Friday, 21 December 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is GodTube. According to USA Today, "GodTube offers a wildly popular alternative to YouTube." This is a Christian alternative to YouTube. The goal, according to its founder, Chris Wyatt, is to "help the church get people back into the pews." While this may seem a curious goal for a site which now offers a choice of 38,000 watch-at-home Christian videos, Mr Wyatt is adamant that they also need to rock up to a pew for an in person experience.

I guess that Mr Wyatt is also glad that he got in first with the domain name, since
JewTube and IslamicTube have had to settle for the names of religions rather than the divine name that they share. And although we think ourselves to be pretty much out of trademark territory with religious video sites, the Utube Blog (an unofficial blog on YouTube and video sharing) suggests that the name, appearance and features of the GodTube site bear some uncanny resemblances.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Education and Workforce Summit

As some of you may know, I have some involvement with the forthcoming Education and Workforce Summit - in Melbourne, on 27-28 March (just after Easter). We have been refining the issues ever since I became part of the process, and a fraught task it is.

There is now a web page for the Summit, which has a call for contributions. Anyone who is interested in library education in Australia, or the future of the Australian library workforce, is invited to make a submission or comment to the Summit process. The document provides some questions and other information. The agenda for the Summit will be determined by what ALIA members, library employers and educators see as the main issues. We hope to make all submissions and suggestions accessible on the ALIA Summit website, and for that reason there is a limit of 5 pages for submissions.

One of the most common questions asked is: who will be attending the Summit? The capacity of the venue is 50, and we are still working out which 50 will be attending. We aim to ensure effective representation of the three categories of people I mentioned above, but also achieve agreement on a clear plan of action.

Hove a look at the site, and then have your say. The Summit is being organised by ALIA National Office, and you should send your contributions to Sue Hutley.

I will keep you posted. Feel free to post back too.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is nerd chic, and many thanks to a wide range of commentators on the MetaFilter Community Weblog. In fact, this is a continuation of the post on w00t the other day. So engaged was the MetaFilter community about w00t being word of the year, 14 years after its first use, that one correspondent, Uther Bentrazor said: "I guess I never really thought about it, I always read "w00t" as the nerd-chic version of the way rappers yell "WHAT!" incessantly as an interjection for any number of reasons. "

A discussion here the other day as to whether a term like nerd chic was oxymoronic came loosely to the conclusion "not always". And now I find this quote attributed to David Tennant by Brahmawolf: "Tennent himself has described his look, in refering to his Doctor Who character, as nerd chic. Nerd chic, I think it should be embraced more."

There's still time to define the term. The Urban Dictionary invites authors to propose a definition for this yet undefined term, so have a look here, where the term used is slightly different - nerdy chic.

And the NY Times has also put a seal of approval on nerd chic an article on Boing Boing, in the business section. Which I guess is fair. Does the concept apply in librarianship, I wonder (this is a library blog)? Or is that really in the oxymoronic realm?

Friday, 14 December 2007

Creative Commons Takes Off?

Creative Commons: Through the Looking Glass is a blog run by Elliott Bledsoe, who works for Creative Commons Australia. CCA has had a new lease of life (new as far as leases of life go in the copyright sphere, anyway) since Elliott moved in, and there have been a few postings to the dormant Australian Creative Commons list, too.

There is also a CCA Facebook group, and you can join the mailing list for Creative Commons Australia by going to their website. Not to mention an events calendar and a Flickr photo pool.

Creative Commons in Australia is part of the funded research under the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCi). It is hosted by Queensland University of Technology at the QUT Faculty of Law.

My problem with CCA is that I want some practical advice on how to implement Creative Commons at my institution, and no-one seems to tell me what to do. Not that I would necessarily do it, I just want some ideas for action.

Word of the day

Today's word is w00t. Many thanks to Tom, who has pointed out the Merriam-Webster word of the year list, from which I have taken this one, the word of the year. According to Merriam-Webster (and they are a dictionary, so they should know, but you be the judge of that) is means:

expressing joy (it could be after a triumph, or for no reason at all); similar in use to the word "yay"
w00t! I won the contest!
Submitted by: Kat from Massachusetts on Nov. 30, 2005 23:18
Sharp-eyed readers (that is, all readers of this blog) will have noticed that two of the letters are in fact numbers. The obviousness of this depends on what font is being used, and the pronunciation of nought, Oh or zero (whatever you call that number) is as if it was the letter O.

Merriam-Webster explains this by referring to the origins of the word in online gaming forums "as part of what is known as l33t ("leet," or "elite") speak—an esoteric computer hacker language in which numbers and symbols are put together to look like letters. Although the double "o" in the word is usually represented by double zeroes, the exclamation is also known to be an acronym for "we owned the other team"—again stemming from the gaming community."

The Wikipedia has an entry on it, and Google turns up 12 million search results, so I guess W00t really is a word.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Word of the day

The word of the day is ute, taken from the Oxford Australia Word of the Month for December, which is ute muster. This service provides Australian neologisms as an RSS feed, I imagine as a means of promoting the Oxford Australian Dictionary - the fact that its author is the marketing and product coordinator indicates this. The term is defined as "a gathering of utility trucks for display and competition."

Ute is one of my favourite words because it is a term we do not share with the US, and I can use it to indicate my nationality. This also applies to dog in a ute days, like the famous event in Corrigin in 2002 which broke the world dog in a ute record, and the uniquely Australian ute dog tie (just browse the site), and other ute lore.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is ruddslide ("did you mean mudslide?"), presumably from landslide, and refers to the Australian political events of 24 November. This recent coinage (three days old) has astonishingly achieved 55,000 results in a Google search today. There is a much less common synonym ruddbath (mudbath or bloodbath, I wonder?), but this term has virtually no results, despite being equally clever.

Why so many, so quick? The answer is blogs: everyone has a blog nowadays. The term was possibly coined by the Sydney Morning Herald on the 3rd of November, but even so, it had barely stirred until the 24th. Then the bloggers began . . .

Of course, references to the ruddslide are well and truly outnumbered by references to Natalie Gauci. Just check it out, if you need some real life perspective on what preoccupied Australians over the weekend.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Censorship in a National Emergency

New Australian legislation has recently been passed to implement the government response to the national emergency in Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory. This is the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (Act No.129). The Act deals with sale of alcohol and a wide range of other matters which have been extensively publicised.

The legislation applies to certain communities in the Northern Territory, and sections 26-30 apply to publicly-funded computers. We understand these to include all computers which have been paid for by local, territory or Commonwealth governments; there is no definition of what is meant by "computer." The legislation would certainly apply to computers in government libraries and schools. What obligations exist for the "responsible person for a publicly funded computer"? This is what must be done.
  • A filter must be installed, maintained and updated on the computer. This must be a filter accredited by the Minister, and there are 19 such filters accredited (s 26).
  • Records of use must be kept, including a record of each person who uses the computer, and the date and times on which it was used, to be retained for three years. This record keeping, according to the explanatory memorandum, "is designed to provide for the audit of computers to ensure illegal material accessed by the computer is identified." (s 27)
  • The responsible person must develop an acceptable use policy relating to the kinds of use of the computer that are acceptable, and this policy must include matters specified by the Minister, if she chooses to do so. The Act specifies a number of things which the acceptable use policy must include (s 28).
  • The publicly funded computers must be audited on 31 May and 30 November each year. The nature of an audit is not clear, and the term is not defined in the Act, but it appears to include information on users and and their times and dates of use of the computer. Given that the Minister may determine the form of the audit, it seems likely that what is required in the content of an audit is yet to be determined. For example, it is possible that the audit may include an entire record of use over six months, or a sample, or something else, depending on the Minister's determination (s 29)
  • If these things are not done, the responsible person is liable, and there is a fine of either 5 or 10 penalty units (currently $550 or $1100). Several of the offences are strict liability offences, which are criminal offences which do not require a fault element (especially knowledge or intent) to be proven (s 30).
These sections of the Act came into effect on 18 August 2007. The new legislation introduces a new dimension to online content regulation, a very worrying dimension. Does it represent a new agenda on the part of government?

