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.