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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


The last day of the financial year.

The last day for making sure that we maximise our potential for meeting targets, standards and delivery requirements.

The last day for encouraging staff to try to do that little bit extra to eke an extra percentage difference to the statistics.

The last day for making sure that i's are dotted and t's are crossed and the year is done and dusted and wrapped up in pink ribbon.

The last day for the whole of Policy Team except Mary to be on leave.


OK, OK, we perform better without them. It's the principle of the thing.

Monday, March 30, 2009


We've had a wheelie bin for recycling paper for a few weeks here, now, which is laudable. Once a week we completely fill it and every Wednesday Seth wheels it out for it to be emptied by the council. All of which is greenly excellent.

It all rather falls to bits once our managers get themselves involved. The plan now is that Kevin the van driver is going to pick up all the waste paper from all the other libraries to bring it back here to fill this wheelie bin, which we fill to the top already. He's having to do a special trip for the pick-up, which rather compromises the green intentions.

I queried this and got the useful flannel. I couldn't resist it.

"Why are we shipping in the crap from Catty, Dutch Bend and Umpty?"

"It's more efficient."

"I don't see why we don't go the whole hog and tell the public to bring their shit into their local library so that it can be sent here. I'm sure it would be popular. It would do our visitor figures no end of good."

I think that counts as another suggestion that isn't going into the implementation pile.

Friday, March 27, 2009

On other other channel there's a big sugar cube with a two painted on it going round and round

As sure as eggs...

Less than two hours to go before the council's accounts are closed and the e-procurement system's been down since lunchtime. My, how Maisie laughed.

"I've all these orders to process and I can't do a thing!"

Mind you, we have have all the rest of the year in which to get spent up.

Fate relents and it's back up and running. It's a horrible system and not much fun to have to use at the best of times. These aren't the best of times. Every so often I hear Maisie mutter:

"I wish this bloody system would crash again."


The Acq. Team are a little less rattled: a small shipment of new books have arrived so the cupboard isn't entirely bare any more.

"It isn't anywhere near as bad as last year's stupidity - that was just awful - but it's still very unnerving," says Noreen.

It has been a bit strange, I admit. In jocular mood I point out:

"I hope there's none for Catty Library. They'll be sending it back with a message to say that there's not enough room on the shelves, what with all the new stock they got for the re-opening."

"What new stock for the re-opening?" asks Bronwyn.

"Didn't they get any new stock?" I ask, puzzled.

"No. That's one of the bones of contention with them. Somebody was supposed to be ordering new stock for the adult lending library and they didn't bother."

"In that case, why do I keep hearing that they've got lots of minty-fresh books on the shelves?"

"Because they've never been used."

I do the numbers, they're right. The disgracefully old rubbish has been withdrawn in the process of closing the library, leaving behind a rump of stuff that would have been OK at time of buying a few years ago had it not been diluted by old tat that's not exactly setting the world alight. Yet another in a long, long list of lost opportunities with this particular piece of work.


The printers at Pottersbury Road and Grimley libraries have died so I've had to ask Milton if we can buy new. He's said yes, once we find out what the IT department have decided we're going to be buying. Which doesn't solve that problem any time soon as we've been waiting since the new year.

One of the PCs on the counter at Gypsy Lane has had a hard disk failure. Three of the PCs at Helminthdale Central and all the PCs at Grimley are so old and slow that you can brew a cup of tea, drink it and wash up afterwards in the time it takes to open an email in Outlook. All were due to be replaced last November when the outsourcing company's London office stuck its oar in and stopped Helminthdale's hardware replacement programme.

And staff ringing the IT helpdesk about problems with the People's Network connections have been referred on to me depsite my having the same rights and priveliges on this system as the general public.

Happy days.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Don't worry, there's no rush with the knitting

T.Aldous is fed up, and who can blame him? The rolling thunder that is our pay & grading process is winding him up even more than it's wound us up. He's fed up of being told that there are only winners when 82% of library staff are actually going to be worse off as a result.

He's also a bit browned off with me because he keeps dropping extremely broad hints that he wants me to lead a peasants' revolt on the subject and I'm really not sure I can be arsed any more. Between them, he and Human Resources have fucked my job about so much over the past five years that I'm very nearly beyond caring. I am, though, deeply unimpressed by the sleight of hand that removes all the benefits from front line library staff so I'll probably end up doing something or other to throw a few coals on the fire.

