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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The answer lies in the soil

It's the fag end of September and the marigolds have all been grubbed up, so this is the obvious time for workmen to be walking abroad, digging up the pavements and planting "HELMINTHDALE IN BLOOM" signs.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You have to know exactly where to bash it

We're fiddling about slightly with the layout at Dutch Bend Library. Part of the process involves moving the photocopier from the reference library into lending. Actually, what's really happening is that the new copier's been installed in lending. When the lease on the old one runs out then there'll be a jiggle round to make some learning space in ref. There's also the prospect of developing a closer correlation between the number of copies made and the derived income but we won't dwell on that. Nor the letters from the local literati who've been getting photocopies buckshee for the past twenty years on the quiet.

All is well until today when the lending library's short-staffed and struggling and a lady comes in wanting to zoom-copy a long and complicated document. The customer's in a hurry so the Library Assistant suggests that if she really can't wait a couple of minutes she could always try the reference library's copier (because, despite their protestations, the reference library isn't busy by any objective measure). Which idea she took in the spirit in which is was given and she went off to the reference library.

Flexible use of resource opportunities to enhance the customer experience, eh, what? Cue blistering email from Daisy Dormouse, the Reference Librarian, to all members of Policy Team, copied to lending library staff.

When are lending staff going to be trained properly to use the photocopier so that they're not always sending customers to the reference library?

This has not gone down well.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Posterns of fate

Aye up... We've to make ourselves available tomorrow for a presentation to the Library Service by the director of Sheep City. Given that there have been months of rumours of us and the Parks Department being taken over by them we're all a little antsy at the prospect. Especially as the state of their books is common knowledge.

Hey ho. Another festival week of surprise and delight.

We'd need more than our current allowance of organisational and managerial expertise to raise ourselves to the status of utter shambles

You might have heard or read that from today if you join a library anywhere in the country you'll be able to borrow books from any other library in the country.

You might wonder what type of preparations we make to join in with an important national initiative like this.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Semi-charmed life

It's been a swine of a week. I couldn't tell you very much of it without slapping the real Helminthdale logo up on the title. Suffice to say that we haven't been overwhelmed with awe at any pyrotechnics of planning, management or leadership. Even the Ouija board has given up trying to communicate with Policy Team. Stone me, what a life.

The Corporate Bobbing Up And Down Like This Team have been a loudly self-advertising component of the council for this past twenty months now. Its one and only public delivery has been the new "Laid-back Tuesday" nonsense. Sybil considers this such a rip-roaring success that she is spurred to suggest a new refinement.
"Let's have Wicker Man Wednesday!" she cries. "We could get a couple of sheep and a cow and then we could set fire to the council offices. The only thing we'd need to do is organise a vote on who would be the human sacrifice."

The front-runner at this early stage is the Cabinet Chair of Human Resources. Or perhaps a double-header with the Chief Personnel Officer.


Frog insists that he wants to be Britt Ekland.

It has been an awful week.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Remember 'Mind my bike?'

The new health centre and council office just down the road from Tench Lane Library is ready to open to the public. I can't help thinking they'll have a few complaints about the access to the council reception point. There's a ramp up to the door, which is plenty wide enough for a motorbility scooter to scuttle through.

But somebody will need to explain why there's a big sign saying "unsuitable for wheelchairs" at the bottom of the ramp.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

We all smiled and said cheese

"Why isn't there a new display in the window in Lending?" T.Aldous asks Bronwyn.

"I think a couple of Library Assistants are putting something together for Black History Month. I'm sure I saw Bessie and Chrissie putting together a display board yesterday," replies Bronwyn.

"Can you make sure that they do," is the master's Parthian shot.

Bronwyn is fizzing.

"Does Doreen take no responsibility for what happens in her library?" she asks us.

"Is Doreen a member of Policy Team?" we ask.


"Do any of them take responsibility for anything? Ever?"

"Oh, fuck the lot of them!"

This job's expanding Bronwyn's vocabulary no end.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You should never vex a stranger

'Phone call. From Catty Library.

"A lady's come in to complain that somebody's set up a false Facebook account. Can we find out who it is and put a stop to it?"

"No," I explained.

This was just me and my woodpecker

I point out that Hetty's the only person who's responded to my emails about the new library service point. I eventually get emails from the two Assistant Librarians saying that they've not been able to do anything because there's not enough staff at Catty Library.

