Skeleton Crew

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

Still Bunged Up

This cold is stubbornly hanging on and seriously disrupting my sleep. I am at least managing to avoid the worst of the grumpiness that might otherwise be expected. That’s just as well as I’m in the middle of interviewing people for a role – what’s the worst that could happen?

Fortunately a good thing that has happened has been the delivery of new arts and crafts materials that we’re distributing out to the wider library network. These will help staff create displays and activities for a wide range of events – and it was great fun checking items and posting them out.

So here’s hoping for an easier night, better breathing, and a smooth day tomorrow.

A Pause

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.

As stressful as it sometimes is, I love my job.

Busy Week

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…

More Visibility Musings

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.

Just Work Things

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.

Mentoring Day

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.

Back To It

I know my place of work wouldn’t begrudge me taking more recovery time but I don’t feel its needed and I’d rather not tap that good will unless or until I need it. With that in mind I dove back to it and soon caught up on what was going on. I then only needed to suggest a couple of course directions and affirmations to the team. That was when the consultations started.

I’ve got a reasonably high profile at the moment. I run the biggest group of libraries, and have fostered and encouraged engagements with local groups to build up our offers and develop innovative ways of working in addition to the core library services. I’m also vocal and proactive on equality and diversity issues and initiatives.

As a result I’ve started to be the ‘go to’ person for opinions and signposting on related queries, and have just been asked if I mind deputising in as EDI service representative for the libraries. If it helps people and opens doors and opportunities for fairer services then I’m there. If nothing else it’s something that’s close to my heart.

Quick Update

Another day closer to the procedure, and after yesterday’s ultrasound scan today was mostly about PCR tests, sorting laxative prescriptions, and going into isolation. Being a conscientious sort I have of course been keeping colleagues and staff appropriately briefed and told them I’m going to be unavailable for a couple of days. In accordance with the book of sod, this has then meant that my phone has been pinging non-stop with notifications and questions. I may have quietly growled at the last person to call me and have now put my phone on “do not disturb”.

One nice thing to have happened this week has been the introduction of a new colleague at my level, taking over the Farnham area libraries – and as it transpires I already know them a bit. They used to run the local Harris + Hoole coffee shop in the local Tesco a couple of years back. They still had the stunned expression of information overload that everyone has when being shown round and introduced to everyone, but hopefully that will ease quickly enough. I think they’ll get their feet under the table quick enough.

I’m still not sure if the twist in my stomach is illness or anxiety.

Rainy Day

Its my Saturday on duty (I get about one a month) where I’m one of the senior staff available to back up the branch managers, call in reinforcements, or provide some direction as required – and its the first time this year I’ve stepped back into one of the libraries as I’ve been partially isolating ahead of the hospital visits over the next few days. For the most part this has me sitting in my office working through a series of tasks I’ve prioritised while listening to the heavy thud of large raindrops on the window sill and roof edging next to me. It’s underlaid by the wet hisses of cars driving through standing water on the roads, and the faint clunk of doors opening and closing elsewhere in the building.

The biggest surprise for me this morning though was the anxiety that gripped me about coming in. There was a dread about getting up and getting in and being back in a public building – not because of any fear about the job but I think mostly tied in to my anxieties about the hospital and the active preparations I have to make next week for it. I may just take the next few days off as sick leave so I can focus on and deal with whatever needs to happen or that comes of it all – and I know that I’ll be supported by all in doing so. Indeed, there was some surprise by staff that I was in given they know how unwell I’ve been recently. I’m certainly not feeling chipper, as much as I wear the mask at the moment. I’m not sleeping properly, and my appetite has fled, leaving me with a hazy fog in my brain that isn’t doing any wonders for my mood.

I think its partly a legacy of working in the public sector on the frontline for so long that I want to fly the flag and be present as much as I can be. I appreciate the value of being visible on many levels, and one of those is just the reassurance that there is a more manager-y manager around on the weekend – that the wider support structure and hierarchy is up and running and so business as usual can take place. There’s also buried in there a guilt about being unwell that I just can’t shake – some kind of conflation of sickness as some kind of failing that I know is utterly false, and yet I can feel it dragging claws in my guts quite separate from the discomfort of whatever is wrong with me.

Right now, my mood seems to match the rain – a cliche, but then they all have to come from somewhere to be so widely recognised. Here’s hoping for a break in the weather in a bit.