Nominations

I’m in the process of drafting a statement in support of a nomination I’m making for a staff awards event. My main problem is concisely reducing the statement to only 500 words. This is not a lot when considering the range of criteria asked for and the range of things that has promoted me to make the nomination.

If this is the worst problem I have to deal with this week, I shall count myself lucky.

Even if the award isn’t given, the nomination will be a public sign of support for incredible work, so either way there’s a positive outcome. And yes I’m being deliberately vague at the moment as I’d like it to be a surprise.

Celebrating the positive achievements going on in the face of all the challenges is important, and is something I love being able to do.

Brain Fog and Taking A Break

I’ve been reminded that I do a great job of looking after and supporting my staff and really should look after myself as well. The conversation then veered across into reminding me that I should actually be using my leave. So I’ve taken the subtle hint and will be taking a few days.

Well, after I’ve sorted the next few days out, because dropping everything at a moment’s notice helps nobody.

I was going to write something about the joy of dancing and connection, but my brain fog is rolling in, so I’ll save those musings for when I can make them properly. An early-ish night calls.

Creative Use of Library Space

We had a dance company in at one of my libraries yesterday performing a series of 10 minute pieces based around the interactions of people on the doorstep – inspired by lockdown among other things it features love blooming between a shopper and a delivery person. Fast, funny, suitable for all ages, and a great way of opening up library spaces and the way people think about them. The series is called “Doorstep Duets” and its presented by New/Adventures – they’re touring all over the place so keep an eye out for them.

Libraries are being used more and more for creative purposes, and its wonderful to see new people coming in to experience them. We did a recent survey of the sort of activities people would like to see, and a striking number wanted to see performances and music more often. Between that and a resurgent interest in local history we’ve got some good places to start in reimagining how we grab people’s imaginations. There were certainly a lot of smiles at the performances yesterday, so that’s a good start.

Haven’t Melted Yet

It has felt a bit of a close-run thing, but the feeling of living in a blast furnace has retreated somewhat – and as I write this with the door open to the balcony I have a strong breeze ebbing and flowing in. I think there may be a storm on the way – or at least some bursts of rain. It has been interesting to point out to the cub that this evening’s temperature of 23C is nearly half what it was on Tuesday and before this week he would have been complaining that it was hot. He is still trying to wrap his imagination around the fact that Monday and Tuesday are the hottest that the United Kingdom has ever been since they started recording such things. I think he’s more used to reading about history than living through significant moments of it.

The cub has been staying the last couple of days as his school term finished yesterday about lunchtime, and boy s is working. With Lady M off the other side of London for work, I’ve therefore been balancing work with having a young lad around the house. He’s not quite old enough to be home alone, but the difference just this last term has made in how he’s growing up tells me he’ll be fine. For now he’s sat in the other room eating his supper before he goes to run around the estate a bit more to burn off some energy from being cooped up.

On the work front I’ve been getting more engaged with the new co-chair role for the LGBTQ+ Staff Network and meeting a number of stakeholders in the EDI work being developed by Surrey County Council. I’ve begun work drafting some training slides for an Allyship program we hope to roll out next year – on the basis that we need a starting point and I have the capacity and expertise to create some copy to begin the conversation. What has struck me is the enthusiasm and understanding of the importance of this work by so many people. It has been heartening to have level-headed positivity mixed with the pragmatic acknowledgement that there is no simple fix and there are a lot of hard conversations that need to take place.

I’m cautiously optimistic – and I hope that the need to be kind is something that can be nurtured and brought to bloom.

Productive Day

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.

Post-Pride Month Thoughts

I’m tired. I don’t really feel like I’ve had a Pride month to speak of and I’m not sure if that’s down to being incredibly busy, being worn out in support of Trans partners and friends, or as a bi man not feeling particularly part of the community at the moment. Everything feels just that little bit more of a struggle this year – even as I acknowledge that good things are also happening, at least on the personal front.

I think in part, to be fair, this has been down to being focused on family and childcare – these have always got to take priority, and as an extended household that includes cover during half term for smaller people who aren’t quite old enough to be home alone for a couple of hours. It means I’ve been doing a lot of time slicing to help out. I’ve written about how supporting each other is a big part of the spirit of Pride – this year seems to have had that element land squarely on my shoulders – swings and roundabouts I suppose, at least in the microcosm of what my parents have called ‘The Entourage’

A lot of the public focus has also been focused on the Jubilee – a major public event across the nation – so it sounds petty to point fingers at that in any way because it has been a major unifier of communities. I think as I’ve been so involved in supporting my staff in setting up and running events related to it I’ve missed most of the holiday buzz that so many have enjoyed.

Plans on the work front are now focusing on Pride In Surrey, and on some work I’m doing for the libraries on Equalities, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). There’s a lot to do, especially balancing with the day job, but when isn’t there?

So – looking at my social media streams, people are generally enjoying their Pride Months and events – and I will no doubt enjoy the August event when it arrives in Camberley, but none of that buzz and excitement is currently swimming round either me or those immediately around me. As if to illustrate that, I just looked at my phone and saw a reminder that its London Pride tomorrow – and my internal response was a resounding “meh”. Maybe the burnout is coming from being so front and centre in being an active voice – the feeling of banging my head against a brick wall feels particularly ubiquitous at the moment.

I obviously need to get out much much more

Stompy Day

Well, I’ve been pretty productive today, just not always in ways thT I had planned. I’m pretty sure we’ve all had days where a stream of things crop up in quick succession and utterly derails the day. Today was that day for me. Lots of little things that needed a nudge, or a suggestion, or a decision, or a quick chat to resolve.

It’s been a pretty intense few days, but for all that there are some positive outcomes and foundations being laid for great things to happen – which is just as well or I’d be feeling grumpy about now rather than just tired, and nobody wants that.

And another thing, how is it already nearly the end of June?

An Achievement

It’s finally official: I have just been voted to be co-chair of my work LGBTQ+ Staff Network which is a great honour, and one I aim to lift and use to help promote and celebrate EDI improvements. There’s a lot to do, but it dovetails with other similar roles and groups I’m working with so I’m expecting this all to be very fulfilling.

It’s not something I ever thought I’d do, or be considered for but I guess all my standing up to be counted and advocating for people in recent years has set my feet wandering this direction.

Interesting times. I hope I can live up to it.

Back To Work

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.

People Saying Thanks

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.