Thursday, 31 May 2007

Word of the day

Here's some odd words, from Catherine. No real lessons to be learned, just a demonstration that as new words arise, old words fade away. Bumbershoot (1896) is a self-consciously quaint synonym for umbrella, now much better known as the name of the annual Seattle festival of the arts and music. Copasetic (or copacetic)(1919) is another American word, meaning fine, excellent, going just right. It has an equally contested etymology, and is particularly notable for having been used, correctly, by Buzz Aldrin or one of the other guys on the Moon. Both words are used in what Wikipedia describes as "character dialogue." Have a copasetic day.

Companies mean paper

Asked to think about my experience with companies, as I joined the Board of ALIA, I naturally thought of two companies I have been involved in - NetAlert, and CAVAL. The overwhelming impression when thinking of these enterprises is the amount of paper they generate. Every company focuses on board meetings, and these focus on large volumes of paper.

With NetAlert (six meetings a year, voluminous paper) a large chunk of a room at home is filled with the papers, after more than seven years - December 1999 onwards, to June 2007.

The funny thing about the paper is that the really contentious matters - gossip, plotting, contested decisions - are transacted in other ways, by telephone or in person or by long email exchanges, They don't make it into the paper chase.

What does make it is all the ancillary documents - major reports, multiple versions of planning documents, and heaps more. Companies around the edges of the public sector are risk averse - not as risk averse as the public sector itself, but keen to leave matter undocumented. Other than the plotting and chat, of course.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Word of the day

Todays word is infoglut - thank you, Anne. I guess we can all work out what this means, and, indeed, it isn't all that new. The word has been around at least ten years. This reference is called into being today from Bill Harris's nicely named blog, Dubious Quality. Not that Bill is negative about the infoglut - he says "I've said this before, but this has to be, by far, the coolest time in history to be alive." Perhaps the infoglut needs to be renamed infocornucopia. You read it first here. (Actually, not: someone has speculatively registered

Friday, 25 May 2007

Librarians watching librarians: our image again

Rebecca has pointed out the ABC website which provides information about the forthcoming ABC comedy, The Librarians. Take a quick look. "The Librarians" will have an impact on how people see us, and already librarians of my acquaintance are looking definitely askance. Others are embracing the idea - some people at the ALIA Library Week gig last night were suggesting we have a celebration on the set.

On the other hand an ALIA newsletter suggests " With a plot like that, the series seems set to tackle some outdated librarian stereotypes. Why not break some of these stereotypes by joining other ALIA groups in planning big screen viewings in local pubs."

"It seems our colleagues are a little worried about the harm the series might do to our image", Rebecca suggests. "Perhaps a nice blog post about it will calm their nerves?" I doubt that, Rebecca.

Unfortunately we librarians are victims of stereotypes which do not serve our interests well. But are we victims? Rebecca suggests that the ABC wouldn't have such a marvellously comic stereotype to work with if some librarians didn't insist on fitting it so well.

Kevin Dudeney, whose blog is linked from this one, has had a few posts lately about Youtube offerings regarding librarians, and I am afraid that they don't offer much comfort. Their main value is to those seeking to define the stereotypes more definitively. There are plenty of short videos shot with backdrops of books arranged on shelves, of standard library circulation operations, and of librarians behind desks. In the library where I work, however, only about 15% of customer document uses (that is, the ones we can count) are loans of physical items such as books and DVDs. Most of the rest are digital and online.

Have a look at The Angry Librarian from tv12673 on Youtube - just do a title search. It is wonderful. It is clear that the librarian has much more of a problem than the customer, and it is great the way the librarian's evident problems build through the short video. Too many of us are more than a little worried, but we do need to look at ourselves, too.

One thought is that we might try to define and detail the stereotypes a bit. Lets talk about them. And see if we can find some stereotypes we like and live them. Some of the new library stereotypes which have been promoted have lacked some credibility, to my mind. What would be credible, and helpful? What do people have in mind when they say, as they quite often do: "I think we need a librarian for this job?"

Who is interested in joining yet another ALIA group, Friends of Library Stereotypes?

Word of the day

Todays word is twopointopia. Dana came across this in Annoyed Librarian, a blog. Blogging on 1 May, Annoyed Librarian said "I thought I'd made that one up, but I Googled it and someone beat me to it." Twopointopia is the new world that will be created by Library 2.0. And she is right - only 64 references in Google to the word, so you are in right at the beginning. Annoyed Librarian is using the word more, too, describing her part of the world as "not one of these fast-paced, post-modern twopointopias" in her May 23 post. For all those people who use the term Web 2.0, I'm afraid you are being parodied. And the same goes for those who use the term Library 2.0, only more so.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Word of the day

Indra suggests glanceability, from Lorcan Dempsey's blog. Like any useful neologism it has already leapt well beyond its origins way back in 2006 in an article on glanceable design by Matthews, Forlizzi and Rohrbach. New words of value, like this one, spread quickly, and their meanings start to evolve almost immediately.

