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

Monday, August 31, 2009


I've been and gone and been memed by that Madame DeFarge, which is nice of her. I think. Knowing her wicked sense of humour...

The rules of the game are that I have to admit to seven quirky personality traits that are evidenced in this blog and I have to pass it on to seven other bloggers who, I hope, will have a bit of fun with the idea.

Finding seven quirky personality traits is difficult as I'm not sure I have even three, even before I have to find any evidence for them.
  1. I actually do have a public service work ethic. I really do believe that the end products of what I'm trying to do are important. I have this mad idea that we are in the business of handing the keys of the world to the masses.
  2. I am infinitely impatient. This gives people the impression that I am extremely patient. As it is, if waiting for a minute feels like waiting for a year then it's easy to maintain a uniform composure.
  3. When the mood is on me I can be extremely logorrhoic.
  4. I have very visual thinking processes. I am told that the scribbles I do when I'm explaining anything complicated are "terrifying."
  5. I hate computers. I like the stuff you can do with them, but I hate computers. And gadgets in general.
  6. I don't have or use a mobile 'phone. A thing of the devil. Besides, if I had one the buggers would be on at me 24x7.
  7. I'm seriously torn between walking away from the whole sorry mess and sitting back and enjoying having one of the best seats at the circus.

It's difficult to know who to choose to nominate, there are a lot of fun and interesting bloggers out there. If I haven't selected you here and you want to be nominated consider it done; this is a particularly arbitary septet.

  • Gadjo Dilo, who can always be counted on to come up with something I wasn't expecting.
  • The Topiary Cow, who provides a nice haven of mostly-calm.
  • Pat, who constantly delights.
  • Pearl, who reminds me that commuting by public transport isn't just a lunacy of the English.
  • Ladybird World Mother, who's always good for a sly giggle.
  • Wendy, who constantly delights in her observation.
  • Scarlet-Blue, who is probably too busy moving to do this at the moment but who needs to have something to do while she's baking housewarming brownies for us all.

I was tempted also to nominate Mrs. Pouncer precisely because she doesn't do memes.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

There's never a labrador puppy when you really need one

Bronwyn's covering at Umpty today. There's been the usual trouble with vandals there lately so they have to keep the toilet doors locked and customers have to ask for the key. A little old lady asked for the key, which Bronwyn duly proffered.

After a while Bronwyn started to worry.
"Oh shit. She'll have forgotten and put the key in her pocket and wandered off and I don't know if there's a spare anywhere."

Unfortunately she was on her own and the library was busy so she couldn't nip over to investigate.

After a few minutes another little old lady wandered up to the counter.
"Excuse me, do you have any paper?"

"There's some scrap here if you're wanting to make a note of anything."

"No, I mean toilet paper."

"Toilet paper?"

"My friend's using your loo and she's just texted me to say there's no paper and please could I get her some."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Blaze away

We've had another fire inspection and Seth's been appraised of the changes we need to make. He's also been told about the shopping centre's new fire procedures that were required to bring everything in line with the new regulations. It all sounds a lot more straightforward than the old procedures and we've been issued with new equipment to help make sure that everybody's evacuated quickly and safely and to make sure that the Fire Brigade knows the state of play when it arrives.

It seems like a good idea to make sure that all staff know the new procedures so Doreen and Seth set up some meetings for him to give everyone the gen.

Then Doreen makes her fatal error...

"I'll just tell T.Aldous so that he's kept in the loop."

T.Aldous tells them that he'll tell staff about the new procedures and that it'll have to wait four weeks as he's busy until the end of September.

"It'll be an interesting talk 'cos I'm telling him nowt," says Seth.

"We're not planning on having a fire any time in the next month then?" asks Betty.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

People in glass houses

Oh, this is intolerable.

You can barely move in Meeting Room One because it's full of chairs, all samples from the furniture company that's hoping for the business of kitting out the revamped Carbootsale Library.

Now we find that you can't use the table in Meeting Room One (one of the other ones) because it's piled high with glass bricks.