I can't imagine how many members of staff they think I am.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Arse biscuits

It is decreed from on high in the Town Hall that once a month it shall be "Laid-back Tuesday" in Helminthdale Council and that all staff may come into work dressed casually. Except for those staff in services that operate a dress code. Staff taking advantage of this maginficent offer are invited to contribute a little something to the Council's Community Chest.

For most of us this is an irrelevant load of old cock. The staff in the one-stop-shops, who are required to wear a uniform (all polyester and Bri Nylon) are getting mighty fed up of the twice-a-day emails from the corporate Bobbing Up And Down Like This Team. Yesterday they all had the subject line

Are you ready for a dressing-down this Tuesday?

Which explains why Oggie Emsworth turned up to work this morning wearing his dressing gown with a teddy bear tucked under his arm.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bang and blame

T. Aldous accosts Bronwyn.

"The displays of new books in lending are empty."

Quite why this is Bronwyn's fault puzzles us. The Lending Library has a three-tier management structure including a Group Librarian, the Assistant Librarians and the Counter Supervisors, any one of whom could and should be capable of asking the Library Assistants to do the job of replenishing the display. A job that they do unbidden when they're on their own in the branch libraries not worrying about being told off by three tiers of management...

No rind or gristle

We're all getting a bit jaded. Witness T.Aldous, looking at a picture of cows contentedly chewing their cuds.

"There's the council's vision of customer service," he remarks, quietly.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hi there flappers and bobbysoxers!

Being for the benefit of the public

For the benefit of you and me
The folks at Helminthdale B.C.
The random mix of old and new
Will like as not bamboozle you.
What a surprise!
What's opened close,
For these read those,
And nothing's ever really what it seems
'Cos they're running contradictory regimes.
In these ways
Helminthdale says
We'll challenge the world!

Helminthdale's disguise with dog ends

Imagine yourself in a box by a river
With trampled-down dreams and blinkered red eyes
Somebody calls you, they speak awful slowly
And tell you the usual lies.
"Yes sir, this council's concerned for the best
"And the best, sir, is ready to come.
"Watch as we weave our mysterious ends."
And he's gone.
Helminthdale's disguise with dog ends.

Follow him through to a thinly-staffed counter
To care-less execs
Who have rocking-horse brains.
Try to get hold of reforms or resources
From people who like giving pains.
Newspaper stories will tax you to hell
You'll want them to take you away
But if you climb back and you do as you're told
Then you're gone.
Helminthdale's disguise with dog ends.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ooh! He’s chokin’ on ‘is Werthers!

Henry's having a bit of a barney with one of the doyens of the Dutch Bend Heritage Association.

Henry recently took delivery of the archives of the Dutch Bend Express And Star for 1920 to 1978. The Express And Star donated the earlier archives to Dutch Bend Library about forty years ago. These got shifted out into store in the front room at Raccoonville Library. Three years ago they got moved over to the Archives Room at Sheep City for to make way for the new toilet in the library. One of the questions Henry asked upon delivery was: "where are 1905 and 1912?" We had no answer. He's happy that this time he's getting delivery straight from source.

Part of the deal is that the archives now become available to the public, which is entirely right and proper. Henry's had them copied onto fiche and is haggling over the digitising of them, which means that the public get access and the originals are kept safe and sound in controlled conditions so that the newsprint doesn't deteriorate any further.

This isn't good enough for one of the local luminaries of Dutch Bend. Garfield Pendersbury is the author of seminal works of local study such as "The Traffic Lights of Dutch Bend," "More Traffic Lights of Dutch Bend," and "Belisha Beacons I Have Known." He demands to be allowed to borrow some of the original volumes from the archives for his next work. Henry has said no. The archives are available for use in the library, not for loan. (Especially as we know Garfield used to borrow volumes from the Express And Star and kept them in his greenhouse for fear of bookworms). He is Not Happy. His parting shot is:
"I'll just have to tell the Express And Star to get them for me and then re-donate them when I've finished with them."

Henry summed up Garfield's best qualities in one beautifully-honed word.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


OK. Now this is weird, even for us...

Maisie's trying to get hold of a screen filter for one of the PCs down on our floor which gets a lot of reflected glare from the Town Hall windows across the road. Corporate Purchasing have been not useful so she can't buy a new one. Luckily, she remembered that Wendy at Umpty Library has one and that somebody's said that it wasn't on the PC in the Reference Library any more.

