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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book another series of "Take It From Here" and give Geraldo his own series

A box of CDs, donated by a customer, arrives at Bronwyn's desk. Quite a nice collection of light classics and easy listening. It's placed on top of another box of CDs, this time quite a nice collection of light classics and easy listening that have been sitting in a box in the librarian's room upstairs in the lending library for a couple of years.

"Doreen and Julia reckon that classical music CDs don't go out," explains Brownyn.

"Is that because they're always stuck in a box in the librarians' office?"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stood like tripe at fourpence
(Thanks Pat!)

T.Aldous storms into the cleaners' room and demands:

"Who's been scattering papers all over my office floor?"

In a majesty of restraint they don't all point at him.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Life's like a cartwheel in porridge

I'm showing Bronwyn how to do a couple of magic tricks on the system when I say in passing:

"And this bit works just like the Budget Expenditure Report."

She gives me A Look.

"What Budget Expenditure Report?"

"The one you run when you want to check... she hasn't shown you the Budget Expenditure Report has she?"


"So when you want to know how much of the book fund you've got to spend you..."

"Have to ask Mary."

"Just out of curiosity, if you want to know whether or not we're getting the contracted discounts you..."

"Have to ask Mary."

"And if you want to know how much stock has gone through the Acq. Team this month?"

"That's right."

"Shit. You've been doing that job for a year and she hasn't... Do you want a copy of the training plan I proposed for your job that she said was unnecessary because she was going to sort it?"

"Yes please."

"Do you want to check diaries and make a few training dates?"

"I was too embarassed to ask."

I am struck speechless.

Monday, April 27, 2009

An oasis of dignity

Doreen and Julia were bought new chairs as part of the end-of-financial-year spend-up. This involved quite a lot more of a performance than I want to write about: even by our standards it was not library management's finest hour. Anyway, T.Aldous finally got them to tell him what chairs they needed and wanted and he got Maudie to get them ordered pronto. They arrived amidst fuss and whatnot and both ladies then gave us a week-long performance of The Princess and the Pea.

Frog's been allowed one of the cast-offs (I'm not eligible because of my amateur status). He's quite impressed:

"I don't see what the problem is: it's a really comfortable chair to work in and the support for my back is brilliant."

There is, of course, a key anatomical difference about the seating arrangements between him and them.

They have to be able to talk out of theirs.

Just the sort of thing we don't talk about any more

Kevin the van driver wheels in a startling number of boxes and dumps them by Frog's desk.

"They've been sent over by Catty Library," Frog explains. "Apparently they've got too many tiny readers rooks and they say they don't have time to sort them out themselves."

I'm not sure what Catty Library thinks we're all doing over here but I think it involves doing sod all while we wait for them to send more work for us to do for them.

"I thought stock-editing policy, such as it is, is that the librarians do the editing and transfers for their libraries," I say.

"Oh it is," agrees Frog. "Except for Catty."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Poisoning pigeons in the park

Upset at Milkbeck Library. it appears that somebody's spending their lunch breaks taking pot-shots at pigeons in the gardens by the library. It's starting to disturb the girls that every time they come back after lunch the porch is littered with feathery corpses.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Includes bonus track

A groan from Maisie. It's another final demand gas bill for the old Roadkill Library.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cry Harry and... oh forget it

Dragging my way out of work towards the railway station i have to pass The Heretical Kumquat on Pardendale Road. St. George's Day provokes a burst of patriotic pride as hordes of the great unwashed lounged around on the pavement in their singlets, wonky red crosses painted on their faces. The best to celebrate This Great Nation they propped their beer bellies on the kerb and swilled cheap meths down their gullets.

I quickened my pace as I passed them by. All the time suppressing the violent urge to turn to the rabble and shout:

"How about the poor dragon, you bastards!"

Deck of Cards

I'm pretty much out of the loop on the gossip in the Town Hall these days. Changes in my working patterns mean that I no longer catch the nine-to-five trains and so have lost contact with most of the commuting old guard and haven't established relations with the new ones. It's made worse by the retirement the year before last of the council's matchmaker-in-chief, who had a wonderful facility for getting his head round the implications of the doings of People Who Have Meetings and then engineering useful encounters between People What Do Things.

