come out and said that he's retiring at the end of next month. We didn't think he'd be outlasting Mary by very long, and lo it comes to pass. In many ways this is a good thing: T.Aldous has been a diligent and hard-working chief but too often his hard work has been either counter-productive or else completely undermined by his irrational need not to be seen to be accountable for anything. The timing, typically of T.Aldous, is unfortunate. There is a lot going on corporately and regionally, not much of which will be to the advantage of either us or our customers. T.Aldous' departure adds a further element of uncertainty, which will be seized upon by somebody somewhere for their own ends. And we're still concerned about Policy Team's ability to up its game, even though we're seeing signs of their putting in the effort. Besides which, it's always useful to have T.Aldous there to act as the lightning rod in times of storm.
Next week, for the first time in years all of our libraries will actually be open. Except for Mattressbrook Library, which closed years ago but which we still supply with school holiday events for no apparent reason. That will be interesting. I wonder if we'll be able to keep the doors open for more than a week or two (yes, the staffing situation is that bad!) And if we do, I wonder if anyone will notice.
Ah well. Have a happy new year despite all else.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I receive an email from Ken Barmy. He is having fun at work.
"Arriving back at work after the festive hostilities I discovered that a key part of our library management system wasn't working and that once the effects had worked their way through the system nobody would be able to issue, return, or renew books and we couldn't add new borrowers, that sort of thing. Oh joy. Once I established what the problem was I sent everybody an email warning them to expect problems. Five minutes later, as I was trying to unpick the problem and get the system ready to accept a clean version of the file that had been corrupted, the 'phone calls started.
"'We're having problems with the system.'
"I explained to the first caller what the problem was. The second caller was somebody working at the next desk to the first on the lending library counter. The third caller was the person on the lending library enquiry desk. The fourth caller was another library. The fifth was the person who'd replaced the first person while they went to the loo. After the eighth 'phone call I sent another email telling everybody that there was a problem, it was a biggie, I was in the process of trying to sort it out, it would take time, they won't be able to do stuff because there was a problem.
"The 'phone calls continued. Mostly from the lending library. The only times I wasn't receiving 'phone calls was when I was talking to people in our IT section asking them for backup copies of files, or when I was talking to our system's support desk in the States. Not getting through to me, people starting ringing other people on my floor to tell them to tell me that they were having problems. And just to make sure, they also emailed me.
"I wrote a third, detailed, email telling everybody that there was a problem, this is what the problem is, this is what I've been trying to do in between your ringing me to tell me something I've already told you twice in emails and numerous times on the 'phone, etc. etc. etc.
"Five minutes later I received an email from somebody I'd already spoken to twice. They were having problems with the system and thought I would like to know.
"I resisted the temptation to reply: stap me vittles, I hadn't noticed any problems, you win a Crackerjack pencil for being such a perspicaceous young lady.
"Five minutes later I received another email from them. They had tried again but were still having problems. I steadied my nerves and ignored it.
"Two minutes later I got a 'phone call. Had I read the two emails? Yes, I had. Did I know that they were having problems? Yes, I told everybody they'd be having problems even before they happened and since then I've emailed everybody twice more and you've told me twice before when you've rung me up to say you're having problems on the system. That's all right then. Quite so. Goodbye.
"Three days on, still not sorted. Each day I send at least three emails to everybody, marked "Important: read this!" telling them that there are still problems with the system, what they can do in the mean time and that I will, as always, let them know just as soon as it's safe to go back to business as usual, and don't telephone me to tell me you're having problems with the system as I think I've noticed.
"And every day I receive emails from people who've been receiving these emails, and who've been ringing me up, saying: we're still having problems with the system.
"Johny Morris never had this trouble."
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
If Frog, our Children's Librarian, spends all day sat at his desk cutting out silhouettes of tadpoles this is counted as Work.
If Frog spends the morning visiting three nursery classes, telling the children stories and encouraging a love of books and reading his return is greeted with the words: "Where have you been all day? There's a lot of work needing doing."
"Well worth sitting in all those classes at library school," he observes.
We had rather hoped.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Aside from Catty's having opened and Carbootsale being very close to re-opening, once we find out what the 'phone number might be, nothing much has changed. Except the job cuts and the freeze on spending and the colleagues who've gone over the wire and...
Spoiler warning: The end of year review will be a bit on the bleak side this year.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Seth clears out the fridge before every big holiday period, which gives him the chance to chuck out the stuff that's starting to glow in the dark or which closes the fridge door after you.
This is always followed by the inevitable whines of: "where's my... I was saving that for later."
Almost as big a hoot as "Empower, Inform, Enrich," the government's utterly-vacuous policy document on public
Politicians live in an entirely different world to thee and me.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
"They've already sent me the training induction plan," she tells me.
"Training induction plan???" we cry in unison.
Such are myths and legends born.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
The Bobbing Up And Down Team unveiled their version today. We are all suitably overwhelmed and as excited as schoolgirls at a Tommy Steele gig.
