Hello Winter

So, the clocks went back last night (or this morning, depending on your sleep patterns). As a result, anyone listing their activities in terms of GMT is now accurate for the next six months. So there’s that. I definitely needed that extra hour as our Pirates D&D game went on a bit later than planned – with a Halloween Beetlejuice-inspired caper.

Spooky is as spooky does

Oh, how we laughed. Well, more like screamed imprecations at the players who summoned him before finishing the containment bindings, but it did make for a fun and chaotic battle through a dollhouse.

The players learned that there was a reason I’d been grabbing and scrimshawing so many bones (healing potions reskinned as bones to break to activate). They also learned that my cleric’s version of turning undead was to shake bones and tell the zombies to f*** off back to their graves in fluent Draconic. And that said zombies tended to then explode when he did so. So that was colourful.

All of which was a good contrast to the week or so of prepping and undertaking interviewing of prospective saturday staff for the library I’ve just had. A night of mayhem was a good antidote.

Oh, and I did have time during the day to go see myr s for a few hours as well, which was also much needed by us both.

An Apprentice Appears

It sounds like the title to some High Fantasy Detective novel, but in this case its actually a work post. We’ve taken on some young apprentices at the library as part of a structured course; and today I met the one assigned to our neck of the woods (mostly because where they were due to be working is currently having its floor dug up, but that’s another story)

I don’t say this lightly, but so far I’m impressed. They’ve had previous retail and customer service experience and it shows. For their sins they’ve got to work with me again tomorrow, so there will be some interesting dynamics at play, with a very young set of people and varying degrees of motivation.

What’s the worst that could happen?

They Seek Him Here…

Do you ever get those gut feeling days where getting out of bed doesn’t appeal? That was me this morning, and while it wasn’t horrific in any sense it was busy.

It was also filled with Sod’s Law moments: like having to reset the fuses for the lights when i walked in to work, or having to change libraries to support someone when bank staff didn’t turn up for work, or a colleague telling me she was having such a stressful day that her period had started as soon as I walked through the door – with her eyes doing the flickering dance of someone whose brain is catching up with the words just after they’ve left their mouth and is considering digging a deep hole in the floor.

So we got on with the day, as the only sensible way to move on from the moment, because there was a lot to do.

So, as an antidote to that, here’s the film clip I recorded for Libraries Week on Saturday:

Libraries Week Preparations

Next week we’re celebrating libraries, and I got put in the spot to film a quick 60-90 second spot about amazing things in the library.

So I scribbled some notes, and recorded something this afternoon on the phone, as you do. I might share that at some point next week, but here’s the text of my notes:

Got time for a quick story? I pretty much grew up in my local library. I spent nearly every day in there, reading everything I could: Secret Seven, Famous Five, the Hardy Boys, Tintinhull, Asterix… not to mention all the Dr Who novels.

Life and my career took me elsewhere, but not as effectively as the stories I devoured…

And then I came back to work in a library. I was surrounded by books – old friends and new – but this time I’ve discovered the real treasure: the people who work and browse here.

There’s nothing like the buzz of a library full of excited children singing, or doing crafts, or just chattering with their friends.

Even better is the sense of being part of the community – whether on visits to schools and play groups, being spotted by children in the local supermarket, or talking to familiar faces who just want to say hello and know they’ll be missed if they’re not there.

There’s still lots of Dr Who novels though. I do like those.

Spoons Management

I’ve been reviewing staff risk assessments over the last couple of days, checking how people have been coping with being back at work. Its part of an ongoing one-to-one process we’ve been doing as we get the libraries reopened to ensure that we are able to properly support people’s physical and mental health during this extremely unseated time.

I am very lucky that the people I’m managing are pragmatic and well-motivated. There are one or two who have needed more support than others for a variety of reasons, but without fail each person in the review to date has been positive and expressed a relief at how smoothly things have been going. For the most part everyone has been relieved to find that their worries have not materialised. Dare I say it, but we’ve even had smiles.

I have to say that I am exhausted, but its not from the day to day of the library. Instead we are still in limbo at home waiting on Lady M’s MRI, which we just learned was cancelled as the hospital accidentally discharged her when they let her come home. For some reason it is now up to us to chase and rearrange it so we can get a clear picture of what’s going on. Lady M is bearing up as well as you could hope for, but the worry is taking its toll on both of us.

For my part I’m just exhausted, all the time, and a bit numb when I’m not. Understandable really, but its not depression, its just what my counsellor calls over-saturation and I call running our of spoons. Catnaps and an early night beckon to rebuild my energy for tomorrow. And in the meantime I distracted Lady M with a new Funko that I knew she’d been admiring

Hot and Bothered

It is lovely and hot here, with gentle breezes now and then that brush across the balcony. At least it is more comfortable now than when the full heat of the sun was in play.

The good news for me was that I was working in an air conditioned library. We’ve been moving furniture, laying down vinyl signs and hazard tape, and generally getting ready to open in a couple of weeks.

Its going to be an odd experience re-openimg, and there’s still disquiet over what may yet happen. It has only ramped up with seeing footage of people abandoning all pretense of distamcing. Beaches, rivers, pubs – all swamped by people who seem to believe that the danger is past.

I really wish I believed that. I really wish that things were safe enough to see loved ones, family, and friends.

Working Pride

Sadly with lockdown still wreaking havoc there’s absolutely no chance of getting to a Pride event this year, but at least through work there is an opportunity to celebrate a little.

I’m working as part of the LGBTQ+ Pride Network where I am, and this week has seen an invitation go up on the staff Jive network to post rainbows either as flags, themes, filters or whatever for Pride.

Cue one virtual Pride picture

Its only a little thing, but seeing everyone putting up posts is heartening. The rainbow Funko has been produced by them in support of Pride and the It Gets Better Project with part of the proceeds going to that charity.

So there’s a positive thing.

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.