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.

Meetings and Inspirations

It’s always nice to get away from the daily details of work and do some more strategic planning and preparation. There’s a lot of day to day detail that my team have taken on and excelled at under difficult conditions.

Today that freed me to meet with colleagues from other organisations and to praise everyone’s hard work to senior management.

In only a few short months since the restructure we’ve managed to deliver events and innovative partnership pilots in ways that have drawn praise and notice. That was how I ended up brought in to start discussions on how we can deliver against strategic targets and develop best practice and mentorship on how we’ve been operating.

No pressure…

Fair to say I’m a bit fired up from the day. I may have got on my soapbox a couple of times.

Frontline No More

The universe plainly decided that I needed another last Saturday at the pit face, and so people went sick or on holiday and I stepped into the breach.

By now there’s no doubt I’m in the new role properly – I was in conversation via Teams with other senior managers about a number of issues, and my branch managers were keeping me copied in as they resolved or headed off issues.

And at the same time, as we closed up the small library this evening, I’d be lying if there wasn’t a small pang as I took some pictures to remind me:

Next week… well I already know the main challenges lined up. We’ll see what happens.

Last Saturday

In the morning it will be my last Saturday as a Duty Manager, and most likely my last Saturday working front-line, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

On a very superficial level it’ll be nice to have my weekends back, even if I’m on call from time to time, especially as we head into the summer. On the other hand it has been a feature of my life over the last nine years that has led to a range of memories.

I think it’s starting to feel more real, especially as I’ve been pulled more and more to do work for and in transition to the new role this week. The new job officially starts on the 1st, with the new rota from the 5th – so I’m not entirely sure how next week is going to pan out.

My last Saturday though. Feels odd to contemplate that after so long. No more being the manager of one library in a group, now a much wider set of responsibilities awaits. Fingers crossed, eh?

Win Some, Lose Some

We’re still shuffling things for the restructure, and I have new twists appearing every day. Today I’ve gained a new manager, and lost one, but then that person will now be a peer at my level, while others have been receiving less happy news.

I am so pleased for the people who have succeeded, even while cursing under my breath at yet another rota reshuffle being needed. I’m also looking for ways to support and build up people who haven’t been successful, especially where their nerves have got the better of them.

Even with all the deadlines and shuffling around, the basic needs of my staff and colleagues are important and I’ll be looking how best to help people along while we keep the wheels turning.