Obnoxious librarian from hades

The obnoxious librarian from hades

By Dennie Heye

Find new episodes on http://olfh.blogspot.com

Praise for the obnoxious librarian from hades

This book touches on war, love, jealousy, and loss… it will propel the author into literary history.. no wait.. that was “Gone with the wind”

The New York Times Book Review

The thinnest book in the 817 section.

The Dewey Decimal Classification Fan Newsletter


When I was in Houston in June of 2006 at a library meeting, little did I know that one small brainwave would result in a book. I was listening to a PowerPoint presentation and my brain tends to wander around everything but the topic of the presentation.

One of my fellow librarians, Leah Bartlett had just started thinking out loud about the best way to draw attention to a blog which we thought about setting up. Leah suggested we would post something outrageous to generate discussion. That quickly led to the idea of creating some sort of obnoxious librarian character that would trigger reactions.

That brainwave went around in my brain and that same night I scribbled some notes for ideas. Then life got in the way and I forgot about the obnoxious librarian until a year later he resurfaced as an alter ego. For over ten years I have worked in large organizations and had my share of Dilbert-like experiences. The obnoxious librarian is my way of venting frustrations and amusing others at the same time.

The title and type of humor was inspired by the b*stard operator from hell, a legendary series of Usenet postings about a computer operator in the nineties.

A big thank you to: the Warrior Librarian , LISNEWS.org, Law Librarian Blog and libgig.com for promotion, my faithful readers who would like eternal fame: Penny Leach, Percy Flint, Erwin La Roi and all the others who enjoy my postings. This book is for you!

Major thanks to Paul Weemaes[1] for editing the whole book – all remaining errors are mine.

Last but not least thanks to my wife for the cups of tea and biscuits during my writing sessions.

Find new updates on http://olfh.blogspot.com or buy the real book via http://www.lulu.com/content/4253767

The one where Kevin ruins my day

It is Monday morning, 9 a.m. in the library and the phone rings. This is a nuisance. I am just in the middle of re-writing the Dewey entry on Wikipedia (the entry now goes straight to an entry about an obscure American philosopher named John Dewey, but of course it should point straight to Melvil Dewey[2]) and now I have completely lost my train of thought. I let the phone ring three times as I don’t want my “customers” (I am no longer allowed to call them lusers, which is short for library users) to think I have nothing better to do than answering their endless, irrelevant questions.

“Library” (with the proper curt tone in my voice)

“Hello, this is Kevin from sales. I cannot get access to the Wall Street Journal Online”


“Well, I need to look up some stats for a presentation by the vice president before 10, so I need you to restore my access quickly”.

I always hate it when people try to make their problem mine. To make sure our WSJ access is completely secure, I change the password every 3 days and then post it clearly on the intranet web page for everyone to see. Well, if they know how to find the page, as it is actually not linked from anywhere. And I use a white font on a white background. But for a real motivated user that should not be a problem, I think. I just want to discourage all the casual users, as all they do is hog the concurrent user licenses. Anyway, I want to get back to my important work task at hand so I need to get rid of Kevin.

“Well, Kevin, I just looked in my library system and you still have overdue reports listed here. I need you to return them before I can give you access to the Wall Street Journal.”

“But… but… I only checked them out yesterday!”

“That is not what my library system says – you don’t want to imply my system is wrong, do you?”

“No, of course not.”

“Ok, well, then I’ll see you here at the library at 3.30 when I have the scheduled report check-in time. Bye Kevin.” {click

Just to be sure Kevin will not be a problem in the future, I quickly open the web content management system and start a blog in Kevin’s name. At first I thought that being the solo librarian and web master in the company would be a burden, but it has it’s advantages. Kevin’s new blog, which is featured prominently on the front page of our global intranet, is all about his praise for our competitor and how he would like to “expand his horizon” and “is ready for new opportunities”. You bet Kevin will have an appointment with HR before he can say Wall Street Journal.

Back to my work on the Dewey wiki, as I need to finish that before I have my annual budget meeting. For some reason, all overhead departments must reduce their budget by 5% except for the library. Perhaps it was my note to the CFO[3] about his Google web history, which I stumbled upon in my role as corporate search strategy coordinator. For some reasons the CFO had non-business relevant queries in his account, which might lead a non-informed person to think he was looking for female companionship during evenings on his business trips.

The one where no book gets left behind

It is Tuesday evening 7 p.m. in the library and I look forward to my favorite task: the monthly overdue book raid. This is the time when I exercise my mandate to retrieve every overdue book and company file. And as corporate clean desk policy focal point, I use that same time to clean desks from non-work related items. I enjoy this task so much, I have to restrain myself from humming “The Ride Of The Valkyries” all the time.

For this monthly exercise I have:

- a dark blue windbreaker with “LIBRARY” on the back in CIA type font;

- several copies of a letter from our CEO[4] that reprimands employees who have broken the holy library rules and / or the clean desk policy;

- the master key to every room, cabinet and desk in the building;

- a portable shredder;

- a portable scanner (to scan interesting material I find);

- a grin on my face

As a librarian, my salary is not on par with other ‘professionals’ in the company, but this type of tasks gives me a lot of job satisfaction. It probably is comparable to the feeling HR managers get when they start a rightsizing or outsourcing project.

I start with my manager’s office and surprise, surprise there are printouts on his desk that are not in his workload basket. The workload basket is an invention from HR to make us all more efficient – all your correspondence should be in that basket, so you know where your work is. Unfortunately, the only hardcopy correspondence we get are memos from HR. The rest of the company and the world just bangs out e-mails with follow-up flags, CAPATALIZED subjects and marked with urgent to get things done.

The print outs contain lots of hand scribbled notes that unfortunately are not interesting enough to scan. I enjoy a moment of silence and then shred them, leaving a note from the CEO behind where the print outs where on the desk. The note reprimands the employee about how serious we are about information security and that the confiscated items can be collected at the CEO’s office. When I found out that nobody ever had the guts to try and collect the confiscated items, this job got a lot easier.

In the other rooms I find several overdue books and files hidden behind a cupboard or underneath annual reports. Why do they think they can hide books and files from me? I still regret that libraries decided to loan books hundreds of years ago. That is when all the turmoil started. We should have continued with chaining books to the stacks.

Back in my office I end the evening with recalling the e-books whilst sipping a latte. Aaaah, this is an area where IT makes my job easier. With the click of my mighty ALA[5] approved mouse I can see who has overdue e-books. Thanks to the wonderful features of PDF I can make the e-books useless as the font is changed to Wing-dings, every other sentence is backwards and the tune to Sesame Street plays over and over again until the book is checked in to the virtual library again.

It would have been easier to just recall the e-books and have a note shown to the user about this, but this makes it more fun.

The one where trouble is announced

It is Wednesday afternoon, 3 p.m. in the library and the e-mail announces a memo from senior management by playing the Jaws theme. I like to have audio cues about what type of mail arrives in my mailbox: "The godfather" when my direct manager mails, "Oooops I did it again" when an e-mail has the word "password" and "lost" in it, “The A-team” when a library friend mails and the exorcist theme when the IT department is the sender.

The e-mail is full of bad news worded in management lingo. Fortunately I have many years experience in deciphering this cryptic language, where the word to content-ratio is about 50:1. It is the type of e-mail that on the surface has lots of nice looking buzzwords in a pleasant font, but the hidden meaning is quite the opposite.

"Dear employees of Hades Corp.," (stop your non-managerial, mundane tasks and listen up)

"In our relentless drive for top quartile performance we have launched a new cost effectiveness program which will at the same time enhance customer value."(The shareholders feel they don't get enough money - as we cannot cut our top management salaries or bonuses, you have to cough up money - and stop whining about this thing you call quality)

"To steer us in this exciting program, we have enlisted the value synergy team of McQuinsey Inc, who will bring us relevant insights into how we can

improve our business. Each team lead will work one-on-one with a McQuinsey consultant to come up with innovative, market driven cost-effective solutions whilst maintaining the 110% performance we owe our customers and ourselves." (Since we haven't got a clue how this business works, we have hired a bunch of overpaid and non-informed consultants who will come to keep you from your job - if they come up with something good, we implement it, otherwise we will just dismiss it - and by the way, you will have to do all of this besides your normal job.)

"You will be contacted by your McQuinsey consultant soon to discuss your cost-value balance and potential scenarios on improvement." (You will be confronted with lots of silly ideas to slash your budget, so it is up to you to prove they don't work.)

Oh great, just what I need. I haven't finished the new Harry Potter yet and now the bi-annual consultancy round starts to look for savings.

Luckily, I have been through this before, as these ‘exciting programs’ tend to come around every few years and in general the library in the end is not affected. My motto during these times is what I learned from my first mentor: “If you cannot beat them, confuse them”.

The one where finance gets lost

It is 4pm in the library while I am grinding my teeth over yet another dispute with my arch nemesis in the finance department. Even though I have no problems with the CFO anymore, one of his minions is making my life hard.

A few weeks ago I needed to rush order a special publication to return the favor of a very senior manager. Rush orders are not included in the contract with our approved vendor, who by the way is off shored for "cost attractive" reasons (which is why every order takes 6x times as long and requires 12 forms). So I defied company policy and placed the order with a non-approved vendor who then sent an invoice.

I am sure my arch nemesis, the compliance assistant vice president minion, had a glorious day when he received that invoice. He left me a voicemail at 6.45am, knowing this would be the first thing I would hear in the morning - reminding me that this was not company policy and I needed to fill out a SCP (Step out of Company Policy) form to justify the expense.

Following the general finance policy of "keep them in the dark", he does not send me the actual form but a link to their website. The form is hidden somewhere, and I am sure he is grinning in his tiny cubicle, expecting me to call him in desperation as I cannot find the form.

But he has forgotten that there is only one master of findability here: me. As I also am the webmaster of the intranet, I quickly download the whole finance

department website to my local drive. I whip out my trusted tools collection on my USB stick and select a small, yet powerful indexer. This nifty tool rapidly indexes the whole finance website and linked documents, then shows it to me: categorized in Dewey, keywords in ranked order, a perfect balance between precision and recall and of course a KWIC[6] and KWOC index.

With one click of a button I fire off a power user query to drill down to the required form. This all without breaking a sweat.

But, the quest is not over yet. The form has been written in the ancient, cryptic language of finance speak which mere mortals cannot grasp without surrendering their soul and first born to the higher powers of finance. The form contains sentences and words that sound like English:

"Care should be exercised to ensure that costs are not accidentally double-booked, due to both a service entry AND a cost accrual being created, and both posted to the same period.” "Inter Entity Cutback Mapping" and "make NBV value zero and expect to have no depreciation posted if no UOP entered".

I am convinced the whole finance website and all their forms are generated automatically from a database with finance mumbo jumbo. No wonder they can report savings every year, as it gets harder every year to spend company money with their policies and forms. I have more chance of convincing a librarian that Google actually is better than his beloved library catalogue than to get this form filled out correctly.

Fortunately, all of the invoices are scanned and then stored on the records management system. Guess who is the records management corporate custodian - the job that everyone thought would be boring and not glamorous enough? And isn't it pure luck that the original paper invoice is stored in the archive, which just happens to be under my supervision.

