It’s been a varied and extended week, but a highlight of my week was attending an EDI conference in Dorking this week. It was a chance to meet colleagues working in and across Surrey on practical elements of EDI.
Many of them were people I had only seen on a screen before, so there was a joyous sense of connection that kept leaping up through the day in various group exercises.
Talking and sharing our stories as a diverse group of individuals underlined the commonalities that bind us together in our communities and highlighted the blind spots in our daily lives as we met people living and working in other spaces.
I have always been a champion of the power of shared spaces and listening to other people, and combined with the very practical focus of the event on tangible actions, the whole event felt purposeful.
A big take away from it all was identifying not only who our communities were, but the teams, and mechanisms, and opportunities available to drive better listening and engagement.
My favourite element? We were offered coloured packets of air-drying clay to work with and keep our hands busy during ice breaking and ongoing conversations. I was delighted to see the creativity and conversations these alone prompted.
I made various things, but settled on this happy fellow
We had a shorter session this week for the Librarian game – partly because we’ve all had long days today – but we did manage to take a peek into the lives of our new heroes with some down time, and their preparations for a charity ball that they had been invited to.
Pan hit the aisles and shelves of the libraries in search of lore that they weren’t prepared to share with their new companions. Despite many days surrounded by maps and shipping manifests, they found no new information of any consequence. Wilhelm spent a week lecturing and working at his day job, enjoying the routine of both informing and torturing the students attending this talks. He also began planning for the ball.
Xander, still woozy with amnesia, found himself worrying more and more about what to wear to the ball and so threw himself into tinkering in his makeshift workshop. He brewed a potion of healing, and educated himself with fashion magazines and reports of society balls. Lila went back to the Cogs and spent more time with the gang they’d made friends with, and frequenting a number of low dives in search of new gambling dens. Much to her own surprise, she ended up with more money that she’d started, and decided to invest it in some fine clothing.
Catriona spent a lot of time worrying about the ball – as much because she came from a monastic tradition in her faith – and so research was the order of the day for her too. As events would soon show, she perhaps had better sources in her research than Xander did/
All through the week, the group kept in touch with what they were looking to wear – and they got together before the ball to compare their outfits. Xander, in particular stood out – with a suit composed of elements that were of fine quality individually, but when put together were somewhat distressing to the eye. Pinstripe trousers in grey were matched with a black plaid jacket, and a blue polka-dot shirt and brown shoes. All of this was topped with a neon green bow tie. Each of the items was lightly glamered to shimmer and shine from time to time as it caught the light. He was certainly an arresting sight, and not easily overlooked. Wilhelm’s tailored suit was a vision of purple and red accompanied with a corset and frilled shirt – impeccable in construction and poise. Lila went for simplicity and practicality in her elegant dress, while Catriona affected a classic purple dress that looked old and yet classically new at the same time.
Having assembled in one of the university bars, all eyes turned to Pan as they made their entrance…
Here in the UK, its National Libraries Week and I’m very proud to be doing my bit to help promote it. I was asked to put together a ‘day in the life’ style blog post about my role, answering some questions in common with other people in the service at different levels – and we’ve had various bits released through the week.
Libraries are a thing that I get very passionate about, especially when it comes to supporting and engaging with our local communities. We see people at their best and their worst through their whole lives; and at our best equip people with opportunities and knowledge to take control of their own lives.
Libraries have never just been about books. Librarians have always been subversive in the face of censors. I’m proud of what I do, and I’m proud of the people who work for and with me.
After the whirlwind of the last few weeks these last few days have been quite pleasant. That’s not to say there haven’t been moments that prompted the odd eye roll, but in general my stress levels have been a lot lower
Mostly that’s because the frenzy of events has finished for a little while, and also because my staff reminded me I can actually give them jobs to do on top of their day to day stuff. This was all wrapped up in a concern for my health that was heartening.
In the meantime I’ve been carrying on with a piece on Allyship that I’m starting to socialise now I’ve got the basic copy done, and have spent an afternoon wrangling accessibility issues. I need to get some more sensitivity reading done but I’m feeling confident in the piece at the moment.
And this evening we had the regular Destiny stream on Lady B’s Twitch where we pretended to be space pirates for a while.
Tomorrow we need to get the cub’s school clothing sorted ahead of the new term in Monday. He is not looking forward to it.
So, back to work today following my unexpected derailment with a kidney stone yesterday. That was my body telling me to be sensible in hot weather (like the whole of Saturday at Pride and then a glass or two of wine on Sunday). Cue a day of painkillers, a hot water bottle, and the consumption of my own bodyweight in water to flush everything through.
I had (mostly) meetings spread through the day, but also got asked to put my Staff Network hat on to write up the corporate Pride report for the network. It seems to now be an annual tradition to get me to write such things, and as I was halfway through doing something specifically for the library intranet anyway it was only a quick skip and a hop to turn it into something more extensive and stick some photos in there.