The tone is set immediately in the promotional email, which features an intrepid explorer furthering the reaches of man's knowledge and fortitude. We're pretty sure that it's Captain Robert Falcon Scott. The front page of the intranet features a large picture of some bloke jumping out of an aeroplane. Let's be honest now: you wouldn't trust any of Helminthdale Council's equipment to see you across the road, let alone out of an aeroplane. A potentially-productive morning is wasted as staff scour the rest of the site for pictures of lemmings or the Hindenberg.
Highlight of the whole business is The Input Zone: Your Council, Your Forum. Staff are invited to offer suggestions and comments on "what we can do to make this the best council you could be working for."
The Imput Zone went live at 0830. By noon it has been airbrushed from history, as if it had never happened.
Imagine Noreen's delight on finding that the Reference Librarians have been slipping in orders for titles they didn't include in their standing order list. The copy of "Wilkinson's Directory of Public and Private Organisations" that arrived today accounts for three-quarters of a week's permitted expenditure in one fell swoop.
"People are always asking for it," say the Reference Librarians.
Noreen and Betty muttered something in a similar vein.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Oi've gotta girl,
A very nice girl,
Works in the library.
I say: "I love you" to her
And she says: "Shush!" to me.
Oi likes her looks
As she stamps my books
A new date every day.
And as we thusly
Bill and coo
My love will softly say:
"Hev yew got yer card, boy?
Hev yew got yer card?"
Stamps "due back first January"
And she's my little library gal.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
The bad news is there's now some debate as to whether or not having the Millennium Bug as one of the angelic host is sacrilegious.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Sheep City's been taken over by the Leisure Trust and isn't fitting in very well. Unfortunately neither Henry nor Gaynor, who runs the visitor centre, speak or write the standard management bollocks required by the management of the Trust. And both blotted their copybooks badly in a recent meeting where a bunch of highly-paid jagoffs spent two hours in an orgy of self-congratulaton only for Henry and Gaynor to spoil it by asking:
"Well, yes... but what have we actually delivered?"
I'm not sure how much they have to worry. Of course, we always have to bear in mind the Helminthdle factor: if anything's as sure as Lord Ashcroft and taxes there's always the possibility that any senior manager may be a 24-carat dickhead. But it isn't necessarily a given. Bearing in mind that for the past four months the Leisure Trust has been having the kicking of its life in the letters pages of all the local papers while Sheep City is the darling of the media, the management of the Trust might have their hands full as it is without creating any new controversies.
We'll see how things go in the new year. Let's hope it's not as awful as what we're facing, what with the budget cuts, vacancies and business as usual.
A few years back, Frog lived on a main shopping street and was used to the usual stuff that happens when your front door's available to passing drunks. He'd often come downstairs to find that someone will have had a fit of guilty conscience and let go of the cutlery they'd stolen from the Italian restaurant by posting it through his letter box. Or chip papers. Or half a pizza...
One day he came downstairs to find a huge plank of wood. He sat on the stairs and stared at it for some time.
How in God's name did anybody post that through the letter box?
His wife came downstairs, looked at him, shook her head and said:
"You don't remember do you?"
He'd gone on the Christmas lash with his family and on the way home decided that they needed the wood for a new gate.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
"One of my workmates has a wife works for DWP.
"There was a bomb scare and the alarm went off. One guy grabbed a paper knife and ran round the office brandishing it shouting "They'll never take me alive, they'll never take me alive". After a full circle he says, "do you think we should leave now?"
"I'm not giving you ideas or anything........"
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The invoice came last week but T.Aldous won't pay it yet because it's not due to be paid until Christmas Eve. It actually doesn't matter a blind fig to us which day it's paid so long as it's out of this year's budget and we're not either slung out on the street or pursued by another lot of bailiffs but no, it can't be paid yet.
The Accounts Section want it paying p.d.q. as the council's performing badly at getting invoices paid quickly and there are financial penalties imposed by the government if targets aren't met. So once a day they ring Maisie and once a day Maisie tries to persuade T.Aldous to authorise the payment and once a day he says no, it's not due until Christmas Eve and once a day Maisie rings Accounts to say that she's hit a brick wall again.
To add insult to injury, T.Aldous has called a meeting later today to ask Jack Harry and Maisie why we're not paying our invoices on time.
In a pile on a chair in a side office with a note stuck on the inside date label of the top copy saying: "For the attention of Frog. Display?"
Unfortunately, nobody told Frog they were there and it was only by chance he found them. Doing our CSI bit (I take a lovely Marg Helgenberger) Frog and I reckon they've been there just over a week.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
A colleague in another section of the council had been instructed to attend a meeting today. He was told that it was A Very Important Meeting. And that he should Prepare For The Meeting Beforehand.
"It is about departmental matters,"
he was told. Which was good as he might have gone along thinking it was going to be about astronomy or something.
Seeing as it was going to be A Very Important Meeting, and that he should Prepare For The Meeting Beforehand, he asked for the agenda so that he could prepare for it.
"We have all been on a management leadership course and haven't had time to prepare an agenda."
There were twenty PowerPoint presentations.
"It would be a good idea if the Christmas opening hours were put on display in the library."
