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.
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.
As is usually the case my first day back at work was largely spent filtering and triaging the hundreds of emails that had come in while I was away. The wonderful thing was that my steadfast crew of merry pirates had basically got on with being awesome and dealt with most things without any need to do more than just let me know the outcomes.
After filtering those out it left maybe a dozen or so things I needed to take a look at, and of those none required me to hit anyone with a rolled up newspaper. I may have raised an eyebrow at one or two people and asked for clarification, but that’s hardly unusual.
We’ve even managed to sort out some music licences for some planned events, so that’s a big win.
And yet people still look surprised when I tell them I love my job.
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.
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
I’m taking a pause to let myself be unwell today. I’ve been trying to ignore a gathering headcold but have decided to do what I keep telling my staff, which is to be sensible and kind to myself so I can recover more quickly.
There’s a lot going on at work that I’m really proud and excited by, and I can’t wait to quietly gush as they come to fruition. The most rewarding part of my job sometimes is seeing the jigsaw pieces slot into place or in being able to arrange for new tools or opportunities for people.
The last week has been full of those moments, including access to stock photo archives and display making resources that have previously been unavailable to staff. It sounds a small thing, but we spend so much time making displays to inform and entice that these are incredibly useful and timesaving.
Just as no good deed goes unpunished, no holiday goes without emails to catch up on – and the plate spinning has been particularly fierce this week.
Somehow it’s still only Wednesday.
I’m taking heart from the fact that many of my work conversations have been about building partnerships and setting things up for artistic endeavours to benefit and entertain our local communities. If all goes to plan, I’m very excited.
Meanwhile, slightly more mundane building issues have been my more immediate focus. The joys of management…
I was talking with a colleague today to – as they put it – be a common sense and reality check. The situation they wanted to check in about was one that any one of my various hats was applicable to but as part of the context for their decision making process they made a confidential disclosure about their personal life that they didn’t want to share with their staff.
As they said, it’s their private life, and even if they were minded to disclose it, this wasn’t a context in which they would want to disclose the information.
Being trusted with this disclosure was humbling. It immediately also reminded me of why I both respect these personal boundaries and am also glad that I live the way I do. Admittedly, it has meant that I’m now a very visible EDI advocate, but that has in its own way opened more doors than it has inhibited.
I am a very visible and talkative person in my workplace, and the confidence to be that person has in part coming from recognising, acknowledging, and embracing the evolution of who I am. It’s taken a huge weight off my shoulders. It also allows me to be visible on behalf of others who do not feel safe or comfortable to do the same.
There’s a responsibility there that I feel keenly.
Back to work on a Saturday and so far there have been comments about sick on a carpet that turned out to be a water pipe leak, a query about lone working for a teenager in a quiet library, the payroll/HR system not being available, and the sun shining straight in my eyes while I’m on a call. A pretty ordinary morning so far then. I’m usually senior cover in my libraries about once a month and by far the most noticeable thing about that is that the geographical range of things that I get pinged about is more diverse. This is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination as it keeps me aware of the wider state of how things are going rather than just on my patch. It’s also generally not an onerous duty as the staff are proactive and engaged and usually just need a nod to continue.
The building I work in is one of those radio shadow lattices from all the metal in its construction that plays merry havoc with mobile signals – which includes the official wifi – and so connectivity for me in this location has become a matter of hotspots via strategically positioned work mobiles and uncapped data tariffs. Never underestimate the creativity of library staff to overcome data issues.
My challenge for this evening is to not forget that I have counselling – unlike a fortnight ago where I got caught up in watching something on TV and then realised I’d missed the whole thing and saw the reminder texts from an increasingly concerned counsellor that I hadn’t seen because I normally have my phone on silent. Oops.
Everything was a bit of a complicated rush first thing this morning, with missed calls from nurses, bus routes diverted, and a cub unearthed from his bed just for starters. What it settled into, however, was a day of mentoring a new colleague and looking to future plans for the possible relocation of one of my libraries.
For the most part, today consisted of talking through experiences as a new group manager, and assembling a crib list of useful people to get to know. We also discussed the existential question of what, exactly, our jobs are. This is always a surprisingly useful thing to do for affirming common concerns and goals, as well as acknowledge the wife range of pastoral elements involved in our roles.
And then I had to dive home quickly to be back in time for the cub to get to the flat. I fed and watered him until Lady M was home, and then went and retrieved boy s so I could end the day with everyone settled in their own homes.
A simpler day is planned for tomorrow. We’ll see how that pans out.