The latest wind-up for our man is a morning briefing on pay & grading by Human Resources wherein they spent three hours telling all the service heads exactly the same, word for word, as the PowerPoint slides the buggers made us all sit through last November. Just as uselessly, as it's the usual content-free gloss-over of an opaque process designed to stitch up the staff budget so that they can save a few bob to be spent on councillors' allowances and the golf course. Allegedly. T.Aldous is scrupulously careful not to divulge the content of the briefing save to say:

"What an utter waste of time. We've heard it all before. You've heard it all before. They won't take questions. They won't answer questions. We can't submit comments. And they take more than three hours to tell it to us. In the end three of us had had enough and we got up and said: "we're sorry, we've got services to the public to deliver" and left."

You've got to hand it to him sometimes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


"We've not bought any furniture, have we?" I asked Maisie.


"No new shelving?"




"Waste paper bins?"


"Are you as frightened as I am?"

"The accounts close at four o'clock on Friday. I daresn't even blink before then."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shortcuts to happiness

All the new PCs that have been installed conform to the new corporate plan. You're not allowed access to the hard disk drive, only to a virtual desktop. The virtual desktop being on that PC only, not somewhere on the network so that you have the same desktop whichever PC you're logged onto (which would make sense given the the corporate machine tells us that we're all going to have to hot desk in order to save office space)(don't go there!). So when you log onto a PC you've not used before you have to:
  • set up your desktop shortcuts
  • set up your connections to the printer ('cos the systems administrator can't set the defaults on the PC up so that anyone who's logged on prints to the appropriate printer(s))
  • set up your email profile
  • set up your connections to the shared network folders
  • change the settings of your connections to the shared network folders because the IT Section's been moving the servers round again and the list of network addresses you've been using is now defunct
  • set up all the peripheral hardware on the PC ('cos the systems administrator can't set the defaults on this, either)
  • find out which, if any, of the networked drives the peripherals are allowed to save to on this PC
  • ring the IT helpdesk because your virtual desktop on this PC doesn't give you permission to access to the library management system
  • ring the IT helpdesk because your virtual desktop on this PC doesn't give you permission to log into the customer management system for the People's Network PCs
  • ring the IT helpdesk because there are shortcuts to the corporate personnel systems on your virtual desktop which you don't have permission to use but which are triggering "you have unused icons on your desktop" messages; only to find that they don't have permission to delete these shortcuts either
  • ring the IT helpdesk to get the same internet access permissions on this PC that you should have on all PCS
and repeat.


Frog and I are trying to sort out the allocation of a humongous pile of Book You picture books that we're trying to diffuse around the Borough without causing too many ructions. This involves the application of complex algorithms factoring in the number of books; the number of titles; the available shelf space; the temperment of the branch managers; and the reactions of the librarians.

We are at a crucial part of the process when Mary potters over and insists on telling us all about a new paper cutter she's bought for the Woodcraft Folk that turns a piece of paper into a Medieval castle in the twinkling of an eye. Not that the explanation took the twinkling of an eye, mind you.

"Something like that would be so go for the craft activities in the libraries,"

says the person who is always telling Frog that he can't buy any craft paper because there's not enough money in the budget.

Libray 2.0

Popping into Hannigan's Truss Boutique this lunchtime to see if I could pick up any post-Mothering Sunday bargains I bump into Ken Barmy. He is livid. His chief had been to a local Big Chief's Pow-Wow and been inspired by a presentation by one of the more bumptious chief's acolytes.

"The bugger then gave me a lecture on blogging. And Facebook. And Myspace. And Twitter. And asked why we hadn't done these things as they're ever so easy and they're an excellent way of reaching out to new audiences. And we can't stay in the dark ages you know.

"So I pointed out that
  • I'd created some blogs a couple of years ago and nobody much cared;
  • I'd raised the issue of social networking sites in a few hundred emails to my lords and masters over the years will nil response;
  • I'd pointed out in a presentation to them that they were going to have to get their heads around the possibilities and in response they said that they should be the ones creating our web pages; and
  • if it takes four months to get any official word about the opening of a library that I can put onto our existing web site there's not a cat in hell's chance of them Twittering effectively.

"So the upshot is that I need to get my finger out because the world's moving on and we can't be standing still."

There's always somebody worse off than yourself, thank God.

Times are hard

I'm taking this as a compliment. I shan't name names so as to spare the lady's maidenly blushes.

"There's nothing wrong with you that can't be solved by half a hundredweight of kapok."

Monday, March 23, 2009

I heard the voice of a porkchop

The internet connection's down again; none of the networked printers work anywhere; one library can't log onto the People's Network; another can't answer its 'phone; another is staffed by people I didn't know existed until I got a panicky 'phone call to tell me they couldn't log onto any of the systems; one library's PCs are so slow that it takes fifteen minutes for an email to open; none of us can read Hebrew so we're only guessing what a customer's error message was telling him; and it's pissing down with sleet outside.

