Quiet Improvements

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.

Camberley Pride

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.

Approaching Pride

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.

Creative Use of Library Space

We had a dance company in at one of my libraries yesterday performing a series of 10 minute pieces based around the interactions of people on the doorstep – inspired by lockdown among other things it features love blooming between a shopper and a delivery person. Fast, funny, suitable for all ages, and a great way of opening up library spaces and the way people think about them. The series is called “Doorstep Duets” and its presented by New/Adventures – they’re touring all over the place so keep an eye out for them.

Libraries are being used more and more for creative purposes, and its wonderful to see new people coming in to experience them. We did a recent survey of the sort of activities people would like to see, and a striking number wanted to see performances and music more often. Between that and a resurgent interest in local history we’ve got some good places to start in reimagining how we grab people’s imaginations. There were certainly a lot of smiles at the performances yesterday, so that’s a good start.

Productive Day

There’s a project close to my heart that I’ve been slowly pushing forward over the last four to six months, and that started to gain traction today. I’m aiming to improve access to items helpful for people with sensory processing issues in both schools and libraries – essentially a range of tactile, audio, and visual objects that can help or ground people with Autism or Alzheimer’s. The idea is that loaning these items will enable people, their families, schools, and carers to identify what best works for them at a reasonable price.

Today we agreed a project brief, and proposed some time scales to put a pilot together with some partner groups. It feels like a very concrete first step towards something quite special.

I also dropped in to the Pride In Surrey hub in Woking to introduce myself with my co-Chair hat on, and had some brief conversations around the upcoming Pride event at Camberley. I may also have bought a new mug and a snap fan in the colours of the Progress Pride flag.

Various other operational irons were stirred in the proverbial fire, but I’m mostly glad that today actually felt like I was moving with purpose again.

Knickers Everywhere

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.

People Saying Thanks

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.

Skeleton Crew

I still feel absolutely drained and am aching from Covid but have been mostly working front line this week in support of my amazing staff who have themselves been stricken in close succession by the new variant.

Their cheerful pragmatism has reminded me yet again of how lucky I am to work with and manage people dedicated to their communities and to helping everyone to the best of their abilities.

As might be expected with customer centric services, it hasn’t been without its challenges, but the support we have in turn received both from our own management, and from the public, has raised spirits as we’ve pressed on.

Even in hard and stressful weeks like this, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else, no matter how much I might grumble in the moment

Still Bunged Up

This cold is stubbornly hanging on and seriously disrupting my sleep. I am at least managing to avoid the worst of the grumpiness that might otherwise be expected. That’s just as well as I’m in the middle of interviewing people for a role – what’s the worst that could happen?

Fortunately a good thing that has happened has been the delivery of new arts and crafts materials that we’re distributing out to the wider library network. These will help staff create displays and activities for a wide range of events – and it was great fun checking items and posting them out.

So here’s hoping for an easier night, better breathing, and a smooth day tomorrow.

Could You All Just Stop?

My day started with one of my branch managers phoning me while they were having a panic attack on top of what turned out to be an acute asthma attack. They were worried that they might have to close their library as they were working on their own. There’s a lot to unpick there, and once I’d talked them through getting their breathing a bit less on the edge of collapse I wasted no time in telling them that I couldn’t care less about closing the library – their health is far more important. This is an individual who is new in their job and feels they have a lot to prove, despite my telling them many times over that they are doing a great job and literally have nothing to prove and they need to slow down.

Grumpy? Me?

While still reeling that in I got a call about another member of staff wrenching their back while reaching for christmas decorations in a cupboard, had an update on another person about to undergo surgery, and had calls from the cub’s school that he wasn’t well and could someone come and retrieve him. I may have growled about that as he’d pranked me this morning by walking out of his room with red vaseline around his mouth so that it looked like he had foot and mouth but was thankfully at that time okay. Lady M meanwhile had called in sick with a heavy cold, and while down in Portsmouth boy s had also succumbed to the same cold.

It turned out that the cub has, you guessed it, got the same heavy cold as Lady M and boy s – so I’m chalking it up to Con Flu from the weekend. Lateral Flow Tests have remained negative.

Me? I haven’t got time to be ill. I had school runs, building health and safety inspections, job shortlisting, event risk assessments, and partnership meetings to sort out – and retrieving boy s from Portsmouth after hours. Tomorrow I have more of the same, so I’ve quarantined everyone else in the flat in the other rooms and laid claim to the sofa. If I get this in the same week that I’ve had my blood pressure medications increased, I won’t be happy.

So, could you all just stop falling apart please? I haven’t finished my turn yet.