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Information, Freedom and Censorship

The issue of censorship is not a major one this election, but it should be. So much is happening, and none of the recent developments are rolling back censorship - on the contrary.

I'm promoting this forum because (apart from the fact that I am chairing it) the issue is an extraordinarily important one. Most information produced today attracts some form of censorship. The session presents key professionals discussing the role censorship plays in their work. This is the final event in the Outside the Box series presented by the State Library of Victoria in partnership with ALIA.

The forum is on Tuesday 4 December at Experimedia in the State Library of Victoria, from 6.30 to 8.30 pm. You can book on 03 8664 7555 or It is free.

The other speakers are:
  • Professor Jenny Hocking, from the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash, is the author of Terror laws: ASIO, counter-terrorism and the threat to democracy, among other things.
  • Professor Julian Thomas is director of the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne, and his research interests involve new media, information policy and the history of communications technologies.
  • A/Professor Andrew Kenyon is Director of the Centre for Media and Communications Law at the University of Melbourne, and has been involved with the recent Independent Audit of the state of free speech in Australia.
I will say a few things about online content regulation, including the recent developments in the Northern Territory, and other recent approaches by the government and ACMA. I have been on the Board of NetAlert, Australia's internet safety organisation, from its beginning in 1999 until 2007.

ALIA also has a group dealing with Online Content and Regulation, and you can find out about it from its website. ALIA aims to work with other organisations interested in censorship and related issues, and maintains a strong position on the issue, in view of its commitment to the free flow of information. Why not come along and have your say, too?

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Word of the day

Risk management is defined in the Wikipedia as "the human activity which integrates recognition of risk, risk assessment, developing strategies to manage it, and mitigation of risk using managerial resources.The strategies include transferring the risk to another party, avoiding the risk, reducing the negative effect of the risk, and accepting some or all of the consequences of a particular risk."

My archetypical risk management experience is a sign on entering the small coastal town where I have a house. The sign warns against drinking the groundwater, because it is unsafe. It isn't unsafe, but the shire has two choices - put up warning signs which exaggerate the risk and warn against it, or do nothing. It is easy to see why the council chooses to take the safest course of action.

In the introduction to a new risk management policy, there was a quotation from the Australian Risk Management Standard (AS 4360) which says "Risk management is as much about identifying opportunities as avoiding or mitigating losses." This is a great principle but, alas, not reflected in the policy beyond its initial mention.

Australia has its very own risk management site, and for afficionados of risk management (more likely to be in the public sector than the private sector) its all there. The main focus of the site is selling various risk management products, including the standard and the handbook, and a series of risk management manuals for different kinds of risk. There is also a Risk Management Association of Australasia, which offers Certified Practising Risk Manager accreditation. And government, as one of the most risk averse entities, has proliferated advice on managing risk through sites such as the NSW Risk Management Guide for Small Business
with 70 pages of advice. A Google search identified 2.4 million rereferences to risk management in Australia alone. Enjoy!

It is quite clear that there is more to risk management than the definition conveys, and very little in conventional risk management about identifying opportunities. It is more often than not about reducing the possibility that the manager will be blamed if something goes wrong.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Word of the Day

I used the word ostensibly in an email exchange with Julie, and she suggested that it was a particularly appropriate word, especially in a pre-election environment. I wonder why she said that?

The Free Dictionary
defines ostensible as "represented or appearing as such" and provides as an example "His ostensible purpose was charity, but his real goal was popularity." And here is another nice example of the use of the word, from David Flint on the Crikey website ". . . measures against fraud at general elections . . . were significantly eased in the 80s, ostensibly to make voting easier. (Few voters at the time were aware that voting was difficult.)"

And from a cornucopia of usage examples, mainly in political contexts, in Webster's Online Dictionary:
"Although citizens ostensibly vote for the President and Members of Parliament, they do not have the right to change their government."

Quite right, Julie!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Word of the day

Todays word is panopticonic, and thank you to The Economist for this recent coinage. In an article on 1 November about the views of the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, on the role of the state, the journal refers to "Britain's near-panopticonic system of surveillance and daunting DNA database." To this it is proposed to add a system of national identity cards.

The word is the adjectival form of panopticon, defined in the Wikipedia as deriving from a type of prison building proposed by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. In it, prisoners could be observed without being able to tell whether they were being observed, thus conveying "a sentiment of invisible omniscience." Our own more modest version, to be applied in this institution (and in a growing number of other public places) has no such aspiration; unfortunately, we lack the resources for real omniscience.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Word of the day

Rebecca suggests mission creep as the word of the day. She refers us to an article in the Tampa Tribune which uses the term to discuss the changing role of libraries. The Tampa Tribune was against mission creep on fiscal grounds, but there is also a view that it is the hope of libraries. The newspaper refers to a wide range of new functions and suggests that "it becomes clear that the role of libraries has evolved." In fact, libraries have always taken on new roles which have synergies with existing roles - "... computer centers, neighbourhood meeting spots, art galleries, tutoring sites and even homeless centers", the Tampa Tribune suggests.

A related term is scope creep, used to refer to a project rather than an institution. The Wikipedia article suggests that "it is generally considered a negative occurrence to be avoided."

My role as a library manager is to meet the needs of the university. If that means mission creep - or even mission gallop - then that is something we can handle too. I guess if I ask for suggestions for appropriate mission creep for libraries, people may see this as a negative, but I call it thinking about our future. Any ideas?

Thursday, 8 November 2007

The Well-Equipped Student

What technology does the average student possess? Many things, but according to the fourth ECAR study (2007) the short answer is that pretty much everyone has a computer and a mobile phone and most have an iPod.

ECAR is the Education Center for Applied Research, and over the past three years it has conducted a series of studies entitled The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology. The 2007 study found, in simple terms, that
  • 98.1% owned a mobile (cell) phone
  • 98.4% owned a computer (75.8% a laptop, 58.1% a desktop, 35.7% both)
  • 74.7% (and growing fast) owned an electronic music/video device
The main trends were a large increase in laptop ownership over the previous two years (up from 52.8%), a small decline in desktop ownership, and a very large increase in ownership of iPods and the like (up from 37.0%).

What do students with their devices? Daily activities were email, instant messaging, social networking. And alas, although 94.7% say they use the library or its website, they don't do this very often.

Online Content and Plans for Censorship in 2008

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) issued a press release on 26 October outlining new plans for Internet content regulation, with responses to be made by 16 November.

As I read it, the intention is to prohibit on the open internet all content which is classified as MA15+ or R18+, including material which is likely to be classified as MA15 or R18+. There would be a requirement relating to "providers of hosting services, live content services, link services and commercial content services ..." However, if these entities have access restrictions (which limit access to adults, or people over 15, as appropriate) in place, they would be allowed to host restricted material. They also intend that there will be a take down procedure so that access can be removed to content that is subject to complaint.

The scope and impact of these plans appears to depend on how much material is classified, what it means that material is "likely to be classified", and the extent to which people complain. It also depends on what is hosted in Australia, and what is hosted overseas - only the former is affected.