Another day in Paradise.


There's a problem at Pottersbury Road and I'm asked to ring them up...

"But you can't ring their number 'cos the 'phone's out of order because it was locked away in a cupboard without being charged up."

I tried contacting them with a glass tumbler and a set of playing cards but nobody was answering.


A customer borrowed a book from Umpty Library. He wasn't overly impressed by its vintage.

"If I bring this back late I expect you'll be charging me my overdue fines in guineas."


Corporate Helminthdale has picked up on the Local Government Association's strictures against naught language. Corporate Helminthdale has decided to champion this external challenge, cascading best practice to its agencies so that practitoners become ambassadors with embedded core values for meaningful dialogue with our customers.

It's a lot of fun. With one sinsister note...

...We're not allowed to say that anyone or anythig is welcome.

Business as usual for large parts of this council.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Beyond the blue horizon

Noreen's surveying the empty fire escape corridor. Empty. In March.

"This is very, very disturbing," she says.

"Keep your nerve, girl," I advise.

Of course, we both know I'm talking out of my arse. It really is very, very unnerving.

Best sellers

Bronwyn's investigating the latest batch of boxes to be sent in by Catty Library. They're all best-sellers, either from the Orange longlist or Richard & Judy's Bookclub. Each one has a handwritten note inside:

"We already have a copy of this."

A quick check of the catalogue shows that each and every one of the copies left behind at Catty are on loan.

I can't imagine why, after a superb refurbishment, complete stock refresh and lots and lots of publicity in the local rag, Catty Library's issue figures still aren't as good as they were before they closed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

She wanted Mary Poppins but I took her to King Lear

We're taking bets on how long it takes to hear anything officially about yesterday's bunfest at Catty Library. A dead waste of time as everybody is putting their money on "never."

Unofficially it seems to have gone well:

The celebrity was a darling (I shan't name names as she's done me no harm but you might have seen her on "Compact"). Not only did she sign all the photographs proferred with a charming smile but, when they ran out, she signed bookmarks, library books and doubtless the occasional blank cheque.

The official cake was cut. Once somebody had nipped out to get a knife. (Greek chorus: "We knew they wouldn't be allowed sharp objects!")

And, as with all good parties, there were three rows and at least two people on the verge of crying in the kitchen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Staff room conversation:

"I've not seen you for a bit, Maudie. How was your holiday?"

"Very nice. We went to London for a few days."

"Oh, very good. Stay at the Dorchester did you?"

"No... Mind you, I did once went to the Dorchester. To use the loo."

"Did you have to wear your white gloves?"

"Oh no, they've got paper these days."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


T.Aldous bustles over.

"I've just noticed that you've not been invited to Catty's opening tomorrow. I'm really sorry about that. Do you want an invitation?" he asks.

"Oh no,"

I reply. Rather too quickly.

"Just so long as you're not offended," he says. "I think I've caught up with everybody and I'm sure we've got the last minute details sorted out now."

"Is Julia on site doing the finishing touches?" I ask.

"No, she's on leave today," replies T.Aldous with ill-concealed disgust.

Which I knew already as it had already been noted with disgust by the library assistants.

A degree of irony and self-awareness largely absent from the text

We get a corporate global email from the Chief Executive...

As part of the council's lurch into the brave new world of empowered employee buy-in we're going to have a New Staff Newsletter. Again. If in doubt, launch a New Staff Newsletter.

This prompts an immediate and enthusiastic discussion amongst the ranks in the library.
  • Salome suggests "Bugger bugger bugger bugger."
  • Sybil suggests "Two fingers to the workplace."
  • And Maudie suggests "Bollocks."

Not Dublin Core yet

Policy Group is really picking up on the potential of the Library Service as a helpmeet in the digital information age:

"Why do we need to catalogue the electronic references? We can save them as favourites on the Reference Library PC."

Monday, March 16, 2009

The impurities caused the laughs

Beryl's decided that she's going to retire in a couple of months' time. She reckons she's had enough of the whole shebang and wants to get out before it's Senebene Library's turn for the will-they won't-they move to a multi-service centre game.

"I could do without the pissing about," she says.

So that'll be another vacancy to have to cover for a while. Doreen's quite determined to get the post filled a.s.a.p. There are other parts of Policy Group quite as determined to have business as usual.