T.Aldous' response is a classic of the form.
"What an excellent idea. We have been doing this for thirty-five years."
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Maisie rings the shopping centre management to try and get something done.
"We're a bit concerned that it's a health and safety hazard."
"Oh, I shouldn't worry about that: the place is full of health and safety hazards."
We're trying our best to find this reassuring.
"Look after yours ELF this Christmas!"
it says. I was just about to ask her if I looked like the sort of person who seemed to need a bit of looking after, and was she available for the job, when it occurred to me that the age difference was nearer thirty than twenty years.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
"You're a bit keen, aren't you?" I ask.
"We're trying to get together a pile of photos for a branding exercise to get some inward investment into the borough. I've got to get pictures of happy smiling shopping people. You can't imagine how difficult that is. Still, third time lucky I guess."
"Not much luck?"
A flourish of the hand encompassed the street.
"Look at it. Lunchtime in the run up to Christmas."I wished him luck with his doomed exercise and made my way through the merry throng saying "How much?!" as they window-shopped the Help The Aged outlet.
"Surely, half-empty shopping streets filled with surly brutes is the Helminthdale brand?"
"That would be accurate, right enough. It would be nice to be aspirational."
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Looking at the menu, these turn out to be: chicken in a basket, cocktail sausages and sausage rolls on sticks.
"Oooh... Did you hear his hip click when he did that pelvic thrust?"
If it were down to me it would be shelved with the L.Ron Hubbards.
Monday, December 07, 2009
The really scary thing is that come an election he's got a vote, same as thee and me.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Regular readers (bless you both) will have noticed that I quite often have some harsh things to say about our managers. This is largely because there are times when I want to shake them until their eyeballs drop out and it's probably safer for me to vent my spleen in this blog instead. I haven't, by any means, given you the whole picture. No apologies for that: it's my blog I can do what I want, so there. But I should at this point make it quite clear that in some respects we're quite lucky to have the library service managers we have. For one thing, they're not stupid, nor evil. They're reasonably intelligent, well-meaning people who are hard-working and conscientious. It's not everybody who can say that. Unfortunately, being well-intentioned isn't always enough, the road to Hell and all that. And putting a lot of hard work into things that don't really matter, while neglecting things that do, isn't good business either. Their effectiveness, individually and collectively, is shot to bits the by way we do things here. And that, in turn, isn't helped at all by Helminthdale Council's conducting business rather in the manner of a Daffy Duck cartoon. But we don't help ourselves.
T.Aldous cops for a lot of the blame for things. Indeed, T.Aldous is the Universal Scapegoat. And to be fair, he is to blame for a lot of the way we go about things. If you're dealing with him there are a few things you need to bear in mind:
- Nearly everything that T.Aldous does is intended to make sure that if anything goes wrong it wasn't him as done it. Naturally phenomenally defensive by nature, it is a tragedy that he was manoeuvred into the post by Shagger Noakes, who then spent the next ten years giving T.Aldous every good reason to make sure that his back was armour-plated at all times. By the time the idiot Noakes was paid off by the council the instincts were so ingrained as to be inescapable. So we can't do anything that may make us accountable to anybody for having made a decision (I am quoting T.Aldous himself there). This is no way to run a whelk stall, but then if Shagger Noakes were running a whelk stall the thing would have gone bust well before there was any question of hiring any staff and the problem wouldn't have arisen in the first place.
- T.Aldous has a nagging eye for detail. Which is great if you need to win a war of attrition with somebody particularly stubborn like the Human Resources Department, or downright rude like the Treasurer's Section. Unfortunately, it's not so great when you're a month past the deadline for delivering something and he's still obsessing as to whether or not that comma should be there on the invitation cards.
- There is no such thing as experience. Things happen. If we get away with it, we've got away with it and there's nothing to learn by it. If we don't get away with it it's because somebody else didn't do something and there's nothing to learn by it.
Having said that, T.Aldous is all too often a convenient reason for people not getting on with essential pieces of work. Quite a few times people have had conversations with him and discovered that the things they had been told for years are impossible because T.Aldous is stopping them happening are not only possible but, once he's found out they need doing, can be done within days or weeks.
It's convenient to refer to T.Aldous' lieutenants as Policy Team, which they call themselves, but one shouldn't take that as some sort of indication that they manage to work in any sense collectively. Far from it: while you can get quite a lot done by dealing with any one or two of them, the minute you need them to act or decide on things as a team you may as well jack it in and take your satchel home. They spectacularly don't work as a team and it baffles them as much as us to watch it happen.
Doreen and Julia are the Group Township Librarians, each responsible for the libraries in half of the Borough. They are both out of their depth, the difference being that Doreen realises it and has huge crises of confidence whereas Julia doesn't realise it and blithely steams through regardless of the consequences. Their positions aren't hopeless: if, at any time, determining the direction of our library service becomes any easier than pinning blancmange onto a buffalo then they have potential. It has to be said that Doreen is the better bet of the two, though. In many respects Julia is T.Aldous-lite, with many of his weaknesses and none of his political sensitivities. Doreen is remarkable for being the only member of Policy Team to realise that she is a personnel manager and that this involves a bit more than doing the weekly returns and the annual performance review.
