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.

Tired

I’ve been quite productive today but I’ve noticed a growing sense of anxiety and exhaustion around the work I’ve been doing – so I’ve opted to take some leave. This may seem odd given there’s a worldwide lockdown in place, but for my own wellbeing I feel I need to commit to not dialling in to work remotely for a few days next week.

Lady M has also booked some time off from her work for similar reasons. We would have been going to Portsmouth Comiccon and possibly looking at next week off to recover anyway, so in the grand scheme of things its not too different from what we would have been planning.

Its thoughts like that which remind me just how the convention and cosplay circuit has been hit, and by extension our little hobby and our connections with the friends we’ve made there.

Its why I’m continuing to get involved with daft cosplay collaborations – yes its fun to dress up and be silly, but the conversations and planning behind the scenes have been wonderful for keeping in touch and celebrating the creativity and oddness of us all.

If it raises smiles and lightens people’s days during lockdown then all the better, and I can take heart from that.

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…

Another Day

I’m not a fan of doing huge amounts with spreadsheets even as I acknowledge how powerful and versatile they are. This is mostly due to my number blindness which makes reading and recalling number sequences something akin to wrestling an oiled python.

Currently however that’s what a significant part of the day job entails, so I am now very pleased to have a couple of days off for the weekend – being able to remotely work has brought the advantage of bringing some form of structure to the week after all.

I’m hoping to use the weekend to get some letters off the DDC as a general nice thing for people. I’ve hand written some missives with a drop pen and calligraphy inks on some traditional paper-milled paper, and included a D&D game prop and a little present in the envelopes too.

I hope it brings a smile to everyone’s faces, but especially to myr s who is particularly struggling with lockdown isolation at the moment. Fingers crossed.

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.

My, My, My Corona

Well, hello pandemic – we’ve been expecting you. Of course, being British and therefore fundamentally fatalistic I’m looking forward to getting it and not even noticing, or complaining that I get it while I’m booked off on leave already.

The most immediate impact in our household has been that Red Dragon 6, a Hannibal convention due to take place in a couple of weekends’ time, has just been postponed. The costumes will therefore stay in storage and we’ll find something to do, even if it’s just the three of us curled up on the sofa, possibly with the cub in attendance too.

I’m still not quite sure why everyone is panic-buying toilet rolls or why people are even buying antibacterial bottles and sprays and ignoring the soap.

In the meantime let’s all keep calm and carry on. If nothing else it has been very confusing for a Hungarian colleague of mine who thinks we’re not taking things seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The thing is: I work with the public – people of all ages and backgrounds – so I’ll almost certainly come into contact with it if I haven’t already. I’m also diabetic and am being treated for my blood pressure, so I’ll just keep being hygienic, touching my own face as little as possible, and limiting the possibility of my passing anything on to anyone else if I cough or sneeze – the same as I do with coughs, colds, the flu, or any other seasonal illness that does the rounds.

And my depression also chips in here, that if I get it and die, eh…

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.