I recall the scanned invoice from the system, use PhotoShop to change my name on the invoice to that of the CFO and *presto* a new paper invoice also appears. Guess that invoice will not be a problem, as the minion would never dare to bother the CFO with such a detail.

And all is well in the library again.

Page 2

The one full of cuckoo

It is a bright Thursday afternoon in the library and I am humming the famous Warrior Librarian theme (“When your catalogue is a mess / when all your patrons are in stress / if your books are overdue / and you don’t know what to do / Warrior librarian will come to the rescue / with her mighty cataloguing skills / etc etc).

Following the announcement that McQuinsey consultants would “help” us be more cost effective, our management has been at a luxurious resort to strategically align the foundations for a synergy roadmap. Or something meaningless to that effect. From that two-day session, a “vision” has been developed (probably during the break on the last day, just before the final round of golf) to inspire the mere mortals on the work floor.

As I report into the IT organization, the vice president of Information, Communication and Collaboration has drawn up a vision for the library. It is now up to me and my “cost effectiveness coach” from McQuinsey to turn this vision into practical plans. Please note that those sessions will be held in the temporary meeting rooms in the basement of the almost obsolete facilities building on site. Which is undergoing a major renovation. Has no airco. No windows.

Below some inspiring excerpts from the vision for the library, which shall be renamed to the “Centre for Ubiquitous Content and Knowledge for Organizational Objectives” (CUCKOO for short).

“CUCKOO shall be recognized as a fundamental element supporting Hades’ mission-critical activities: ….. As such, CUCKOO aspires to achieve deliver top quartile, KPI driven services, supported by highly responsive customer service.”

“We also recognize that all aspects of the organization will be influenced by CUCKOO as it will be interwoven across our organizational fabric.”

“At the heart of CUCKOO’s mission is the support for the economic development, which is substantially improved by a competitive workforce that effectively accesses and applies information to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving world.”

Alrighty then. As Sue, my passive aggressive assistant would say: “…eh, what”? Which pretty much sums up my feelings as well.

Sue has been here since Hades Corp was formed many eons ago and cannot get excited about anything anymore. Being a low level employee, Sue has made herself irreplaceable by keeping secret files of every Hades manager since they joined us as young, energetic and excited cannon fodder. Her nickname is the untouchable. I have no clue what she does all day except for printing out web pages, as she is convinced the Internet will collapse soon. She will then whip out her offline version of the Internet, cross-referenced in her oversized Rolodex and charge us to use it.

I think I will bring Sue to the meeting with the McQuinsey consultant next week, as I am sure they will have lively discussions without making any progress.

The one where good advice turns bad

It is Friday morning and I am not in the library enjoying my morning tea whilst browsing library gossip forums. No, I am stuck in a meeting room with my manager and Bruce Tyler, the McQuinsey cost-effectiveness guru.

My manager obviously is smitten with Bruce’s ability to spout management mumbo jumbo, which makes my b.s. radar go off within a few minutes.

Bruce smiles when he opens his laptop to start his presentation: “Well, let me start by saying how delighted I am to work with an esteemed team like this to bring cost effectiveness to the next level by combining radical new ideas with bleeding edge technology and “right sourced” for an optimal balance between shareholder ROI and customer focus”. He didn’t even blink an eye or breathe during that blurb, which makes me wonder whether he is a cyborg. And did I see my manager start to drool?

Bruce smiles at me like a cobra that is going to hypnotize a mouse, so I quickly mumble a prayer to Ranganathan (the saint for librarians).

“Your manager and I have had several inspiring conversations about the future of the department and came up with out of the box ideas for cost effectiveness. Based on my extensive experience in this area and your managers’ insight, I am sure we have wonderful solutions to talk about. I’d like to present our ideas to you and then have your open and honest feedback. Getting a mutual buy in is essential to embed cost effectiveness in our hearts and minds.”

“Our first idea was to abolish a central collection of books and journals and use the peer-to-peer model. So rather than having a central repository, items would be with a staff member who uses it and then is passed on when requested by someone else.”

(Well, that would be a quick way to ruin a library collection, let the patients run the asylum).

“The following idea may sound too radical for you as a librarian – but let’s keep an open mind and let try to visualize the potential of this: instead of subscribing to many different databases and journals, let’s use the synergy of wisdom of crowds combined with the power of the social network. Hades employs many different unique individuals who all have a pool of knowledge and a wide network. This is a unique, unrivalled, untapped potential which we can leverage to answer any question in our company”.

(Ok, let’s replace authoritative information sources with what a friend of a colleague says, based on a blog he read last week).

“And lastly, but surely one of my favorites which was brilliantly suggested by your manager – we all want all our information online, at our fingertips. So instead of a slow migration towards a complete e-library by acquiring licenses with different publishers – let´s make a big bang. Let’s ship the whole book collection of to our business partner in India where everything will be scanned and wiki’d.”

(Hey, we haven’t been sued for copyright violation yet – let’s make sure we will be the poster child for copyright violation!)”

Bruce smiles and looks at me as if I am a walking reduction target. But he surely hasn’t expected to deal with the force of the obnoxious librarian. “Bruce, before we go into detail of the different ideas – I was just wondering… how did your great advice help your previous customers like Enron and WorldCom? And would you care to explain to me how ethical it is that you are a major shareholder in the Indian business partner, which you recommend?”

Bruce’s phone starts ringing at the exact moment my boss turns to him with a bewildered look on his face. As the look on Bruce’s face turns from a smirk to sheer horror, he quickly leaves the room while talking loudly on the phone. My manager runs after him, so I guess the meeting is adjourned.

The one where a plan comes together

It is a gloomy Wednesday morning in the library and I am just about to recategorize all my desktop items in a more feng shui manner. Seems like putting the trash-can icon right next to the library catalog icon gives off bad vibes to all new catalog records. But before I can bring back harmony to my desktop and continue to enjoy my new Eva Cassidy CD, Sue (my passive aggressive assistant) hands me the phone: "The CEO's secretary for you".

Ah, that is the type of calls I always enjoy, as much as you can enjoy a verbal torture. The CEO's secretary is a woman who obviously has been instructed to keep the CEO as far removed from employees or decisions. Either that, or she just likes demeaning people.

Let me put it this way: I once needed to get the CEO's approval for a very large project proposal, so I wanted to make an appointment. The secretary asked me to explain it to her, and I hadn't uttered two sentences when she interrupted me: "and is there a point you are trying to make?” I quickly swallowed some rude remarks that came up, and I cut right to the chase about the decision I wanted to put to the CEO. She sighed deeply, looked at me wearily and said, "You people really can't make any decisions yourself, can you?”

So with that in mind I took the call:

"Hi, how can I help the CEO today?"

"Listen up: you have ruined the intranet. The new navigation confuses the CEO. So undo all the changes right away."

"Well, we just finished a three month intranet improvement, where we worked with focus groups to improve navigation, the search engine and the lay out. All the focus groups agree that the new improvements are helping to use the intranet better."

"Why wasn't I involved to represent the CEO's wishes?"

"You were invited several times but replied, and I quote 'I have no time for this type of details, shouldn't we outsource this anyway'"

"I don't recall that. And by the way, the CEO really does not like the use of an owl as the intranet mascot. He prefers to use a unicorn."

(Now she is getting on my nerves but luckily I have a flash of brilliantness)

"Mmmmm… the owl hasn't been the intranet mascot since February 2003. I am just checking the log files here, and it seems like that was the last time the CEO or you have accessed the intranet."

"Your systems are obviously full of mistakes, which doesn’t surprise me, as you can also never find my documents. I insist you fix the intranet as we just discussed and demonstrate it to me later this afternoon "

Ok, now I have had it. The reason why we can't find her documents is because she refuses to put them in the document management system. She only stores documents on her local hard drive, never makes backups and then blames us when she has deleted an important document. But this is going too far, so with a grin on my face I start to work on my cunning plan.

[Later that day]

As colonel John “Hannibal” Smith once said: “I love it when a plan comes together”. The CEO’s secretary is delighted: the whole intranet is changed as she, sorry, the CEO would like to see it. I even changed the font and background color especially on her request. Little does she know that I have redirected her browser for the intranet to a locally stored set of web pages. Every link to another page will show an error: “the web server is being serviced, check back in 15 minutes”. Her attention span is 5 minutes maximum, so most likely she will not be waiting for that.

And while I was at her computer, I changed the settings of her Microsoft Office to save directly to a workspace in the document management system.

Intermezzo: the librarian's worst nightmare restaurant

Last night a sales manager from a potential new vendor took me out for a dinner to discuss potential opportunities (i.e. another shot at a big year end bonus). He said he'd take me to a restaurant that would be perfect for me. He was so wrong.

The restaurant had books as the central theme, but for me it was like being in a nightmare. Books are my friends. Books have feelings. Books should be cherished.

Books should NOT BE USED as pillars between tables by driving a metal stake through a column of books from the ceiling to the floor.

Books should also NOT BE USED as a nice way to hide the restaurant bill in by cutting out a section of all pages of the book.

And the one thing in this restaurant that almost made me shriek out of frustration: I was facing a wall of the restaurant filled with bookshelves. ALL the books were in total random order. Fiction mixed with non-fiction. Different languages mixed. No classification whatsoever.

It took me a while to calm down when I was home that evening. I had to reread three chapters of "The history and origins of cataloguing" before the shudders were gone. You bet that vendor will be on the blacklist.

The one where a dead end becomes a break through

It is Monday afternoon, just after lunch and I am catching up on the latest library 2.0 jargon to mix with some new budget proposals. All of a sudden, my boss pops in with a big smile on his face: “Have I got news for you!”

My boss waves with a fancy letter in his hand and sits down: “Did you know J.M. Byron is about to retire and make a huge donation to the IT department?”

“J.M. Byron – he must be like what, 85?"

“He'll be 70 next month and now is planning to leave Hades Corporation, but he wants to leave a legacy.”

J.M. Byron for many years topped my list of customers that I could live without. Since he had been around forever, he had opinions about everything. And since he was an engineer before becoming a board member, and engineers can do everything – running a library and records department is a trivial thing. He would look for every opportunity to corner me next to the coffee machine or the copier and give his 'advice' on how he would run a much better and efficient library.

My boss taps the letter in his hand: “Seems like he wants to donate quite a sum of money to your department, which comes in handy to remodel your library and of course the offices of the senior managers.”

But you are the only senior manager in this department!

“Ah well, I have always had my eye on a nice big corner office, a big antique desk with green marble inlay and a signed picture of Bill Gates, right here.”

My librarians’ sixth sense is now picking up signals. Bad patrons never just go away. And they never go away and make life better for anyone… they use their farewell to take a final stab. And of course, I am right.

“However, J.M. Byron has one condition that must be met before he makes this donation. He seems be a real book collector and wants us to take his collection of books, which is unique in the industry. You will be so pleased to have this in your library – here, look at the list.”

I look over the list and gasp for air. The list contains every book my predecessors and I have weeded out of the collection for the past 25 years. Every time we weeded the collection, J.M. Byron would be fuming at us for daring to throw out a key book, which must be kept in the collection. Even if we argued that we already had multiple copies, the book was a very old edition or very outdated, he would be upset and accuse us of not being true librarians. He would then take all the books and leave, making us happy that we'd gotten rid of them.