Milton's the Reference, Information & Learning Manager and in some respects he's got the short straw. The good news is that Doreen and Julia line manage all the reference librarians, as staff of the establishment of the libraries they run. The bad news is that he doesn't line manage the reference librarians and so can't hold them to account when they don't deliver anything more than wet excuses (and too often not even them). The even worse news is that the poor beggar does line manage me. I've come to realise over the years that I'm a very difficult person to manage; I don't do it on purpose and I don't go out of my way to cause problems, but evidently I'm difficult. Milton, in turn, is a difficult person to be managed by. He's a genuinely nice bloke, very supportive, no end of ideas. Unfortunately, it's a bit like going for a walk with a golden labrador: you know where you'd intended going but you never seem to get there because you're spending half the time wondering where the hell he's run off this time. Every so often I have to hold my hand up and say: "yes, I know we could do all those things, and there's quite a few other things that would spin off from them, but what are we actually going to do?" To his credit, he'll take that off me (and nearly anybody else, too, for that matter) but not everybody would have the confidence to ask.
Jack Harry's very much the new boy. He's our Projects & Development Manager. I'm still trying to work out how he's doing. The good news is that he's happy to take responsibility for getting things done and taking any flak for it afterwards. The bad news is that he seriously underestimates the organisational problems with got, particularly with communication. And he's already got that hunted look about him that we all recognise from our looking in mirrors.
The situation's not hopeless, but we can't carry on the way that we are. Fingers crossed for the new year, I guess.
Friday, December 04, 2009
"For God's sake! You're not taking that manual home to read over the weekend."
"It'll be all right. It's a bit of light reading for me."
"No. You shouldn't take work home to do."
"Hark who's talking!"
"And which of us has had the nervous breakdown then?"
Needless to say, she still took the manual home with her. We're both of the same age, which means that any slight advantage in the argument I may have had in our youth has more than evaporated.
- The Reference Library keeps copies of "The Draper" for one month then puts lending date labels on them and ships them out to Pottersbury Road Library. Which literally doesn't have enough room for the stock, shelves or furniture it should have. Not since the school we pay the rent to stole a quarter of the floor space to make a new SureStart office. (We still pay the same rent, mind.)
- The Reference Library has a 1969 edition of "A Selection of the Coins of Rome from the Time of Trajan" on the open shelves.
- Fifteen year-old Ordnance Survey maps are being transferred from the Reference Library to Dutch Bend's lending library.
- There are four boxes of classical music cassettes under Mary's old desk, but on the shelves at Umpty Library according to the catalogue.
Sometimes it's as well to leave well alone.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
I'm reading a copy of "Les Inconnus dans la Maison" only because it was at the top of a pile of old Simenon paperbacks that we were debating whether to withdraw from stock.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
"I'll be decking him!" mutters Bronwyn.
So far this week she's done an author visit and two reading groups' Xmas parties; done reader support visits to two Social Care Learning Centres and to a homeless shelter; and unpicked the orders that can't be sent after T.Aldous took the money out of what was left of the book fund.
Arriving back from the shelter at lunchtime she was accosted by T.Aldous who berated her because the display window upstairs hadn't been updated since the beginning of November.
"We should have a Xmas display in there now!" he eventually mithered.
And so we should. Except:
- The display window's got nothing to do with Bronwyn.
- The Library Assistants who were planning on updating the window haven't had the chance because they've spent the past two weeks out of the building, providing cover for people who are no longer there.
We'll miss this if he ever goes.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Which is how we discovered that according to Google Maps the only places of interest in Helminthdale town centre are a knocking shop and a railway station that Doctor Beeching shut down.
This area's also used by Youth Workers so we've got some 'life skills' books for teenagers and young adults on the shelves just round the corner.
Luckily, the mother laughed when her child toddled up with a copy of "101 Things To Do With A Condom" and asked her to read him a story.
Monday, November 30, 2009
With faltering motions she points towards the cause. It's her turn for an email from the reference library.
Please could you ask all your staff to file the newspapers in such a way as to make them easily accessible. We are librarians, after all.
"It's probably not meant that way," I say.We'll get no sense out of her until after lunchtime.
"No, to be fair, it's probably not meant that way," agrees Maybelle.
"And it is a fair point that we need to make sure that materials are made easily accessible," I point out.
"Oh yes, that's a fair point," agreed Maybelle. "And it's probably not meant that way."
"No," I agree, "it's probably not meant that way."
"I've got rid of all of those Larry Grayson bookmarks in Mary's office. And the box of leaflets about the Millennium Book Festival. And the "Jimmy and Alfie go to The Reading Room" leaflets. And I've collected up all the spare stickers from all the reading games, Reading Agency promotions and the Pussycat Willum postcards so that we can start giving them out as freebies to the children who come in for class visits or special events."
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I'm appalled that we ever bought this tome in the first place, let alone now in the current circumstances.
Friday, November 27, 2009
"The printer's not letting us print the notices for tomorrow's author event," says Maudie.
