Monday, 30 April 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is water capability strategy - thank you to my brother in law, Mark, a green certified plumber. In practical terms, I am working out where to put a tank next to my house (or under it). This will be a water capability stratey. We all need one.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Word of the day

Todays word is peer-produced epidemiology. Thanks to Jimmy Wales for the term. It takes the concept of peer-produced information resources, such as Wikipedia, into new realms. Who Is Sick? is a new Web service that provides a sense of your community's health by enabling people who live there to share information. Just input your symptoms, location, and other basic information, anonymously, and the analytics show sickness trends and outbreaks. Epidemiology, in a word.

Wikipedia - the seminar

The Jimmy Wales Wikipedia seminar started off with a prediction by Jimmy that the cost of textbooks and learning materials will drop to zero within a decade or so, and the cost of computers to $100. We all cheered that one, if a little sceptically.

Thank you for contributing ideas to this blog. I guess that the key point made by Jimmy Wales was that the Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It is better than any other encyclopedia (he implied), but that doesn't make it a textbook, or a scholarly resource, or anything else but an encyclopedia.

The Wikipedia also comes with an ideological framework. Wales is part of the free culture movement, and in fact is a member of the board of Creative Commons. He speaks of creating a base layer of raw cultural materials built on Wikipedia, Flickr and many other sources. Wales is opposed to censorship, and there is no legitimate Wikipedia in, say, China.

Wikipedia is also planning to move into some other services - open serving (free hosting for people making content and software freely available), a Wikia search engine (modestly described as "Google's worst nightmare), multi-language versions (there is a goal of an encyclopedia for all language groups with more than a million speakers - pity about the Welsh), and more. When we were chatting, I suggested a dictionary built on contributed examples of usage (just like the OED). Wikipedia is the 10th most popular Internet site (according to Alexa).

An interesting day, and the panel was interesting too - some old friends, like Daniel Ingvarson, Randall Straw (head of Multimedia Victoria), Rodney Sparks of E-Works, as well as James Farmer (The Age's Online Community Editor), Dr Martin Wild and Sarah Phillips (a Deakin student), all coordinated by Mark Pesce. My role on the panel was to represent libraries, which I did by pointing out their equivocal responses to the Wikipedia, but their essential and intrinsic sympathy for its open access to knowledge goals. Watch for the podcast version!

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Word of the day

Todays's word is fast history. Thank you to Leni Mayo, who says that the word was invented by Clay Christensen, who also devised the concept of disruptive innovation. A related concept encountered yesterday (at the Wikipedia thing) was Randall Straw's idea that we are living dog years, at least in the technological sphere - every year is seven normal years. Think about it.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Interesting week for university librarians

And especially for this one. The biennial EDUCAUSE Conference starts in Melbourne on Sunday, going through to Wednesday, and is followed by CAUL, the twice-yearly meeting of university librarians. For this particular university librarian the week is given added variety by the calling of a university planning day on Wednesday, followed by a celebration dinner; each of us gets five minutes and three powerpoint slides. For me, the week starts today (Friday) when I have another five minutes, this time at the Melbourne leg of the Jimmy Wales Australian seminar tour; my five minutes is to represent the viewpoint of librarians, and is heavily informed by the contributors to this blog - of course, you'll all be acknowledged, very concisely.

While the week is likely to inhibit longer blog posts, this kind of thing usually reveals a rich array of previously unsuspected new words, and a little time to savour them. Well, quite a lot of time sometimes.

Word of the day

Today's word is uptalk (thank you Rebecca). This is the word which describes the rising intonation which occurs in some speech in the final accented syllable or syllables of a sentence or utterance. We Australians (and also the Canadians) are considered the world's greatest exponents of this particular perculiarity (especially Queenslanders), but the great linguistic authority that is Wikipedia credits the NZers with its origins. Australian speech is mostly footnotes (the famous South Australian terminal l, for example). Listen for uptalk next time the actual semantic content of a conversation isn't holding your attention.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Word of the day

This is continuous partial attention span, from Courtney Gibson, Head of Arts, Entertainment and Comedy, ABC TV. The term describes our common state of mind in these times. Courtney was one of the speakers at the National Library's hugely successful Innovative Ideas Forum on 19 April.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is runtogether. Have you noticed that words which might have, in the past, used a hyphen, now just run together? Ever wondered whether there was a word to describe words formed in this way? Here it is. Google has only 650 examples so far, and some of them relate to people running alongside each other, but it is a definite word; I guess domain name formation has a lot to do with it. And there is a clear need for it. Invent your own runtogethers, its easy. Thank you to Tony Boston for the word.

Au revoir, ILMS?

There is an argument that the age of the ILMS is passing. Of course, the integrated library management system has served us wonderfully well. We depend on it to provide the efficiencies which come through automation of acquisitions, cataloguing, serials processing, and provision of access to physical resources for our users. The MARC record has transformed the way libraries work. The ILMS integrates everything into a single process.

