Quietly Working

I’m taking advantage of the hard work yesterday clearing down old archives to make sure that the bags of confidential waste are prepped and ready for collection by our secure shredding service. If nothing else its giving me a workout, so I’m pausing a moment for a cuppa.

If there’s one thing this week of clearing out rubbish and shelving has made clear to me, it’s how the lockdown has affected my stamina levels. Before this week I’ve been having aches and pains, but now I have muscles letting me know that they’ve been used, and that’s a good thing.

What I shall need to be aware of is that many of the people I work with will be in similar states as and when we reopen in whatever capacity to the public. It can be very easy to forget that working in a library is quite physical between shifting stock, being on your feet most of the day, and of course moving around to help people all over buildings that frequently have multiple floors.

When are we reopening? Well we don’t actually know yet. We were working to the assumption that it would be July, but the announcement this week of non-essential shops being allowed to reopen in a couple of weeks time has also folded libraries into that umbrella.

We’re still working out how to best do it safely, and are doing assessments on how to phase some sort of service back into play. In the meantime, data cleansing and physical cleansing are an ongoing process in preparation of any announcements.

So we’ll see what happens. Interesting Times…

Cleanup in all the Aisles

I’ve been putting it off, but yesterday I went into one of my libraries with a colleague to do a cleardown of surfaces and a general clearout of expired leaflets and paperwork. Eight large bags of recycling and three large bin liners later, we called it a day.

If nothing else it helped keep my back limber as I’ve had a trapped nerve for a couple of days.

The other good thing (aside from it being easier to clean surfaces), is that it has given me ideas for jobs for staff to do when they return, such as having a sort through craft materials. We have an archive of old crafts ideas dating back the best part of twenty years that needs a critical eye too.

Today I’ll be going back in to start going through the drawers behind the main desk. There’s a lot of rubbish in there…

Library Life Behind the Scenes

I’m just back home from doing a quick tour of my libraries this morning and it has at least given me a chance to be outside the four walls of my flat. There are a number of things we’re doing while we’re closed in preparation for when it is safe to reopen, and they range from some simple maintenance of the buildings to measuring up for potential protective measures. The libraries are big enough that we can observe social distancing while a few of us go in to sort these things out, but it still feels strange to be doing so.

The first library was just a very brief stop in before we handed the building over to decorators. I was there the other day clearing surfaces, but today was the official start of works. I’ll not be returning there until works are completed on some repainting and minor repairs and the company hands the building back to us. Having been there for about two or three minutes, it was then on to the biggest of the libraries to catch up with a fellow manager while we went through and started throwing out outdated manuals, empty biscuit tins, and all the minor detritus that seems to build up in workrooms and staff areas to take over every surface.

Along the way we found training manuals for IT systems that don’t exist any more, procedures printed out from seven or eight years ago that have been superceded, and new homes for all the cash paying in stubs that we need to retain for a few more years. Waste disposal companies got politely prodded to come and actually empty bins that weren’t; air conditioning units got inspected and maintained; water tanks and sinks checked for legionella/water temperature controls – and yes, okay, we gossipped and caught up on how things are going because these things too are important.

The other libraries it was just a quick glance on the way past to check the doors were still locked and nothing looked out of place. We’ll get to them next week – we’re pacing ourselves.

More importantly the majority of our conversations are debates on how to interpret the guidance being wafted around in such a way as to promote safe access to services and buildings for staff and public alike. We’re already pushing our digital services and online presentations – with rhymetimes, storytimes, and craft events all being presented online via social media – on https://www.facebook.com/surreylibrariesUK/ – and a big part of our debate is how we can safely restart doing these activities in the branches. We’ll just have to see what happens.

Guerilla Tidying

Psst, there’s an advantage to being a library manager during lockdown. I get to go in there when no one else is around and sit and read and look after the books.

The libraries, I am sure of it, get upset if left alone too long. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had systems play up, or books slip from shelves when they’ve been alone for too long.

One of my libraries is due to be decorated this week, so I joined a couple of other managers to do some preparations ahead of the workmen arriving. Vulnerable books have been relocated, outdated paperwork shredded, and access points cleared so things can be quietly and efficiently completed with a minimum of annoyance to the library itself.

I could swear that the library is all aquiver about the attention its getting after weeks of quiet – its certainly been good to see colleagues again and to do something practical while maintaining our distances.

One or two books may have been perused in the process…

Data Musings

I’m back on the data cleansing today, removing out of date remarks and correcting errors where encountered. Its a painstaking process that even with my glasses on requires taking semi-regular breaks.

What I am noticing as I work through the spreadsheet and system is the sheer diversity of our customers. It is wonderful. Sometimes there are whole families with sequential entries where they’ve all joined at once, but more often than not a single digit difference at the end of the card tells a story of the range of people in our community that have walked in through the doors and joined up for their card.

Its something I’m aware of when working with the public every day, but something about working through each entry is reinforcing it for me, and reminding me of how lucky I am to work with so many varied individuals

Back to the Grindstone

Taking time for myself seems to have been the right decision yesterday as I was able to focus much better today. Its been another day of data cleansing, and catching up on emails, but also of rearranging some furniture in the flat.

