Where Am I?

A year ago I was reading reports of some new virus that was starting to spread, and felt that we’d probably be okay if we were sensible. I never dreamed that a year on I’d be wearing a mask nearly all day as a key worker, and as of this morning breaking the news to staff that another colleague had lost a close relative to covid.

Sometimes I’m numb to it, sometimes I’m angry. I’m grabbing humour where I can find it. Sometimes I wish I could work from home, but most of the time I’m glad I can get out of the house. I remind myself I’m very privileged, even as I want to curl up and hide under the blankets.

But hey, someone yesterday asked to buy the original of one of my sketches, so that’s a nice thing.

Professional Calm Moment

I love the Great British Public, even when I could cheerfully be very rude back at certain individuals. I’m so proud of my restraint and professionalism this afternoon that I had a twenty minute rant about the incident during counselling this evening.

I had a young man come to the door and ask to use the computers. When I said I would need to book him in because we have to log people for track and trace purposes he started on a bizarre ramble about how it was time to stop with covid now. It wasn’t that bad and was now being used both as a method of control and a smokescreen to distract from Brexit.

I’m sure, while you unpick all that, you’ll be amazed that I limited my response to a brief statement that I would not be entering into any discussion about it with him and sorted out the access he needed.

I then had to send my Saturday staff elsewhere as he started creeping on them, and had to have a word about boundaries with him.

Repeat after me: the common sense of the British public will get us through this.

What a cockwomble

All Ending In Tiers

I couldn’t resist the joke.

Within ten minutes of the announcement of Surrey going in to Tier 3 restrictions I had people coming in wanting to grab as many books as possible. They were afraid we were about to close our doors.

Thankfully I was in a position to be able to tell them that while they were very welcome to carry as many books as they could, we would be remaining open so they could relax. Our existing precautions and spaces, along with the fact we don’t serve food or drink meant we don’t need to alter the service we provide.

There was much relief, and slightly less worry as a result.

I have one more day of work and then I’m off until after Christmas. I feel I’ve earned the break.

Oh, The Usual Chaos

We’ve been able to reopen the libraries for browsing by the public, so its nice to see that most of the requests this morning have been to use the photocopier. Given that yesterday we started the consultation phase for a new restructure, that may only be a moderately salty comment.

I read through the documentation, rushed through the seven stages of grief and then got on with the day because I’ve always found there’s two things that help put things in perspective: being actually very busy with customers and their enquiries, and the sudden and unexpected death of a colleague’s relative.

Compared to that, my minor grumps are very small beans indeed.

A Calm Centre

I had a brief chat today with a friend about how we’re each coping with everything going on, and how it is reported. We both agreed that we were each actively working on not letting ourselves get angry on a regular basis.

I went on to say that I was doing lots of focusing on being firm but kind with people that came in to the library, and helping where I can to at least make my small corner of the world less beastly.

What’s the alternative? Hopelessly screaming, shouting, and ranting is therapeutic to be sure, but helping keep everything stable for others helps me in the long run by requiring less sets of spoons to maintain after a while.

It just feels a lot of effort to be getting there. Being kind is full time work.

Battling the Fear

Lady M had to pop out this morning to drop some things to the post office, and then get some ingredients to do some baking. All things that sound innocuous enough, but when she returned, she was exhausted – and revealed that her stress levels had spiked so hard when getting to the supermarket that she’d had to stop and have a bit of a breather. This is not unlike the sort of conversations I’ve been having with staff this week.

The UK government decided to lower it’s pandemic severity rating from a 4 to a 3 this week, to catch up with the announcement the week before that it was going to recommend more places opening up. There are more than a few medical and clinical workers facepalming at the moment, but in truth it is a political decision as much as an interpretation of the highly contentious statistics of infections and deaths.

Lady M, like many of my staff, have obeyed the lockdown – in no small part because they’ve been working from home and so haven’t had the experience of seeing people getting used to the strange interpretations of social distancing and mask wearing that different people have been making. I’ve been able to get out and do grocery shopping while she’s been battling work issues so my usual internal grump is around the anticipation of queueing a while.

By comparison, Lady M has also had to battle the stark clash between media sources urging care and the reality of the Great British public who are worse than a bundle of cats for staying and doing what they’re told. I shall continue to bear this in mind as we work to get the libraries open safely for both staff and customers. On both sides we will have people who are rightly nervous on some level about accessing the buildings and the treasures they contain – and I hope we can maintain both understanding and kindness in the process.

Seeing Happy Faces

I’ve carried on with doing risk assessments with my staff the last couple of days. If there’s been one common observation it has been the look of relief on people’s faces as I’ve let them into the building.

Many of them haven’t been far from their houses during lockdown – for a couple it was one of their first forays out of their house – but each of them visibly relaxed their shoulders and smiled as they re-entered the library and saw colleagues.

I don’t know about anything else, but those moments alone have made the effort of the last few days worth it.

Risk Assessments

I’ve started the process of talking to staff to identify concerns and issues around reopening the libraries next month if things continue as they are. For the most part so far there’s a general pragmatism and desire to be getting on with things – as much for the sense of not being in limbo any more as anything else. The biggest concern so far has been around using public transport.

The concern has ranged from contamination risks and distancing to potential delays due to any distancing preventing their getting the bus on time. We’ll see what tomorrow’s interviews bring.

For the most part, bringing people along on these risk assessments is part of a process of getting their active involvement in thinking about their own responsibilities to themselves and their families.

I can and have done assessments of the work places alongside colleagues against known recommendations, but the only people who can give me an informed assessment of how they’re doing and especially what their fears are are the staff themselves.

It is a good excuse to get to see familiar faces again as well. Even where we’re discussing contentious or difficult issues its still a pleasure to be catching up properly. We’ll see if tomorrow manages to be as productive.

Rings and Things

Being separated is hard, but we’re doing our best to keep as chipper as possible. The DDC is helping lift our spirits and support all round, but its still no substitute for when we can get our polycule back together.

In theory, we can after relaxation of restrictions were announced, but given how high infections and deaths are – exceeding what they were when we went into lockdown – there’s a wariness of believing the UK government’s competence and motives. In some ways this makes it even harder, but we’ll get through and it’ll be all the better for it when we do.

In the meantime, I finally had delivery of a set of rings that the core triad of myself, Lady M and mre S wanted to adopt to signify our link. We had some issues with a lost shipment and needing to reorder among the chaos of lockdown, but we finally have three simple matching rings that are staying in their boxes until we can all get together. They’re enamelled steel with the polyam symbol etched and painted on them – simple, discrete, and one more reason to hope for better times to come.

I was talking to a colleague yesterday after an LGBTQ+ staff network Teams meeting about the DDC and our gaming group.

On describing the mix of characters and their quirks I was told that it was a group they’d love to read a novel about. I think thats a wonderful tribute to the invention and warmth of the players and their alter egos. My little writeups here barely scratch the surface of what a joy they are to DM and game with.