Now all these books would be coming back to the library and we would be required to keep them in a specially renovated “J.M. Byron” section for at least another 25 years. Luckily, my trained cataloguers eye scans all the tiny print with the conditions and finds something interesting.

“Aaah well, too bad you didn't read this correctly – he wants the books to be stored in the room where he started out originally. And if my memory serves me right, that is currently your office… ”

So in the end we all win: I get a nice pot of money to redecorate the library, J.M. Byron's legacy is intact and my manager has his nice antique desk. Which is squeezed between four large bookcases, blocking his window and a part of his door.

Page 3

The one were a point makes itself

It is Friday 4 PM in the library and I cannot seem to wipe the grin of my face. Is it because tonight the local movie channel is showing “The Librarian” and “The Librarian 2” back to back? No. Is it because David Sylvian's “The librarian” is on the radio? No. Let me explain the reason for my grin and good mood, even though it isn't payday or “hug your librarian” day yet.

I am obnoxious, usually to make my point or get even. Sometimes both. But once in a while the universe sees my point immediately and makes that clear. Today was one of those days…

Every year, my company Hades picks a global target that we all should focus on, besides our normal work of course. Lots of consultants get paid obscene lots of money to come up with workshops, interactive sessions, posters, slogans etc to brainwash all of the employees. Last year the target was relentless compliancy, and we all had to stand up during so called town hall meetings to pledge our commitment to the Hades Book of Compliancy.

This year the big target is 360 degrees safety (they must have a special guy to come up with the names for the targets). Seems like our shareholders are worried that our safety statistics are not “top quartile” in the industry. I once asked during a departmental meeting with a vice president what will happen because everyone in the industry wants to be top quartile, so it seems like a never-ending race. The VP told me that was a very interesting questions and he'd get back to me on that with more information. I am still waiting. Luckily I am not holding my breath.

So in order to make us all fully aware of what we need to do to become the best of the best with regards to safety, all our managers have to brief their team on the same day. It just happens that on that day, our manager was in another office overseas. So he decided to kill two birds with one stone and host the safety briefing virtually via our new desktop based videoconference tool. We all have a web cam on our screens, which most of us cover up with a plastic coffee cup. You never know if there is a feature where your manager can turn on the web cam without you knowing.

At the given time, we all tuned in to our managers' safety briefing via the video conferencing software. The nice thing is that the software also includes a chat facility, which can be used to chat with the presenter… or with others on the session without the presenter aware. You can guess the latter is used the most during management presentations.

Halfway during the safety briefing, just before I almost doze off after being seriously bored with endless slightly out of focus PowerPoint slides and the monotonous voice of our manager, I hear sirens. But they are not in our building. I hear sirens through my headset – the sirens are in the other office where my manager is. I remembered that one of the very first slides stated very clear that safety must take priority, especially when in doubt. So I fully expected my manager to close the session, apologize and evacuate the building.

But he didn't. He looked around, mumbled something about it probably being a test and carried on with his slide set. In the background it was clearly visible that other employees were evacuating…

The one where a meeting is crashed

It is Thursday morning, 11.02 AM and I am bored in the library. I have already randomly switched signs on the shelves (people like to search for information online, so why not offline), put up the excuse of the day (solar flares) why the library catalogue is offline and changed the interface language of the intranet to Portuguese (it is after all Dia da Liberdade). But still I am not my usual obnoxious, happy self.

I pick up the phone and call my buddy in meeting services. Just like me, he is undervalued and underpaid. He is a certified facilitator, but spends most of his time explaining to senior managers how to hook up their laptop to the projector. So we both know that job satisfaction will have to come from ourselves. One of our favorite ways to lighten our mood is to crash a meeting: drop into a meeting unannounced and try to create a maximum of confusion without being recognized.

A prerequisite is that nobody in the meeting knows you, so we quickly scan the list of meetings for today. As our office is also a regional headquarter, there are lots of visitors from other offices who meet here. And we're in luck, today is the first meeting of a cross country group of tax and legal consultants who will spend all day talking about “Shared Service Centers: Off-Shoring or Outsourcing?” Fascinating. That meeting just begs to be crashed.

Especially for these occasions I keep a sharp business suit in the library, hidden behind the cupboard full of bound library journals. I put on a pair of hip designer glasses and practice my management mumbo-jumbo: “We will dramatically increase our exclusive strong commitment to integrated systems design. A key driver in this process is web 2.0 that will enable the collateral application frameworks” and “We will inevitably take the lead in outsourcing, only to speed ahead of the pack in the world-class field of the economically sound corporations. Virtual input gives rise to the first class team players, on a going-forward basis.”

Key to a successful meeting crash is to be totally self-assured and radiate power. So I wait until the meeting has just started and then walk into the meeting room. The presenter stops, and shoots me an angry glare. The rest of the attendees look up and I wink at them: “Sorry, the jet was late. What can I say? Please continue.” I pull up a chair and squeeze the seat as close to the presenter as possible. I open my briefcase, pull out a laptop and put that on my lap.

With a sigh, the presenter continues his slide set. I have already upset him with my entrance, so now it is up to me to build up my game. And what better makes a statement than a ringing mobile phone? My buddy in meeting services is just outside the meeting room and calls me just as the presenter has finished one sentence. The mobile phone in my suitcase is on top volume with the Macarena. I feign surprise, open the suitcase and turn off the phone. “Sorry guys, I forgot to turn it off”.(Again: Can't get these extra lines to go away… )The atmosphere in the room now gets tense, so we're on the right track. Now I open the laptop and start typing whilst the presenter recaps what he tried to say already twice. I sigh deeply, look up from my laptop and start looking around. I whisper, just a little too loud, to my neighbor: “hey buddy, is there a power outlet here somewhere? I need some juice.” My neighbor wants to get rid of me and points to the power outlet behind his seat in the wall. So I slowly open the squeaky briefcase, get the power cord out and squeeze myself behind my neighbor’s chair. He now has to move his chair forward, suppress his anger but still show an interest in the presentation.

Everyone in the room now really is distracted. Time for my grand finale. I wait until the presenter clicks to the slide with the agenda for today and then snap my fingers at the presenter. He grinds his teeth and asks: “Do you have a question?”

I get up from my seat, lean over the table and point my finger at him: “Well, I represent the entire north-east region for cross-business work streams and I just came back from a meeting with our CEO. He made it very clear that the new work stream alignment leadership board should be consulted about restructuring plans! Your meeting undermines that corporate decision and I am baffled by your blatant attempt to waste corporate resources!”

I look around as if I am Bruce Banner who is about to turn into the Hulk. I yank out the power cord, shove the laptop and the power cord in my suitcase and stride towards the door. At the door, I turn around and say: “If I were you guys, I'd reconsider this whole project and come up with a darn good explanation how you will align this with our global work stream targets. I expect a memo by tomorrow!” With that, I slam the door shut and leave.

Within five minutes I have changed back into my normal clothes and pop over to my buddy's office. “Man, you were great”, he says, “the look on their faces when you slammed the door… !” And then the best part begins: watch what happens next in the meeting room. Since every meeting room is equipped with the latest in videoconferencing, there are a couple of cameras in the room. So with a bag of Doritos and a few cans of Pepsi we have a wonderful afternoon.

The one were doom is spelled

It is Monday morning in the library and too early for trouble. Yet, I have the unmistakable feeling that something bad is about to happen. I switch on Pandora, the streaming music website and the first song it plays is Elvis Presley's “Trouble”.


I open the mail and pick up a new book that has to be catalogued: “The 13 mistakes of highly ineffective people”.


I quickly touch my Nancy Pearl[7] action figure to prevent further signs of trouble. But it is too late. On my desk is a post-it note from my manager: “please come to my office ASAP to discuss great opportunity for career boost”. That comes down to: “I want to delegate a task which is either very unpopular or too complex for me, so I'm giving it to you. If you achieve the goal, I take the credit, if you fail – you're the scapegoat”.

After an hour I come back from the meeting with my manager and all the signs were right. I have been put in charge of project “Document Object Oriented Management” (DOOM). A recent IT user survey has pointed out that end users can't find the documents they need. Of course I could tell everyone why:

Users don't know what they are looking for;

If they think they know, they are looking in the wrong places;

If they are looking in the right place, they use a maximum of two words;

They can't be bothered to read the help or work through the 5-minute tutorial;

But hey, the IT managers will not take simple explanations as an answer. They will take any excuse to build another system. Which is just the opposite of what the users want. But then, IT managers are not there for the end users of course.

To cut a long story short, in a recent meeting with all the IT head honchos project DOOM was initiated which should put an end to users not finding documents. I have been tasked to organize a workshop with the key stakeholders to align vision, outline a road map with milestones and define clear deliverables linked to business priorities. In short: it has as much chance of succeeding as a snowball in hell.

But then, I can at least have some fun with the workshop… So I invite the following key stakeholders to pitch against each other:

The search maestro: convinced that all users need is a concept-based search engine, and metadata is completely useless and outdated;

The records management evangelist: everything is a business record and therefore should be declared as a record, requiring 37 metadata fields, cross referenced with endless master data lists;

The document workflow preacher: metadata is useful, but should be stored in the document and search engines will be redundant when people just follow the workflow;

My passive aggressive assistant Sue, representing the library: computers are evil. Everything should be stored on paper in duplicate and indexed in her rolodex using the 1978 edition of the indexing bible.

All the participants think everyone else is wrong and they are deaf for other viewpoints. But they have more in common: they will repeat their ideology until they see blue in the face and need a whiteboard with a marker to make their point.

And I have put only one whiteboard and one marker in the meeting room. Let the games begin!

The one were profit is at a loss

It is Monday afternoon, 3.35 PM in the library and I am just about to take a nap behind the reference works section in the library when I get an e-mail from my boss:

“I want you to attend this seminar about how to turn libraries into profit centers – a great opportunity to create a real paradigm shift! I expect a proposal with best practices related to our high level strategy with quality-assured guesstimates.”

(Sigh) So the good news is I get to spend a day and a half at a nice hotel on company expense. But I have to come up with a proposal that looks real enough, yet will not encourage my boss to really believe that libraries can be profit centers. A library is a shrine and treasure of wisdom, a sanctuary of stillness and the center of tranquility. Not a profit center.

I close the door of the library, put on the 'closed' sign (“library closed for upgrading to ISBN-13”) and hammer away at my keyboard.


Based on best practices gathered at the seminar, which I benchmarked with industry peers, I have come up with the following ideas to have the library perform at an economic optimum.

1. Use contextual advertising on the corporate intranet;

2. Sell confidential company reports on eBay;

3. Put advertising on all scanned company records;

4. Sell copies of our telephone directory to headhunters and competitors;

5. Rip out the last page of every book and when asked for, sell them;

6. Also, remove the conclusion of every electronic article ordered and charge for it;

7. Charge $1 per minute when calling the library.

Good, I got that done. Now I am off to the seminar where I can skip all the presentations and workshops. This leaves me more time to catch up on listening to audio novels, check out the hotel pool bar and in general “network”.