I shall plant a union jack

Noreen surveys the serried ranks of boxes in the fire escape corridor with some dismay. There are eighty-four of them. At the beginning of the week there were only sixty-eight.

She beats herself up for no especially good reason. The Acquisitions Team are a pretty efficient machine given half a chance and their throughput is quite impressive. Unfortunately, they're under-strength at the moment and for the foreseeable (for reasons we won't go into but prayers have been said for the person involved) and we're now well into the special bulk-buys for the new school term season.

The situation has been ameliorated more than a little by Frog and Bronwyn cooking up a little wheeze whereby all the "Book That!" books went directly from the Acq. Team to the intended children's centres in the Catty area, completely bypassing all the usual bottle-necks and boomerangs in one fell swoop.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm going down to Smithfield to get some sand on my shoes

Verity, who runs Carbootsale Library, has yet to see how it looks after refurbishment.

She's been past it a few times but the shutters have been down so she's not been able to look inside. And she's not been invited to any of the on-site meetings that T.Aldous and Julia have been having with the men from the furniture shop.

She's been getting updates from the locals who pop in to see her at her place of exile just to make sure she's coping.

Just to rub her nose in it, Julia gets back to Catty Library after the latest on-site conflab, wanders over to Verity, who's been covering the enquiry desk, and says:
"It's a pity you couldn't go to that meeting."

You can tell it’s real by the teethmarks

We are a typical cross-section of the population in that we have had quite a few people have have been quite seriously ill and, while we have lost too many recently, a good number have recovered and are in complete remission, touch wood. Though not entirely unscathed.

Sybil's quite ribald about her surgical intervention. This conversation all started when Noreen read out a newspaper article about a woman who'd been on a crash diet and had to have all the spare skin removed. Unfortunately, in the process her navel disappeared.

"They'll have to tattoo her one back on, just like they do nipples," said Sybil.

"What?" we asked, despite ourselves.

"Oh aye. When they do the trimming off they like to leave things a bit tidy, like. You might be a bit lop-sided but they want you to look a bit normal so they tattoo a nipple on there for you. They're really good, they match the colour up and everything."

We didn't ask for proof.

"The only problem is, like I told him, I've lost me ping."

"What?" we chorused again.

"Well, in the cold weather a girl likes to be sure to have a ping about her. I've not got much to begin with so anything that makes a dent in me blouse I'm having!"

"Couldn't you use a midget gem?" asked somebody.

"Aye, you'll be OK with one them."

"Oh aye, I'm full of daft tricks like that."

"Well, they'd be easy enough to stick on. You just lick the bottom of the midget gem and jam in on there."

"If I had a whole packet of them I could have a different flavour every day of the week."

"You'd be OK on a Saturday night, sat watching "Match of the Day" with him. You could lean over, give him a dig in the ribs and a beery leer and say:

'You're in luck tonight, lad, I've got me blackcurrant one on!'"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dracula has his cloak and you have your cardigan

The staff in Helminthdale Central Library don't have the time to make notes in the day book about whether or not someone's reported problems — nor, indeed, the nature of the problem — but they do have time to make notes like:

"Challenged two children in the library to find out why they were looking in adult non-fiction. They were looking at books about cars."


"Challenged lady using a computer in the children's library. She claimed she was OK to use it as she had a child with her in the library."

[Note: all our computer sessions are staff-mediated, so anybody using one of them will have had prior permission from a member of staff.]

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dancing in the dark

We're going to Hell in a handcart. It's not like we've not got the people, or the resources, or the commitment to our service. It's just that we don't know what the blue blazes we're doing or why.

So we struggle to make sure that the doors stay open because the opening hours were established quarter of a century ago and nothing's been done to either recruit to these peculiar hours or reorganise the hours to try to match staffing resources to market demand. We have the time-and-motion people in to check us out on the day when we're double-staffed upstairs (due to our also having the staff from the branches that had that day cut from their opening hours in the eighties) and every Tuesday morning there's a Borough-wide panic because there'll be one person on holiday and there's nobody to provide cover.