The word is defined by Tony Hirst as "the ability to look at a screen and capture the information you require at a glance." So glanceability is VERY important. Lorcan also refers to Matthews et al who define the word as enabling "users to understand information with low cognitive effort", and further: "Glanceability refers to how quickly and easily the visual design conveys information after the user is paying attention to the display."

For librarians and their friends, Lorcan's library-specific conclusion is predictable but important - library website "require quite a bit of cognitive effort to figure out what is available where as they present a thin guiding layer wrapped around a resource fragmented by legacy categories." Not glanceable at all, really.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Librarians and Second Life

Educational technologists seem to have a strong leaning towards Second Life, the bizarre online phenomenon which now means so much to so many people - 6,619,620, the site says, as of today. Is the same thing true of librarians (who sometimes bear an uncanny resemblance to the ed tech people)?

I have to admit that my first impulse (and second, too) is to see this as extremely retrograde. Functioning smoothly in the world they are actually standing in seems to be something which many librarians (among others) have yet to achieve, and a second life might seem a lower priority than this one.

However, Kathryn Greenhill has a great post headed Ten Very Good Reasons Why Your Librarians Should Be In Second Life. Read the ten reasons, and then read Kathryn's next post which offers six bad reasons, and also links to Walt Crawford on the topic - one of four million ghost avatars in Second Life, as he puts it. There is more than meets the eye.

What do you think? If people keep raising the subject, I'm going to have to have a look at Second Life myself.

Word of the day

Julie suggests prodromus, which the Free Dictionary defines as "An early symptom indicating the onset of an attack or a disease." De-latinised the word is prodrome, hellenised the word is prodromos, The Latins took it from the Greeks; in both languages it meant precursor.

There is a secondary meaning too, which is a preliminary course or publication. I think this is what Julie encountered one morning in her breakfast reading - Museum Victoria's "Treasures" book, which refers to the titles of two books published by Frederick McCoy in 1874: Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria and Prodromus of the Paleontology of Victoria. Julie, if this is what you read at breakfast, what must you eat?

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is satisficing. When Dana used it in a meeting, no-one could work out how we had done without it so far. It means close enough is good enough, a fundamental principle in understanding undergraduate information seeking. However, it is much easier to use satisficing as a verb than the notional alternatives, such as the cumbersome runtogether closeenoughisgoodenoughing, or the equally incomprehensible initialism, CEIGEing. The Wikipedia, as always, provides more detail than any of us needs, and defines satisficing as "a behavior which attempts to achieve at least some minimum level of a particular variable, but which does not necessarily maximize its value." We owe the term to economists.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Word of the day

Today's word - thank you, Carol - is cerebration. The act or product of thinking. Something you can do any time without external equipment or oppressive machines.

I guess it may also be the way some people pronounce celebration - and who doesn't celebrate by thinking a bit, anyway?

I guess the words cerebration and cerebrate aren't used much because it is easier and clearer to say think. One is Latin, the other Anglo-Saxon.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Thank you for voting for me - now for the next stage

Well, the ALIA adventure continues. I head off today, and then Monday is orientation day, Tuesday is the ALIA AGM, and Wednesday is the first Board meeting for the new Board. We have certainly been well-equipped for all this. I have two large folders which together weigh as much as I normally carry in luggage for a trip of this length - I am going to have to revise my luggage strategy.

I will also have to revise my strategy of reading the papers for meetings on the plane. First, there are too many. Second, the folders won't fit onto the fold-down tray on the plane, especially if I want the afternoon tea.

I've had to reconsider my normal laptop strategy (don't take one, they're a hassle). But who knows? I've got so much stuff I may as well throw in a laptop as well.

I am reminded of the well known saying "Beware of any enterprise which requires new clothes." I suppose this is aimed at weddings and new sports, but it seems a pretty good guide.

I will keep you all informed, of course.

Word of the day

Today's word is timesink, courtesy of my fellow-blogger Kathryn Greenhill from Fremantle, who runs the wonderful library blogging site Kathryn used the word in a post about twitter. So as well as learning a useful word - the world is full of timesinks, suddenly trapping us in some unexpected time-wasting disaster - I learned about twitter. I also learned about microliveblogging (Kathryn is a real fan of runtogethers). You can find out for yourselves about twitter (not my kind of thing), but I couldn't find a definition of microliveblogging, because Goggle has only one link - to Kathryn's blog. Is there a word for that?

