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.

Shift of Plans

We’d originally planned to move boy s and the cub in this weekend but life has thrown a hiccup or two into preparations so we’re aiming to do that next week if all shifts back on course.

Instead, we’ve had a quiet day where Lady M got back in the editing suite for her podcast and I’ve been bibbling around playing Watchdogs Legion, drawing things, and the odd bit of housework.

Yesterday had all manner of excitement (despite being on leave) to sort out some recruitment. I generally don’t dip back in to work when I’m on holiday as a principle, but I had an opportunity to sort out the vacant manager role and boost morale for some people. Rude not to really. As a result, a quiet day has felt a nice reward.

This evening Lady M and I have eaten, drunk, and now retired to different xboxes. A quiet geeky household evening to round everything out.

On Holiday

About time too – this has been another hectic week, again dominated by interviews and surrounding shenanigans – but at least we got to celebrate boy s’ birthday with a grand polycule gathering this evening. We met up for a meal once Lady M had finished work, and of course battled the usual assortment of roadworks each direction – because some things in life are a fixed and constant feature.

As is tradition, boy s cried over one of his gifts, and tried to hide under his own shirt when the restaurant staff sang happy birthday – he made the mistake of mentioning it when we arrived.

On an unrelated note, I am becoming convinced that one of the posts I’m trying to fill is cursed, as the second person I’ve offered it to has now accepted another job elsewhere before they’ve even started. They were, at least, very apologetic.

My Equalities Journey

I mentioned a few days ago about a blog entry I did at work ahead of Surrey Pride, and thought I would reproduce it here as its a piece of writing I’m proud of – both for its message and for the impact it has had at work:

The summer has been and seemingly gone in a flash, but despite the disruptions to all our lives under the pandemic the spirit of celebration so intrinsic to our wellbeing is alive and well. Pride Month saw colour and life splashed everywhere this year – and yet we were still constrained by the need to look out for each other, so marches and celebrations were delayed until a little later.

Well, that later is now here, and Surrey Pride is being celebrated on Saturday 25 September in glorious Godalming. Representatives of SCC will join charities and local groups in an explosion of positivity and joy, demonstrating the vibrant lives and history in Surrey of the LGBTQIA+ community. Struggles past, present, and future are acknowledged through the day in offers of support, representation, and a celebration of our ability to live freely as our genuine selves. For some it’s a path they’ve trod for years, for others it’s an exploration that is only just beginning.

My journey through various local authorities has always had a focus in some way, shape, or form on equality and diversity. It has been part of the pleasure of working in our environment. It has evolved with different roles and the language of different decades from being a customer-focused approach in libraries; to undertaking impact assessments on projects and policies as a project manager and senior officer, and then back again to different levels of operating back with the library service as I re-joined it nearly nine years ago.

The two streams of my journey, especially in recent years, have been the intertwined demands of the personal and the professional aspects of my life and how EDI has both informed and shone light on the changes and challenges in both areas.

On the personal side has been my own changing self-awareness and the ups and downs of coming out as a bisexual and polyamorous man to friends, family, and co-workers. My life continues to grow and evolve as I meet and talk to an amazing array of people in my widening and changing personal and professional networks in ways that I couldn’t imagine even a handful of years ago. I am in a relationship with an amazing trans man, whose humour, bravery, and frustrations have cast new light on things that I took for granted. He has made me look again at my assumptions and privileges, and that in turn has given me the strength to stand up for and represent the people around me with renewed passion and love.

On the professional side has been the shift from embedding a passion for equality and diversity in delivering customer services – to provide the best possible outcomes for anyone entering the library or using its services – to then providing leadership and promotion within branches as a manager. From there it grew and now I am an exemplar and champion of EDI within my group of libraries both in my own right and as part of the LGBTQ+ Staff Network. As a newly appointed Group Manager, it is even more important to me to uplift and inspire the managers who work for me to lead and promote equalities, diversity, and inclusion in the services that we provide and the staff and public with whom we work.