When we're not pratting about with the timetables we're skittering off in all directions doing things that we hope will improve services, or ameliorate known deficiencies, or meet new agendas that we've heard about by circuitous means or because they're interesting or fun things to do.

And what of our senior managers? They're sulking in their tent, stewing while we caper and lark and generally take the piss out them. I've never worked anywhere that is so openly derisive of its management. Or a management that has so deserved it. Which is a shame as they're not stupid, they're not evil, they really do want to do a good job of things. I just can't understand why they can't see that if they don't engage positively with their staff they can't get the buy-in they keep talking about. Or that saying "thank you" collectively and publicly is worth a million vacuous statements about valuing their staff. Or...

Oh what's the point? We are where we are and the prospects are only gloomier.

Frog, who has a madly idealistic commitment to providing the best services for children that he could possibly manage, summed it up as we left the premises.

"It's an awful thing to have to admit: these days I'm only coming into work for the craic."


Every week on a Monday morning, unless it's Friday, or not at all, Mary gathers her underlings together for what we are to stop calling her catchy-uppy-skippy-jumpy meetings. The burning question of the day is notable for its absence from the agenda. Or would be if there was an agenda, but you get the idea.

Frog and Maybelle emerge from the meeting with secret smiles.

"What's up?" I ask.

"Well, you know how we've been wondering who our line manager is in the half of the week when Mary's not working?" says Frog. "And how we're wondering who'll be taking over when she eventually goes?"

"You've not asked her again?" I scoff.

"Better stiil," replied Maybelle with savage glee, "Nancy did!"

Nancy, while being a lovely lady, isn't one of our more dynamic players. If you get to the point where even she is losing patience with a situation there really must be an issue.

"Did you get to find out then?" I ask.

"Don't take the piss, it's not nice," replied Frog.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The key is there to open the tin
The tin is there to keep the Spam in

Between us Frog, Milton and I have determined that there are three council projects on the go to provide "a children's web site." None of us are involved in these projects and we're not sorry either.

The projects are run by the usual suspects. To my certain knowledge there have been eight projects "to create a children's web site" in the past ten years. All of them have been a dead waste of time and money. What happens is:
  • A bunch of highly-paid senior manager get together to talk about "the need for a children's web site."
  • They meet again a bit later to confirm what they said the first time.
  • They meet again to talk about all the things they could do, usually referencing Nickelodeon and the BBC children's web sites of the day.
  • In meeting four or five this morphs into a discussion for the need for a directory of children's services so that they can make sure they're all included in the site.
  • By meeting eight a spreadsheet will have been created that will be circulated to all services asking them to provide the necessary information in the cells indicated.
  • Meetings nine and ten involve paying a consultant to come in to see how the spreadsheet could be turned into searchable web content.
  • Meeting eleven is the discussion about content delivery sites.
  • Meeting twelve, if the project gets that far, gives the OK for a site to be set up some time, funding permitting.
  • Meeting thirteen never happens because it's unlucky.

A couple of times the web directory has actually been published on the web. And that was the end of it. You couldn't find them but they were out there somewhere. Of course, the directory isn't a children's directory, nor a children's web site, or even anything remotely useful by the general public. The big deliverable output is just a user-unfriendly snapshot of services that could, and should, have been listed on the Council web site. Especially as they just used the Local Government Service List as their template. After a year each web site disappeared from view and the cycle began anew.

Back in the old days, in a previous incarnation, I was involved in a few print versions of this game. My protestations that they needed to build an updating mechanism into the process fell on deaf ears. "This is just a one-off publication."

People could never understand how I delivered the second and third versions of the directory in half the time it took to do the first.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Either that, or the bacon’s dropped off

Some days it's a bit of a struggle at the front line. Lending have taken delivery of a new dump bin for a pile of books that have been dumped on us gifted to us by another agency. A conversation I overhear demonstrates the breathless excitement involved.

"What are you going to do with it?"

"I'll put it in a glass case and throw sugar at it."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You can’t speak without tripping over it!

