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

Saturday, October 31, 2009

An everything shortage and the traffic lights don't work

At any given moment this week there will have been four meetings going on in council buildings wherein a bunch of highly-paid people will have been gathered together to be told that the council is skint. Over the past three weeks some of these highly-paid people will have been to four or five meetings for to be told that the council is skint.

At current rates of pay you wouldn't be getting any change from £250 from any of these meetings.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Slaves of Freedom

The council's decided to save money on equipment, furniture and office space by requiring all staff to hot-desk.

This isn't yet part of the operating realities of the Library Service, thank God! The IT Section has embraced the concept of hot-desking such that whenever you log onto a PC for the first time you have to:
  • Reset your password. Your password must be at least eight character long; must contain at least one number and/or "special character;" and cannot be similar to any of the last twenty-one passwords you have used in the past.
  • Create an Outlook profile for your email.
  • Wait for your new Outlook Inbox to populate.
  • Wait for your new Outlook Inbox to synchronise with I know not what.
  • Map all the network drives you need to have access to (assuming that you carry around a note of the addresses of all the appropriate servers).
  • Add any and all appropriate printers to both the PC and your profile.
  • Install your printer password and password permissions in the appropriate printer properties so that you'll be able to actually print some of the things that you send to the printer.
  • Get the Helpdesk to enable your Internet permissions on this PC.
  • Set up the shortcuts for anything that isn't Microsoft Office or Internet Explorer.
  • Set up the permissions to use any peripheral devices.

This council isn't big on productivity.


Oh that's just mean!

A coach has just pulled out of Helminthdale Bus Station with "Poole Harbour" on the destination board.

It's actually going to Burnley.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Victims of the awful habit

If I hear: "what we must learn from this is that we need to start planning things and prioritise" one more time today I swear that I shall scream...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stochastic Fats

"Can you get me a list of all the books that were withdrawn from the Catalogue in April?"

"Yes. What do you want? Just the title and author? Any other information?"

"I just need a list of the books that went into the summer book sale at Roadkill Library. Can you do that for me?"

"Are the books that were withdrawn from the Catalogue in April the ones that went into the summer book sale at Roadkill Library?"

" I should think that they would be, probably. Could you email the list to Warner, telling him that these were the books in the summer book sale at Roadkill?"

"I will email him the list, telling him that these are the books withdrawn from the Catalogue in April."

Call me a pedant if you like...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lovers dance and children sing and everybody does their thing

It's school half term week and we've geared up a full programme of activities and visits for children of all ages. So far we've had:
  • Kids riding through Epiphany Library on their bikes;
  • A visit to Epiphany Library from The Jolly Community Policing Team;
  • A visit from The Jolly Glazier to Senebene Library; and
  • A roof-top demonstration of skateboarding skills at Carbootsale Library.

At this rate we'll have this year's Community Engagement ticks in all the boxes by Thursday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kraftwerk playing the Macarena

A meal with friends. Inevitably, we swap work stories. Less predictably it turns out that all of us are yearning for early retirement. We are all in our late forties, we should be at the top of our game, and yet...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Preaching to the converted

Email to all staff from the office of the Chief Executive:

Don't forget to put your clocks back!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The age of desperation

It's coming perilously close to Mary's retirement date and her team are none the wiser as to what, if any, arrangements are being made for their line management after then. Fair do's to Mary: she's got no idea either, but it's pretty unnerving for the troops.

"Don't worry too much about it. You do OK when the whole of Policy Team is on leave at the same time," she tells them.

Which is well-meant but wrong on so many levels...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hoist by his own petard!

After spending the past week bitching (with considerable justification) about the lousy communication for a meeting this afternoon I discover that I forgot to mention it to one of the key players...

I suppose if we're being human we can all have an arsehole moment but it's pretty inexcusable. I have a lot of grovelling to do!

The poor and the sick turned up for the party but the impotent couldn't come

I have no wish to compete with this, I know when I'm beaten...

Fred Anonymous writes:

"On the very day that we got confirmation that we were all getting substantial pay cuts and that there were very real possibilities of redundancies because the council's on its uppers we each and every one of us received a glossy staff magazine. Highlights include a Managing Director on a six-figure salary complaining about feeling the pinch with the credit crunch and advice to vegetarians that they can have a perfectly nice Lancashire Hot Pot by leaving out the meat."

Me and Ken are agreed that Fred's this month's winner by a country mile.

Unless you know different...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This is my street and I'm never going to leave it

We've been expecting a delivery of some equipment to Carbootsale Library, ready for its re-opening probably late next month. When Maisie placed the order she stipulated:
Please ring this number beforehand to arrange for somebody to be this library to take delivery. There usually isn't somebody on site so this prior arrangement is essential.