I'm set to thinking of these things by my encountering a long-forgotten pirate photocopy that had been doing the rounds a long, long time ago.


One day, a councillor was walking through the Town Hall when he spotted a worker playing cards at their desk. Taking the worker to task, the councillor asked for an explanation. "And it had better be good or you're down the road!"

And the worker said:

"When I see the ace I think of this brand spanking new unitary council. One big cock-up.

"When I see the two, I think of the dual nature of the councillor's role. On the one hand they are managing the council's organisation. On the other hand, they represent the users of the council's services. Two-faced bastards.

"And when I see the three, I think of the government, the councillors and the public. All kicking the shit out of us.

"When I see the four, I think of the Riders of the Apocalypse: War, Famine, Plague and the Planning Office.

"When I see the five, I think of the number of weeks you're told you have to wait for an urgent repair.

"When I see the six, I think of the number of weeks you actually have to wait for an urgent repair.

"The seven reminds me of the Council's departments. Well, seven of them anyway.

"When I see the eight, I think of an octopus. My doctor says it's the strain of working for Helminthdale Council.

"When I see the nine, I think of the average number of Assistant Directors in each department. After the cuts.

"When I see the ten, I think of the Departmental Heads' Team: one goalie short of a team.

"When I see the Knave, I think of the Town Clerk.

"When I see the Queen, I'm reminded that it's been a bit quiet in the switchboard lately.

"And when I see the King, I am reminded of that one great figure who influences all our lives. The man who brings the trolley of meat pies round the building.

"So you see, my pack of cards is my organisational flow chart, my aide-memoire and my public administration bible."

And the councillor said: "I'm sorry, were you saying something?"


You know a local economy's going down the toilet when the charity shops on the High Street start having closing down sales...

I'll act like I'm surprised

What is the point of Beattie ringing me up from Raccoonville Library with this mindset and such impeccable timing?

"I've been trying to get onto the Internet all day and it won't let me on, it says that I have to work offline."

"Was the PC really, really slow when you booted it up this morning?"


"That's the cause of the problem. Sometimes the network connection gets so slow that the Internet permissions time out. No idea why, it shouldn't happen, nobody's ever explained it to me, but it happens. The only way to sort it out is to close everything down, log off and log back on again."

"I can't be doing that: I've a long queue of people waiting to have their books stamped out."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Going back to Himazas

Bronwyn's packing boxes ready for Catty Library. Noticing that the contents were bottle-shaped, and fearful that they might be Molotov cocktails, I have a nosey.

"It's just the usual bottles of wine," explains Bronwyn. "It's for the event there on Friday. I'm getting them over there while I've got a bit of time to spare."

"The usual...?"

"You remember: that case of Dingo's Oxter Chardonnay-style white that was bought that time for the prize-giving at Raccoonville."

"That... but that was years ago."

"That's right. It was so bloody awful that nobody would drink it. The stuff that wasn't opened got put back in the case and it's been to every official function since then."

"So you're sending it to Catty?"

"Oh, it'll be sent back, don't you worry. But in the mean time it'll make up the numbers so it looks like we're making an effort."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Music box

There's been a bit of a reaction to the new mosque on Clubroot Lane. A couple of weeks after they started piping the call to prayer on a loudspeaker, the Abbey Church of Santa Sangria started ringing the Angelus every evening. Not to be outdone, a team of campanologists have taken to ringing a full change of Double Wimseys for Tuesday vespers at St. Barrabas-on-the-Hill.

As I listen to all this palaver I can't help my mind drifting to thoughts of the bookies at Doncaster Races.

Sing Holly, Go Whistle, Hey! Hey!

We're having far too much fun. This morning it started off with the life and work of Hylda Baker.

Then we got onto the subject of that bloke who used to do the halls with a strongman act, closing up by throwing a cartwheel up in the air and catching it on the spike on his helmet.