Staff Room complaint. One Lady Of A Certain Age shouts over to another:

"Can you shut your locker door 'cos Daniel Craig is distracting me!"

Balancing acts

Fred Anonymous writes:

"Have been trying to balance the budget for the Reference Library today, an impossible task as before I got to managing this budget somebody transferred the newspapers and periodicals to this heading, without the funds. Of course it is now impossible to rid ourselves of this, and unless any shortfall comes out of the ref book fund we are stumped. That said ref book fund is also covering overspend on microfilming, which goes up every year in cost, but budget gets reduced proportionally; and on-line services for which there was never a budget in the first place, but there is increasing demand for such.

"Effectively the ref book fund is down to not very much at all of which half, I kid you not, is spent on Halsbury’s which no one ever uses. Head of Service tells me Halsbury’s is an essential reference tool, and therefore I can’t cancel it. Thus we have just about enough and falling to buy a few Whitaker’s Almanacs, a couple of Wisden’s and not a lot else!"

Some things are the same the whole world over.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Daisy Duck's on the 'phone about a problem at Ducth Bend. We get it sorted as far as we ever get things sorted round here (which is to say that if we can't sort it out ourselves, or think of a way of working round the problem, we give up in despair). As it happens, we get it sorted.

"How's things with you?" I ask.

"Keeping me head down, just keeping me head down," she replies.

"That good?"

"Oh yes. That good."

I don't enquire. It's not like we haven't got a million-and-one flashpoints scattered around the borough. The only wonder is that they don't all go off in one big bang. Still, there's time, I guess.

Workin' at a desk with a dumb little placard

Is that the eighth or ninth 'phone call I've taken for T.Aldous and/or Julia about the shelving at Carbootsale Library? I don't know how Maisie stands it, she's had days of it.

Fry's delight

I bumped into Ken Barmy again at Victoria Station.

"How's by you?" I asked.

"It would be just my luck for some bloody fool to offer me the kingdom of Albania," he replied.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The first cuckoo

I go into Meeting Room one and find it's full of new chairs.

"It's not March already is it?" I ask Maisie.

"It wouldn't bloody surprise me," she replies.


There's a budget crisis at Helminthdale and the council is trying to cut costs. Actually, that's not strictly true: the council is trying to save money at all costs. Head count is always a substantial cost - the council is far and away the biggest employer in the borough - so the council is looking to get it trimmed down so that it can afford to fund the Regeneration Programme For Jobs.

We've had the bit where they cut everyone's pay; and the bit where taking the time back for involuntary unpaid out-of-hours working is treated as a benefit-in-kind; now we're at the bit where the council asks if anybody's interested in early retirement.

Bronwyn and I are gutted: we're of the same age and just slightly too young to qualify. A mutual friend in the council offices over in Catty has applied and almost by return of post he received a letter telling him that on no account is the council prepared to allow him early retirement as he is "a very-much valued employee whose skills we are not prepared to lose at this time. He's planning on getting it framed and put on the wall so that he can point to it next time he gets a bollocking for being bolshie.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stock footage

T.Aldous is in a bate about boxes again. Largely because they're in the space where he wants to have two sofas and a coffee table so that people waiting to see him can feel nice and comfy.

The boxes "belong" to the Assistant Librarians and they're full of books that either need transferring to another library, transferring into the reserve stock collection, replacing with new copies or removing from the catalogue completely. T.Aldous is annoyed that they've been there for months. This isn't strictly true: there have been boxes in that area for months but they've not been the same boxes throughout. T.Aldous, like most of the rest of our management team, has no concept of dynamic process or throughput.

For years we didn't stock-edit our shelves. In part this was because the Stock Editor, Monsieur Eddie Gravy, didn't get on with the Assistant Librarians. But mostly it was because T.Aldous' predecessor saw the inability to jam another book onto the shelves as a signal to his professional virility. (The remaining stock we have from his time all have broken spines.) When Eddie left there wasn't anybody around to officially stock-edit any more. Some of the library assistants took it on themselves to do the necessary, weeding the lame and unloved out from the overstocked shelves. They got a bollocking for their trouble and went back into their box.