The one with a cunning plan

It is Tuesday afternoon 4 PM in the library and I have unplugged the phones and shut the door. I am in love. Head over heals. For the past three days I cannot think straight, every waking moment is spent dreaming and longing. But it is an impossible love.

The object of my affection is the iDop Feel, the new multimedia-lifestyle device that has been launched earlier last week after months of speculation about features, colors, name and price. The iDop is everything I want and more. It has a 5 mega pixel camera (ideal to create hi-res photos for blackmailing), Wifi and an internet browser (so I can check out Flickr's stupid library signs stream during lunch), an MP3 player (so I can listen to "Tales of a librarian" by Tori Amos and the audio book of Melvil Dewey's life), a video player (so I can watch bootlegs of the Australian comedy "The Librarians"), a lightweight yet powerful instant messenger (so I can gossip with other library bloggers), the most advanced photo browsing software (which on the fly removes wrinkles, grey hairs and goofy smiles), gigabytes of storage space and (drum roll) a near-perfect e-book reader. Gasp. With this device, I'd never have to talk to another human being or get bored!

But alas, Perfection also has a price tag. In the case of the iDop Feel, that price is way over my budget. But I want one. I need one. I must have one. It would be my precious!

If only I could persuade my boss to buy me one. Hmmmm. Now, that's an idea.

So to quote Baldrick from Blackadder: "I've got a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel."

I start off by calling one of the managers in the Knowledge & Learning Department. That department is the brainchild of one of the vice presidents and is fighting for power with IT, which I report up to. Both departments claim to own "knowledge management", or to be more precise: the obscene budget for knowledge management, a concept so vague you can fund many projects with dizzy acronyms and non-measurable outcomes. A bit like marketing.

Anyway, I entice him to play a pawn in my new game:

"Hi there, did you get the memo about the enhanced knowledge facilitation paradigm shift program the IT VP started? I think you guys should be included in this… ."

"Woah there, what's that?"

"Well, I just got this memo about how IT will 'shape the company's tacit knowledge retention curve by clustering organization wide wisdom sharing sources on a single device… "

"Could you send me a copy of that memo? Because I am sure the Knowledge Officer would be interested in that".

And of course I am more than happy to share a copy of that fabricated memo by sharing the link in our document management system. The next step is to make a copy of that memo, but attribute it to the Knowledge & Learning Department. Then I am on the phone to the assistant of the IT VP:

"Hi there, I was just wondering why IT wasn't mentioned in the memo about the enhanced knowledge facilitation paradigm shift program from the Knowledge & Learning Department?"

"Woah, hang on there - what memo?"

"Well, I just got this memo about how the Knowledge & Learning department will 'shape the company's tacit knowledge retention curve by clustering organization wide wisdom sharing sources on a single device… "

"That's not their job - IT is responsible for knowledge devices! Send me a copy of that memo and I'll escalate this".

Since I am the all-powerful admin of our document management system, I can see the flurry of forwarding and comments about the memo in the system. It looks like both IT and Knowledge & Learning want to own this project by claiming they are way ahead of the other.

So I innocently pop over to my manager's office, who looks desperate: "Those fuzzy wuzzy knowledge maestros fooled us again. I have just heard the Board wants to fund their proposal for a feasibility study regarding a new portable knowledge device… "

"Well, what if we did not only have a proposal for a feasibility study… but an actual working prototype… . with all of the organization’s knowledge in audio, video and text integrated in a touch display, wirelessly linked to our infrastructure and loaded with the virtual library?"

"Librarian, are you for real? I don’t have months and ten thousands of dollars to beat the knowledge department!"

"Well, actually I could put this together for a mere 900 dollars and three undisturbed days in an offsite secret facility. I promise you can demonstrate it next Monday at the interdepartmental project proposal meeting."

That explains why I am now in a five star hotel, all expenses paid and lying on a king size bed with my iDop Feel. This morning I loaded it with a random selection of business records, a complete backup of the intranet, all the recorded speeches by the IT VP, our collection of e-books and a local copy of the Wikipedia. So I now have 2.5 days left on company paid time to start this romance…

Page 4

The one with a mess up

It’s Monday, a little after lunch and my creativity is working overtime. This morning my manager told me he had a big, important assignment for me that would look good on my resume. Well, it turned out that an industry IT event was taking place and the chief IT manager was invited to speak about our company’s web 2.0 strategy. Since the chief IT was occupied on that day (a golf clinic has priority of course), the assignment was delegated to the senior IT strategy manager. Who delegated it because it wasn’t prestigious enough. And so, after several levels of delegation I was asked to present about “web version 2, portals, content mess ups and other interesting stuff to show how fab we are in Hades”. And then they trusted me to put together a presentation, which would not need approval as long as I did not reveal secrets.

Ah well. I put everything on hold for this important assignment. I shut the door of the library (sign on the door with “library closed for MARC[8] records audit”). I then gave everyone all permissions on the document management system, so no one would bother me to request permission for folders and documents. I redirected all my e-mail, phone and instant messaging to my passive aggressive assistant Sue, who will reply to everything very friendly like: “that is your problem”, “that is not of your concern” and “did you check Google?”

So after several cappuccinos, the entire Bill Joel box set and a bag of M&M’s, here’s my outline for the presentation titled “Portal to Hades: the future of business driven strategic information and service architecture synergies”:

1. Hades will speed up performance reviews by automatically creating profiles of the employee’s performance. In one report, the supervisor can see

- The amount of e-mail sent and received, split per topic and automatically classified as personal or business;

- Candid photos of the employee’s behavior at office parties;

- A summary of their Internet search history;

- And a breakdown of their Internet download activity;

2. Work-life balance is a core value for Hades. We want our employees to focus on their personal development, linked to Hades business priorities. Finding a partner is a very time-consuming and stressful activity, which we would like to facilitate. All 145,842 employees of Hades are already listed in the corporate directory. This directory will be expanded with information on salary, benefits, hobbies, pictures and relationship status (single, married, married but looking etc).

With a few clicks of a mouse, our employees can find a match within the company and save valuable time and energy. This also supports our goal of cross-business and cross-region relationship building.

3. All information tools will be migrated to clunky web versions, with far less functionality and less stability. However, they will be given web 2.0 names (Grmbl, Yikes, OhYeaH for example) and end users will be able to put them in widgets on their desktop. To complete the web 2.0 vibe, the widgets will be in forever beta and not supported by central IT.

The one with the old librarian

It is Tuesday afternoon, 3.45 PM in the library and I am preparing myself for my weekly “surplus library and archive equipment inventory”. Which is less boring than it sounds… I’ll let you in on a secret.

I was hired several years ago for the corporate library position at Hades Corporation because the librarian at the time was close to retirement. He had been in that position for 40 years and basically built the library, book-by-book, budget dollar for budget dollar. Nobody really knew how the library worked as the librarian was quite secretive about it.

So when I was hired to take over, one of the main tasks assigned to me was to find out how everything worked, since no process was documented and the librarian kept every file locked in his desk. The library catalog was only accessible on his computer, so everyone had to call him to get information. But he didn't mind that people called him, it helped him know what was going on in the company, he said. And he was always there, never a day off (“I don't have a wife, and I like my job”) or a day ill (“books keep you healthy”).

Within the first week I realized that the cloud of mystery around the library served the librarian well. Nobody really bothered him, since no one really knew what he was supposed to do except handling search requests and making sure the books and journals were available … .)

The librarian had cleverly worked out a dual reporting structure, reporting both to IT and facility services. This worked in his advantage, as every time one department wanted something changed, the librarian claimed that the other department did not agree. Since the IT manager and the facility services manager were not on speaking terms, they never agreed to meet in order to align their needs for library services.

Since he never asked for large investments, never raised issues or even showed the slightest hint of wanting to change, the librarian became something of a stealth persona – flying under the radar of any management attention or reorganization.

I was, of course, very young and full of ideas. Seeing how old fashioned the library at Hades was, my head was full of innovations and I submitted memo after memo to management with challenges and future visions. The old librarian politely smiled every time he read one of my memos and slowly shook his head: “let me tell you, in all of my 40 years I have never bothered management and therefore they never bothered me.”

After a few weeks we built a relationship of trust, as he knew he was leaving and I would take over. Every day he would tell me more about how things worked, or why not. He started to bring me to every meeting and introduce me as his successor, except for one. Every week on Tuesday afternoon at 4 PM, he would excuse himself and tell me he was going make an inventory of surplus archive and library materials for donation to the third world. I did not understand how he could do this every week and I still had not seen a single box ready for shipment to developing nations.

When I asked him about this appointment, he smiled in his little grey beard, his eyes twinkled behind his glasses and he told me: “I will tell you once the time is ready”.

On his very last day, I was very curious to learn about this weekly inventory. He took me down to the basement, where the paper archive was kept. He opened the doors of the archive and walked along the shelves of files and archive boxes. At the end of the section “tax receipts 1990-1999” he stopped. I noticed that behind that cupboard was a small door, almost the same color as the wall. The sign on the door said: “surplus archive and library materials”. With a small key, he opened the door and let me in… .

It was a very small room, cleverly hidden at the end of the archive. The room was just big enough to contain a leather chair, a small table with a record player, a small wine rack and a bookcase filled with classics in leather bound volumes. The old librarian smiled at me: “This is where I have been doing my inventory for over 30 years, the one reason that kept me sane in this organization and why I never became ill. Consider this the gift of a secret from an old librarian to a young librarian, use it as you see fit.”

So in honor of old librarians, I have continued the old tradition. Every week I go down to the basement, lock the door, play some old jazz and toast to old librarians who never shall die…

The one with half a library

It is Wednesday afternoon, 2.24 PM in the library and I am playing Pink Floyd’s “Money” in a loop. This morning all service departments were gathered in a town hall session with our managers for a “Ban out unnecessary costs” session. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds.

First we got an overview of how much money was spent on luxuries like furniture, coffee, cleaning and catering. In Hades’ constant drive to make even more money for our poor shareholders, the focus is not on selling better products or delivering better services to customers – it seems the key is in eliminating all costs. So a relentless cost cutting effort (I think it is the 6th in little over 2 years) has been launched. In the past we had to submit endless spreadsheets with all the costs and then spend many hours explaining why something was done, why it was done this way and how we already did it in the most cost efficient way (of course previous cost cutting exercises were never evaluated).

Well, actually I just created one spreadsheet with made up numbers and used that in all the projects, as every time the team composition changed anyway. And since I am the only one with access to the library back-end systems for all the numbers, it is hard to contradict me.

But this time I need to come up with something new: the assignment is to document how much we can deliver for half our budget. Then management will decide whether we can get by with half of the services or half the level of service. Perhaps half is good enough….

Of course I am fully willing to participate in any effort to help my organization cut costs. As long as it does not interfere with the library. This crazy cost-cutting idea must be killed before someone really thinks this has any future. So instead of documenting what half the library budget will deliver, I will actually start doing it. Happy to be a shining example for the rest of the organization by taking end-to-end responsibility for a true cost saving effort. I’ll bet this project will be killed before we get to lunch tomorrow.