This progressed naturally to the bloke who used to sing "Mule Train" whilst smacking himself about the head with a tin tea tray.

Then we remembered how old we really are and started worrying where all these received memories are coming from.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Been a while since I last heard this one

Overheard conversation between Maudie and someone who should know better:

"Maudie, are you stationery?"

"Well... sometimes I move about a bit behind me desk."


I can relate to this comment in a colleague's email:

"...I've suggested that we have a staff outing to Waterstones to see how they cope with having more than one copy of a title on the premises."

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Stopping off in Manchester for a drink with Ken Barmy I was surprised when he let slip that he was going to a workshop on Open Source library management systems. I can understand his checking out the LMS market - let's face it, we're all working on systems that could, or already have, be axed by the caprice of a change of venture capitalists or a hostile takeover by competitors. And Ken's system is very, very old, if not actually venerable. But... Open Source?

"I'm interested by the concept," says Ken, "and it has a lot of potential. It's increasingly popular with academic libraries over here and it's being adopted by public libraries all over the States. And the Office of the e-Envoy has issued instructions to local government saying that they should go Open Source wherever practicable...."


"You have to know what you want to deliver and be used to working in a developmental environment. On the one hand I've got a public library management team. And on the other hand I've got a local government IT division. Doomed."

So why is he going to this workshop, besides for a day out?

"If by any chance it turns out to be a goer then I'm prepared for it. And if not, I can give an informed opinion as to why we shouldn't do it. Not that my opinion would matter much one way or another but you like to try your best."

This made sense. Then the big question occurred to me:

"How on Earth did you get your library service to pay for you to go to this workshop?"

"They think Open Source is freeware. They like the idea of something for nothing."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tackling the wildebeest

Walking down to the station on my way home from work I heard an almighty bang. I looked over the road to find that three youths had rolled a car over onto its roof and were running away. A group of onlookers ran over to make sure that nobody was trapped or injured in the vehicle, which turned out to be empty. A passing fire engine (there are a lot of passing fire engines in these parts) stopped and dealt with the formalities. I went and got my train.

Just another day in paradise.

We have been here so very many times before

Frog receives an email from Himself.

From: T.Aldous
To: Frog, Mary
Subject: National Children's Reading Empowerment Project

Please read the attached from The Reading Agency. We need to send them an update of where we are with this project by 5pm on Friday. Please could you let me have the details so that I can get Maudie to type them up and send them.


From: Frog
To: T.Aldous, Mary
Subject: RE: National Children's Reading Empowerment Project

This time last year I asked you what we were going to do with this project given that you had signed me up for it. I gave you a list of things we could do. You replied (see attached) that this was being given urgent consideration by Policy Team.


Live from the Ramsay MacDonald Ballroom...

We might be having some more Whole Staff Training Days this year. Probably. Perhaps. It is a commitment in The Management Plan. So it might happen.

"The dates and venues have been confirmed and booked," says Milton, "but I don't know if they're happening or not."

"Go on, then, how does that one work?" I ask.

"I don't know. What worries me is that it might make complete sense to me if I think about it."

Milton is scared stiff that he has gone native. Can't say that I blame him.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A host...

Easter's over so it's time to roll out the notices for the May Bank Holiday closures (it's too confusing for everyone to have them all on the same notice)(trust me on that).

Maudie's most of the way through printing them out for to go out to libraries when the inevitable spanner in the works turns up.

"They haven't got daffodils in the corner,"

says T.Aldous.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Customer consultation

We've not had a poll for a while. Luckily, we're in need of advice because it looks like we're going to be spending the summer consulting the man on the Pardendale omnibus and his dog to get their views on a new library building which might be in the offing in the next year or two.

Should be a treat and a half.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Probably not the most useful answer

"Mister Bandileggs says that he wants to speak to the Systems Librarian about his book renewals."

"Tell Mister Bandileggs that the Systems Librarian says that he can pay his overdue fines or he can fuck off."