One problematical issue is just what would be prohibited. For example, if an imaginary Australian YouTube-style site included material which was likely to be classified as MA15 or R18+, as it does, would any prohibition apply to the whole site, or just to the offending part. It seems most likely that a take down notice would apply to the site rather than individual videos, which has major ramifications for the Internet in Australia.

This was all announced in a press release dated 26 October, with comments due by 16 November - three weeks, in the middle of an election. The announcement received very little publicity.

Another angle. In response to ALIA questions, the ALP has a plan to provide a so-called clean-feed, or requirement for ISPs to provide filtered access for domestic users of the Internet, with the possibility for the user to opt out of the filtered access.
The ALP said "ISP filtering under a Rudd Labor government will be applied to all households (unless they choose to opt-out), schools and public internet points accessible by children, such as libraries."

But it is not at all clear what ISPs would be required to filter out. Would they just have to filter out material which is banned in Australia (RC or X18+) or would they also have to filter out material which is classified as unsuitable for minors or for children under 15, or which is likely to be so classified? (MA15 and R18+). It does appear from Kim Beazley's original statement in March 2006 that ISPs may be obliged to filter out some material which it is legal to view, and it appears that they will take instructions on what to filter from ACMA (the Australian Communications and Media Authority). There are other problems with the policy, too, and many are highlighted in the interesting 36-page critique by EFA (Electronic Frontiers Australia).

What does the Coalition say on these issues? In response to the ALIA questionnaire, they pointed to the Prime Minister's announcement on
20 August 2007 of the $189 million Protecting Australian Families Online initiative. The statement on filtering in libraries was much more nuanced. At this stage the Coalition is not in favour of ISP-level filtering, and it is suggested that "The use of filters in libraries needs to be tailored to the circumstances and client profiles of different libraries . . ." Moreover, while libraries are encouraged to work with the Government to install PC-based filters, it is recognised that "legislating the use of content filters by librarians would be a blunt approach that would not be effective, particularly as the regulation of public libraries is generally a matter for state, territory and local governments."

There is a lot to be concerned about here, and no great evidence of having thought through the issues. What do you think?

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Flow of Information Blocked by Government Secrecy

That was the headline in The Australian on Tuesday. Librarians should be delighted that the mainstream press (other newspapers covered the story) are taking up something which librarians have been banging on about for many years.

The story was about the release of the the report of the Right to Know coalition. The report is a compilation of the hundreds of restrictions on the right of Australians to know things, that exist now. The Australian had an extensive feature on the report and the issues on Tuesday, and the report itself is available on the web. The report is 336 pages long, and is the work of the Independent Audit into the State of Free Speech in Australia, chaired by Irene Moss.

Australia's Right to Know, the coalition which commissioned this report, represents all of Australia's major media organisations, print, radio and TV, public and private. It is also supported by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) which represents people working in the media.

It is interesting in the election context that on 26 October the ALP made what appears to be a very strong commitment to open government. As reported in The Australian under the heading "Free Speech", Labor has promised to
  • abolish conclusive cerificates (by which a minister may avoid release of information by declaring that it is not in the public interest)
  • appoint an Information Commissioner, which would be an independent statutory office
  • provide better protection to journalists who refuse to name their sources
  • abolish the fee for appealing a decision of government
  • reform whistleblowers' legislation
  • work with the states to prevent court suppression orders being abused
This policy was praised by the Right to Know coalition, which commissioned the report referred to above. It called on the Liberal/National coalition to present its agenda for change. We understand that there will be a statement from the Government on these issues during the campaign.

We await a formal statement from the Coalition. There was an interesting piece in on the topic, pointing out some indications of reforms which may be proposed by the Coalition as the election campaign unfolds. Or not, as the case may be.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is onboarding. This is a term from the IT industry, where it is now well-entrenched. Wikipedia defines it as "the process of interviewing, hiring, orienting and successfully integrating new hires into the organization's culture. The best onboarding strategies will provide a fast track to meaningful, productive work and strong employee relationships." As you can see, the term, like other IT terms, is a magnet for a wide range of similar kinds of terms. IT meets HR.

A nice example is a product called
RedCarpet - the spelling reflects the IT industry uneasiness about spaces between words. Here's a nice quote about their "onboarding and life events solution", advertised on the SilkRoad web site:

The recruitment process is just the beginning of a new employee’s experience with your company. To ensure that the investment you are making in them will benefit your organization quickly, you must immerse them in corporate policies and culture while providing them with the tools they need for success. But it doesn’t stop there...

Employees experience multiple events and changes throughout their careers that can result in anxiety and loss of productivity, such as transfers, promotions, mergers, medical leave, relocation and offboarding. SilkRoad’s completely Web-based, hosted onboarding and life events solution, RedCarpet, helps both employees and HR professionals effectively manage change for all critical employee transitions . . . .

If you guessed that the term "offboarding" might also be used, you were right. Both terms are also available in alternative spellings like OnBoarding and On-boarding. The management end of the IT is rich source of neologisms with a particular flavour, of which "critical employee transitions" is just one. Enjoy!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Privacy Again

The Economist has a series of articles running currently on civil liberties issues. In Learning to live with Big Brother, it deals with privacy and surveillance. In Australia, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has recently released its proposals for amendments to Australian privacy legislation.

The Economist suggests that interest in privacy is new. It was not enshrined in international human rights treaties until the second half of the 20th century. Not only that, but few people are concerned about privacy - my experience too. The impression is that the author, as a liberal, agrees with this basic lack of concern. It is attributed to the relative trust that most people have in the use of private information by authorities, because we see it being used against hoons, terrorists and organised crime, not ourselves. We are intrigued, not dismayed, by the way in which the movements of malefactors can be tracked through thousands of CCTV cameras.

Those who read this blog regularly know that my own view as a librarian is that the free flow of information, and our access to it, is at least as important as privacy. A good example is the balance that needs to be made between the right to take photographs, and the right to privacy - Electronic Fronters Australia has a good piece on the need to achieve a balance.

It is suggested that the privacy environment is changing now, and we need to be more aware. There is a risk - the boiling frog metaphor is used - that we will suffer a major erosion in our rights before we realise it. This is because of several changes. They include the rise of CCTV cameras and their proliferation, the ability to store vast amounts of information which track the activities of individuals, and, The Economist suggests "The prospect is much scarier in countries like Russia and China . . ."

How should ALIA respond to the ALRC? A number of the proposals in its Discussion Paper 72 propose the extension of legislation on privacy, and issues which arise relate to public photography, privacy in relation to deceased people, the exemption for media and proposals to limit it further, social networking, and the proposed broader privacy right which the ALRC is considering.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

The Librarians - more

The Librarians is becoming better and better known to us, short of actually having seen it. In fact there is so much information we may never need to watch it.

There is now a review in The Age, and a video preview of extracts from the show. There is also an interview with Wayne Hope and Robyn Butler, the writers (and actor), and ALIA has established a blog for the show - have a look at it. What is more, the ABC also has a website for the show.

I am sure that others could provide more. Have we gone too far already? See you on the 31st - we can talk about it. Or about the weather.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Word of the day

Not a word, but yet another acronym apparently mixing letters and numbers - PR2K. In fact, the 2 really means "to", in a style we are becoming accustomed 2 thru text messaging. In this case, it is a conference (the 2007 Public Right to Know Conference) run by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and the topic is a serious one for us - the free flow of information.