As of tomorrow I give you “half the library”:

- The intranet will only be available every other minute;

- Every other page in newly scanned reports will be blank;

- We serve staff with names starting with A-K on Monday and Wednesday. Staff with names starting L-Z will be served on Tuesday and Thursday. On Friday we will serve staff at random (as we please);

- Links to reports and articles may or may not work depending on a daily flip of a coin;

- The automatic library door will only open for every other person on half the speed. Occasionally it may also just open halfway;

- Requests for books with an even ISBN[9] number will be served in even weeks; odd ISBN numbers will be served in the odd weeks;

- You have a chance of 1 in 2 to get through to the library by phone or e-mail;

- For every literature search request, only even or odd literature references will be delivered.

Money, its a crime

Share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie

Money, so they say

Is the root of all evil today(Pink Floyd, “Money”(c) 1973)

The one with creative copyright management

It is Tuesday morning, 11.26 AM in the library and I feel good about being a good, law abiding citizen, a rule obeying Hades employee and overall an obnoxious librarian.

Yesterday I was called into a meeting with my manager and the business opportunity consultant (I’d prefer to call him the b.s. consultant) to discuss our portfolio of electronic journals and databases. Or to be more precise: can we do more with even less money?

That seems to be the business equivalent of the philosopher's stone: how to turn inexpensive items into gold. Or at least something shiny.

I explained how we are already saving money by using economies of scale. We have centralized on several publisher e-journal packages, which in the past were many smaller licenses. This has lead to better discounts, one point of negotiation and only one invoice to manage (and monopolistic publishers only have us over a barrel once). But I should have known that it is never enough to save money until your budget is zero and I start doing my job as a volunteer (of course working for Hades is a constant cycle of joy, happiness and life enriching experiences, so why pay me?).

Well, luckily the opportunity consultant was a real expert on the topic of electronic journals and he was full of ideas:

“Using out-of-the-box thinking, industry best practices and our consultancy firm’s proprietary knowledge base, I have several great opportunities for Hades Corp. in this exciting area. Each of these opportunities is a perfect balance between value enhancement and cost saving, and of course I get paid for every stupid idea I can sell to you guys.”

Well, actually he did not say that last part. But I saw him thinking it.

I will summarize for you the wonderful opportunities presented to me in all PowerPoint glory, with the aim to reduce our spending on the e-journal portfolio:

1. Cancel all e-journal subscriptions and move completely to document delivery. All document delivery will be outsourced to a cost advantageous country. All requests will require a signed off business case by a senior manager.

(The “Let’s make it impossible” scenario)

2. Cancel all e-journal subscriptions and use the wonderful treasures of freely available information on the web.

(The “Let’s dumb down research” scenario)

3. Cancel all e-journal subscriptions and take up paper subscriptions again, this time delivering them to a Hades office in a cost advantageous country which does not acknowledge copyright. Then we can scan all journals there and store them in the corporate document management system.

(The “Copyright? What copyright?” scenario)

When opportunity 3 was presented I stood up and applauded, as I recognize a legal disaster when I see one. I thought about pretending to wipe a tear from my eye, but I was afraid that would be pushing it. With a lump in my throat I asked the consultant to send me the PowerPoint presentation of this opportunity set so I could follow up on this paradigm shifting insight.

And I did follow up. By forwarding it to the legal department of Hades. So that is why my manager and the business opportunity consultant are in a mandatory disciplinary 4 hour meeting with the corporate lawyers from HQ and I scored a brownie point with the lawyers. Lesson learned: you should always keep the lawyers on your side, even if it means sacrificing someone else.

The one where we invent money to spend money

It is Wednesday afternoon, 4.15 PM in the library and I am doing my Zen exercises as preparation for a meeting with the Software, Hardware and Infrastructure Technology International board (usually nicknamed shitty). After months of requirements gathering, market scans, stakeholder mapping, stakeholder management, stakeholder engagement, stakeholder consensus shoot-outs, requirements mapping, architecture design, architecture redesign, architecture landscape design, interface mapping, forward and backward compatibility testing, benchmarking and the usual coffee, late nights and teeth grinding I am now ready to ask final approval for the upgrade of our library and records management systems.

I pick up my binders with all the supporting documentation and head down to the conference room. The secretary of the board is outside and warns me that I am the next one on the schedule. The board consists of wise men and women who have been selected to veto about whether or not to authorize spending of IT related budget. The main requirement for being selected on the board is not having any practical knowledge or expertise about IT. Actually, I even think that most of the board members not even use a computer, as they have one or more secretaries for menial work. They are busy hopping from meeting room to meeting room defending their pet projects, squashing other’s pet projects, inventing new buzz words and “thinking out of the box”.

The door opens and the previous applicant for IT budget spending comes out, covered in sweat and a bewildered look in his eyes. The secretary shoves me in while quickly whispering: “They are running late, so keep it short and speak only when spoken to.” I wanted to ask whether it was safe to look the board members straight in the eye, but she had already closed the door behind me.

I sit down and face the jury.

“So, well, well, what have we here… a software upgrade for library and records management software” begins the head of finance, who acts as the chairman this time. “I did not know we needed a library, as we can find, store and file everything ourselves, I thought… but okay, I see all the boxes have been ticked for this request. So let’s get this over with. Does anybody have any objections?”

The rest of the board now starts reading the proposal, as none of them have read the required pre-reading materials (that would influence their ability for out of the box thinking).

I am crossing my fingers and hope I will get permission, as I’d like to get out of this meeting before 5 so I can get back to my desk to update my blog. But then the senior auditor says “hmmm”. I do not like “hmmm”, as usually it is followed by trouble [insert 'Jaws' theme here].

The senior auditor taps his finger on the proposal: “Hmmm, this seems to be software that can be used across the Hades corporation in every country. Chairman, if you remember, we specifically introduced a requirement that proposals for software that is to be used globally, at least 50% of the budget funding should come from a different region of our corporation to demonstrate global buy in.”


I'd like to jump over the conference table and pummel him with my first edition of the Dewey biography, but instead I sigh and address the senior auditor: “Of course I have read all the rules, but as you know there is only one library in Hades– so there can be no other regional funding from a different library.”

“Well, dear librarian, that is not my problem. A rule is a rule in my book. As an auditor I am nothing if not a stickler for rules. When we start making exceptions (he actually shudders when he utters that foul word) that will be the end of our corporate governance of which I am so proud. It is the foundation and future of this company.”

The chairman makes a note and tells me that either I come up with 50% of the funding from a different region of the Hades group of companies, or otherwise my proposal will not be approved.

Mmmm. This calls for an improvisation paradigm. I lock the door of the library, put a sign on the door “closed for quarterly Z39.50[10] architecture quality control” and put on my headphones. As always, the serene sounds of Spinal Tap's classic album “Break like wind” bring me into the right theta state. Brain wave builds upon brain wave as I suddenly find the right eureka moment.

I pick up the phone and quickly dial the number of my buddy Melvin in Kuala Lumpur. He manages the farm of servers that run all of Hades´ critical applications. His real ambition is to build the world's largest collection of Manga comics, so I have used my powerful library network to get him obscure Manga comics. In return, he hosts the library and records management system on one of the mega servers, guaranteeing me perfect service and total up time.

`Library dude, long time no speak – how's life?”

“Melvin, my friend, I need a favor, a suit is blocking my plan to upgrade my systems. I need 25 grand from you.”

“Wow, hey, you know you are on my special list, but I don't have spare budget I can give you.”

“Well, Melvin – I know that. Corporate politics is just a game, so let's just play a little game of Monopoly to beat the suits at their game of tic-tac-toe. I have a budget of 50.000 dollars for this software upgrade, but I need 25.000 of that to come from a different region. You have never invoiced me for hosting my library and records management software, right?”

“No, of course not, you're a pal and your systems don't consume any CPU power or bandwidth worth charging you.”

“That is very nice of you, but don't you think that after all these years an invoice for your service is overdue? An invoice of say, 25.000 dollars? I will pay you for that long outstanding invoice and then you can fund half of my systems upgrade.”

“Librarian – you've got them checkmate!”

And we go back to our normal scheduled plan of world domination…

Page 5

The one with a special price for a special customer

It is Friday morning, 11.25 PM in the library and I reminisce about my job. Sometimes people will ask me: what is it that drives you in your job? What makes you wake up every morning and immediately feel empowered, energized and challenged to go to your desk for another day at the grind?

And my answer is always: the library customers. For them I constantly update policies to make life more difficult, make systems more complex, install yet another layer of bureaucracy and in general make them work for me.

Customers– they provide me with so much entertainment, like little busy ants in ant farm. Once in a while you shake their world and enjoy seeing them scramble around. No, if it were not for the library customers I would seriously consider moving to a job in finance as they have customer disengagement down to an art.

Just the other day, a customer called me while I was just in the middle of reading the wanted ads in “Library cataloguing monthly”. I looked at the phone display and noticed it was one of the new hires, who just started this month. It is very important to manage their expectations as otherwise they keep bugging me:


“Hi, this is James from account development. I would like to request access to the confidential reports collection.”

“James, did you fill out the form on our intranet?”

“Well, ehm, I could not find it….”

“It is very easy. Go to the front page. Click global services. Select your business area. Enter your location code. Click the little small, blinking, moving dot in the bottom left hand corner of the screen, just below the edge of your browser window.”

“Oh, ok, but I need access today as I need to analyze a bunch of reports for a meeting tomorrow.”

“James, first of all you did not use the magic word “please”. Secondly, the service level agreement clearly stipulates that every request for access to the confidential reports will be handled within 3 working days. That is, if you filled out the form correctly, otherwise it will be ignored without warning.”

“But.. but…”

“But James, I understand your situation. You’re young. You’re new. You need to deliver to crawl up the corporate ladder. So you need a better service than the normal service – you want the Very Important Customer service with dedicated expert librarian support and guaranteed turn around time.”


“ Ok James, now we are talking. Let me see what the special price would be for you… mmmm…. Skip the form and handle the request by phone, that would be 2 extra large boxes of Oreos. Skip required permission procedure, that’s either washing my car or cleaning my windows at home. Immediate authorization of your access: a yet to be defined favor which I can request at(?) any time in the future.”

The secret to life is making it work for you.

The one with a room with a view

It is Monday morning, 10.15 PM in the library and the mailroom just delivered the package I have been eagerly waiting for. Finally, the extended edition, director's cut DVD box of “The Librarian” in high definition and with surround sound has arrived. Now I can see the adventures in their full glory as they were meant to be. However, neither at home nor at the office do I have the equipment to enjoy this cinematic spectacle in all its beauty. Mmmm.

The library does have a small multimedia room that was used to show training videos - yes, real videocassettes with magnetic tape. I now use these as amusement for the new hires library tour. I make them guess how long the magnetic tape is in one cassette and then we measure it by pulling the tape across the hallways. As my first library teacher always said: "show, don't tell".

I now mostly use the multimedia room to store my collection of autographed famous librarian photos. My most priced possession is an autographed picture of Nancy Pearl, with a thoughtful motto on it as well: “Shush first, ask later”. This year I am hoping to expand my collection by getting an autographed picture of Stephen Abram at the annual Special Library Association conference. I would also really like to have one from Meredith Farkas, but I am too shy to ask her.