Poor old Maisie. A few weeks ago she finally sorted all the credit notes for the utility bills for the old Glass Road site which we vacated more than a year ago.

Some time yesterday T.Aldous found the original credit notes "which we've never received" and spent an age on the telephone "sorting them out." Maisie is now spending the morning unsorting out the sorting out and sorting them all out again.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Guarding the home of the home guard

It's true enough: nobody really cares what we do for a living so long as we turn up and attend to our desks for the alloted hours.

The other day we were being difficult and negative because we were asking sensible questions about performance targets.

Today we seem to be spending all day doing George Formby impressions ("with me grandad's flannelette teaspoons..." "I'm leaning on a lamp post on the corner of the street in case another box of book sale comes by...") And nobody minds.

The art of hairdressing for wrestlers

Swapping notes with Ken Barmy over the 'phone. (He's amused to find that the company we both use for our library management system is telling other libraries that he's out to tender for a new one; and irritated that even so, he hasn't had any contact from them since last spring). I expressed my dismay and irritation at our management team's absence from the end of the financial year.

"Oh, all the buggers do that. Our mob buggered off en bloc and left it to the usual suspect to sort out. They do it every year. Christ knows how they're going to cope next year, she's retiring this summer. It's what passes for leadership in The Profession. Over in Cattermole the whole bloody lot pissed off out of it! Still, what do you expect?"

...it's what passes for leadership in The Profession. How true those words are, even today.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Goodnight Mr. Pinter! Mind how you go on that tandem.

Noreen is biding her time...

For five long, weary years we've been allegedly reviewing the list of standing orders for the reference library service. Near enough everything that's bought for Ref. is on standing order, owing to Reggie Clockwatcher's erroneous belief that stock bought on standing order "didn't count" and he'd also get to spend "his share" of the book fund. And, like too many reference librarians, the priority was to make sure that all the trophies were in the cabinet, not that they were any use to the poor bloody public. (Back in the old days when we used to send Library Assistants out for diploma training the reference library component of the course focussed entirely on their finding the right page of the right book, not answering the question in a way that might be useful to the customer). One of the more embarassing moments of our Best Value Fundamental Service Review at the turn of the decade was watching Reggie recite a shopping list of books he wanted on the shelves of the reference library. He'd been asked to explain the purpose of the twenty-first century reference and information service to a lay audience.

Thus it is that we get three copies of Dod's Parliamentary Backhanding, The Cabmen of Huntingdonshire and Jane's Fighting Sailors, one each for Catty, Dutch Bend and Helminthdale libraries. This despite Catty no longer having a reference library. A dead waste of public money if you ask me.

But perhaps for no longer.

Like most everyone else in the north of England we've just changed our supplier. So all the old standing orders have been cancelled. And as the reference librarians have yet to produce a list of titles no new orders can be made - the Acq. Team couldn't possibly do stock selection as "none of them are Professionals."

So Noreen is looking forward to the day when she gets the 'phone call asking why something we don't need hasn't been ordered...

Everybody over to the hooplah stall

"We're charging more for regional loans," says Bronwyn.

Are we?
"Well, no... nobody will tell us what the price is now so we can't implement it. Mary said we were doing it from the first of April."

"We're charging more for colour printing," I vouchsafe, "as of April last year."

"Has that been implemented yet?" asks Maybelle.

"Milton's told me to 'keep this week free' so that we can go round changing the default settings on the PCs," I reply, gently omitting the complicating rider.

"Is this a good moment to ask if anybody knows if it's true that we're going to be charging more for replacement library cards?" asks Frog.

"From the first of April?" we all cry.
T.Aldous muttered something along these lines on Friday afternoon in passing. We've no notices telling the public what the new charges may be - Bronwyn's checked with both Maisie and Maudie to see if either of them have heard anything. And I keep asking Policy Team for an up-to-date list of charges because they keep telling me that the one on the web site is out-of-date.
"Not much we can do then, is there?" asks Bronwyn.
It was agreed to let sleeping dogs lie and not ask Policy Team what the hell is going on.