On the other hand, one part of the ILMS - the OPAC - now looks extremely old-fashioned when compared with the normal, everyday search experience of our users when they use Google, Yahoo or one of the many Internet search engines. Increasingly, our OPACs are falling behind. The search features which are taken for granted now - relevance ranking, "did you mean?", user annotation facilities, user-generated subject headings (tags) - are all missing. The catalogue sucks, to quote the Americans (do a Google search on those two words). But effective search is absolutely critical to our future value to our users. Swinburne's recent user survey found that over 70% of our users use Google every day.

The diminishing number of ILMS vendors does not seem to be doing much about this situation - we want efficient, integrated library systems, but we also want contemporary search capacity. We have systems which developed to control print collections of monographs and serials. Now they are out of date.

At the National Library's New Ideas Forum last week Alison Dellitt and Kent Fitch presented a short overview of how the National Library of Australia is rethinking both search (find and get) and the catalogue. Great thinking - have a look at their IT Architecture Project Report.

Au revoir, ILMS? What do you think?

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Word of the day

Todays word is encyclopedia, used, unusually, as a plural. In the current issue of State Library of Victoria News is this sentence: "...many Library staff are walking encyclopedia when it comes to the collection ..." Those who are familiar with my presentation Thoughts on the Language of Consortia know what I think about the plurals of words of Latin origin. However, encyclopedia is Greek, and is singular in both languages. But I don't want to be pedantic.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Blog changes direction

Many thanks to those scores of people (well, hundreds) who voted for me in the recently-declared ballot for vice president of ALIA. The job starts in May, when Roxanne Missingham becomes President of ALIA.

Congratulations to Damian Lodge and Kate Watson, who have been elected to the ALIA Board, where they will join Philip Keane,Michelle Brennand and Helen Partridge, whose terms extend to 2008.

Many thanks to Kevin Dudeney, Margaret Allen, Graham Black and Richard Sayers, who also contested these positions. They would all have been great additions to the ALIA Board, and hopefully will have other opportunities in ALIA in the future. It is great to see the level of interest and participation increasing.

Many thanks to the readers of this blog, too, and especially those who have posted long and thoughtful comments, and concise comments too. Several readers? Dozens? I think "happy throng" is probably a bit too much, Ainslie. This blog is having a slight change of direction, but not of name. It is no longer an electoral blog.

I am looking forward to being involved in ALIA again. I was reminded by Deirdre McNally that I currently hold the record for chairing the shortest AGM on record - Acquisitions Section, early 1990s, 2 minutes I think. Watch out.

I am looking forward to getting around. Kerrie Kelly and Tania Barry have already suggested that I should rock up to the National Library and Information Technicians Conference in October 2007 and the New Librarians Symposium in December 2008, respectively.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Wikipedia again

I mention this topic again because I am part of a panel at one of the Jimmy Wales seminars - Challenging How Knowledge is Created - that is organising. You can find out all about them here. Jimmy Wales is the founder of Wikipedia.

I also mention the topic because I have to start thinking about it, the Melbourne seminar being on 27 April (there are also seminars in Perth, Adelaide and Sydney).

Naturally, I would appreciate your ideas. I offered to represent ALIA on a panel, and got the gig due to the absence of competition, as is so often the case. It is a busy week for me, mostly in Canberra - a meeting of the board of the Australian Digital Alliance, an AICTEC (IT in education) interoperability jamboree on Tuesday, the National Library's very popular Innovative Ideas thing on Thursday, and a meeting of Picture Australia contributors on Friday.

What to say? What to avoid saying? Let me know. I will be representing libraries, and I am currently operating on the principle that the Wikipedia is the best thing since the invention of the library two millennia or so ago.

Word of the day

The word of the day, as an acknowledgement of Kurt Vonnegut, an inspired writer who died on 11 April, is Bokononism. The BBC obituary refers to Bokononism, a religion created in his novel Cat's Cradle. The novel is loosely about the meaning of life, and you can read it in a couple of hours. I'll lend you mine. Its a wonderful book.

Friday, 13 April 2007

Google Alerts

Regular readers, if there is such a person, will recall my experiment before Easter with Google Alerts.

For those interested in how my Google alerts have turned out, it has been a mixed experience. On one hand, one Google alert did turn up several references to this blog, so clearly Google is indexing it. On the other hand, it also turned up a really random selection of references, some of them going back a number of years - a 12-year-old conference paper, a radio interview, and a short paper on The Fabulous LILO, Swinburne's metadata application profile. Why?

Try it out for yourself here.

Word of the day

Today's word is subprime, which means risky, ill-advised. So far it is used only to refer to the US property market where subprime loans are those which involve a higher level of risk. However, sitting here with a very subprime cup of coffee, I predict that it will very soon be used in a wide range of other contexts too, and I plan to be the first.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007


One of the matters I mentioned in my 100 word statement was values. I suggested that the key to our future is our core values. This is not just a statement of the obvious. Like other professions, library professionals have values which are integral to what they do. We handle information, and our primary value is the free flow of information.