I walk over to my manager's office and walk in while I roll my eyes and sigh deeply. He pretends not to notice me and feverishly keeps typing. I look over his shoulder and say: "Hey, if you are using your calculator, you can only use numbers - no full sentences." My boss turns around annoyed and waves me to his small conference table. He wants me out of here as quickly as possible as I just caught him chatting with the new secretary in HR, but he quickly alt-tabbed to Microsoft Calculator when I looked over his shoulder.

"So, make it quick - I have a strategic alliance group meeting in ten minutes."

"Well, you know our multimedia room is completely out of date and unused? The Knowledge management & learning group thinks that is such a shame and now want to set up their own state of the art multimedia room next to their offices."

"What? No way. We in IT own multimedia, they should stick to their wishy washy story telling and playing around in Second Life. Sheesh."

"For 9k we could completely refurbish the room and then use it to offer a multimedia, cross-platform, fully interactive learning experience - heck, I'll even volunteer to take the lead and set up a program of regular sessions. I am sure that our board would be impressed when IT takes the lead to enhance skills and offer social networking.”

“Mmmm, are you sure you can do it for 9k? If it’s below 10k, I can put that on the training budget which comes from the learning group – so indirectly they pay for it and we get the credit.”

Of course I did my homework regarding the costs. I already contacted my buddy in meeting services. He made a good deal with the plasma TV vendor who is eager to get his foot in the door with a multinational like Hades. So for a steal we will get two 52” plasma high-definition TV’s, a professional state of the art projector, a multimedia centre, a surround sound set and two social interactive experience facilitation computers (read: an XboX360 and a Nintendo Wii).

So pretty soon the library will open the new multimedia room with an exciting line up of sessions:

Monday: developing leadership skills and overcoming obstacles

(Illustrated by the showing the complete “Lord of the Rings” trilogy)

Tuesday: the future of information technology and virtual worlds

(Illustrated by the showing of the “Matrix” trilogy)

Wednesday: developments in leading edge computer graphics

(Illustrated by playing the latest video games)

Thursday: information management: protecting the assets

(Illustrated by the showing of “The librarian” and “The librarian II”)

Friday: the power of improvisation to survive in a changing world

(Illustrated by showing a series of Roadrunner cartoons)

The one where I blow off steam

It is Tuesday afternoon in the library and I am catching up on library gossip on twitter whilst listening to the polka version of Van Halen greatest hits.

Suddenly my l-user (library user) radar goes of. Sheesh. There is a real flesh and blood customer at the library counter. So you build them a virtual library with online databases, web 2.0 interfaces, step-by-step wizards for every information request possible and they come to the library. What is it with these people? Don't they realize I need peace and solitude for my world domination plans?

So first I try to ignore him by staring at my computer screen. But it's not my day, the customer still is there and shuffles his feet. I pretend my phone vibrates and act having a dull conversation that could go on a long time. But the customer does not flinch and now starts to scrape his throat and looks at me with growing impatience.

Well, we better get this over with then. I put down the phone and walk over to the counter.

”Hey – next time feel free to send us an e-mail – my time is precious, but since you are here now… “

“Well, I just wanted to loan this book, so could you do that for me please.”

“Hmmm. Why?”

“Why I want to loan this book? I need it for my project.”

“How do you know whether this is the right book? Did you check all the available books in the world against a set of weighed criteria and now you are SURE this book is THE book with the right information?”

“Well, no, but judging from the title and the back cover, this seems relevant for my project.”

“Excuse me mister hot shot – if we all just went around loaning books just because it SEEMS relevant based on the title and the back cover, I may as well loan out ALL books instead of keeping them safe & sound here in the library”

“But you're a librarian – you should loan out books… ”

“And that is where you are wrong – I personally hand picked this whole collection of books over the years, carefully catalogued them according to the highest standards, lovingly placed them on the right shelf right next to their book peers, I dust them with tender care every week and make sure the room is exactly the right temperature and humidity. When I loan out a book, you touch it without gloves, make marks in the book, leave it unattended and you crack the spine!

And let me just check the system – you already have two books on loan. Why do you need a third book? Will you just come in every day and look what might happen to be relevant? I will not put up with careless loaning, mister!”

(At that time I wish I could create some foam around my mouth for extra effect)“Ok, I am sorry, I didn't know you felt so strongly about this. I'll put the book back on the shelf.”

“Heck no. A non-schooled librarian is never ever allowed to put a book back. Very likely you would put the book in the wrong place, messing up the whole shelf, the library and subsequently the library universe. But what else can I do for you?”

“Ehm. Nothing. I just wanted to loan this book.”

“No extra requests like a complex literature search or professional advice on how to structure a wiki?”

“No, not really… ”

“So let me get this straight. You come down to the library *just* to borrow a book? Do you know I have a masters degree in library and information science? I graduated with honors from a top library school and received praise for my thesis 'Investigation of machine performance by information dimension: Types, frequency, and sequencing of errors made during human-machine interaction'. I have created the world's foremost online corporate library presence, combining state of the art taxonomies with breath taking visual search interfaces, built on top of a world class selection of online information sources, including never before seen parts of the deep web and previously unknown gems from our own legacy information, long thought lost for mankind. And all of that within budget and on time, defying the laws of the universe. AND YOU WANT ME TO LOAN YOU A BOOK?”

And another customer leaves the library, feeling empowered now to use the self-service.

The one where we define the reorganization rules

It is Monday morning, 9 AM in the library and I am happy to see that the bit torrent files over the weekend have come in with the complete series of the Australian TV show "The librarians". I have a dedicated data communications linkup to the Internet for regular back ups of the vital records to our offsite storage provider, so I had to stop that. You have got to have priorities in life.

Just when I walk down the corridor to the nearest coffee machine (or well, a machine that produces a brown, lukewarm liquid almost, but not quite like coffee) a poster catches my eye: "Don't forget - we're leaping ahead to be #1 in the industry!". Oh yeah. I almost forgot, the bi-annual reorganization will start this week - just what I need.

Like in most other organizations, a reorganization is not so much aimed to improve the organization as it is a ritual, a rite of passage for Hades Corporation. Everybody knows it is a regular experience and it is an important event in our office lives that would be boring without them. Everybody knows his role and we reflect back on previous reorganizations, with moving stories about those who did not survive the '97 Quest for Performance. Staff measures each other’s credibility on the number of reorganizations they have survived.

Like any important ritual, a reorganization has rules, which must be adhered to:

1. Every reorganization shall reverse the previous reorganization

What is decentralized, must be centralized - or vice versa. If we are organized by industries, we will be organized by regions - or vice versa. The more daring organizations organize into multidimensional organizations, defeating anyone to understand whom they report to;

2. Management will provide only vague updates

A reorganization will always start with rumors - a best practice is for management to fuel contradicting rumors. After that management will create a communications plan with the intent to use as much words possible without saying anything at all. Perfect examples would be:

"Considerable progress has been made in engaging key stakeholders on different levels. A proposed roadmap has been developed outlining the way forward. Interface concerns are currently being evaluated and addressed in subcommittees."

"Management is excited by the enthusiasm of all staff to embrace this change. Several constructive challenges have been brought to the table which will be evaluated."

Always stress that questions are welcome, but never ever answer them in the required detail;

3. Never evaluate the previous reorganization

Whatever promises were made about increases in profit, cost savings or life altering goals - thou shalt never evaluate the previous reorganization. That was done by a previous manager in the past and therefore can be ignored. It is wise to ignore any lessons learned from that reorganization as obviously times have changed so dramatically that they do not apply for this reorganization;

4. Task force

Management will set up a task force to do the actual work of the reorganization. Not only does this leave more time for lunch, golf and backroom meetings, it also creates a clear group which can take the blame. The best task force has a number of external consultants, which can be fired easily if the situation requires a clear statement to the organization;

5. Freeze

During the reorganization preparation, the transition and "settling in period", there should be a complete freeze on budgets, filling vacancies, new projects and any important decisions. Not only does this save money, it also helps the employees focus on how on earth they will do their jobs instead of worrying about whether they will still have a job in the future;

6. Deny downsizing

The only important thing employees worry about is their job. Management should not spoil the surprise too early in the reorganization but keep everyone on his or her toes. Always deny downsizing, but feel free to discuss that rightsizing and right sourcing are under evaluation;

7. The right person for the right job

A best practice in many industries is to reduce all positions in any skill pool or team by one and then have all staff apply for the available jobs. A bit like musical chairs. This clearly motivates the employees to apply for the job they have been doing for years and stimulates a healthy competition based on skills, experience and guts.

Page 6

The one were we come to the rescue

It is a quiet Wednesday morning in the library and I am re-arranging all the links on the intranet in alphabetical order whilst tapping my feet in tune with a Led Zep bootleg. All of a sudden the top-secret librarian-in-need phone rings.

The general audience is not aware that all librarians worldwide are part of a secret underground organization that connects all librarians across continents, ages and different types of libraries. The cover is brilliant: library associations. Nobody suspects library associations, as outsiders already roll their eyes from boredom when they hear the word. Not to mention the websites and conferences library associations use to mislead non-librarians from what is really going on.

Do non-librarians really think we go to conferences to discuss "Involving senior citizens into public library reading programs: talk loud and slow", "Libraries: pillars of our communities" or "Library 2.0: hip and wild Dewey style"?

The library associations and their conferences are all part of the worldwide community of librarians discussing the plans for world domination and how to survive the battle with he-who-shall-not-be-mentioned (starts with a G and rhymes with Oogle). Using secret handshakes, covert operations and coded messages (cleverly hidden codes in `book shelving schemes´ and so-called ´MARC records´), librarians live in the public eye but are never under suspicion.

"This is Dr. Venom speaking. What is the top secret pass-phrase for this week?"

"Dr. Venom, this is Larry Laffer. The seagulls are flying low over the green grass."

"Larry, that is a 10-4. What is the emergency?"

"Our brother Big Al is in trouble. His corporate library is under attack by the evil consultants from McQuinsey. Unless he can prove his value within 48 hours, he will be on the street. I have raised the emergency level to 2 and will initiate immediate retaliation. I request your full participation in this war. Can I count on you? "

"We're all blood brothers, Big Al and I both swore our oath to Saint Dewey on the Library of Congress Rule Interpretations, first edition in LIS 101. Consider this emergency to be taken care of."

I put down the phone, shut down the intranet and redirect all library mail to the central spam-reporting mailbox. I don't need distractions now.