"Shall we have yet another look at the settings to see what's wrong this time?" asks Maisie.
"Bollocks to it," decides Maudie.
It's been that type of a week.
To: Acq Team
These titles are updated monthly. We don't seem to have received them
recently. Please can you find out why.
We've not been ordering updates of these titles because they aren't on your standing order list.
To: Acq Team
When can we expect to receive the updates?
Last week, one of the teachers at St. Ignatius Lilo Primary School arranged for her class to visit Epiphany Library. This is routine stuff, we do it all the time. We're a library service. We encourage classes of schoolchildren. We let them borrow books. We suggest books and stories suitable for the children. We suggest books and stories suitable for the teachers and the classroom helpers. Wherever and whenever possible we try to provide a bit of value-added with a bit of a story time or some reading games. Which is why the teacher wanted to come to the library: she'd already been a few times and it had been a good thing.
Unfortunately, she wouldn't be able to come to the library herself this time but a colleague would be doing the honours.
Doubly-unfortunately we've got a few people off sick, a few on maternity leave and a few vacancies that haven't been filled, so we're struggling for staff to keep the doors open. It became horribly apparent yesterday that the staff at Epiphany Library would "only" be able to welcome the class, show them around and help them borrow as many books as they liked but that she wouldn't be able to do a story time as she'd be having to deal with the other customers as well (she's also having to do the caretaking duties but that's another can of worms). So Posy rang the school to explain the situation and to stress that while we were very happy to see them we could only give them the key deliverables. The teacher seemed OK with that and all was well.
The kids came in, were welcomed, were shown round, etc. And all went swimmingly until the final moment of the visit when the accompanying teacher turned to the Library Assistant and, instead of saying "thank you," said:
"You should have spent all your time with us instead of standing round at the counter answering 'phone calls. It's very unprofessional."
By and large we have extremely professional (small and important "p") front-line staff. Far too professional for one of them to point out that a well-paid role model's dissing someone on half her salary in front of a class of impressionable young five-year-olds isn't exactly the acme of professionalism.
- You are given a pot of money, with which to buy authorised materials.
- You buy, or order, authorised materials, spending and/or committing the money in your budget.
- The council freezes all expenditure on everything except consultants and certain essentials.
- You stop ordering anything that costs money.
- You are told that you are allowed to spend a very tiny amount.
- You check that the very tiny amount you are told you can spend is more than the amount you have committed for items awaiting delivery.
- You find that you have a teeny, tiny amount of money that you can safely spend on a few Christmas blockbusters.
- You get a bollocking for overspending your budget.
- You find that three days before you ordered a few Christmas blockbusters somebody decided to remove a large amount of money from your budget to offset an income target that's entirely unachievable because we don't charge people for renting these items any more because we haven't had any of them for more than sixteen years.
Which is why Bronwyn's spent the past two days trying to explain the concept of advance stock ordering to T.Aldous. The explanation that this is the only way to make sure that we get copies of popular titles less than a month after people start complaining that they've "seen copies on sale in Tesco and Asda so why isn't there a copy at my library?" is like water off a duck's back.
This isn't a good day to wind Bronwyn up with the three boxes of Larry Grayson bookmarks we found in Mary's office.
"So why are you overspent then? The books haven't arrived yet."
"Because the money was already committed in September and you've taken even more than that out of the budget."
"Well, I can't see why you've needed to overspend."
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
This council's network is never exactly speedy. In fact, we've never really managed to regain the heady line speeds we got used to when we installed our first internet PCs back in '97. Back then you could watch a web page load in a minute or even less. Younger members of staff scorn such ideas as being tainted with the rose-tinted glasses of the purest nostalgic blarney.
Top of today's treats is not having access to our web site. Or our web catalogue. Or our suppliers' catalogues. Or our personal folders. Or USB devices. A combination of network mapping "anomalies," a massive anti-virus upgrade and a corporate internet filter that deems all corporately-derived traffic as being spam appears to be to blame. Or at least, it does if you piece together all the explanations provided by the IT Section over the past three days. Delaney's donkey's probably in there, too, somewhere.
The public PCs are generally better as they're on a different network. Having said that we're still having more fun than we really want. British Standards Online is being a pig to make available, primarily because there's no British Standard for providing a customer-responsive information service; Amish Online isn't available because the buttons don't work; the internet security update is stopping emails' opening; and nothing's going to the network printers.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
If the staff at the library could just confine themselves to buying in a few cakes and lots of fizzy pop and bedecking the library with bunting and paper chains then it would be a splendid occasion and a jewel in the library calendar.
Unfortunately, it always deteriorates into arguments about who's making the cakes and buns and how much time they can claim back for the doing thereof (which nearly always should be "none" as bought-in's quite adequate for the purpose and we're so short-staffed we can't afford to have people taking half a day off for baking). Of course it's never as easy as that and there's always some point in history where somebody agreed to something or other and this is taken as cast-iron and immoveable custom and practice (whereas doing something like taking the tatty old books off the shelves and replacing them with the new stock that's been boxed up in the staff room since it arrived six months ago is entirely optional).