Maisie rang Wendy to see if she could cadge it off her.

"Oh, it's not here," said Wendy. "It's on the PC at Helminthdale."

Wendy works a couple of days a week in the Reference Library upstairs.

"Oh, that's good," said Maisie. "I'll go and get it now."

"No!" cried Wendy. "I need it."

"I thought you didn't need it any more."

"They don't let you switch the lights off at Helminthdale."

One of my new Winter goals is to visit the Twilight Library of Umpty.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The chill cold night made fools of our senses

I go into the staff room to get a cup of tea and find it in darkness. Four people are sitting round the table, looking at the ceiling. I'm feeling heavily jocular.

"Holding a seance?" I ask.

"Hush! It's a Team Briefing. We're trying to channel communication from the other side to see if Policy Team has anything they should be telling us."

Were the rabbits cursed?

I can barely reach the clock machine for a roll of astroturf squatting on the floor.

I hope to God we're not laying that down in one of our libraries!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I want to give it you babe but I can't get it down from the wardrobe

Month seventeen in the Big Brother House and things have gone a bit quiet on the rearranging the furniture front...

It has been noted that there are still boxes in the way of the sofas we haven't bought yet. Which is just as well as they couldn't go there anyway because Maudie and Maisie haven't been able to move their desks to the alloted space because that bit of room is still chock full of the desk that's been appropriated for piling up the spare paper left lying about by Mary and T.Aldous. Oh, and the correspondence trays. And the boxes of paper. And... oh you get the idea.

We still have a pile of old new stock in boxes that haven't seen the light of library. There are constant complaints from Librarians that there is "too much stock." Some of the same Librarians are blocking attempts by Mary, Frog and Bronwyn to allow loan packs to teachers. And there are stirrings that "we need to stock edit" the stock that Mary, Frog and Bronwyn are trying to loan to teachers.

Noreen says:

"I don't know why they don't just cut out the middle man and have us rip the title page out and put the stock straight into book sale as soon as we've received and paid for it."

Monday, September 14, 2009

The only act that was paid off from Fantasy Island

"That's my ladylike reputation blown out of the water," says Salome.

"How's that?" I ask.

"T.Aldous just walked into the staff room while me and Lippy were having a belching contest."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Not in the mood

There's a new council/health service/voluntary sector all-singing all-dancing civic centre opening on the site of the old Catty Town Hall at the end of next month. This particular one has been on the cards for a couple of years but the concept in general has been approved locally for a while longer than that and it's planned that each of the old County Boroughs will have one.

One of the services that's going to be provided is a small library - in effect an outlier of Catty Library. They'll be using a small deposit collection and they'll be issuing and returning on our library management system. Again, this has been on the cards for the past couple of years and on the rare occasions that Policy Team tell the common horde what they've been doing to earn their corn this has always featured in third place behind "meeting performance standards" and "filling vacancies."

For the past few months I've been asking how this new library is going to work so that I can set them up accordingly on the system. And so that I can work out the complementary human systems and training resources. Will we expect them to behave just like any of the branch libraries and have all the consequence processes and workloads or are we going to be more selective? How do we want other libraries to work with this one, and vice versa? Simple stuff, so long as somebody makes timely decisions.

Ha ha ha ha.

Anyway. I've asked. And I've been asking more urgently the closer we get to opening time. And I've finally got an answer late yesterday afternoon. My response to the answer was to ask a pile of new questions so that I could try to make sure I was going to come close-ish to what Julia thinks she wants this library to do (Julia being the Group Librarian taking a lead on this project). The more questions I've asked the more it becomes apparent that, for all the talk of this being a work strand that Policy Team has been tackling with all the deliberation one would expect from a team of highly-paid Professionals, she's making it up as she's going along. She has no more idea than me what the Library Service wants to do with this centre.

In times past I would have been sympathetic and made the effort to give her a bit of a steer towards something we could both defend. In times past. To be honest I've lost patience big time with Policy Team and this is just another reason to be annoyed with them. The most professional thing I can find it in myself to do is to ask the questions and explain why I'm asking them. Rather despite myself I think I've got the technical issues ironed out so that they'll work whichever way she jumps - I've been worrying about this so long I've subconsciously gone through a few dozen contingencies and work-throughs and three of them can be used off-the-peg. Which is just as well as it doesn't look like Milton's input on the project, which he hasn't involved me in, is delivering not a right lot either.