After all, they were on leave that week.

Friday, April 03, 2009

I get plenty of fresh air via the nostrils

"I had a right strange dream last night," says Seth.

"Oh aye?" I ask warily.

"I dreamt that I was sat on the bog having a crap when T.Aldous came along, banging on the door.

"'Seth!' he says, 'I need to speak to you.'

"'I'm on the toilet,' I says to him.

"But he's not having any of it. So in the end I had to let him in and he was sat on the floor next to me, yabbering away while I was having a shit."

As persecution dreams go, this is a lulu.

Where's me spoon?

I'm in a spiteful mood so I ask if we'll be getting to see the service's visitor strategy any time soon. Apparently it's undergoing revision because it needs updating, having been written more than a year ago.

I'm one of the golden few who even know that we have a visitor strategy, though nobody outside Policy Team have seen it. I only know about it because it was used as an excuse to put a block on a piece of work I was anxious to get finished.

A vast motel where everybody is about to leave

Mary's embarassed about this.

She's taken me, Frog, Bronwyn, Maybelle and Nancy to one side.

"I've been asked to tell you all to be a bit more careful about taking leave. It was noticed that we were a bit thin on the ground last Friday afternoon."

For the record, all but Frog were in on Friday morning (he had a day's leave). Bronwyn had the afternoon off because she was coming in special on Saturday for an event. And Nancy was visiting some community groups in Spadespit.

We'll gloss over the nearly complete absence of senior managers at the end of the financial year.

My delight on a Friday night at one and nine a throw

It's back to business as usual.

"I know you're busy, but when will we be getting those figures?"

Oh yes. And while we're at it,
  • Let's ask the Acq. Team to provide a list of the periodicals held in the Reference Library because the Reference Librarian has decided not to know
  • Let's ask Sybil for copies of government reports that are freely available on t'interweb.
  • And let's give Maudie and Maise a heap of expenses forms that should have been submitted last month.
  • And a water bill that should have been paid last November.
The end of the financial year is a piece of piss for them who have been conspicuous by their absence.

Ah... ignore me. I'm tired and a tad depressed about this place. There's a golden rule that states that you should run off the stock status report for the statutory returns, collate them and hand them over but on no account actually look at the results. And every year I do.

The people who should be looking at the results aren't much fussed because they think that performance statistics are numbers invented at random by God. So it is that while less than a tenth of most collections are on loan, the response to the popularity of the Richard & Judy Collection has been to box up and send duplicate copies back here because they don't want more than one copy of a title at Catty; or to put half the collection on a trolley in the librarian's office at Umpty because the Library Assistants aren't allowed to rejig the shelving to display this collection.

The reaction to having 42% of the Children's Picture Storybook Collection on loan is to complain that Frog buys too many picture storybooks.

And, of course, there is far too much demand for the 78% of the non-fiction stock languishing on the shelves to allow bulk loans to teachers for school projects...


This is awkward. I've been asked what Milton actually does. We're supposed to be working as a team and I know he's not sat on his arse doing nothing.

But I have no idea.


It's a bit disconcerting to find that a library that is closed for building work has proportionally more stock on loan than seven other libraries where it's business as usual...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Where once I used to spread joie de vie, Brando spreads butter in Gay Paris

There is no polite way of saying this: Catty Library has got on our tits.

I keep thinking it's me being prickly because of the time of year and general beastliness but the consensus is to agree with me. The problem is that there's no single big issue with which to lock horns with them, just a very large number of stupid, petty niggly things.
  • Like them sending back duplicate copies of best-selling titles...
  • Or ringing other libraries up to check that they're running their notification reports...
  • Or spending a week comparing passwords so that they could complain that the young staff have the same permissions as the older...
  • Or sending all the stock to be swapped between the libraries in their area over here to be dealt with because they can't be arsed themselves...
  • Or...
I must stop it. I thought I had a grip on it until this afternoon's meeting...