The backwash from the event always lingers up to the summer holidays. We've only had a couple of weeks' worth of the overture and beginners and already there's talk round here of either having the place subjected to a food inspection or else praying for a power cut.
A colleague elsewhere in the council is struggling with a new casework system. The purpose of the system is the recording of information that may be used in legal proceedings some time in the future, including lots of who said what and when. Consequently there are a lot of fields requiring a lot of narrative text which requires verbatim transcription from other files and/or written notes. And like most modern systems you can hit the tab key to take you down to the next field.
So they're not best pleased to find that this system logs you off in mid-flow as you're typing because it's decided that seeing as you haven't clicked the mouse in the past five minutes this must be an inactive session. So you then have to log back on, search for the record you were working on and try and pick up where you were so rudely interrupted.
Monday, November 23, 2009
This doesn't mean that we escape entirely scot free. Dutch Bend town centre, situated as it is at the confluence of couple of dozen brooks, becks, sewage works and canal overflows with the River Ump, is given to flooding and this season hasn't disappointed. We're lucky in that the library's part of the old town built on the high ground next to the church and environs offering sanctuary for townsfolk and their sundry livestock. The latter may explain some of the anomalies between the visitor counts and issue figures.
Gypsy Lane Library's flooding problems are a new phenomenon perhaps not entirely unrelated to a developer's having concreted over the village pond behind the library so that he could build a block of bijou executive apartments.
Catty Library's building an ark. We think they're suffering the effects of all that varnish on the new floor.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Salome spotted Lippy heading that way, sneaked in, switched off the light and hid behind the stall door. As Lippy entered and switched on the light Salome jumped out and shouted "Boo!"
Cue hysteria, screams of "I'm a ghostie!" and five minutes' worth of rude posterior noises made with the mouth.
Neither of these ladies is going to be seeing their fortieth birthday again. I don't know what the young ones make of it.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Not only has Noreen provided them with umpteen copies of the standing order list, the Reference Librarians wrote it!
These are the people bringing Knowledge Management into the community...
"What do we get on standing order these days?"
"I've sent three copies of the standing order list to Catty Library in the past two weeks."
"I can't find it. Can you check for me?"
"What am I looking for?"
"The Minutes of The Annual Meeting of the Particular Brethren."
"I'll just check... ...No, that one's been cancelled."
"Yes, the Reference Librarians finally came up with a list of the standing orders we needed to pass on to the new supplier and quite a few titles were dropped in the process so that we weren't vastly overspending that budget yet again."
"But Mrs. Feathergill comes in to read this every year without fail!"
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
This morning he gets an indignant 'phone call from one of the librarians over there. Frog had to spend twenty minutes providing a diplomatic answer to the question "Do I really have to do all this work before Saturday? I'm far too busy!"
He was interrupted in the middle of making the arrangements for another event at Umpty and doing the paperwork for the audit of Bookstart Treasure Box provision in the Umpty and Catty areas while his adversary had spent all morning sitting in the back office transferring three books to Gypsy Lane Library. In the circumstances I think he deserves a medal for tact and diplomacy.
This week they've wasted half a ream of paper in test prints so it's been a rip-roaring success so far.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
"It's no better."And off she went.
"It's no better?"
"Nay, lad. It's no better."
"No better than..."
"It's no better than the last time I came in and telled you."
"So... do you want me to..."
"I just thought I'd come in and tell you it were no better."
As the worker in question was a relative, Bronwyn couldn't resist asking: "what was all that about?"
"I've no idea. I was hoping that if I kept her talking long enough she might give me a clue but she wasn't having any of it."
Monday, November 16, 2009
"What are all these chairs doing stacked up here?" asks T.Aldous.
To be fair, it's a question any one of us could ask at any time, though the answer usually starts "T.Aldous..."
"That lot's for going out to Spadespit and them's for Roadkill Library," explains Seth.
"How are they getting there?"
"They're being picked up and delivered on Thursday."
"What are they going out for?"
"I've no idea."
"Nobody tells me anything in this place!" pouts T.Aldous.
The damned fool's only been in three hours and he's spent all that time sat in his office making a nuisance of himself with the telephone. This is not lost on Seth:
"Congratulations! You're now exactly the same as every other member of staff in the Library Service."
"I keep ringing people and they're not in and then they ring back when Maisie's not at her desk."
The painfully obvious question is: why doesn't T.Aldous answer his own telephone?
The painfully bewildering answer is that he says that he has to put his 'phone through to Maisie so that if anybody rings him while he's on his 'phone he won't miss their call.
So what happens is that Maisie's 'phone rings. Somebody (far too often poor old Maisie herself) then has to trot over to T.Aldous' office, peek in, try and work out whether or not he's on his 'phone, realise that he is, trot back and tell the person who would otherwise have been confronted with an engaged tone:
"Sorry, he's on the 'phone at the moment."