Quickly I pull out my little black book of contacts from behind the dusty old set of English - Esperanto dictionaries. With a few phone calls I put my plan in action. To summarize our covert operation:

- Big Al's library peers in his industry will put together a fancy industry report with fancy 3D pie charts and many tables proving Big Al is providing the maximum bang for the buck in the industry;

- The proposal from McQuinsey is totally ripped apart by the library association, questioning every statement, statistic, page number and font size using an overload of counter arguments, citation of documented best practices and statements from library peers;

- The library association will announce Big Al as the librarian of the year and his organization a 'visionary organization in the industry, scaling content and meta data architecture to shift paradigms';

- Big Al's manager will be getting phone calls from big publisher "account managers" complaining that Big Al is a ruthless negotiator, squeezing every penny from their deal, leaving them speechless;

- Every library user in Big Al's organization will be contacted to discuss their involvement. Key users will all send their praise to Big Al and his manager, thanking him for the impeccable service: the right information before they even knew they needed it. And in one case Big Al was able to retrieve a valuable document, thought long lost, that helped the R&D department settle a patent dispute;

- The McQuinsey consultant team will be spammed by our Polish, Russian and Danish library avengers with their daily, high volume e-mail discussion lists about Z39.50, proposed ISBD rule updates and cataloguing best practices.

- Accidents can happen when 20 volume reference works fall off the top shelves on unsuspecting consultants or finding Latin insults written with waterproof markers on their cars.

That should do the trick… if not, we have more tricks up our sleeve of course.

The one where we offer remote assistance

It is Friday morning, nearly 11 and I am humming along to some good old Marillion tunes while I am driving a user in a remote location slowly insane with a chat session. For some reason some users don't seem to understand on how to use the basic search, and then bother me by clicking on the "ask a librarian". I mean, don't they have any self-esteem - not understanding the BASIC search? Why bother me with your lack of self-confidence?

In order to discourage users from bothering me with "ask a librarian" (or better said: to stimulate end user self service) I put in a three-stage challenge-response system where the system shows words in distorted images that the users have to decipher and fill out in a box. To make it more of a challenge, the entry box is programmed to stay one inch from the mouse cursor. That stimulates the hand-eye coordination of users.

But once in a while a user passes the test and a chat window pops up on my computer. It is key to give the user the idea that they are getting help, but are better off sorting things out themselves in the future.

So I type very slowly and answer like ELIZA, the well-known computer program that simulates to be a psychoanalyst.

"I have a problem with finding information."

"How are you today? What would you like to discuss?"

"Fine, thanks - I can't seem to find the internal standards for setting up DPERs."

"I see"

"Well, can you help me?"

"Please tell me more about your problem."

"Like I said, I can't find the standards for DPERs."

"That sounds interesting. Tell me more about DPERs."

"You know DPERs, don't you? Those are our company standards."

"Why do you worry about company standards?"

"I don't worry about them!! I want to find them!!"

"What would it mean to you if you find the DPERs?"

"I need to finish my project asap!"

"That is quite interesting. Tell me more."

"I don't have TIME to tell you about my project. I need the DPERs FAST!!"

"You seem agitated. Why is that?"

"You are not helping me! Can you help me find the standards or not??"

"Why do you think I am not helping you?"

"You don't answer my questions. For one last time: where are the DPERS??!!"

"You seem obsessed with DPERs. I will transfer this chat session to the company psychologist for further discussion."

And off they go. It sometimes breaks my heart to see how hard working colleagues buckle under the pressure. But of course I am always there to steer them towards professional help.

The one where we use smoke and mirrors

It is Tuesday afternoon in the library around 4 PM and I'm listening to some old Steely Dan albums whilst messing up the new expense claim system. In the past I would get a monthly budget for document delivery based on the average of the past year's data. This saved me from a lot of hassle, which of course goes against the grain of our detail-obsessed, spreadsheet-hugging, bureaucratic finance staff. So they figured out that if they cannot force me to take a salary cut, they can at least lower my job satisfaction.

So now every tiny expense has to be filed separately in the expense claim system. This system was built by a software engineer who hates people and life in general. It defies any Windows menu logic, has no help screens and uses different icons for the same purpose. So on one page you have to click a green block to confirm, on another screen you should use the little disc icon or a green flag. Well, it keeps you concentrated.

The one thing that drives me absolutely nuts is that the expense claim system does not give any feedback. When you click on a menu item, there is not hourglass indicating you have to wait. No, the screen freezes and you don't know what is happening. So you click again. Wrong. Now you have to wait twice as long.

I have demonstrated that it takes me twice as long to use the system compared to the actual work of ordering a document. But I am obliged to use the system. Which means war. So I have developed a script that splits all my invoices into 10-cent claims and then feeds them into the expense management system automatically. So right now I’m feeding the system an average of 155 invoices per minute. Funny - the expense management system goes down after 5 minutes.

Just when I lean back in my chair to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done, my boss knocks on my door.

"Well, ehm, could I perhaps ask for a favor?"

I sigh.

"Remember I had to demonstrate the records management system to the top leadership team six months ago?"

"Yes, you told me they all loved it and assigned you a bonus."

"Well, I may have overstated the features of the system slightly."

"Like how?"

"The Chief Diversity Officer was critical about the ease of use and said he would only use it if he could have his records filed automatically by e-mailing them to the system. I know that is not possible, but I may have given the impression that it would be possible in 6 months… ."

I fold my arms and smirk: "then you've got a problem."

"Yes, yes, I know, because the top leadership is meeting again next Friday and in the meeting notes I have an action to demonstrate this feature. So… perhaps you could mock it up?"

"Let me get this straight. Six months ago you took all the credit for MY work, plus you made a promise that you cannot keep. Then you waited almost six months before dropping it in my lap?"

"That is a wrong way of looking at this. I would like to see this as an opportunity to work out a mock up of how perhaps one day this feature might work… "

"So, you want to me to create a fake feature, so you can pretend that it works as a beta but needs some work… . and then hope they forget about it before the next meeting?"

"Can you do that?"

"I could. But that would mean re-prioritizing all my other work, and I really need to reshelf all the reference works and alphabetize the links on our intranet. But you may of course try to influence my priorities… ."

"Ok, ok, I must convince the top managers - name your price, as long as it is somehow business related so I can approve it!"

It took me a few days of screen capturing, Photoshopping, smoke and mirrors to create project "fake duck" - hey, it talks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, so it must be a duck. On screen it looks like an e-mail is automatically screened for security classification, keywords and retention period. Then in a cloud of magic glitter, the record is correctly filed into the system.

So now my boss can save his face and put up a great dog and pony show, while I can enjoy my unlimited subscription to the audio book site - so if you'll excuse me, I have 117 hours of nonstop Harry Potter to listen to.

The one where we help to select an application

It is Monday morning, 9.05am in the library and I am doing some ego surfing on the web whilst head banging to the muzak version of Metallica. Just the perfect way to start the week, were it not for the meeting at 10am.

The powers that be have decided that Hades Corp should form a strategic vision for information management using long term horizon scanning and out-of-the-box scenario thinking. This roughly translates into a frenzy amongst mid-level managers who sees this as an opportunity to get attention from senior management by pretending to have a clue where we should be heading without a lot of real work involved. This as opposed to the general management motto of "we will deal with the issues on a forward going basis". If this were not enough waste of time, they now have asked vendor X to which we sold our soul by standardizing on most of their overpriced, bug-riddled and bloated software to share their views on what Hades Corp should look for in information management.

Well, let me guess… whatever we should look for is exactly what vendor X has on their development schedule. Vendor X has Hades Corp almost completely in their claws, except for the records management and library system. Oh, they tried to sell us their "solutions". Not that they have anything that even resembles a library system. Or a records management system that I would wish upon my worst enemy. But hey, their sales staff schmoozed the top IT managers, the right gold cuff links where offered and Hollywood award winning PowerPoint presentations did the trick. I had to do a proof of concept with their software and compare it to our current not-so-state-of-the-art-but-working-just-fine-thank-you applications.

So I checked their specifications with our user requirements, which miserably failed. Their products could do the basics but did a lot we don't need.

Management told me that specs aren't always what they seem and users never know what they want, so let's do a pilot to really get a final verdict - vendor X is paying for all the costs. So they flew in their top consultants and their best engineers to pull this off.

They had a week to create an acceptable pilot setup with competing goals: I wanted to prove my point that we should stick to what we have; vendor X desperately wanted to prove their applications were the best thing since sliced bread.

All week I wore the polo shirt with the logo from our current vendor and I provided the vendor X staff with a copy of the current setup. Of course I made it a bit more challenging by corrupting certain indexing and "forgetting" about certain system passwords. Unfortunately I was in off site meetings every afternoon where my cell phone did not work. But hey, life should not be too easy for the ambitious vendors…

On Friday afternoon they proudly showed their setup to a group of managers. Since our Hades managers have no clue what our library and records management systems do, they were simply amazed by all the shiny buttons, creative use of fonts and stylish logos. They admitted not to have a 100% match with all the user requirements, but management stated that our end users would certainly be willing to give us certain key requirements in exchange for nice shiny buttons and customizable font type (which is of course a very critical feature).

After the presentation, all eyes were on me for the final verdict. Would I give the thumbs up or down?

"Mmmmm… your presentation is… . interesting."

"Thank you, we look forward to working closely with you to set up an extended proof of concept."

"But… there is just one small thing that is very essential and a must have requirement… are your applications compatible with hardware to print punch cards?"

"No, of course not - you must be joking! We noticed you put that in the requirements, but we realized that this is a joke!"

"Well, as you should know - Hades Corporation has a very important government contract with the republic of Elbonia. And as records management experts, you will surely know that Elbonia requires all their business records to be delivered in punch cards.

We must be compliant with these government rules, so I am afraid I cannot vote for your systems."

"But… but… "

"Sorry, I wish I could continue our discussion, but my phone just vibrated and I must leave now to check on our MARC Z39.50 filter."

Page 7

The one where we become a status symbol

It is Friday evening, 10 PM and I am back in the library where I haven't been for a week. I have put "Mess of blues" of the late Jeff Healey on the sound system and walk around the library, happy to be back between the books, bound journals and humming servers. It has been a roller coaster week… .

Exactly a week ago I was ready to leave for a long weekend when the phone rang. The extension that showed up was "CEO office", which seemed strange to me. Being at the bottom end of the food chain, I was rarely called by the powers that be in the plush offices. Curiously, I picked up the phone.

"Yeah, library here - make it quick - I need to be home on time to watch the documentary about the unknown, yet crucial role of the Dewey classification in the underground secret information sharing during WWII."

"Mr. Librarian. This is Gil R. Moralious speaking, I am chairing the committee to select a new CEO for Hades Corp, as you may know."

"Gil, that's great - you are considering me for the job, I assume?"

"No, Mr. Librarian. Unfortunately that is not the case. I am however calling you regarding a promotion which I am sure you would be interested in. I just looked at your career so far in Hades Corp, and found out that in all your years with our exciting company you have always worked in the same role, in the

same low level job group."

"Well, Gil, this "exciting" company really does not have a career path for librarians - but of course I am more motivated by challenging projects, stimulating intellectual peer groups and the utter fulfillment of working for Hades."

"Then you are the right person for the new job that just opened today, which will offer a unique career perspective in a challenging top level environment where you will constantly encounter paradigm shifts. You will be the strategic information enabler, facilitating top executive knowledge interchanges."

"Ok, Gil, let's cut the crap - what is this all about?"