Which lesser mortals may have taken as a hint.

Not one of our well-known national electrical and white goods companies. We got the automatic electronic telephone call yesterday evening to say that the van would be delivering the goods to Helminthdale Library some time between 7am and 1pm.

At five to seven, Alwyn takes a call from the driver asking for directions to Helminthdale Library. Which he gives. At twenty to eight they call again. Maisie takes the call and explains that
  1. They should be delivering to Carbootsale Library;
  2. The company should have made prior arrangement as requested; and
  3. There won't be anybody to take delivery until after nine o'clock.
"That'll muck our schedules about," complains the driver.

"Not my problem," explains Maisie.

For the next four hours the driver, and his mate, did a tour of Catty, Umpty and the bits of Bencup that nobody talks about before finally ringing up to confess that they couldn't find Carbootsale Library. Maisie provided the directions again.

And once again the next time they rang up.

And again.

Finally, they reckoned that they were in the right place but couldn't find the library.

"What road are you on?"

"Algernon Road."

"What can you see when you look out of the window?"

"There's an Oxfam Shop, an Help The Aged Shop and a British Heart Foundation Shop."

"You're close enough. I'll get somebody to find you and guide you in."

Maisie then rang Verity, who'd been waiting on site and asked her to go and find the driver and hold his hand and take him back to the library.

"I'm really sorry about this Verity."

"That's alright, love. It's been nice to be back home, even if it's just for a morning."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Be like a raggy doll and say: "I just don't care!"

My turn for a quiet seethe. 'Phone call from Julia, ensconced at Dutch Bend Library for the day:

"I had a staff meeting this morning. Bernadette and Nicki said that they could do with some training. Could you find out what training they need and make the arrangements to deliver it as soon as possible?"

I'll have a chat with them despite this; it's not their fault that their manager's too idle to bother assessing her staff's training needs.

The beach is divine

Sibyl is back from her holidays. And is old enough to know better than this...
"How was your holiday?"

"Very nice. But I'm really, really glad to be back. I just couldn't wait."

"I'll bet... Did you do anything nice?"

"I went skinny dipping."

"I thought you went to Whitby?"

"I did."

"What did they say?"

"Oh, I did it at night. We were walking along the beach and it were a nice night so I decided I'd go skinny-dipping."

"Did you both go in?"

"Oh no. He stood there with his coat on, fag in one hand and a torch in the other so's I could see where I was going."

"The locals must have thought he was signalling to U-boats."

"Aye, they would do: he spent most of his time spotlighting my arse. Talk about a full moon!"

"Have you heard this? Sybil's been skinny-dipping!"

"I thought you went to Whitby!"

"I did."

"You'll have been alright: they'll have thought you were wearing a powder-blue wetsuit."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Do not write in this space

Well, we've almost made it to the end of another Friday.

To be sure, none of the printers are working and quite a few of the PCs are out of commission; the corporate internet connection's gone home to live with its mother and the mail server is spamming us with news from the four corners of the Chief Executive's office. And this place looks like a village deserted after The Golden Horde ran their horses through the cardboard box factory. And we've sent the Staff Briefing Ouija Board to the menders because it seems to need a new aerial.

But all is nearly right with the world.

Somebody has left an open bag of jelly babies on the staff room table.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's a strange world we live in and surely we're forgiven if...

There's an almighty row going about in the town today.

It turns out that the Urban Renewal Team have been trying to attract inward investment to the borough by telling companies that the workforce round here will take a grand less pay than in neighouring bouroughs.

That's the same Urban Renewal Team that's paying consultants to investigate why the town centre's not attracting any big name up-market shops.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Here I stand with a rainbow in each eye

Maisie is trying to buy two anti-glare screens for computers in this building.

Corporate Purchasing doesn't list anti-glare screens as they say they are an unnecessary expense because all new PCs have flat screens.

Maisie cannot nip out to buy a couple of anti-glare screens from the shop across the way for £10 each because she is not allowed to buy any goods not listed by Corporate Purchasing and certainly not from anywhere no longer included in the Suppliers List after Corporate Purchasing accidentally deleted the file a couple of months ago and haven't yet either found a backup or manually entered all the known existing suppliers.

So in order to save £20 we are having to buy a couple of brand new computer screens.

You know where this is going, don't you?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Walking in the air

The rather a lot too many boxes, wheelie bins and assorted whatnot in the fire exit corridor have been joined by a couple of dozen chairs.

"Are they for Carbootsale?" I ask Seth.

"No," he says with gritted teeth, "they're for upstairs."

"Where in God's name are they going?" I ask.

Give Seth his due: he's never short of a good suggestion or three.

Crikey chaps!