That made for a positive end to the day at work, and since then I’ve caught up on TV and started to set up for a second D&D group to run monthly, with some colleagues from work. That’s a nice little side project. With any luck we’ll also be back into the adventures of the DDC this weekend as well.
I was wearing three metaphorical hats today and no physical ones as a sunny day dawned on Pride in Surrey at Camberley’s Recreation Grounds.
Eight in the morning saw me assembling the library stall as part of a wider group putting together stands in the Surrey County Council marquee and there was very little let up from that point.
My metaphorical hats were those of being one of the Library Group Managers, of being co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Staff Network, and part of my extended polycule as we coordinated various vehicles and modes of transport to get there. Somehow the plate spinning didn’t get out of control and I was able to slip between the competing roles with ease, which was helpful.
The whole day has been amazing – a much bigger site than last year at Godalming and thankfully all on a level rather than the entertaining slopes we coped with previously. The route of the parade was also far longer, weaving through the town and shopping centre before heading through residential streets to the park. Barring one very small group of teenage boys trying to be edgy we also had nothing but support and cheers from the crowds who had turned out. If there were counter-protestors (as had been threatened) they didn’t disrupt or dismay anyone.
Instead I was able to support colleagues, network with politicians and other organisations, mind our library mascot for their appearances, and still spend time with my loved ones and the assorted children we had with us.
We may even have persuaded our political portfolio holder to get his face painted with flowers and he very gamely let us decorate him in celebration of his being a fantastic ally both of libraries and the lgbtq+ community.
I’m home now, footsore, slightly sunburned, but fed and watered. Everyone has been delivered home to where they need to be, and I’m having my last cuppa to round out the day. It’s been a good one, and so’s the cuppa.
Even with having a part in preparations for work’s presence at Pride In Surrey this year I’m still feeling unready – but mostly because I’m not sure how I’m actually going to get there. There are train and bus disruptions so I suspect I may have to get a taxi, and this just considering me. Somehow we’ll get the whole Entourage there
In the meantime I have a stack of flags in my bag to use as table cloths on the day. So that’s useful. I need now to start thinking of what I’m going to wear on the day and use as props. To be fair if these are the biggest worried I need to deal with I’ll be fine.
Then next week starts my Leadership training, which I’ve gained access to with my Network Chair role as well as my managing and mentoring a group of managers in the day job. While I’m not expecting anything life changing, I am looking forward to it, and it is already opening doors.
Now, if the anxiety and depression could all nip off down the shops and not come back, that would be helpful.
We’re starting to gear up for the Jubilee celebrations in the libraries, and I’ve just overheard two of my staff on the phone to each other assuring each other that they’re not copying each other and are doing quite different children’s events and crafts based around the book The Queen’s Knickers.
Independent invention is a wonderful thing, and in this case I know it’s been prompted by hardback deliveries this week of the same books to each library in the area.
At the library I’m currently basing myself from, the focus is on inviting people to decorate a template looking like a set of underwear with whatever colours, patterns, or cut out shapes and pictures they like. The resulting pieces are then being hung up on “washing lines” within the children’s library.
It’s all good fun, and I’ve only had to veto a couple of design choices suggested out of devilment by the staff as they make up some samples to start it all off. I look forward to seeing the collection grow…
And yes, I have contributed a design. Doesn’t seem to be up yet.
As is usually the case my first day back at work was largely spent filtering and triaging the hundreds of emails that had come in while I was away. The wonderful thing was that my steadfast crew of merry pirates had basically got on with being awesome and dealt with most things without any need to do more than just let me know the outcomes.
After filtering those out it left maybe a dozen or so things I needed to take a look at, and of those none required me to hit anyone with a rolled up newspaper. I may have raised an eyebrow at one or two people and asked for clarification, but that’s hardly unusual.
We’ve even managed to sort out some music licences for some planned events, so that’s a big win.
And yet people still look surprised when I tell them I love my job.
It’s very easy to fixate on troublesome or demanding customers, but one positive thing from being on the desks this week has been hearing people say thank you.
Libraries are not just about books. A very large part of what we do is signpost people to other services or sources of information when they’re looking for help. We’re currently involved in a pilot scheme to give staff more tools to answer local authority information questions and it has helped their confidence so much. Here are three interactions I’ve witnessed or been part of this week:
From a lady who had just been helped with a bus pass renewal for herself and her husband and then a follow-on query about Covid 4th Booster rules and advice: “The young lady here has been very helpful and saved us a lot of time trying to ring round to find all this out, she’s been very good.”
From a gentleman who had enquiries about bins and recycling rotas in his area: “Oh thank you, I just can’t make sense of any of it, just get confused – you’ve explained that so well.”
From a gentleman who was in with his family, asking about local schools admissions: “Thank you, we wouldn’t even know where to begin looking for all this. You’ve saved us so much time.”
I think it’s important to acknowledge the good along with the challenging.