"Mr. Librarian, we have identified the ideal candidate for the future of Hades. In utmost confidence I am revealing to you that we are about to appoint Prof. Dr. Joyce Fedizko MBA BWG III Jr as our new CEO. As you will know, Mrs. Fedizko is one of the world's leading CEOs who has single-handedly revolutionized the coffee sweetener, paper clip and stuffed animal industry. We are convinced she will bring Hades Corp back into the top quartile market position. However, she is a tough negotiator. We have already tripled her current salary, offered her a custom designed Lamborghini and exclusive use of the company Learjet. Yet, she wants more. She wants to become the world's most exclusive CEO and is now asking for the next CEO status symbol: a personal librarian."


"Yes, apparently Mrs. Fedizko was bragging about our offer to her CEO peers earlier this week on the golf course. Bill Gates was not impressed, as he revealed to her that he has a personal librarian. She now considers this the prime fringe benefit. So we looked in our files, and as you are the only librarian in Hades, we would like you to become the CPL - Chief Personal Librarian."

Of course, there was a catch. I would assume the new position immediately, but the talent enabling department (formerly know as HR) could not for some reason put me in a higher pay grade. That would however be solved with the right number of forms, signatures and secret handshakes.

So on Monday morning I started my new career as CPL. After my acceptance, Mrs. Fedizko had accepted Hades' offer and sent her instructions to the interior design department. They worked all weekend with my guidance to remodel two existing meeting rooms on the top floor into a smaller copy of the old British Library circa 1904. So think antique book shelves, leather chairs, golden railings and copies of Da Vinci drawings.

I was given an obscene book budget to acquire first editions, rare and signed editions of books. Also, Mrs. Fedizko had her personal collection shipped to me, existing of signed biographies from every important head of state, business hot shot and celebrity she ever met.

It was like a dream come true, this superb collection and only ONE potential customer. Who would travel all over the world and hardly be around to disturb the tranquil silence in the library.

The other great part about the job description was being present during selected strategic meetings, feeding Mrs. Fedizko with vital information. I would sit next to her in the top level suite with my laptop. Whenever someone else started talking, I would quickly pull up relevant information via the information sources available at my fingertips. With a distinguished thumbs down I could indicate to Mrs. Fedizko that her opponent was lying, or I could whisper strategic information in her ear when she was contemplating an answer.

Yes, it was a great week. Unfortunately Mrs. Fedizko quit already on Thursday. Apparently the company Learjet had been painted in the wrong shade of pink, her Lamborghini's ashtrays were full and her personal aura reader convinced her that Hades Corp board members had a horrible influence on her chakras.

But I am happy to be back where I belong. And since most of the CEO book budget was already spent, that superb collection is now all for me to enjoy…

The one where we team up with the lawyer

It is nearly 4 PM in the library on a cloudy Tuesday and the legendary "Journey - Live in Houston 1981" concert in the superb 5.1 surround sound mix is blasting through the library. Yeah, "Who's crying now"… . or should I say "Keep on runnin'" regarding the situation that I had to deal with earlier today…

It all started last week when the phone rang, with "private number" in the caller id display. Which in itself is not a good sign. Sometimes it is a user who wants to stay anonymous. Usually they will call because they want something that they should be perfectly capable of achieving themselves. And if they cannot achieve it themselves, they should not want it in the first place. Some may say I am not user focused, I say I am managing demand.

And if it's not a user whining about something or the other, it is someone from outside our company who distracts me from my mission to dominate the world. So I picked up the phone and immediately disconnected the call. Usually that gives a clear signal to the calling party that yes, I am here, but no, I don't want to talk to you. But the phone rang again within 30 seconds. Geez. Now I've completely lost my train of thought of my movie script to turn my unauthorized biography of Melvil Dewey into a miniseries ("The Melvil Dewey story - the drama, the suspense and the classification scheme").

"Yeah. Library here. Waddaya want?"

"Is this the Hades Corporate Library?"

"Perhaps. Who are you?"

"My name is Randy Goodrem, vice senior sales account executive for Business Executive World News. I assume you are familiar with our valuable, world famous, must-have industry news source?"

"I think I did a trial a while ago… but then you guys send me a proposal that was completely insane. So no, we're still not interested. Bye."

"Hang on, that is not the reason why I am calling. I wanted to ask you where to send the invoice for the trial."

"Excuse me - the invoice for the trial? You guys told me it was a free two week trial!"

"Aah, well. The trial is indeed free up to 15 downloads. After that we charge you, which is clearly stated in our terms of use at the bottom of the front page in the tiny, almost grey font on the white background. Just below the huge blinking banner. It's only visible on your first visit, but basically by using the site you acknowledge to our terms and conditions."

"You're kidding me!"

"No sir, either you pay us $15.000 for the trial or you sign up for an annual, global subscription in which case we deduct that amount from your subscription fee."

"Randy, listen - you don't think I even WANT to do business with you guys now?"

"Well, I must say that most of your peers immediately saw the win-win situation and have now signed up to our platinum corporate subscription. So I assume you are at least as clever as them. Otherwise I see no other way than to sue you."

(smoke coming out of my ears)

"Sue me? I'm gonna sue you! Do you know who you are dealing with???"

"Take it easy, mister librarian. Let me come over to your offices next week to come to an agreement. I am sure we can work out a deal where you sign a lousy contract, which results in a huge bonus for me and you then have access to our superb, must-have industry news website."

So we arranged for a meeting in our offices. Mr. Randy Goodrem clearly did not know that nobody messes with the obnoxious librarian. Because the obnoxious librarian plays golf with the ferocious lawyer. Peter Burkman Jr. III is one of the top lawyers at Hades, defending us in all the unjustified lawsuits. Burkman Jr. III (I can call him "the Burkmeister") then flies with the corporate jet to the other side of the world to defend our company and then counter sue the poor bastards. We quickly found out that my power over information and his legal master brain made a great combination. Many times I have been able to supply him with some smoking gun documents to win a case, so I can now ask for a favor.

I call the Burkmeister on his cell phone and find out he is currently defending us in a 2 gazillion lawsuit in Australia. When I explain my case to him he laughs out loud: "Oh great, this is gonna be fun… some sales schmuck trying to rip us off and not knowing whom he is dealing with. I will get my secretary to reschedule my calendar and I'll bring this sales weasel to his knees."

So this morning the Burkmeister was sitting in our fanciest meeting room, with his back to the window. Opposite of him we put the most uncomfortable chair we could find for mr. Goodrem, which was at the lowest level possible. So mr. Goodrem would not only have to squint his eyes against the sun behind the Burkmeister, but he would also have to look up to him.

When mr. Goodrem arrived, we let him wait for 40 minutes at reception while we were swapping lawyer jokes. I then went to pick up Mr. Goodrem and brought him to the meeting room. The Burkmeister was talking on the phone and did not acknowledge us. Mr. Goodrem walked up to him and held out his hand - ready to shake the Burkmeister's hand. But he waved dismissively to mr. Goodrem and continued his phone call. After 5 minutes, the Burkmeister put down his phone and looked mr. Goodrem straight in the eye with a sigh:

"Well. I had expected a more worthy opponent. But ok - you're here. I am a very busy man and I need to be out of here in 10 minutes. I understand you are wrongly accusing our corporate librarian. Why?"

"As clearly stated on our website… "

"Clearly? Clearly? Mister Goodrem, you and I both know that unless the user confirms that he agrees to your conditions, your outrageous claim has no ground. You have no case. You have nothing."

"But our terms of use… "

"Your terms of use are a pile of drivel and the only thing that is clear to me is that your company is trying to scam innocent, hardworking librarians into signing licenses. Are we done now?"

"But.. but… if you don't pay, we will have to sue you!"

"HA! Do you know how many lawsuits I have handled for Hades Corporation in the past year? 150. And how many did I win? 300. Because in every case I counter-sued and won that case as well. Mr. Goodrem, let me put this straight - you will apologize to my dear colleague the librarian here and then I will count to 10. I don't want to ever see you again and neither do I want to hear from your company every again. Otherwise I will bury you in lawsuits and my librarian here will rally his library gang to disrupt every public event of your company. And believe me, you don't want to have a group of rowdy librarians turning against you."

And just to have something to cheer me up later, I videotaped the whole meeting. Would it be too obnoxious to upload a copy to YouTube and then submit the link to a few library blogs?

The one where we thrive on organizational complexity

It is almost 2.15 PM in the library and I am checking my e-mail while enjoying the fabulous live album of the lovely Dana Fuchs. My specially designed "management fluff" spam filter has already deleted the growing amount of e-mails from all kinds of managers, who all of a sudden feel like they should communicate more with staff.

The CEO started this trend and after that every management layer wanted to chip in their views, notes, letters and drivel. I especially hate the e-mails from management, which are intended to start a change. It's almost like management thinks: "well, instead of doing all this expensive change management, why don't I just send out an inspirational e-mail telling people that they should change. They will immediately see my point and become 'change agents'". To be clear - I don't have a problem with management as long as they don't interfere with my work.

Now one e-mail has fooled the filter, a message urging all of us to "decomplexify" our way of working. Is that even a word?

Mmmm, a nice e-mail from my library protégé asking for advice about how to deal with organizational complexity. Well, I have always loved organizational complexity - it offers so many advantages. Let me explain.

Instead of reporting to one boss, I have a departmental manager to whom I report hierarchically but I get my steer from a committee consisting of representatives of all the major library user groups. Establishing this committee was one of the best ideas I ever had. Since the committee spans business divisions, regions and time zones - most of the committee members don't know each other or even talk to each other.

Whenever a difficult problem comes up that I can really do without, I sent it to the committee. Usually they meet via teleconference once a month with me as chair, but most of the times not enough committee members attend to make the decision valid as agreed by the committee decision-making rules (wonder who wrote those rules?). That then gives me the excuse that I am "on top of the issue", but unfortunately the committee hasn't decided yet. Shift the blame, baby.

It is always good to pit my departmental manager against the committee: "Well boss, that indeed is a great idea - but I need the full buy in from the library steering committee of course." Can you spell d-e-l-a-y?

Just as a precaution, I have also developed a great relationship with the chief operating officer (COO). It all started out when I started feeding him the internal gossip spreading across the company via instant messaging. As a legal precaution, all chat sessions are recorded and stored in my lovely records management system. And guess what - I get to do random checks on records to see whether they meet the required retention classification. In the rare case the library steering committee almost reaches a decision which clearly is the wrong one, for example "why don't we reduce the budget" or "we need more granular usage statistics" I sigh and remark that the COO had a completely opposing opinion when I spoke to him yesterday at the golf club. That's usually enough to nip a problem in the bud.

If needed I can also use the smoke screen of different project managers. I always try to be on different projects for different parts of the organization. It is always great fun to spark a discussion between the library steering committee, my departmental manager and a project manager via e-mail. I just like to send them all an e-mail once in a while like "I will take my annual summer leave next month, what are the priorities I should wrap up before then?” Then it's nice to sit back with a cup of relaxing tea and watch the flurry of e-mails fly by…

Last but not least, I always ask for road maps, vision documents and agreed deliverables before even considering a decision above the level of "what font type should I use on the library meeting minutes template?” Managers love that type of questions and huddle in plush meeting rooms for a while, leaving me alone to get stuff done. Once they come back, I throw in the word that will scare them into making any kind of major decision: I ask for funding.

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