Every summer the Borough hosts a festival of world cultures, which is a big shindig involving music, cookery events and a party, this year to be held at the old Town Hall in Catty. This is just across the road from the library so it makes sense to arrange a couple of events in the library to tie in with the festival. It also makes sense to have a display at the party and to invite people to use the library as an overspill area (keeping an eye on the visitor figures as much as the community involvement). So that's what we're going to do: the "we" almost certainly being Bronwyn, Maybelle and Frog, with input from Nancy and me providing some moral support. Staff from Catty Library might even lend a hand.

So we're bouncing round ideas with Mary to come up with an outline programme of activities. In any other library in this situation we'd be talking about poetry workshops, drumming sessions, world music promotions, that sort of thing. We're talking about Catty Library so we're pussyfooting round trying to think up ideas suitable for a site that has an aggressively 1950s library mindset. So we're talking about perhaps doing a storytime; perhaps putting up a display of books about the Commonwealth...

Noreen interrupts to tell Bronwyn that there's a call for her from Catty Library, insistent on talking to Bronwyn. So she nips out to take the call. On her return she is unnaturally pale and taut.

"Fuck 'em," she says, "let's give them a drumming session. And lots of kids singing and dancing. And lots and lots of curry."

We didn't even bother to ask about the 'phone call.

Thursday singalong

Stacked books
But the stats aren't quite as rosy as it looks
So I say
In my firmest way on a spring-like day, with reasons why
That by July
We should have a plan of what we're going to buy.
But we didn't, as the eye can see
In my library.
Nora Roberts, Tommy Steele and me
In my library.

Picked up
Some marketing examples from a book
We could use
To get us in the news, influence some views, get hits,
Our managers had fits and even got the shits.
We're instructed that we have to play it dumb
In my library.
So we're keeping schtum just like mum
In my library.

Tried hard
Printed reader advisory notes on card
And stuff.
But they gave us guff until we'd had enough and we called it a day
We said bollocks and we said to go away.
And the air turned grey for a day
In my library.
Which it tends to do most every other day
In my library.

Rigid with mirth

Seth's as happy as a pig in ordure. T.Aldous has ordered new book trollies for all the libraries and they've all been sent here for to be assembled. So he's got to unpack them, put them together then ship them out to each library. Which has so far taken three days.

His mood's not helped any by the delivery driver's pointing out that for another pound each they could have come ready-assembled and delivered to each site.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

For my first witness I would like to call a hot meat pie

I usually keep out of the April Fools' japes. Usually because I'm up to my neck in the sick joke that is our financial year rollover and report process. Looking at the percentage of our adult non-fiction stock that was on loan last night (for our statutory returns), I can only hope that this is a joke and the real status report's been hidden in another part of the system.

Settling in for a long three days' worth of number-crunching I wasn't happy to get a nine o'clock email from Catty Library asking for the statistics for their stock.

Elsewhere in the empire there are happier souls about. Beryl persuaded Salome to give Pansy a ring to tell her that she'd been booked on a public speaking course. The corporate IT section issued a five-alarm virus alert. And Catty Library sent Bronwyn an email telling her what a good job they'd done of doing all the work she's actually done to organise the next big reading event at that library.

The days are just filled with laughter.

Overheard in the Cistine Chapel as the artist pauses for inspiration

Some author visits are better in the anticipation than the participation. Today's guest put Maybelle off quite a bit when he took her to one side and said:

"Some of these people look like they've got mental health issues. I'm not sure they should be here."

Henry Ford's fire door

We need to get a new fire door — the existing one's battered to buggery, what with one thing or another, and the Fire Safety Officer says it needs sorting.

"Can you order a new door," T.Aldous tells Seth. "A black one if you can."

"Fire doors are red," Seth points out. "If we're getting a new fire door it has to be red."

"Thinking about it, I think it should be green. Can you find out how much they cost, give Maisie the order and I'll get it passed through today."

"You can't have a green door. Fire doors have to be red."

"That's ridiculous. A green door would go better."

"Fire doors have to be red."

"Now you're being awkward."