Meanwhile we still haven't filled the Branch Manager's post at Roadkill, which has been vacant for months. Nor, indeed, Bronwyn's old job after a year. And Jim's been gone more more than six months.

If one of our performance targets involves massively underspending the staff and book buying budgets then we must be heading for a gold star.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Finality, but not just yet

I like Milton but he does like the sound of his own voice. He can't just talk the hind legs off a donkey but he can prop the poor brute back up and repeat the performance. A large part of it is that he's chock full of ideas and gets carried away with the possibilities. The other part of it is that he hasn't the self-discipline necessary to make sure he's not gone running off into the wildwood whilst the rest of the band are setting up camp.

This morning's meeting is a case in point. He's got the right idea in that we're going to be be moving a couple of libraries into new multi-service centres and we need to decide what we want to get out of the process. There is the very real possibility that we'll do our usual trick of sitting back and doing nothing then moaning because we're given the space that was left over after everyone else claimed a bit. So he did right to call a meeting to try and force the agenda.

Unfortunately he rather undermined his success by delivering a twenty-five minute long summing-up. Particpants haven't gone away with a clear idea of what we're going to do. They've gone away with the sight of T.Aldous pointedly packing up his notebook and glasses and putting his jacket back on and then having to sit there fuming for an extra ten minutes.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bombarded by watermelons

"What the hell are all these boxes?"

exclaims Bronwyn.

It's a pile of crap from Catty Library.

Retail therapy

It won't surprise many to know that we've got a panic on to spend up the stock budget at the last minute yet again. Mary is all for going on a visit to the supplier's partner's shop this week to buy something or other, she's not sure what. Bronwyn is all for doing no such thing.

"You can't go there and do a visit. You'll be blacklisted. Last time you went there you left without paying," Bronwyn scolds.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Return to sender

T.Aldous has had a right dig at Lola about the boxes piled round the Assistant Librarians' desk. Lola is dead narked.

"Don't worry about it," says Salome, "I've had him and Doreen on my back about them all week."

"Let's get shut of the bloody things," says Lola. "What's in them?"

"All that stuff that they brought over from Catty last year."

Last year, when Catty Library was closed for rebuilding works, the Assistant Librarians reluctantly came over to lend Salome a hand (Lola was on maternity leave at the time and we've been carrying a vacant post for a year). What actually happened was that they sent over boxes of stock to be transferred between libraries; tatty old books to be withdrawn from stock; and assorted crap. Then they pretended to be working on this stuff in lieu of actually doing any work. When the time came to re-open Catty Library they decamped and left all this shit behind them.

"That's sorted then," said Lola and Salome.

And they taped the boxes up and sent them back to Catty.

This harks back to the time when the Marx Brothers played in the US Open Golf Tournament

How long have we had internet access in the reference library?

"We've got a problem."

"What's up?"

"One of our customer's just tried to get onto a web site and can't get on. It says that the server is unavailable."


"Well, what are you going to do about it?"

"It's the server at the other end, the one holding the web site, that's unavailable."

"But the customer wants to go on that web site."

"How many other people have you got on the computers in ref?"

"A dozen."

"Are they on the internet OK?"


"We don't have a problem. We can't do anything more to help. Cheery bye."

There is really no excuse for this

I have just heard myself, in all seriousness, tell a rep. from a supplier:

"Well, you appear to have caught the zeitgeist with that one."

I deserve shooting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Diapery of the Gods
(ta Lavinia!)

I'm trying not to wonder why there's a paper recycling bin in the staff toilet.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Boling over

I've found out a bit more about this business of customers having to queue up three times to pick up items they've reserved. It turns out that the problem isn't that staff were putting their backs out bending under the counter to get the books off the reservation shelf. The problem is that (presumably female) staff wearing low-cut tops were complaining about customers looking down their cleavages.

To be fair, there are some pretty impressive decolletages in the lending library. Even so, I can't help feeling they're solving the wrong problem.

We ought to be issuing counter staff with modesty bodices.

Friday, March 06, 2009


T.Aldous is put out, and quite rightly: he's spent all afternoon ringing round invitees to next week's official re-opening of Catty Library to find out how many of them are coming, so as to make sure that there's enough food for the buffet. He's also been ringing round the people who should have been invited and weren't and making 'Oh dear, you haven't received the invitation? I'll get another one sent to you just in case the first one doesn't turn up in time for you to get the details" noises.

"I know I'm not very good at time management but I'd planned for a more productive afternoon than that," he complains.

"Just out of curiosity, why are you doing it?" I ask.