To cap it all, I've just had another email from Julia asking me if I want to go and talk to other libraries that are doing this so that I can determine what services we should be providing and how they should be provided.

I graciously declined the invitation.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lovely audience

How remiss of me: I haven't mentioned our new arrivals.

Posy Slaithwaite is our new Assistant Librarian, filling Bronwyn's old post, which has only been vacant for more than a year. She seems OK, a little young and very noisy but OK. To be honest, I think she's trying too hard but that's understandable: it's her first post since qualifying as a librarian and she's coming from a library authority which treats its Library Assistants as something a little lower than slime moulds in the food chain. Consequently I'm overlooking the constant references to "being a professional" for now. When I get to know her better I'll drop her the hint. In my experience most people who do the transition from Library Assistant to Librarian are pretty level-headed about the "I am a Professional" thing but have to go through a period of self-affirmation in the process. Every so often you'll get a one who goes over to the dark side but usually they remember how shitty some people can be treated.

Jack Harry Timpson takes over Jim's old job. I've had dealings with Jack Harry in various situations in the past and he's always been a good egg, which is good news. He can be a bit uncommunicative, which is a bit of a worry in our organisation. Let's be honest, communication isn't high on the list of our achievements. With a bit of luck his wanting to get things done will override any possibilities of going native any time too soon.

It'll be interesting to see how they knit with their compadres.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Always wash your brushes and put the ladders away

Sundry muck-ups and duplications in projects and programmes within the council are tripping people up left, right and centre. If there aren't three groups of highly-paid jackanapes doing a children's web site that never happens there's two groups building a staff consultation system that isn't delivered. If it's not an expensive online forms system that isn't implemented because the IT section say it isn't a priority it's a personnel system that can't tell you how many vacant posts you've got in your service and which says that the bloke who's been sitting next to you all week has been off sick for the past month.

There is always room for such things in any organisation. However, it is getting much, much worse of late. Largely because everybody's beavering away in their own little boxes and nobody's talking to anybody else.

This wasn't always the case.

Time was we had access to the services of Ulmsley Warton, the Team Leader of the old Policy & Research Team. Ulmsley's particular genius was that he could not only remember names he could remember what people did or were doing. As head of the P&R Team he attended all the usual panoply of high-level gabfests, as you'd expect. But then he'd go away and have a think about who he knew was doing something that would either benefit from a particular project, or could contribute something useful to it. And who he knew had some expert knowledge that might be useful. As such he was often the matchmaker or midwife for a lot of useful work.

Oh, to be sure, there'd be all the usual cobblers going on at a high level but at the sharp end of things there'd be unlikely synergies and sharings of ideas and practices and things would happen in their own quiet way. People starting a project would be told as a matter of routine: "go and have a chat with Ulmsley," and he would spare them an odd ten minutes to give them nods and pointers and a collection of useful contacts. Many's the time I'd get a 'phone call from somebody saying: "I've just had a chat with Ulmsley Warton and he said I should talk to you about..." And I have reason to be grateful to him a few times too: "I've just had a chat with Ulmsley Warton and he says that you could use..."

Ah, we don't work that way any more. Ulmsley's retired, I hope his health allows him many active years. And we have a whole bunch of new processes and procedures to make everything utterly impenetrable. When I start chafing at being demoted to lowly serf status in the Library Service (I'm still doing the same job, we just have a different management culture) I'm consoled by the thought that I'm probably well out of it these days.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Do moths whistle?

Bronwyn spent yesterday at Umpty Library, catching up with the stock-editing that the librarians should have done. Again. My innocent "how did it go yesterday" prompted a tirade of Anglo-Saxon splenetics including a couple of words I hardly ever use, even when provoked.

Wendy, one of the Reference Librarians, has got right up Bronwyn's nose.

"I wish I could get paid for pissing around the library doing sod all except walk around with a biro in my hand and being so fucking patronising, so very, very fucking patronising."

Was one of the gentler passages.

"How the library assistants don't kill her I do not know."

I learn later that, amongst other things, as fast as Bronwyn was taking tatty cookery books out of lending stock Wendy was trying to accession them into reference library stock.

100 years ago today...

Plus ca change...

Monday, September 07, 2009

My very good friend...

(After Waller)
(A long way after...)

My very good friend the timesheet says
He doesn't like the hours I keep
He says he thinks I should get sleep
And he suggests I quit the library.