I was trying to explain Biggles to the ladies on the Escape Committee. I was doing OK with Ginger and Algy and they were going along with the idea of a World War One flying ace being an Interpol field agent in the 1960s. The wheels came off the wagon when I explained that Biggles often had to thwart the evil machinations of the German baddie Von Stroheim.

My protestations that this was either lazy coincidence or film crit. fell on deaf ears, but I'm damned if I'm going to go rummaging through the reserve stock just to prove myself wrong.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nothing much

We're a bit thin on warm bodies here today, it's like The Mary Celeste on a slack weekday and it's not a whole lot better topside. Come lunchtime there's just me and Maudie.
"Are you OK for me going and getting some lunch?" I ask her.

"Oh, bollocks to it. If the 'phones don't get answered they don't get answered and hard cheese. If they were that fussed they'd do something about it."
The time for gentility seems to have passed.

They're just about managing to provide enough lunchtime cover upstairs to keep the doors open by the creative use of odd bits of time owing and staff being willing to be rather a lot more flexible than the Library Service generally manages in recompense.

If we get any incidences of swine flu, morning sickness or lottery winnings we'll be completely screwed.

I'd bet a quarter of the public libraries across the country could say similarly and we've not even had the "savage public spending cuts" yet...

Bing bang bong inky pinky parlez-vous

It's official, Mary really is retiring at the end of the month: T.Aldous is taking the first two weeks in November as leave.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The basic pessimism of our times

This can't be healthy: everyone who's made enquiries about early retirement (which in our service is just over half the staff who are potentially eligible) have been advised that there will be a long delay in getting projected pension forecasts, etc. as the Pensions Office has been inundated with enquiries.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


A bunch of young lads were effing and jeffing in the lending library. The Library Assistants had asked them to tone the language down a bit but they carried on regardless. Eventually, they asked Seth to have a word with them.

"Look lads, you've been told: tone the language down. No swearing in the library please."

"We're not doing nowt."

"Yes you have. The ladies over there have told you three times now. Pack it in."

"Pack what in?"

"Cut out the swearing."

"You're just picking on us. I've not been fucking swearing."

It's a Braceright Midriff Support

Posy Slaithwaite has just been on her first Corporate Culture Induction Morning.

The one time I've been on corporate induction training was back in the bad old days of local government in the eighties, when I was working for Loamshire. We had a welcome from the Chief Executive; visits to a library, a fire station, a disabled person's rehabilitation unit (that was an eye-opener!); an explanation of the corporate executive and political structures; and a half-hour presentation by the Deputy Chief Executive on public sector ethics and the legal boundaries we had to work within.

These days we're more customer-oriented.

Posy was subjected to an hour-long presentation about the Bobbing Up And Down Team; a presentation on the aims and targets of the Bobbing Up And Down Team; and an introduction to The Hexagon Of Excellence...
"They said that they'd had a two-day meeting to talk about the aims of the council and they decided that they are:
  • 'It would be nice if Helminthdale was a nice place to live'
  • 'It would be nice if everyone was nice to each other.'
  • 'It would be nice if there were some nice shops.'"

"There, there... It comes as a shock at first but you soon get used to it."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Frog retrieved a copy of a J.B.Priestley book from the Reserve stacks for a customer. She is not impressed.

"Haven't you got something with a jollier cover? It is supposed to be a comedy!"

Twelve points for jam

The council is on an economy drive and every business unit must show, if not a profit, then not a stonking loss (remember that the next time you see a lollipop man). So we can't print or photocopy any more than 10 sheets of paper without first getting a quote from the council's Printing Unit. The process is:
  • You realise you need more than 10 sheets.
  • You ring the Printing Unit for a quote.
  • They email you the first number they thought of.
  • You say something rude.
  • You reply to the email asking if the quote is "quite right."
  • They email you a revised quote which works out as seven times the cost of just getting it done yourself.

Your tax pound at work.

The outlook for today is largely tragic

Apologies to readers: you might want to think about most of the goings-on here in September and October as my Giant Rat Of Sumatra...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The wrong age for a whippet

We have a firm date for Mary's retirement: "sometime at the end of the month."

"We'll have to arrange a collection," says T.Aldous. "And we'll have to think of something to get her as a retirement present. Whose decision would that be?"

"I suspect it might be yours," replies Maisie in perfect dead-pan.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Nurse! Get me a length of string and a doorknob

It's National Bookstart Day this week so we've quite a lot of stuff on for the tiny tots in our libraries. Just like normal, really, as that's the one area of our work that's got a ton-and-a-half of national projects providing resources, cajolings, bullyings and the like and we'd be too weak to resist even if we were much inclined to do so. Just to gild the lily, Frog's arranged for somebody to come to Helminthdale Central to do a couple of extra Stories & Songs sessions later this week.