Recently, John B Fairfax, a director of Fairfax Media, spoke strongly about "recent curbs by the Government on press freedoms ..." Mr Fairfax is a supporter of Right to Know, a coalition of media organisations established to express concerns about the state of free speech and the free flow of information in Australia.

One of the factors is the increasing preoccupation of governments with media relations - that is, with manipulating the media to ensure that unfavourable stories are minimised, Mr Fairfax said. This is accompanied by the erosion of the impact of Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. There is no single cause or issue, but the cumulative effect is that it becomes harder to find out and publish things people want to know. The scorecard of press freedom published by Reporters without Borders (RSF) lists Australia at number 35.

Those of you interested in censorship issues, please rock up to the Outside a Box anti-censorship event at the State Library of Victoria on 4 December. Those of you interested in letter/number acronyms, please send me examples.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is jamboree. I use this quite often as a synonym for words like conference, seminar, forum, symposium, workshop, colloquium, convention, meeting and round table. More recent additions to the lexicon for meetings and conferences include master class (a clever stroke by the commercial meetings industry). None of them conveys a sense of excitement, however, or even that there is often a significant social dimension. That is why I think we should introduce, without sacrificing meaning, more interesting terms for our conferences, starting with jamboree. Who will have the first library jamboree? Or a nice metadata jamboree, perhaps, or even a repositories jamboree. Initially, it may be best not to worry about credibility.

You won't regret it, unless of course the trade practices people get you for misrepresentation. And the American Werewolf Academy (a band) even has a library jamboree song.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is robotic scribe. I think that Margie posted this piece to the ALIAVic list - from The Age, about a new print on demand device. There have been print on demand machines before, such as the famous and expensive DocuTech by Xerox, around since 1990. The new device is called the Espresso Book Machine, and is marketed by On Demand Books. It is said to be cheap, fast, and to herald the age of the other kind of digital book - a means of producing a physical book on demand.

Just like a medieval scribe who wrote books by hand, according to Gerald Beasley, 47, a librarian at Columbia University, but a robotic scribe. When can we get one?

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is e, as a verb. Thanks to Gary, who has taken this word from a recent conversation with an un-named person, who asked (about a particular book) "Has it been e'd yet?" In this particular case, the verb meant digitised. Orthography is tricky, too - the word could appear as eed, rather than Gary's assumption of e'd.

Friday, 12 October 2007

"I don't make the rules"

Well, I've received my consignment of bookmarks promoting the new ABC television show, The Librarians, subtitled "a wicked new chapter in comedy." I have also seen several promotions for the show, which starts on 31 October at 9.30 pm.

I think we are starting to get something of the flavour of the program now. It is a comedy, and the ABC has done some great comedies. It does play on stereotypes, and we are going to have to live with that, and respond with some non-stereotypical images. I suspect that we may find that some of the elements of The Librarians are unsettling because they are true, and that can't do us any harm. The bookmark bears a picture of Frances, the chief librarian, and a quote from her - "I don't make the rules." Get one now.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Teaching Library Technicians

I have recently attended the second annual jamboree for the people who teach library technicians - the ALIA Library Technician Educators' Forum, held in Melbourne on Monday. About 25 people from TAFEs around Australia got together, and the whole thing was organised and run by Professor Gill Hallam (QUT) and Dr Paul Genoni (Curtin).

There are in fact 16 TAFE locations and one private provider, in every state and territory, where you can study to become a library technician. There were a little over 2000 enrolments in library technician courses in 2005, down from 3000 in 1995. My role at the event was definitely to observe - I went in knowing very little about library technicians' education, and came out knowing slightly more.

What were the educators concerned about? This is a personal take and I might have got some things wrong, but some of the concerns were
  • the attrition rate has fallen - fewer drop out of courses - but it is unclear why
  • there does not seem to be much information about graduate destinations - what do graduates of library technician training end up doing?
  • in general it is not possible to be very selective in choosing entrants, although they all require completion of year 12
  • most of the intake are mature age
  • many of the students have been referred by Centrelink
  • the diploma course is inexpensive compared with a one- or two-year higher education course, for which full fees are likely to apply
  • there is a significant proportion of graduates who are studying to be library technicians - maybe 5-10% of intakes
  • a significant proportion of students are teachers who wish to work in school libraries - although they do not qualify as teacher librarians, schools may accept them as such anyway
  • many courses do not permit choice of electives
  • there is significant variation in conditions in different states
  • it seems likely that we haven't got a systematic enough approach to articulation between paraprofessional and professional qualifications
  • there is a strong preoccupation with the relative roles and status of librarians and library technicians, as one might expect
Naturally, all of this, including the part of the Forum that I missed, will feed into the Library Workforce Summit on 28 March. Next, I am off to the library technicians conference, also in Melbourne.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is Ooma. Actually, the word of the day is a class of words - neologistic proper names. Ooma is the name of an internet phone company which set up in July. There are heaps of words coined or appropriated to name new technology companies - like Oodle, Noosh, Yoomba, and also Clusty, Kajeet, Zazzle and Ziggs. Not to mention Google and Yahoo, which are not strictly neologisms.

It is suggested that the reason for these coinages is that the good domain names have already been taken, so new names are the only way to go. This may be true, but it is certainly true that the supply of whimsical nonsense words, at present, far exceeds demand. The story originally appeared in the Columbus Dispatch, but read about it in Domain Name News.

Just two warnings. First, the choice of whimsical company and product names goes back a very long time, so there is no originality here. Where did Omo come from? And second, whimsicality may be idiosyncratic, one person's whimsy being another person's weird.

As you will have noticed, having a double O in the name seems to be a favoured format. In fact, there is an Australian website using those very letters -, styled "best e-tail site" and deriving its name from Overstock Outlet. Yes, cheap stuff, have a look - some real bargains there.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is polymath. The term came to mind when I heard Terry Cutler give a short talk last night at the AGM of CHASS (Council of Humanities and Social Sciences). In the course of deploring the every narrower specialisations that proliferate in the academic world, he referred to a book about Thomas Young, called The Last Man Who Knew Everything: Thomas Young, The Anonymous Polymath Who Proved Newton Wrong, Explained How We See, Cured the Sick, and Deciphered the Rosetta Stone, Among Other Feats of Genius, by Andrew Robinson.

According to the Wikipedia, polymath is from the Greek
πολυμαθής, "having learned much" and means a persoon with encyclopedic, broad or varied knowledge or learning. I think that Terry's point was that there aren't any polymaths any more, and the Wikipedia indicates that both the term and polymathy itself are passing out of both usage and existence. I guess we can all only do our best. I've been browsing the Wikipedia.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

National Advisory Congress in Victoria

The ALIA National Advisory Congress (NAC) has now made its way through Victoria. Through a small part of it, anyway. We (Margie Anderson and I) went to meetings in Ballarat (on 12 September) and Melbourne (13 September), each of them attended by about a dozen people. Not poorly-attended, if we think in qualitative terms - wonderful people with lots of ideas. But quantitatively, not a great attendance. I wonder why. Is everyone happy with the way things are going? Are members uneasy with the idea of direct input to policy and programs? Is the NAC model a confusing one? Do most members want someone else to handle these issues?

At our two meetings we tended to focus on the priority issue chosen for the NAC, the library workforce. I was interested in a focus on this, because I am involved in planning for the forthcoming Library Workforce Summit, so the topic got a good run. Fortunately, people were happy to stay till all hours, so some other topics were covered too. Needless to say, it didn't go the way the ALIA blueprint had set out, but what does?

Here are some points which were made.