My very good friend the laptop says
He's feeling somehow quite bemused
The work I've done that isn't used
And he suggests I quit the library.

And there's a very friendly fellow who prints
All the news about this joint
And now and then he sends me blueprints
Of projects that might have some point.

My very good friends and neighbours say:
"Is this a job you want to keep?
"Rewards are few and cuts are deep
"And we suggest you quit the library."

And they sang "Shangalang"

The topic of conversation for "the girls" today is the Bay City Rollers.

"Before my time loves," I say.

"Fuck off," say the ladies.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Act nice and gentle

A busman's huzzah from Ken Barmy, who's on a sort of holiday at the moment. This seems to consist of his finding every thunderstorm Britain has to offer and standing in puddles a lot.

He asks about the attentions of the management of Sheep City, our arm's-length, not-part-of-the-council-for-VAT-purposes lesiure, arts. culture and dried sandwiches centre. When it was set up it was made abundantly clear to anybody who would listen that the Library Service wasn't wanted on board. Now we're led to believe that 'exploratory talks' are in the offing. Ken scoffs at this, reckoning that any time there are 'exploratory talks' there's a done deal under the table.

"When our leisure trust was set up they couldn't do enough to keep their distance from us," he tells me. "Now the council's spent a pile of money doing up the library buildings we're suddenly attractive. We've been getting good performance figures, too, and that's got everything to do with the fact we're not constantly bleeding resources to prop up the leisure services any more.

"It's no coincidence, of course, that the latest takeover manoeuvres are happening at the same time as the budget reports suggest you'd get the same income stream as the golf club if you spent the weekend flushing £50 notes down the lavatory."

I do hope he's wrong. There aren't many examples of this being put into practice and I'd hate for us to be one of them. I don't see any great merit in our moving from a failed service delivery model to one that ensures the destruction of the service.

Friday, September 04, 2009

My brothers and sisters all hated me because I was an only child

Frog's feeling like he's not really got a future in the service. We all have days like that here: this isn't a workplace that makes you feel invested-in and valued.

Noreen flourishes some cheer:
"Well, at least somebody's trying their best to keep you in work!"

Thursday, September 03, 2009

About as much use as a cordless nunchuk

The Counter Supervisors have just had a meeting with the Group Librarians to go through a whole slew of issues about front-line service delivery, staffing, etc. Leastways, that's what they try and go through.

"Did somebody say that there was some discussion about whether or not we should be moving into the same section as Sheep City and the slipper baths?" asked Maybelle.

"Warner went to a meeting to discuss this a few weeks ago," replied Julia.

"Do we know the outcomes?"

"We don't want to know the outcome so we're not asking him."

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The rocking chairs are singing in the twilight

It can't be good that half the staff in the Library Service has signed up for an early retirement seminar.

Nor that half the people who aren't eligible are still wanting to go.

Maybe it's mystery meat

Sibyl's having fun with a customer of the Regional Library Service. After much kerfuffle and prolonged hassle she procured a copy of the title he asked for. This wasn't good enough.

"I wanted the copy from Borsetshire," he said.

"We couldn't get the copy from Borsetshire," replied Sybil.

"I looked it up on the web and Borsetshire has a copy."

"Borsetshire are replacing their systems and they're not doing regional loans at the moment so we can't get copies from Borsetshire."

"Well, I don't want this one."

"If you're willing to wait until Borsetshire comes back onto the regional loans system I can try and get their copy if they're willing to loan it."

"That's good. Why didn't you say so in the first place?"

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

And Raymond returned to the ballroom

"It's Jeremy Kyle Day in the library today," mutters Sammi at tea break.

Apparently, all the local nutters (and there are so very many!) have been in this morning. Top of the list has to be the very, very inebriated lady who rolled in at half-eleven, shouted:

"I've never been in a library in my bleedin' life!"

and asked who she needed to give her job application form to.

Better read the label

We're having networked printer problems yet again. I send out an email to all staff to warn them and this is the result...

To: All staff
From: Kevin
Subject: printers
All the networked printers are offline at the moment so you won't be able to print anything. No sensible prediction of if/when they're going to be working.

To: Kevin
From: Catty Library
Subject: re: printers
The printers aren't working.

To: Catty Library
From: Kevin
Subject: re: re: printers
Hetty, I know: I told you.

To Kevin
From: Catty Library
Subject: re: re: re: printers
I know you did. I thought you'd want to know.