Of course, while all this was going on T.Aldous negotiated a rise in the book fund. Which should be A Good Thing in a public library. Unfortunately, while we were meeting our performance target of 50,000 new books per annum we weren't doing anything about either removing 50,000 items off the shelves or getting additional shelf space. Quite the reverse, in fact. We clung onto the old stock and reduced the amount of shelving in nearly all our libraries.

Which is why Windscape Library didn't have any children's books less than three years old on their shelves. All the new stuff was in boxes in the back room.

Bronwyn has been in post a year now and she is starting to see some headway in all this. Unfortunately, a massive stock-edit of our libraries means that there is a hell of a lot of stock to transfer to another library, transfer to reserve stock, or get rid off. And this takes time. Especially when the Assistant Librarians at Catty Library send their stock over to Helminthdale to be sorted because they "are too busy to do it."

Oh, and when the Chief Librarian insists on vetting the stock to be chucked out and put into book sale.

"You can't put that into book sale. We bought it in 2001 and it's never been issued. What will people say if they see that?"

Perhaps they'd say it's precisely the stock that hasn't issued in eight years that should be removed from the lending library stock.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Déjà vu

I wandered over to apologise to Bronwyn.

"You needed that stock usage analysis this week didn't you? Sorry about that. I got completely side-tracked. Will they be OK tomorrow?"

"You gave them me three weeks ago."

The biggest, wettest and scariest rides in town

It's been a lousy day and it's not even scream at the lunchtime network failure time yet.

The train into Manchester was down to two carriages again, twice this week. It's normally standing room only on the four-carriage train so you can guess how much fun this was. Luckily it was one of the newer stock, circa 1984, so you had something to hang onto other than the adjoining passengers. In my case it was the overhead lightbulb. A traipse across town, where the trams are providing "excellent service" by having all the track this side of the Great Barrier Reef dug up for the summer, or the whole of human history, whichever turns out to be the longer. Then onto the new train service into Helminthdale, which is served by a fleet of things which appear to be nothing so much as a bunch of old shopping trolleys loosely bound onto bogeys. These provide a filling rattler of a ride at the best of times, which means that I have to sit at 45º from the vertical with my arm stretched horizontally and bent back such that I can drink my cup of coffee by craning my neck and pursing my lips to catch the liquid as it flails around in the air while we negotiate the points in the track. All the while hoping not to catch the eye of any of the tattooed bruisers travelling with me on the train. Or their gentlemen friends. Today wasn't the best of times and the spasm that rocked the carriage as we passed the vinegar works resulted in my having a lap full of scaldingly hot coffee. With my social life any thoughts of serious damage are purely academic, which is just as well as there was no polite way of running through the inventory at the time.