Sunday, November 15, 2009
So what would happen post-T.Aldous? I'm not sure that he'd be replaced: after all, Warner's the head of service and he's got a whole Policy Team to run the show for him. And besides, we're massively over spent on the staffing budget (how??? we're constantly scratching for cover for all our libraries to keep the doors open...) and the council's boracic with only enough money to pay consultancy fees and councillors' expenses. Of course, all this would mean that some of Policy Team would have to up their game quite a bit. T.Aldous, for all his many faults, has much to commend him. He works damned hard, just too often not very effectively as he's hopeless at picking and choosing his battles and gets a tad obsessive about irrelevancies.
And the obvious question arises: how would some folk cope without having T.Aldous around to blame for not getting things done? We live in a time of Chinese proverbs...
Saturday, November 14, 2009
The staff had organised a pot-luck brunch for Mary (which gave the caretaking and cleaning staff the opportunity to join in) and a lot of goodies were provided. People popped in from all over the place, including escapees like Jimmy Huddersfield, Tilly Floss and Onabushkan Flo. It was all very warm and convivial and pleasant. Warner Baxter popped in to say cheerio to Mary. And he waited, and everyone else waited, and Mary waited...
T.Aldous made a big fuss and got everybody into the staff room who wasn't needed to cover the front line in the library. Everybody got in, awaiting the presentation of gifts and card. T.Aldous returned, said thank you, took a photo and disappeared.
Eventually it started to dawn on people that that was that and they slowly drifted away.
Just after lunch T.Aldous made it known that everybody was to go upstairs to the Lending Library as he wanted to present Mary with the thanks of the Library Service and a parting gift. Now, this was well meant but... It would have been OK in a branch library, where the customers know the individual staff very well and are grateful for the opportunity to say thank you and good luck to departing people. But not often in our biggest library, where service tends to be a bit more of the production line methodology. And especially not as it's been a quarter of a century since Mary worked on the front line. The customers looked on bemused as T.Aldous did his spiel and Mary tried not to be embarassed.
The gift was a nice bouquet of flowers in a box. Which isn't the gift we've all chipped in for. And Mary's not had her card yet. We're hoping that both are being saved for the evening meal that's been organised for next week.
As I said the other day: well-meaning, but really not quite right.
Then Mary attended her last Policy Team Meeting, where they discussed the latest budget cuts.
Friday, November 13, 2009
"How's it feel to be part of the machinery of ruthless pursuit of excellence in public library service delivery?" I ask him.
"It's... interesting," he replies.
I don't remember him being grey when he started with us.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
We have half a million of the bloody things. I shudder to think how many librarian hours would be involved in a review of the disposition of our stock.
Oh, so that's what librarians do is it? Someone needs to tell Bronwyn: she's running herself into the ground trying to put together a comprehenisve stock profile and replenishment process pretty much by herself.
There is one big problem: of the people available in Policy Team today, neither is prepared to accept responsibility for accepting delivery just in case T.Aldous on his return decides that they are the wrong shade of wood.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
"And what do you do?" she asked me.
"Essentially, I'm just here as eye candy," I explained, truthfully.
"Don't kid yourself sugarbutty," muttered Sybil, unkindly.
Monday, November 09, 2009
The options were:
- "Something will come up"
- "We'll have to have a think about this"
- "We'll need to prioritise"
- "There's plenty of time yet"
- "We'll have to sort out an arrangement for that"
- "We can't say anything at the moment"
- All of the above
Hemlock all round, kids!
"I have an office and corridor full of PCs and monitors that are no good to anyone, their current function is to upset the Health and Safety militia by being "hazards", which in the grand scheme of things rates as rather comfortably functional.
"There are only so many as our IT Section have been "renegotiating" the contract with disposal companies. This has taken six months during which time we have not been able to get rid of anything. Previously we would ring up, arrange a collection date and big wagon would appear with two hefty lads to shift mountains of defunct People's Network PCs. However we seem to have reduced in our expectation, as instead of wagon, two hefty bodies and capacity to remove up to ten palettes of stuff, we now have the ability to move five PCs at a time! So this is going to become a race, can we stop replacing PCs quicker than they can dispose of them?
"In order to try and assist matters the Council have introduced their annual spending freeze as we again have overspent on such as bookmarks with pictures of Councillors on them, so I can't spend more than £100 on anything without Chief Officer permission."
Friday, November 06, 2009
The good news is that a lot of people have put in a lot of effort to give her a bit of a send-off and have personally wished her the best of luck, so she won't feel abandoned. And for all that she could be hard work to deal with as a manager she is a genuinely nice person so I'm sure people will keep in touch with her. And there's an evening leaving do for her in a couple of weeks' time. So that's all nice.
And even the bad news is the result of well-meaning utter wrong-headedness. Let's have sleeping dogs lie, eh?
Thursday, November 05, 2009
"Which of you are going to be the first to provide libraries in shopping centres?" she asked. Well, we have for the best part of two decades and we were by no means the first. The day we're innovative leaders in this particular context the Pope will be baring his bum at the Vatican.