Library image and identity
  • How do you know you are standing in a library? It is not obvious for my library (we have few books on the entrance level). The answer is a big sign that says "LIBRARY". At Swinburne we have the word "library" (in many languages) all over the wall. Libraries and librarians should aim to redefine these terms, not introduce new terms.
  • Terms like "knowledge management", which communicate poorly to non-academics, have done us no favours at all.
  • Both the book and the web characterise almost all libraries, and we just have to live with that one. But the proportion varies immensely, as it does for individual people.
  • There has been a clear decline in commitment to the professional association, but we still cannot say why. It dates from the change in direction by the association, but we cannot infer cause and effect.
  • What makes a good librarian? There were lots of ideas about this, and many of them tended to gravitate to qualities which are important in any service area. Peculiarly library? Some suggestions included the need to be organised, good literacy and numeracy, curiosity and the skills of a detective, analytical and logical, interest in knowledge about everything, and perhaps top of the list, the need to be organised. Someone suggested that libraries are about interrogating people and information, seeing linkages, and thinking laterally.
  • Another idea, which Victoria is taking up, is the idea of a website "This is a Librarian" which provides examples of characteristic roles in libraries. Very often people just do know know what we do.
Recruitment and workforce issues
  • For potential recruits to library education, it does seem that early workplace experiences are very important. This is because our image is misleading, and most people don't know what really happens in a library. It is more interesting than they believe.
  • We also need to promote libraries as a career earlier rather than later - in school.
  • Some techniques like cadetships, longer placement periods, industry-based learning, mentoring, graduate recruitment and training, and better work experience, are worth trying.
  • Libraries can still recruit from different library sectors, even though different types of libraries are more different from each other than they used to be.
  • There is definitely a shortage of good people in some parts of library work - the examples of children's librarianship and teacher librarians were pretty compelling.
  • It was felt that ALIA should be using its role in accreditation to better effect. What impact has it hard on the workforce?
  • Teacher librarians and librarians in schools are very important, and they are an area where we have never been strong. What should we do?
Other issues

There were other issues too. In Ballarat there was a strong feeling that it was time to get the Ballarat wing of ALIA moving again, and to have more gettogethers in Ballarat. There was a comment at both meetings that membership fees are too high, and some support for the risky venture of dropping fees significantly, and gambling on higher membership - something for the non-member survey? The non-member and ex-member survey was strongly supported as a high priority.

A Regional and Rural NC will be held via teleconference on the 17 October from 6.00 pm, and you can attend by contacting Robyn Ellard on 1800 020 071.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is backtoback, a verb. I have been at several meetings over the past week, and hence the relative silence on this blog. CAUL met on 20 and 21 September, and there were a few meetings backtobacked onto it, so that many of us arrived in Adelaide on Wednesday 19th. In fact, there is a tendency whenever a conference or meeting running for more than a day is planned, to extend the planning to encompass various options for backtobacked meetings. The theory of backtobacking is that it will be more efficient to hold a number of meetings at the same time and place, to avoid the costs and strains of additional travel; this theory is untested and is quite possibly falacious. For example, wholly unnecessary meetings may be devised to take advantage of backtoback opportunities, when not having the meeting at all would have been the most efficient option.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Don Schauder, Jean Whyte and COSI

Monash University held a function on Tuesday 11 September at their Caulfield campus, to celebrate the emeritus professorship conferred on Don Schauder, and also to celebrate the bequest by the late Professor Jean Whyte to the University, now the Jean Whyte Fund. The function also launched COSI, the Centre for Organisational and Social Informatics.

Jean Whyte was the foundation professor of librarianship at Monash, from 1975 to 1983. I was one of her students for quite some time - I have got better at finishing things since then, but it took me six years to finish a librarianship masters degree in the 1980s, despite the best efforts of Jean Whyte and Radha Rasmussen.

ALIA has also honoured Don Schauder recently by conferring a fellowship on him, and there will be a function to mark that, most likely early in 2008. Don has been one of the most innovative Victorian librarians in recent times, in recent years at Monash University as an academic, and at RMIT as a University Librarian.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Barry Jones - and more

I recently (3 September) attended an ALIA function at the Victorian Parliament, to celebrate the Redmond Barry Award given to the late Bruce Chamberlain MLC, a good friend of libraries, both local and parliamentary. It was a good function, and reminds us of the consistent support given to ALIA by parliaments, and the possibilities of future support too. There are two members of the Victorian Parliament who are former librarians (should I say that? - perhaps once a librarian, always . . .) They are Andrea Coote, MLC for Southern Metropolitan and the deputy opposition leader in the Legislative Council, and Judy Maddigan, the MLA for Essendon and a former speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

Barry Jones, a previous winner of the Redmond Barry Award (1996), was there, and I was reminded again of his support for libraries and for the free flow of information when I read his piece in the Australian on Wednesday 5th September. He referred in that article to many of the issues which librarians regard as important. He deals in particular with anti-terrorism legislation: "Terrorism will continue to damage open societies until we understand how to eliminate its causes ..."

On a related tack, there is currently taking place an independent audit of the state of free speech in Australia. Australia's Right to Know is a coalition of Australian media organisations. Their campaign was launched in May and the coalition has commissioned the independent audit; it is is chaired by Irene Moss, with Peter Timmins as deputy chair. A recent speech by Irene Moss (August 29) sets out the basis of the audit.The Democratic Audit of Australia, run out of ANU, is another body which has taken up these issues, as is Electronic Frontiers Australia.

If you are interested in being involved in developing an ALIA contribution on these issues, let me know, or post a comment to this blog.

Word of the day

Today's word is citation farm, from Lorcan Dempsey's blog, on 20 August, but I just came across it. Lorcan was responding to discussion about why he posted to a blog, rather than publishing in the library literature - "a very specific set of journals and organizations", he suggests. "The literature is a citation farm for those involved in formal research activity, and in the US, a necessary career convenience for those librarians who work within the tenure system."

Interestingly, the expression has not been taken up to a significant level, although there is a good post from Librarian In Black on how to choose between making your most sparkling thoughts into a blog post and a journal article. Yet the phenomenon - essentially, the separation of the communication purpose of writing from its role in achieving academic recognition - is pretty widely acknowledged.

Friday, 14 September 2007


The Australian Law Reform Commission has recently completed its deliberations on changes to Australian privacy legislation. The Australian had a news article on the report on Wednesday (September 12), headed "Ruddock pans privacy push." I must say, although it is not something I always say, that I strongly agree with the Attorney General, at least on the face of it.

The report is of such a size that it almost precludes the involvement of anyone in the process other than privacy professionals, whoever they are. The Executive Summary alone is 34 pages. There are 301 recommendations, ranging from highly technical legislative change, to simple measures (like abolishing the fee for a silent telephone number), to quite far-reaching changes (such as creating a new statutory right to sue people who publish private information). An example given is "when filmmakers captured everyday situations involving people in public spaces." Responses to the report are sought, and are due by 7 December.

There are clear implications here for the strong commitment that libraries have towards the free flow of information, and the Press Council has already expressed ts scepticism about the proposed new right. This seems to be an issue on which Australian library interests will want to get together. What will we say? Someone will have to read the report, but who? How will we balance our strong commitment to the free flow of information with emerging ideas of a right to privacy? Watch this space, and please let me know what you think.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is new normal, or new normalcy, as explained by Barry Jones in his piece in the Australian Higher Education section last week. He quoted Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States, as saying in October 2001: "Many of the steps we have now been forced to take will become permanent in American life, part of a 'new normalcy' that reflects an understanding of the world as it is." He was referring to restrictions on civil liberties, debate, freedom of information and the rights of prisoners, among other things which are part of the new normalcy. To argue that something is part of a new normality - and the term has become used in many other contexts over the past five years - is in reality a debating trick.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is splattered identity. This interesting concept has come up in the discussions which are creating the Carrick Exchange. The concept intended by this term is the idea that all of us have elements of our identity scattered (or splattered) around the web in different sites according to where we have worked, organisations with which we are affiliated, social software we use, and so on. Given that we tend to be self-centric, do we want to bring this together in some way? "It's about bringing all of my things together", it was said at the Blue Sky Thinking Day. I have not been able to find other uses of this expression, so perhaps its use is a first for the Carrick Exchange - blue sky thinking indeed!