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Presentation on restructuring

At a recent meeting, I led a session on restructuring in academic libraries. As the only member of the panel who had never restructured an academic library, I was the least biased of the panel, and the obvious person to speak about the topic.

Here are some of the things I learned - or as we call them in the education business, learnings. They are in no particular order, and do not constitute a summary of then session.

All technical services are user services and all user services are technical services.
Offsite users are also onsite users, and vice versa even more so.
There is no need ever to restructure. There are plenty of terms like refocus, realignment, and reorientation which can be used instead.
All students are distance students.
Researchers account for most use but we never see them any more unless we go to their place.
Everyone deserves a nice title.
If you can draw an accurate organisation chart then the organisation is too hierarchical.
Most people have both a PD and a job, with little relationship between them.
Student centred is a better term than client centred but our clients are not all students.

I hope this helps.

Word of the day

John Butera has supplied this word - mumpreneurs - "with more and more Australian women trying to juggle the role of mum and managing director, the phrase Mumpreneur has been coined for all those mothers who've started a business from home." While the Swinburne catalogue has one reference, Google has 1260 of them, and when we solve a simple linguistic puzzle, we find that Google has over 50,000 mompreneurs - clearly Australia (and New Zealand) are not the true home of these enterprising mothers. And what conclusions do we draw about the library catalogue?

Friday, 11 May 2007


I am indebted to Nguyen Ly for pointing out the interview with me on the librariesinteract web site, here. For those of you who followed the progress of my election campaign, the big gig is the ALIA AGM on 15 May, when I become vice president.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Word of the day

Todays word of the day consists of an entire industry vocabulary. Yes, there are so many words being coined in the domain name industry that it is easy to lose track of them. A recent report by Emily Taylor for Nominet (UK) entitled Domaining, dropcatching and the secondary market also introduced and defined the words domainer, cybersquatting, typosquatting, domain tasting, domain kiting and of course reverse domain name hijacking. We can add brandjacking to this, especially relevant since the resolution of the case resolved recently in favour of the brand owner, Tina Arena.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is Chook Mahal, perhaps also used as a runtogether (chookmahal). One of my roles at Swinburne is to be a member of the Foundation Boroondara small grants program. These are grants to help reduce isolation in the community. This one is for a chook shed at the Kew Neighbourhood House. Nice!

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Every three years

There is to be a Commonwealth election in October, and it is traditional to compile a shopping list before elections. I wonder what we in the library interest might put on our list? On one hand, many library issues are local or state, and so putting them on the table in a federal context seems inappropriate. On the other hand, the Commonwealth Government seems to regard state and local issues as space for expansion into, so maybe that is OK. But I think it would be wise to focus on issues which are specifically Commonwealth.

Suggestions would be useful - feel free to send comments to this blog. The ALIA Board is meeting next week, and since this will be my first meeting, it would be good to have something helpful to bring to it. Here are my first thoughts.

Copyright is a clear Commonwealth issue, and more widely we are interested in all those related areas of free culture, open access to knowledge, and the like. Related to this is national information infrastructure. The Senate report, Libraries in the Online Environment (2003) had some great ideas, few of them implemented. For example, Libraries Australia is useful to many Australians, but should be funded centrally as a piece of basic national infrastructure. Broadband also fits under the heading of national information infrastructure - we are very interested in that, too.

It may be that other organisations have electoral agendas too, and we could talk to them. I will look forward to your comments.

Word of the day

Today's word is wiklipedia - you can find all about it at the Wiklipedia website. Look closely. I found it through a typing error, as most people will. It promotes various causes - eBay for those people wanting to buy an encyclopedia, (another cute domain name variation) and, basically, advertising. It doesn't actually incorporate an encyclopedia of any kind. Never mind - you can use the Wikipedia, which works fine. Registering misspellings is prohibited under Australian rules, so this is an international domain.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Word of the day

Today's term is binge knowledging, and thanks to James Farmer, on the panel at the Wikipedia gig, for providing it. Like fairy gobsmacker, another term presented to the seminar, this one does not seem to have made it online yet. In essence, James believes that there is far too much knowledge around, so much so that we binge on it. We should talk to each other more and engage socially, he suggested.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Word of the day

Todays word is servicescape (thank you Rebecca). This word is not only a new word and concept, but an illustration of the value of an open access research repository - the concept is embodied in an article by three Swinburne researchers. A servicescape relates to the physical environment in which a service process takes place. For example, if you were to try to describe the differences a customer encountered when entering a branch of say McDonald's compared with a small family restaurant, the concept of Servicescapes would be useful. The Wikipedia tells more.