Some of my greatest joys have come from the recognition that my being out and visible has given other people inspiration and reassurance in their own lives. From staff to customers, partners and friends, there have been quiet affirmations and moments of challenge and reflection – all of which are brought back into conversation and debate and the direction of efforts to be better in how I work to uplift, educate, inform, and celebrate the richness of the lives upon which I have an impact.

Times are tough, but things can always improve. Things will get better. Nobody has all the answers, but if we keep talking and listening – and challenging – we can keep moving towards making things better – not just for ourselves but with and for everyone.

Pride is about support and visibility, and here at Surrey County Council we are as much part of that as anyone else. Our diverse staff is drawn from all the communities who live and work here. The SCC LGBTQ+ Staff Network will be attending the march, representing our staff and families, and will have stalls in the event itself.

If you have any questions around the event – or indeed anything else – then please get in touch. Whether it’s a personal issue, or advice for yourself or your staff, we’ll listen and answer. Together we are all stronger.

New Windows

No, not the operating system, I really do mean the things that let light into rooms and heat inside (mostly). Day one of a two-day installation by Anglia has gone really well, and I’ve got a lot done working from home while the team got on with it.

It’s only now that I have the new units in that I can look at the old ones and see how tatty they were getting, with blown seals and condensation everywhere. Lady M negotiated a good price on a like-for-like replacement.

The plan is to swap ends so she works from home tomorrow and does final sign off on the work. I shall head in to a library and look pretty. I’m reasonably sure my staff would add the word “gormless” on the end of that last sentence.

Interviewing Day

I’ve had a day of interviewing people, the first of two days this week, and the first set I’ve done since getting the new job. It’s been productive, and partnered with a colleague, we’ve kept on top of the associated paperwork with relative ease.

Tomorrow there will be more, and then the hard debate to separate the top scorers in a meaningful way so that we can give useful feedback.

One of the most exciting parts for me has been the knowledge that I’m closer now to filling out the last vacant position in my team of managers. Its been a while since I’ve been able to say that.

No Time To Stop

Another fast-paced week, and this week is so far balanced between recruitment and keeping the wheels on things while we transition through a major change of systems.

There’s a lot going on, and tempers are frayed sometimes; and yet we’ll get through it. I had a long chat with my boss this afternoon and had the reassurance that I’m doing well and that was something I definitely needed to hear. The black dog has been barking quite insistently the last few days.

Mobile Anarchist Librarians

I’ve just finished the second of two days hosting the amazing Mobile Anarchist Librarian show which is touring with us this month. Created by Tessa Bide Productions the show encourages young guests to join in a theatrical exploration of stories and encourages them to take an active part in choosing how those stories develop and end up.

We’ve had two days filled with joy and imagination and the sound of families having fun – and it has made all the difference in raising the mood of everyone. The actors and crew worked incredibly hard in collaboration with staff at the sites on each day and I’m so pleased and proud of them all.

They’ve been long days, but a great example of working with partners. I even got adopted and given a badge of my own.

Back To It

I’m more or less recovered from tweaking my back, and so today was very much a heads down get the work done day. The wrinkle towards the end was stepping in to help close up an event at one of my libraries. I learned a couple of new skills in the process too:

Namely, how to fold up a gazebo; and how to fold up a caravan – as you do – the latter being the staging and inspiration area for the event that now moves to another of my libraries tomorrow. I’ll be overseeing that too.

The adventurers don’t stop.

Taking Pride

I’ve spent most of this week running around in preparation both for IT changes due to take place at work, and for taking a few days off. Somehow in the middle of that, I also got roped into helping to project manage our participation in Surrey Pride in September.

This in turn has led to being drafted to help write a guest blog for the staff intranet about equality – as you do.

But as of this evening, Lady M, myr s, and I are chilling out watching Critical Role while the cub pretends not to be sleepy. They’ll be here until Monday.

All is well.