Today, Frog's had a full day doing school visits and I'm not overly sure he's managed to get his breath back from all the Poetry In The Park stuff the other week: he looks a bit rough. So I could understand his not being entirely impressed by Lola's greeting on his return:
"We've not had any notices sent to us for those Stories & Songs sessions."

"Well, it is an event at your library. You might want to do some yourself."

The energetically enthusiastic response prompted Frog to take his coat back off and start doing a notice, if only to cover his back for when there are complaints to T.Aldous about the lack of publicity upstairs. I offered to do it for him so's he could make his planned escape for the evening.
"Oh no: I want to be properly annoyed by this one."

9,000 glossy art studies of General Bismark doing the splits

I didn't even manage a full morning

Bronwyn came over to ask me a question:

"Did you know that Catty Library has set up a reserve stock collection and set it up so that those books aren't available for use anywhere else in the Borough?"

Well no, I didn't. It ought not to be in the realms of possibility that I should know but I don't, I'm just the Systems Librarian. Bronwyn, however, really should know as she's responsible for stock management and stock profiles in every library we've got.

"I only found out when I tried to reserve a copy of this book for a customer and discovered that I couldn't," she explains. "When I rang up to ask about it they said that they put all the books that were too big to go on the shelves into boxes and put them in the back room. And changed the loan types so that they weren't available for loan elsewhere."

We both wondered what "too big" meant in this context. The book in question turned out to be only very slightly thicker than The Beano Book. Then we both tried not to go off on one on the subject of Catty Library.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Did you ever get the feeling that the truth was less revealing than an outright lie

I mentioned the other day that we were to have had a visitation from the director of Sheep City. My silence about the event isn't due to my signing up to an oath of silence, nor the storyteller's natural instinct for building up tension. Frankly, I'm still trying to work out what the hell was going on.

He thought he'd come along to tell us how we could work in partnership with Sheep City. It turned out that we knew better than him. "I don't really know what the Library Service does" wasn't a good opening gambit on his part. As it happens, Frog has spent the past fortnight working in partnership with Sheep City: a week-long Poetry In The Park programme for schools followed by a bunch of storytelling workshops for new parents; Bronwyn's arranging a couple of author visits to tie in with some of the centre's Autumn Programme; Maybelle's halfway through some community consultation work with the Cultural Development Officer; we work closely with the Heritage Centre to deliver local studies services there and in our libraries; and I'm working on some webby stuff with Henry (we're pretending we can avoid involving the museum staff as they're a bit odd).

It all got a bit vague and fluffy after that...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

"We expect no rain," said the weatherman, but it did

Doreen provides the reasoning behind none of us minions knowing about the Society of Chief Librarians' national "join one library and you've joined them all" programme which kicked in this week.

"We'd discussed this in Policy Team but we hadn't got a date for it."

I was on the point of asking why they hadn't planned and primed everybody so that once we knew a date we could set the machine in motion and do a bit of pre-publicity when I remembered that every single big piece of work I'm struggling with at the moment actually had a launch date set in stone and they still didn'y plan or prime anyway and I spared myself an embarassing redundancy.

Friday, October 02, 2009

You speak with forked tongue, Billy Two-Cheeks

It's not often I'm literally rendered speechless...

It's another Friday afternoon. T.Aldous toddles up with another piece of work he's been sitting on for three weeks which is now urgent.

"You're going to shout at me about this. This is urgent, can it be done by Tuesday?"

"I suppose I can try my best."

"I've been meaning to ask you to do it. It's very important."

"I can give it a go I suppose."

"So it can be done then?"

"Well... I can't give you any guarantees. I've got a lot on. I'll try my best."

"But it's a priority."

"Everything's a priority these days."

"Can't you prioritise then?"

It was Airforce Blue

I'm getting sick of hearing myself bitching about Catty Library, whatever the provocation. And I say so to Maisie:

"I've decided. I'm going to set myself a goal for next week. I'm going to try and go the whole week without having to bitch about Catty Library."

"No chance."

"I mean it. I'm sick of hearing me moaning about them."

"Not a hope."

"I'm serious."

"It's not like they're closed all next week."

"I don't care. A lad needs to set himself some goals."

"There's no point in setting goals that aren't realistic."

I mention this to Noreen. She provides some useful advice:

"Set yourself the goal of not killing any of them."

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Stars on Sunday, fish fingers and beans

Just me holding the fort downstairs this morning. Them as aren't involved in an event at Umpty Library or aren't providing cover support for A Very Busy Library That Will Go Nameless are all at a pre-retirement seminar in the Town Hall.