I’ve wanted to open up the corner of our main living area that has a mass accumulation of cables, phone points, and general tech for a while as its been quite cramped. A lot of the tidying I’ve done the last few days was aimed at clearing the sofas off so I could shift one up closer to the piano and swap a low coffee table round to be against the wall on the other side.

This has meant being able to shelve and present our recipe books in a more usable way, and mean that I don’t have to perform a delicate dance round and between sofa ends to answer the phone. It does now mean that I’ve now got more stuff back on the sofas but its all odds and ends I’m in the middle of rationalising, discarding, or relocating anyway, so its all Just As Planned. Honest.

Hopefully the ability to focus will remain as I attack the next tranche of data, but even more importantly I’ve got to video some more clips in cosplay for another couple of projects. More on this… later…

Data Cleansing and Inner Calm

We’ve been able to enable access to some work systems using Citrix recently, so now have a useful tool for calming the mind and feeling that I’m doing something useful at the same time: data cleansing.

Specifically we’re going through records to find where a remark has been left on an account and not removed in a timely manner. For the most part this is an oversight and is actually relatively rare, so I’m either removing the outdated remark or marking an entry on the shared report as checked and moving on.

Not only am I currently averaging a library a day at the moment, but I’m finding it a good way to occupy the spider-monkeys in my brain as they look for breaks in patterns and flag what needs further investigation – and as there’s no real deadline to work to I can move at a steady pace and coordinate with my peers who are also involved in doing it.

So that’s today’s path to inner calm: repetitive data work. Later I shall be doing something creative to let the spider-monkeys off the leash.

Oh yeah, World Book Day Happened

That said, I’m not too worried about not blogging on the day about it as so many schools have decided to do things on the Friday before the weekend rather than have dress-down days. Only this morning I had a number of Harry Potters appear for Rhymetime, making me wish I’d brought in one of my replica wands with which to join in the fun and practice some spells with them.

Yesterday was the day itself though, and as libraries we did our best to fit it in with our general mission of getting interesting books in front of variously interested people of all ages. I was unable to convince any of the staff working with me to actually dress up as anything, so I was left to fly the flag and adopt most of my Harley Quinn cosplay while still remaining professional and unscary to the majority of our customers. In other words: no weapons, no facepaint, no fake tattoos, or blood (fake, or otherwise).

Just an average day at the library

In practice this meant a white shirt, the red and black waistcoat made by Lady M, and the old red and black nail varnish. This was fine, and bemused a number of elderly customers who didn’t dare ask what was going on. My staff are used to it, so all was well. We just didn’t get any children older than two and a half in all day. You might think therefore that this was a waste of time, but I say any excuse to wear cosplay at work and be paid for it is no bad thing. Then again, I am famous for having no shame over these things.

I couldn’t be bothered to remove the nail varnish last night, so I’m still wearing it today, along with my more general casually smart library manager attire. So far I’ve had ten people admire and compliment my nails while I’ve been serving them. I’ll take that.

Chaotic Day

Well, that was a day. I think my body is trying to collapse into having a cold, with a sinus headache that’s lasted three days so far. So as you might expect I wasn’t full of the joys of spring this morning when I got into work and started to do the float and cash up.

Very quickly, from phonecalls and emails, my to do list grew rapidly – and then I had to stop and search in the safe for extra money put aside by a colleague earlier in the week as the till draw started to get full. There was no note left to let me know however, so that was a nervous five minutes working out how I could be significantly under on the expected total.

And then I got a call. Bear in mind we’ve only been open half an hour or so by this point. Could you come over to Chertsey to supervise the coder dojo? The person who was going to do so has gone sick. There’s a volunteer to run it but we need you there as someone sensible.

Well there’s a lot to unpack there. The last coding I ever did was visual basic as a database front end some fifteen or more years ago. It also meant that I wouldn’t be there to meet an artist and supervise him putting up an installation, or any number of staff support and management things rapidly pinging on my radar.

On the other hand, what’s the worst that could happen?

It went okay. I stayed hands off and interpreted a few things for the children if they didn’t quite follow the volunteer’s directions – and otherwise managed a number of issues by phone. The kids were happy, the staff were happy, and I discovered new bus routes I was previously unaware of.

I do enjoy a bit of chaos to shake things up, but today was a bit non stop. Let’s see where the pieces I had to drop today ended up…

Bit Windy Out There

So we’re quite lucky in that the worst of the high winds seem to have passed us by – but it is still strong enough out there to be slapping at my beard as it gusts. Unlike some friends we’ve not had electrical disruption locally, and having no garden we’ve not had to chase after any lawn furniture or escaping trampolines.

We’ve got off lightly really. Even so, my first thought when none of our computer systems fired up this morning I did wonder if it could somehow be blamed on the weather.

Even so life goes on. In total defiance of the weather, a local school duly sent a class of young children round to see us, wrapped head to toe in thick jackets and warm hats and hoods. Cue one session if the history of libraries, how to treat your books, how to use the library, and a game where we arranged the children in alphabetical order – as you do.

Considering we had no working systems to demonstrate it all went rather well. Now to batten down the hatches before the next storm arrives. It must be winter or something.