Getting into the office was the usual treat. The first thing to hit you on a cold wet day is the hot dry atmosphere. Today's a hot wet day so the office is hotter and drier than usual. The second thing to hit you is the day's list of new problems to be solved.
  • I wait fifteen minutes for my PC to boot up. I'm lucky: I've got one of the old ones so it's not got as much time-wasting crap loaded onto the logging-in script and the security settings let me log on, eventually, at the first time of asking. (It does take three of four goes to get it to log off, but that's a different issue entirely.)
  • For the umpteenth time there's a message from Catty Library. Can they have a list of all the talking books? Customers want to know what they have in stock. For the umpteenth time I say no, they can't. If customers want to know what's in stock they can look on the shelves; look on the catalogue; or ask a member if staff if the talking book they couldn't find on the shelves or on the catalogue is going to be available any time. To be fair, they've only been live on the catalogue for twenty years.
  • Two printers have died. As have the two PCs at Raccoonville that were only fixed last week. I log the problems with the helpdesk.
  • Somebody in the IT section has obviously been fiddling round with user network policies again. Three people can't access their email any more and Salome can only get access to the internet by filling in an online form that only access the password before the last one that expired. I log these with the helpdesk.
  • Bronwyn asks if we can run a YouTube video to support tomorrow's author visit. The answer is yes. Sort of. We can't use a staff PC because staff aren't allowed access to YouTube and staff PCs have the soundcards disabled for no apparent reason. We could do it with the public PCs, so long as people don't mind sharing headphones. Or we could... Anyway, the answer's really no but we can fudge something and if we feed the audience up with enough tea and biscuits they'll scarcely notice.
  • I talk two people at Umpty Library through the process of reinstalling the network printer on their PCs after it unaccountably disppeared after somebody in the IT section didn't make any changes to user policies, absolutely not, oh no. These are logged with the helpdesk.
  • I log a call with our filtering service to ask why Delicious is today blocked as being a pornographic chat site...
  • ..and why the pornographic chat sites that customers are regularly checking up at Gypsy Lane Library aren't being blocked despite being reported last week.
  • And dealing with a request from Catty Library for a list of talking books at the library. I point out that there's no use in my selecting the stock from the catalogue and printing it off for them as they'll be getting at least twenty new titles a month because they're on standing order from the supplier. I don't point out that it's futile to expect them to keep this list up to date by themselves as they're always "far too busy" for any piece of work floating their way.
  • The circulation system tells me that four non-existant books have been issued to borrowers. A little detective work reconnects the lending logs to physical operational reality.
  • Three people complain that they've been removed from the corporate address book. Which is a puzzle because I can find them clearly enough. It takes me and the helpdesk a few minutes to realise that we're working with older PCs that the plaintiffs and they're only missing from the address books of Outlook 2007 users.

Actually, now I come to write it down it's not so bad really. It's just the usual routine. I must be getting old.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Free flow

The Milkbeck Road's badly congested due to roadworks at the roundabout at Windscape Lane. The roadworks are a trench seven foot long. The congestion is caused by the traffic lights regulating the traffic flow around the roadworks. When the lights are on green to allow the Milkbeck Road traffic through the roadabout it's green in both directions. Which means that the priority traffic, nearly all of which is turning right onto Windscape Lane, is allowed through first. And the traffic heading for Becup stays stock still while it waits for the gap in the right-turning traffic which never happens.

It takes a special sort of genius to engineer that.

He walks as if he's carrying two sheep

I bump into Ken Barmy at Victoria Station. He has a pronounced limp (pronounced "Limp").

"What's up with thee?" I ask.

"We're playing silly games at work again," he explained.

"Not clock card rugby again!?"

"No, we had to knock that on the head."

"What then?"

"If you need to speak to a colleague in the office you have to skip to their desk, singing a song. I'm the wrong age and shape for skipping round the office twenty times a day."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

May be Vader some day later now he's just a small fry

Staff room conversation:

"I'm going to have to stop calling the management suite Neverland. One of these days I'll be saying it to one of them."

"Oh, they already know we call it Neverland."

"Really? What's the reaction?"

"Winds them up something rotten."

"That's good. I don't feel so bad about it now."

Gone are the lavatories in the back yard

Maisie's been presented with a water bill for the old Roadkill Library site. The one we vacated a couple of years back. She queried this with United Utilities, explaining that we wouldn't be paying it.

"If you don't pay the bill we'll have to come out and cut the water off at the premises."

"Well, the best of luck: they've knocked it down and there's a bloody great road on top of it."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's all about the Pentiums

The joy of networked printing...

Towards the end of last week Nancy sent a print job to the printer. For some reason it failed, so the job's just sat there at the head of the queue blocking the way. None of us can kill it because none of us have the network permissions to do so. Nor, it turns out, does the Helpdesk.

"When's Nancy back?" asks the techie.


"You're better off waiting for her to come back in and then ask her to delete the print job. It'll take longer than that to get System Support to get the job done.

Busy, busy, busy!

Lippy gets a 'phone call. It's Frog, who is sitting all of ten yards away from her.

"Hi Lippy! Sorry, I'm too busy to talk to you at the moment. I'll ring you later when I've more time."


I'm talking to Mary Ferbellow in the lift lobby when she stops in mid sentence, stiffens and grabs my arm.