For universities preoccupied by the RQF (Research Quality Framework) a splattered identity problem exists in trying to bring together all of the research outputs for the past five years from each academic staff member. Some of the issues are the traditional cataloguing issues of bringing scattered variants of a name or publication together.

A possible lesson from using the word splattered (rather than less forceful synonyms like dispersed or scattered) is that it is unlikely that something splattered can be brought together again, and certainly not without some loss of elements of the identity. Perhaps we need to live with messy identities, and do as best we can.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Take home messages

Katy Watson has produced a summary of takeaways from the ALIA Board meeting held on 5 August. I was there. Let me highlight two of the take home messages. Katy's summary will be on the ALIA website soon.

First, new Online Communication Guidelines for ALIA lists. The goal was to frame these with a light touch, rather than having overly heavy-handed rules. Put another way, framing rules in a broad general way treats the users as grown up and able to interpret ambiguity, rather than saddling them with pages of detailed rules. We're assuming that it will all work out beautifully and foster an atmosphere of mutual respect and courtesy. They should be on the ALIA site shortly.

Second, there is going to be a significant survey of ALIA members before the end of the year. I am a great fan of surveying, because it provides a systematic overview of how people (members in the case of ALIA) see things and what their issues are. Surveys are a much better way of listening to the people than other feedback methods, such as complaints registers; complaints are generally much fewer, often unrepresentative, and a poor basis for decision-making. Here at my workplace (Swinburne Library) we have used our customer survey to generate budget and planning drivers for 2007 and 2008.

ALIA has revved up its blog and given board members the right (or obligation) to post to it. What a dilemma! Will I post the interesting things I think of (maybe there's an oxymoron hiding there) to this blog, and the others to the ALIA blog? Or vice versa? Can I recycle posts?

Word of the day

Today's word is holoptism - thank you to Gary Hardy for this one. P2P (peer to peer) projects are characterized by holoptism. "Holoptism is the implied capacity and design of peer to peer processes that allows participants free access to all the information about the other participants (not in terms of privacy, but in terms of their existence and contributions)." In other words, the process is fully open and accessible to all of its participants.

This can be contrasted to the panoptism which is characteristic of hierarchical projects: here, the processes are designed to reserve such 'total' knowledge to an elite, while participants only have access on a 'need to know' basis. Communication is not top-down and based on strictly defined reporting rules, but feedback is systemic, integrated in the protocol of the cooperative system.

Think carefully about your own organisation now. Holop or panop? Worked it out? I'm afraid you were right. Mine certainly is.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is DILL, and my thanks to Diane Costello. This is from the DILL website: "Third-country scholars (i.e. scholars from countries other than the EU member states, the EEA-EFTA states or the candidate countries for accession to the EU) can apply for an Erasmus Mundus scholarship to conduct research and teaching within the DILL Consortium for a limited period of time. The scholarship covers a maximum stay of three months, and amounts to €13,000."

DILL is a masters program in digital library learning, aimed at students from outside Europe, and based in Oslo, Parma or Tallinn. It sounds a great course, and I advise all librarians to check it out. But with significant money at stake, I thought that the acronym would have received more attention, and care would be given to avoid anything inappropriate.

Or so I thought. But a browse through Google reveals the fact that almost everyone in the world uses dill only as a noun describing the notable herbused in cooking with cucumbers, gravlax, borscht and so on, and also for protection against witches. The Australian usage is extremely rare, and seems limited to Australia - so rare that I had to actually use the library (rather than the Web) to find the Australasian meaning defined - i.e. "Austral./NZ informal a naive or foolish person" from the concise OED. Examples of
uses on the Web are mostly humourous, like the City of Hume DILL Driver (dangerous and illegal) program, and the NineMSN recipe for dill salmon ("Acting like a dill").

Fancy that.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is bacn. This has been donated by Rebecca, who refers to the term as describing "mail like updates from MySpace and Facebook that isn't quite spam, but you don't want it all the time just the same. There is a whole blog", Rebecca says, " devoted to spreading the term."

The blog describes bacn as "email you want, but not right now" and Rebecca is quite right - the site is all about bacn. Today's post, for example, argues that although some people think bacn is a silly word, they used to think that about spam. The term was first used way back in August 2007 at
PodCamp Pittsburgh 2 "a FREE BarCamp-style community Unconference or people who create, enjoy or are interested in learning more about blogs, vlogs, audio podcasts, web video, content networks and new media monetization."

In the meantime, you can buy for only US$4625 or thereabouts.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Wattle Day

Well, happy Wattle Day, our emerging national day. September 1 is Wattle Day , and Wattle Day is the logical choice for all Australians as our national day. Some people do not find this statement to be an axion, but I think that it is.

Let me dismiss the objections one by one.

1 We already have a national day. Response: no, we don't. Many people celebrate 26 January as our national day, but many of us don't. The foundation of Sydney was a wonderful event in our history, but it is hard to see why it should be our national day, especially for indigenous Australians. And for that matter for people from other cities.

2 OK, why not choose another day which is significant for all Australians? Response: Wattle Day is that day.

3 What about alternatives? How about Anzac Day, for example? Response: Anzac Day has the advantage that it is a day we can jointly celebrate with our extremely close cousins across the Tasman. It has the disadvantage that it is a touch too military to serve as a national day.

4 What about Federation Day? That's appropriate - lots of countries have as their national day the day the nation came into existence. Response: Unfortunately, Australians rightly value their public holidays, and January 1 (Federation Day) is already a public holiday. We don't really need a public holiday around then.

5 OK, but why Wattle Day? Response: Wattle is cheerful, bright, optimistic and apolitical. Its symbolism is unexceptionable and clear - the begining of spring. It grows in all parts of Australia, and comes in our national colours. It is the design inspiration behind our national system of awards. The Wattle Day poem is known to all, and is self-deprecating and modest, in contrast to the pompous and bombastic tone of many national celebrations:
Here's a bit of wattle
The symbol of our land
You can stick it in a bottle
Or hold it in your hand.

I hope you enjoyed today. Wattle Day this year was a glorious day here in Melbourne, as it often is - bright, sunny, clear, a little brisk, a wonderful day to sit back and think of profound or superficial things. The very day for a national day, enjoyed as such by the small but happy throng that celebrates it. Please join us.

This year Wattle Day also marks my return to this blog after a fortnight elsewhere. Another delight for September 1.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is third place or thirdplace. Home and work are the first two, and the third place is somewhere else. Word Spy explains what the term means. There are lots of thirdplaces, and the term has caught on in a mild way. Everyone needs some place, other than home and work, where they can feel they belong, and do different things.

I came across it at the Public Libraries Australia conference in Adelaide last week (5-7 August), where the engaging Kate Meyrick of the Honery Institute, who had a closely scheduled plane to catch, presented a lightning paper on the concept of a third place and its relevance to public libraries. The virtuosity of the paper lay not in its speed, however, but in its very comprehensive and fluent examination of the library as a third kind of trusted place. The text does not seem to be available yet.