"I asked Julia if she'd confirmed which guests were going to come and she said: 'I thought you were doing that.' I'm trying to be better at delegating things to people but there are times when you still end up having to sort things out yourself."

There are times when I could shake T.Aldous until his eyes pop out of his head. Having said that, he's a bloody good excuse for other members of staff to hide behind when the mood suits.

You're wild, and you're also a thing

Bronwyn's reading the paper in the staff room and happens upon a picture of an unfeasibly cute tree kangaroo which is smiling for the camera for no apparent reason.

"Isn't that gorgeous?" she coos. "It doesn't look real, does it? I mean, those colours and that cute little face, it's just like somebody's made it up to make you go 'ahhh!' Are they vicious? Do they bite and scratch you if they get the chance?"

"Bronwyn, behind that calm and bland facade there's a really dark and scary world view seething about in there."

The uproar of the butterflies

Policy Team are having a bit of a wobble. They've suddenly noticed that this year's figures for reservations performance are awful. I've been telling them this since August. We're barely able to meet the standard proportion of reservations satisfied within a week and are nowhere near the targets set by the corporate Performance Review Team. So this will be added to the collection of worsening trends that will be reported on this summer.

"What can we do about it?" I'm asked.

"You could get 5,000 items off the shelf; place reservations on them; fill the reservations; put the items back on the shelf; and then try and dream up a convincing story to tell to the auditors to explain the 50% jump in March," I reply.

The major problem, of course, is that people are reserving books in good faith and then we're finding that they're not where they should be. Most of the time it turns out, eventually, that they've been stuck in boxes in a back room or else they've been put into the book sale without being taken off our catalogue. Not for the tenth time this year I strongly suggest we do a stock check.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

By the great horned spoon!

The fire escape corridor is empty.

As I lay gasping for air I asked Noreen what had happened.

"We've done them!"

"What? All of them?"


"But what about the annual last-minute visit to buy up the stock nobody else wanted?"

"We're not doing one."

"You're kidding me!"

"Counting the stuff that's on order that should arrive in the next week or two we've hit all the targets we have to."

I am astonished and ask Bronwyn for confirmation.

"Oh yes," she says. "The Library Service has had all year to get stock ordered. They didn't bother over the summer and we're not going to kill the Acq. Team by dumping a pile of invoices for books we don't really want on them to do in double-quick time to fiddle the statistics. If we've not hit targets by now then it's just hard luck."

Bravo. Even so, I can see Bronwyn having a few fights about the subject with certain people over the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Originally used in Odeons in 1956

Daisy Duck has scunnered herself. Despite all entreaties to common sense, she's gotten into the habit of chatting up the new young library assistants to find out the age of their mothers.

Well, she's devastated and serve her right: she's a year younger than one of them.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


It's easy to be cynical...

I've got this old-fashioned ideal of the public library service: the university of the common man; the community knowledgebase; a beacon of information literacy, that sort of thing.

We're having the official re-opening of Catty Library next week (not sure which day: I can't be arsed going to the Catty Examiner's website to find out). We've lined up a celebrity to do the honours; we know it's not Mabel Constanduros because we asked. Other than that, no details have been vouchsafed to staff away from that library.

Except the invitation list, which has been sent down to Maisie for her to send out the invitations. A bit late, given that they've had a year and more to come up with a list, but that's par for the course round here. What is remarkable is that fully one quarter of the invitation list consists of names of people whose address is either "Catty" with no further details or "Address not known."

"How can I send an invitation, with RSVP, to 'Monseigneur Eddie Gravy, Address not known'?" asks Maisie, not unreasonably.

To his credit, T.Aldous has been making sincere efforts not to micro-manage his Policy Team and has let Julia get on with the necessary arrangements. It'll be interesting to see how Julia manages to blame him for this snafu.

Juvenile satires

Overheard: Sibyl's on the 'phone taking a Regional Loans request from upstairs...

"...so that's 'The Life Of Sulla' then... Leave it with me and I'll see how quickly we can get a copy... What's that? Sulla? He was a Roman general. No, I don't remember him; I'm not that bloody old!"

Monday, March 02, 2009


"Can you get somebody to have a look at that printer? I don't understand why it keeps jamming," says T.Aldous.

A clue affords itself. Frog has just sent a long report to be printed out. Barely had it started when T.Aldous came out of his office for to go out to a meeting, stopped by the printer, opened the paper tray and took out a handful of sheets.

This despite my having put a notice up there saying:

Do not remove paper from the paper tray while the printer is in use. This causes paper jams and should be avoided.

As frisky as a gay ferret in a pink blender


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