"Listen!" she hissed.

I listened. Not a thing.

"I can't hear a thing," I said.

"Leadership," stated Mary in hushed tones.

Then she walked away.

This library is being remade in mine own image and I'm not convinced it's an entirely healthy thing.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Every night he had a dream
Where he was wearing lederhosen in a vat of sour cream

It's been one of those days...

As Betty Comstock left the building I heard myself shout:

"Have a good weekend!"

Talking to the wall

We've been having a staff consultation, one of those "where do you think this library will be in five years' time?" efforts. This is to feed into a corporate Transformational Government Local Plan, which in turn will, if my experience of the past two decades in Helminthdale is anything to go by, feed into a flurry of vicious inactivity. The Library Service component seems to be determined to get its ineffectuality in early.

"We" started off by deciding that the visioning board was to be cleared of its old set-dressings and put to work collecting staff suggestions. And lo, it was cleared and a piece of A4 paper labelled "IDEAS" was stuck on on there.

Two week later we got a collective bollocking for not contributing any ideas.

"Couldn't Policy Team perhaps give us a clue as to what you want us to suggest?" I ask Milton later.

"We've got lots of ideas but if we put them up then people would complain that we're dictating the agenda," he replied.

I bridled. "There's a world of difference between telling people the rules of the game and playing it for them."

About a week later T.Aldous asked Noreen if she'd like to tell staff what was needed for to input to The Vision. Noreen replied that she'd rather not, thank you.

Maybelle was then given the job of decorating the visioning board with bits of Vision.

"What do you want me to do?" she asked.

"Oh, just stick some pictures up of modern libraries."

"Anything in particular?"

"Something that shows how libraries are becoming more modern."

"Such as...?"

"A few pictures will do for now."

So Maybelle set upon the task with the energy only given to angry Yorkshirewomen and filled it with pictures of modern libraries showing how libraries are becoming more modern. I'm not sure why there was a picture of a gas meter and I'm not the one who's going to be asking her.

Staff made suggestions. Tentatively at first, just in case we were making the wrong suggestions. Just to test the water, so to speak, Frog and I deliberately made a few wrong suggestions. Nothing exploded so people gained a little confidence and over the next few weeks they came up with quite a useful list of ideas.

And then...

And then...

And then...

Well, nothing.

"What's happening with The Vision?" I ask Milton.

"It's gone to the Change Team for them to do whatever they're going to do with it. They were supposed to have sent some type of response by now but they haven't."

"Couldn't you let staff know that's where we're up to?"

"There's nothing to say. The Change Team hasn't got back to us yet."

"Perhaps a thank you to the troops for their input?"

I suggested. What was I thinking? This is why they're senior managers and I'm just a toiler in the vinyard.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Just a minute

We're in the midst of an insurrection. The Branch Managers on this side of the borough are making tiny fists in their pockets. The reason? They've been told that they'll have to take their own minutes for their quarterly meeting. You might imagine that they had been told they were having their first-born on the barbie. Salome and Lola are having to Be Firm.

"I'm not doing the minutes! I'm not a secretary," says Norma.

"Everyone else in every other meeting takes their own minutes. Why should you be any different?"

"Why can't Maudie take the minutes for us?"

"Maudie's busy enough as it is. There are minute-taking courses you can go on if you're worried about it."

"We don't have time to do the minutes," says Hedi.

"You'll have to write the minutes for the meeting once every twenty-seven months. It's not a big deal."

"Well, I don't have the time to do the minutes," insists Norma.

"You could do it when you're on the enquiry desk. Perhaps instead of spending all your time emailing your family and booking holidays."

There was considerably more along this line. In the end...

"OK, that's enough. No minutes, no meetings. Full stop. End of. Now let's move on to the next part of this meeting's agenda shall we?"

The Branch Managers are threatening to take this dispute to the court of T.Aldous. One of the reasons why T.Aldous has his 'phone through to Maisie is so that Norma can't try and have a hotline to his highness.