Interestingly, for me anyway, my own university is an exponent of thirdplace, described in a recent report by our Centre for Regional Development at Lilydale as "'safe' informal social gathering places", fast being supplanted by outlets for the gaming industry. In Queensland the Caloundra public library is a leading exponent of the concept as it relates to public libraries.

I will be away for a fortnight, but please keep thinking and contributing, and I will look forward to reading your comments as I relax and evade various responsibilities.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Brand librarian

It has been interesting to see the various comments on what we should call everyone. Have a look at the comments on the word of the day and on the post on what to call ourselves and each other.

I think that acceptance of the brand librarian must be a given. There is no alternative, and there is nothing wrong with the brand anyway. We have failed at creating an alternative brand, and our gambit to include the word "information" in everything has not worked. There is also a large amount of accumulated good will in the librarian brand (and the library brand) which we cannot easily recreate for an alternative brand.

But this does not mean that all librarians should have the title librarian. There are many circumstances where we may prefer or be required to use something different, or where it may just make sense, or be to our advantage - just as some accountants are called Chief Financial Officers rather than something with accountant in the name.

I have been thinking of developing some kind of statement with the heading "These people are librarians", or maybe "This is a librarian." It would include a list of people/positions who are really librarians, and a short description. The point is to make it clear to people the scope of the brand, librarian.

For example, I have collected several examples of situations where people have said to me "what we need in this job is a librarian." They were non-librarians, and they were right. These are three pieces of evidence about what OTHER people think are the core skills of a librarian.

The same is true of the term library. People intuitively use the term library in relevant contexts. My posting on the Mousebrain Project indicates that there is public use of the word library which is often right, but wider than ours. A recent example is the Atlas of Living Australia, which is described as "a biodiversity search engine providing access to information held in biological collections in museums and public research institutes across the country" (there is also to be a "mouse phenomics network"). The Atlas is to be affialiated with the Encyclopedia of Life and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. These are digital libraries.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

What do you call your staff?

Titles are very important, especially in universities, where they are often used instead of money as a means of rewarding people. They can often make people feel good about themselves. Although this leads to a steady title creep or title inflation, little harm may be done. The staff receive something which they value, and the university is able to stretch its budget a little further. The language is subtly and gradually changed, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Thank you to those who have comments on the term title creep. Kim suggested that we should have simple and generic titles, and Andrew pointed out the interesting Information Consultant, Information Awareness and Literacy Services at the University of Melbourne. But he asked "Why not call a spade a spade?"

My point in this post is that we can use titles to achieve benefits for our workforce, rather than aiming to use simple words to represent straightforward concepts - always a difficult process. The reason we do not always call a spade a spade is because we don't have to - language is rich and varied, always changing, and always accessible for a wide variety of purposes. We want our staff to feel good about their jobs. For our immediate environments (in my case, a university) titles carry meaning in ways other than the literal. I suspect that our customers rarely notice or care, but we do, and our peers in our working environment do.

So, we need nice titles. In the library world, including the university library world, we have experienced less title creep, and less exuberant proliferation of titles than in other areas. There is certainly title creep in the academic sphere - as Cullen Murphy suggests, most commonly as "the extension of restricted honorifics to an ever widening circle of claimants." Murphy suggests that the new discipline of managing the development of titles might be called exaltametrics.

In our own world we have benefited little from title creep. While in the field of information technology there is a wide range of new and more elevated titles, this is not the case in libraries. IT directors become Chief Technology Officers, the title creeping across new territory, too. Multiple titles proliferate. New terms define whole new sub-professions (business analysts) or new metaphors are taken from other professions (architects, for example).

Perhaps libraries have tried to be too narrowly descriptive in the way they invent titles. Perhaps they have been too tied to the term "librarian". Perhaps they have been too afraid to cannibalise terms used by other sectors, such as "dean", although this has begun to happen in the United States.

The new positions now being created throughout Australia as a result of the RQF (the Research Quality Framework) are a case in point. The generic term for the library end of this potential cornucopia of Australian library titles has now become pretty universally "repository manager". Not a great invention; the term "repository" is pretty much incomprehensible outside libraries, and the term manager is generic in the extreme. At Swinburne we use the term "Content Management Librarian". And what about Content Architect?

What kinds of terms might we use in this new sphere? I am thinking my way through this one, with my colleagues, and here are some thoughts about titles for repository staff.

Online content is the sphere of activity, so Online Content Officer or Online Content Librarian is good, and makes a wider claim. Or perhaps Online Content Supervisor, good because it is not clear that it is the content that is supervised, and leaves open the thought that there may be a small army of online content workers beavering away. Online content can also be used with the nouns delegate and broker, both synonyms for agent.

Looking at specialised roles, online content quality controller and similar terms could be used. I really like the word marshal, but in English-language usage it is mainly (but not always) a grand person, since the military took it over from people who organised things. In Italy, a model for the use of titles, Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia of the Florence Carabinieri in Magdalen Nabb's wonderful detective novels is a simple if informal policeman. Someone should have a go at Online Content Marshal to see how it plays out.

In special libraries, there is also development in the area of titles. The Wall Street Journal suggests that titles like information specialist, knowledge manager and taxonomist are becoming more common.

I am looking for imagination in contributions on this one. Don't let anyone say that librarians lacked the soaring imagination to invent the most wonderful titles in academia and beyond.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

ALIA activities

This blog has been quiet lately, as a number of other things have taken place. I was in Adelaide from last Saturday to last Tuesday, at the 70th anniversary celebrations and award presentation at the State Library of South Australia, and at the ALIA Board on Sunday, and at the public libraries conference, Sunday and Monday. And I attended a meeting of the NetAlert Advisory Council in Sydney last Wednesday.

You may have noticed the announcements by the Prime Minister and by the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts of a $189 million funding program intended to make the Internet safe for children. So we needed to send out some information about that. You can read ALIA's press release, issued yesterday, here. You can also listen to the Prime Minister's podcast, and some coverage relating to libraries about Senator Coonan's announcement.

As you can imagine, all of this ALIA activity has led to a need for a little balance, so I am listening to Garrison Keillor while I write this. It is possible that balance is not quite the right term for this activity. And I am aware that Keillor's idiosyncratic combination of the sentimental and the wacky is not necessarily to everyone's taste - like melted cheese on noodles (apparently a Minnesota favourite) but the show is sponsored by Bertha's Kitty Boutique - "for persons who care about cats. And now here is Dr Phil with Cat Call-in Corner ..." - so bound to be a favourite with many librarians.

Take this as a short personal halt in the serious business of being a libraries blogger. Tomorrow I will share some thoughts about titles in libraries, and later next week I will send some thoughts on the Commonwealth Government's new program to provide us all with free filters.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Word of the day

Title creep is today's word of the day. I am not claiming this as an original, although it certainly fills a semantic space, but it has been used before - in 2006 - in the Kinesthesis Breakthrough blog. There was an article in the March 2005 issue of Atlantic Monthly by Cullen Murphy (you have to pay for the full article) and a blog posting about it in AC/OS too.

In higher education, title creep is evident. This can take the form of acquisition of additional titles, or an extension of titular style, or invention of new titles. For example, "Director, Finance and Chief Financial Officer." The addition of a second and more impressive title represents a double title creep.