She then went on to suggest that we should try and attract young male readers by stocking comics and Manga books. Again, old news. We were very late into this game, only starting stocking graphic novels (which are mostly, but not exclusively, comics collected into book form) and Manga as part of a project aimed at young adult males just before the Millennium. (I'd be happy for us not to stock Manga, too much of which I find to be quite misogynistic, but the market's there right enough.)
She'll be telling us next that we might like to have a few computers about the place and do story times for pre-school children.
I could understand the minister responsible for the nuclear industry not being up to speed on the latest technological developments but you'd like to think that the minister responsible for libraries would have at least the educated lay person's idea of what's happening in a service that is provided most every day to most every community. (I can say that with some confidence seeing as we're all required to have at least one service point within a mile's radius of 95% of the population).
We keep wittering on about the lack of national leadership. Is it any wonder...
"Hello Lippy, you're looking very nice
"What do you want?"
"Nothing. I thought I'd just tell you that you looked very nice today."
"Go away! I can't cope with this!"
"No one except me and Maudie have signed it. We bought it weeks ago and thought it would be best to give it to T.Aldous straight away to sign so that we'd get the usual delay over and done with first and then get it round the libraries in time for her retirement. Just this once we wanted to avoid getting everyone to sign it, give it to T.Aldous and then not get it back till a week after the event."
"I don't need to ask the next question, do I?"
"Better not. I'd only cry."
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Unfortunately, The Catty Examiner, like many other local papers, is owned by the Grauniad Media group. The Grauniad's steady decline over the past five decades from being The Manchester Guardian to becoming The Islington Boulevardier's Gazette has been a sad one but only of limited interest due to its affecting just the one newspaper. Alas, expensive experiments in Berliner format, Huge Foaming-Witterings and staff charabanc trips to exotic locations like Battersea, Borough Market and Brixton have chastened the coffers and Economies Must Be Made. Which translates into "continue to spend money like water in metropolitan pursuits and sack lots of journalists in local papers and close down offices." Something to bear in mind next time a Grauniad columnist bangs on about the importance of localism and community empowerment. What this means for us locally is that our three local papers have shut up shop and now run from a desk somewhere in a back office in Manchester (until the Evening News gets its legs cut off from under it, in which case they'll all be run from the Colonial Desk at Farringdon Lane).
We're already seeing the results, with "news stories" that even the greenest local cub reporter would pick holes in. Today we have an entirely artificial kerfuffle caused by a report that there's apparently a row about Social Services moving out of Milkbeck Library.
Social Services have never been in Milkbeck Library.
Doreen has had a pile of work on her hands caused by the Housing Advice Team moving into Milkbeck Library after a cock-up over office accommodation elsewhere in the community. This could have quite a lot of benefits to both services and to their customers, but like everything else in Helminthdale Council it's been an unplanned last-minute fiasco. Luckily, we could jiggle things round rather a lot to make enough space for a new advice desk, but not without taking the local audiovisual collection out of service in the process.
Which would have been a truer, and more interesting, story for the newspaper.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
The bad news is that we've got seventy-two boxes of books in the fire escape corridor.
The good news is that after a fire inspection report we'll start storing incoming boxes in the dispatch room, where they should have been going for the past two decades.
The bad news is that it's all a bit academic really: the book fund's been frozen 'cos the council's skint.
I think that's an excuse for a poll.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Helminthdale Council will work to put service to the customer at the forefront of its activities.
It doesn't seem to occur to anybody to be embrassed that a local authority actually has to say this. Nor that it's taken the Council's Bobbing Up And Down Team eighteen months to come up with it.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
At current rates of pay you wouldn't be getting any change from £250 from any of these meetings.
Friday, October 30, 2009
This isn't yet part of the operating realities of the Library Service, thank God! The IT Section has embraced the concept of hot-desking such that whenever you log onto a PC for the first time you have to:
- Reset your password. Your password must be at least eight character long; must contain at least one number and/or "special character;" and cannot be similar to any of the last twenty-one passwords you have used in the past.
- Create an Outlook profile for your email.
- Wait for your new Outlook Inbox to populate.
- Wait for your new Outlook Inbox to synchronise with I know not what.
- Map all the network drives you need to have access to (assuming that you carry around a note of the addresses of all the appropriate servers).
- Add any and all appropriate printers to both the PC and your profile.
- Install your printer password and password permissions in the appropriate printer properties so that you'll be able to actually print some of the things that you send to the printer.
- Get the Helpdesk to enable your Internet permissions on this PC.
- Set up the shortcuts for anything that isn't Microsoft Office or Internet Explorer.
- Set up the permissions to use any peripheral devices.
This council isn't big on productivity.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
"Can you get me a list of all the books that were withdrawn from the Catalogue in April?"
"Yes. What do you want? Just the title and author? Any other information?"
"I just need a list of the books that went into the summer book sale at Roadkill Library. Can you do that for me?"
"Are the books that were withdrawn from the Catalogue in April the ones that went into the summer book sale at Roadkill Library?"
" I should think that they would be, probably. Could you email the list to Warner, telling him that these were the books in the summer book sale at Roadkill?"
"I will email him the list, telling him that these are the books withdrawn from the Catalogue in April."
Call me a pedant if you like...