The darling of the Two Turtles

Despite our best attempts to thwart the inevitable, we have managed to get a few young people working at the front line. A few of them went out for a drink last night and were annoyed to have been ID'ed to show proof that they wereover 18.

"I mean: when I was under-age they never ID'ed me."

"Well if they had have done you wouldn't have bought all that drink off them."

"I'll tell you what pissed me off the other night. You'll never guess what. I got ID'ed for taking a 12 [certificate] DVD to the counter. Imagine that. I mean, it's bad enough getting ID'ed for drink. I said to him [cupping ample bosoms in her hands] 'Do these look twelve to you?'"

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The whole wide world is on your side

Pansy's in the doghouse. It has been decreed that all the Branch Managers will be responsible for Tiny Tots Story Time at their own libraries. The prospect of doing Tiny Tots Story Time scares Pansy to death. To the point where she was seriously considering having to jack the job in because she was stressing herself out. She had a chat with her line manager, who hasn't done a children's story time since Adam was a lad, and her response was useful, practical, supportive and innovative in its approach to problem-solving.

"Well, you'll just have to do it."

Given a more practical bent than is wanted on board the good ship library service, Pansy chatted up some of the folk at the local children's centre who were more than happy to come and do regular story times at Gypsy Cream Library so that they could get their outreach ticks in the boxes in their performance tables.

So it is that instead of presenting the tiny tots with a story teller who really, really didn't want to do the story telling they're being given an extended session with somebody who is both practised and enthusiastic; and we're not losing a Branch Manager at a time when we really can't risk having any vacancies. Win-win I would say. The more so as this arrangement means that this is the only library providing Tiny Tots Story Time throughout the summer holidays.

Plaudits and medals all round you might think.

Not a bit of it.
"We can't let Pansy get away with not doing story time. What would happen if we let everybody do this?" asks Julia.

We'd have a fucking good service, I would think. But then, what would I know about these things.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I notice that the report I've just printed out is on 90 gramme pure white paper.

"Since when are we using posh paper?" I ask Maudie.

"Since we found out that we have to use expensive paper because the cheap paper's too expensive," she replies.

It turns out that the cheap paper we are required to buy by corporate dictate is only available at the permissible price if bought in quantities that exceed the maximum permissible order. Procurement won't allow us to buy this product at the higher price for smaller amounts so we can't order it. But we can order smaller quantities of the expensive paper at nearly twice the price of the cheap stuff without any discount.

This council is having a budgetary crisis. I really can't imagine why.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Live from Milkbeck

It's useful, once in a while, to have your own problems put into perspective. Quite often it turns out that things which you see as Very Important turn out to be nothing at all.

And so it is that while we've closed Milkbeck Library because the fuse box has fallen off the wall above the public entrance and is doing its best to look like a hanging basket full of pendant stems the building repairs service "can't guarantee that we can get an electrician out today."

"Listen," says Maisie, "you've got a Priority One Plus level service that you say guarantees someone on site in an emergency within an hour. This is an emergency and I expect somebody there within an hour."

"I'll see what I can do."

It turned out that what he could do was go for his lunch. When Maisie rang back after an hour to ask what progress had been made she was told that he'd gone and that nobody else at the call centre did building repairs.

I shudder to think what we're being charged for this service. You can bet your life it won't be getting any cheaper in the light of both recession and council budget crisis.

Dynamic tension

I like to imagine that I've never met an idea I couldn't get my head around. Every so often this place reminds me just how wrong I am.

Doreen's asked Frog to do a major stock-edit of the early years collections. She reckons that there's twice as much stock on those shelves as there should be and so half should come off.
"The nurseries and children's centres are gagging for board books and picture books. Wouldn't it be a better idea for us to let them borrow thirty or so of them at a time?" asks Frog. "We'd get the issue figures, we'd get the good PR and partnership ticks and they'd get a service."

"No, I don't think that would be a good idea at all. If we let them borrow those books we wouldn't have any left on the shelves. It's best that you stock-edit them."

So there we have it: if you're massively overstocked with books in a public library, don't loan them out to people who want them on an ongoing basis, chuck them out.