I am surprised that there is not more use of the term title creep, given its growing prevalence, and recommend the wonderful article by Cullen Murphy - if you are at a university, you can read it via one of many journal aggregations. Although if you are at a university, you will know all about it. As Mr Murphy suggests "Universities are adding honorific modifiers like sundae toppings to the names of professorships." There will be a longer posting on this tomorrow.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

More on the library workforce

Thank you to my correspondents for their comments. I think that if we can assume what Dana suggests, and what I suggested, that has quite some implications for library education. There is a core area of librarianship, which Dana loosely describes as censorship, access and classification. It would be good for educators in particular to set out what they see as this core. The other players are employers, and of course librarians.

Librarian Idol suggests that there is a wide variety of people and motivations in librarianship, and that is absolutely right. Just to ask the question "What makes a good librarian?" uncovers as many answers as "Why did you become a librarian?" I have always argued, for example, that working in libraries is a good job for introverts - there is a lot of work away from customers, the work with customers is often pretty defined with clear boundaries, and the environment is relatively safe. But in addition to the diversity, there should also be an identifiable and agreed common core of knowledge, culture and values.

Part of the current task of library education is to determine in consultation with employers and our professional association (representing us as members) just what this common core might be. A further role is to determine what skills and capabilities are required by employers and how these will be acquired - through formal education, or on the job, or some combination, different in the case of different capabilities. Consulting with people who are young enough to remember what they studied and old enough to be working might be a significant part of this - the new graduates, for example.

Let me know what process you think we should take to work our way through these issues.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Word of the day

Only because it is your suggestion, Sue, am I having guybrarian as the word of the day. Not my kind of word. Although I suppose that it is worth including all styles of neologism. Not only that, but I am including an image, although I don't have any idea of what it means - pretty obviously a stereotype, I think, which is at least a change from female librarians being stereotyped. You can actually buy a copy of this as a sticker. "Put this on the bumper of your bookmobile", the site says. Only US$5.49.

As with so many engaging things, this came to notice through the discussion on the New York Times article on hip librarians. One correspondent said about the word "It's not uncommon to me, and I live in Mississippi." Whatever that means.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Existential issues for librarians

In the run up to the Library Workforce Summit on 28 March 2008, we are going to have to focus in a disciplined way on library workforce issues, so I am very pleased that my posting on the Millennials workforce brought a considered comment from Rebecca. It was also interesting to read the washup from the Generation Y thing at the State Library of Victoria last week. And this leads to a few thoughts about the New York Times article on hip librarians, and in particular some comments in the OCLC blog - "We get furious when they write about as young hipsters. When will we not be furious? And why do we waste so much time being furious?"Much more will be required, however.

I guess you are wondering: what are the issues for a library workforce summit? And, what library workforce summit? The library workforce summit will be after Easter, 2008. Here are the main issues which we have identified
  • The skills and attributes required by employers
  • Recruitment - getting and keeping the best people
  • Defining the scope of the "library and information" sphere
  • The qualifications we should require of new librarians
  • The role of ALIA in relation to the library workforce
Each of these issues is difficult in its own way, but lurking behind them, and even more complex, are issues of image and behind them, are issues of identity. The image that people have of librarians and libraries drives all of the above to some degree, but particularly the issues of recruitment and scope.

There may be some agreement that many of the questions about the future library workforce are in fact existential questions, rather than simple issues like what training is required, which credentials, what attributes and skills do employers seek, and the like. In other words, who are we, as much as questions like - what should we be able to do? Not that the other issues are irrelevant, just that there is a dependency.

There is also a long-held belief that most library skills are learned on the job, and that it is the role of professional education to establish an identity and an orientation, as well as introducing the person to the existence and outline of a variety of relevant disciplines. But most librarians learn most of their skills by doing them. I did, anyway.

Let me know what you think.

Word of the day

A small flowover from the ongoing discussion of the hip librarian article in the New York Times is Karen Schneider's new word (new to me) appletini. This refers to a drink also called an apple martini, and including vodka, apple juice, and apple schnapps, according to the Drink of the Week site. However, Karen is using the term with more semantic luggage than that, and in the phase "the appletini library scene" she is referring to those hip librarians again. Although I can't see how a drink made of vodka and apple juice can be seen as hip, or a martini, or even half-way drinkable.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Word of the day

I think that the word eEtiquette (thanks Tony) is great. It is definitely a real word, and is a perfect example of those words that stick irrelevant capital letters into the middle for whatever purpose. What is the purpose? With this word, eliminating the capital letter produces eetiquette, and the logical pronounciation loses the origin of the word. Putting the capital letter in creates a different logical pronounciation, with the word pronounced as if it were two words or hyphenated; in which case, why not a hyphen? Better still, don't use the word at all - I am sure that nice manners apply similarly in all situations, and there is no need for specialised manners online.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Millennials: the Future Library Workforce

I enjoyed the event at the State Library of Victoria last night featuring three Generation Y speakers - also called millennials. These are people born from 1978 to 2000 according to the Wikipedia. In other words, they are aged from 7 to 29. However, some of them keep moving the date so they will stay in the group, and it has been taken back as far as 1970. This process should indicate one of the keys to understanding the concept of Generation Y - i.e. the fact that it may hide a semantic vacuum (I think I might have another post on the semantic vacuum, such an interesting concept). ALIA supported the event.

The question was asked, and answered: how do young people like to work, what motivates them and how can managers attract and retain them? The three presenters were Andrew Finegan, a Darwin librarian, Lili Wilkinson, a Victorian writer of youth literature working at the State Library of Victoria's Centre for Youth Literature, and Benjamin Tan, an Arts/Student active in the Oaktree Foundation (no blog).

The session was for "managers in the library and information professions" and perhaps for millennials themselves, although the former outnumbered the latter.

I summed up by quoting the famous Italian proverb - "We learn by making mistakes, like the doctors do" ("Imparo sbagliando, come i medici") The session demonstrated the quite unfair proliferation of stereoptypes whenever librarians and libraries are mentioned - it seems that we cannot escape them. And terms like Generation Y and Millennials are stereotypes themselves - I guess that a Generation Y librarian might feel stereotypes crowding in a little

Here's what the Urban Dictionary says about stereotypes:

"A stereotype is used to categorize a group of people. People don't understand that type of person, so they put them into classifications, thinking that everyone who is that needs to be like that, or anyone who acts like their classifications is one.

Stereotype for Goths are black clothes, black makeup, depressed, hated by society.
Stereotype for Punks are mohawks, spikes, chains, menace to society, always getting in trouble."

You can add your own line if you like
"Stereotype for Librarians are . . ."
"Stereotype for Generation Y librarians are . . ."

This is not a competition, but please feel free to contribute. (Please do not post to this blog pointing out errors of grammar or syntax in the Urban Dictionary).

I suspect that it is not necessary to create a new concept, Generation Y (impatient, vocal, mobile, outspoken, technologically native, high maintenance, cool, show-offs, not from Frankston) to account for these characteristics in a group of articulate, ambitious and vocal young people.

In the end, as I suggested, despite the identity issues which exist for contemporary library workers, there is a very important set of values which should characterise people who work in libraries, values relating to the free flow of information, equitable access to information, sceptical about copyright and other statutory restrictions, supportive of diversity and pluralism, collaborative and community-focussed.

We are probably destined to live with stereotypes too. Declining attention spans and the dominance of the media with its dramatic tendency to oversimplify and trivialise mean that the stereotype has become a common currency for much of our communication. We cannot develop new library stereotypes which appeal to everyone. As I suggested, three year old boys admire what is big and red, but we can't re-brand everything that way without alienating those people who like their libraries homely and muted, or stylish and hip, or something else other than red.

Disclaimer: I am from Frankston.