From this core value come a great number of our activities as a profession. These activities are a very strong reason why libraries and library professionals should support their professional association. They include our long-standing opposition to censorship, our approach to copyright, our support for free access to libraries and cultural institutions more widely, and of course our strong support for libraries as an open public institution maintained for everyone and accessible to everyone.

How do these values translate into the Internet age? Our statement of values does not specifically refer to related online values, such as net neutrality and equity of access to online information, and maybe we should be thinking about these too. In doing this, we would have strong support from other groups like the Internet Society of Australia (ISOC-AU), Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) and for that matter the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

It would be good if we could start to form the kinds of close connections with these bodies that we already have with the paper-descended associations like us - archivists, records managers, school libraries. Of course, none of us is limited to the paper business nowadays.

(My very varied Easter activities included a meeting on Tuesday involving Philip Argy (president of the ACS) and Holly Raiche (executive officer of ISOC-AU). And my first ever live rugby league game . . . Newcastle Knights and Melbourne Storm . . . another story altogether).

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Have a nice Easter . . . last chance to vote

Here are a few thoughts about different topics.

The main topic of course is that if you have put off voting in the ALIA elections, you are now cutting things very fine. It is Saturday, and your vote must be received by ALIA national office (which is in Canberra) by 5.00pm on Wednesday. I think you should post your vote today. Although I guess

People sometimes ask, why don't you have a blog post about [insert current topic of interest to questioner]? Well, the latest one of these, from a late voter, was Why can't we vote online? I pass that one on. Perhaps next year we will set something up to enable online voting; All those envelopes do seem a little old fashioned, and people lose them amongst the mass paperwork of modern life.

I have been trying out Google Alerts. Google Alerts are compilations of Google searches sent to you by email and based on search terms you provide. your choice of query or topic. I have set up an alert based on the word Swinburne, which is the name of my employer, Swinburne University of Technology. Its a wonderful service, and an illustration of the fact that we have to get used to the fact that lots of things we used to do are done well in other ways. As you can see, I'm using the word Swinburne in this post to see if Google indexes it. I'll let you know.

And a wonderful welcome to my newest grandson Liam Ferguson, born on Good Friday!

Friday, 6 April 2007

Famous librarians

One of the great things about librarians is that they have such useful skills that they often go on to become something else altogether (see my post on domain names). Not necessarily great for libraries, but a tribute all the same. There was a very nice piece in the newspaper at the weekend about the Victorian Health Services Commissioner, Beth Wilson, a former librarian. I wonder how ALIA might tap into support from people who have started as librarians and gone on to other things? Perhaps this could be one of the things we ask those savvy marketers, referred to by Dana in her comment on an earlier post.

Any thoughts on this? Or on Dana's other comment "had I known then what I know now, I would have been a librarian".

Word of the day

I suspected that there must be an organisation of Librarians Without Borders, since there are so many organisations using this style, and starting off with Medecins sans Frontieres. There is, they are Canadians, as one might expect, and located here They only started a year ago. I thought that given the ultimate model and their Canadian origins they might be bilingual - Bibliothécaires sans frontières.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Library workforce ... and thank you Jenelle

Back to where we get library staff from. And thank you Jenelle Cleary, who took notes at the session that Indra Kurzeme and I ran at the recent Melbourne Unconference, on the future library workforce. This is maybe the major topics of discussion amongst Australian librarians at present.

For Victorians, Gillian Hallam was in town last week, speaking about the library workforce at the State Library of Victoria. It is interesting that some of the main issues she has pulled out of the joint study she is doing with CAVAL also resonated with the Unconference group that met a few weeks earlier. Some of those issues were:

- Boundaries are blurring between libraries and other occupations, like IT, with big implications for the cohesion of our profession
- There is now a wide range of possible qualifications ranging from certificates (both TAFE and graduate certificates) to postgraduate masters degrees, and they are being offered by a wide range of faculties and disciplines too.
- The impression people receive is that there are not many opportunities for employment for new graduates, and there are different perceptions of why this might be the case.
- The role of our professional association in course recognition needs to be considered.

Our session on the library workforce at the Unconference also highlighted issues about our brand as librarians. The brand does not serve to attract people - why is that? Accountants have recently been through a rebranding exercise. Maybe there is a need to create and foster a coherent and attractive image of what we do. It doesn't mean a total re-brand, just a more engaging picture.

My last post on these issues brought out several comments, and it is clearly a major issue for us. Any more comments?

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

A great survey (no, that's not an oxymoron)

Well, for those of you who would never have guessed, I am currently chairing the 2007 Names Policy Panel. This is a review of the Australian domain name system. The review kicked off in March with a meeting of the review panel in Melbourne, and meets again on 10 April in Sydney.

If you would like to have a say, there is an online survey linked from the auDA (.au Domain Authority) website. If you would like to check out the terms of reference, they are here.

The review panel has a membership of 22 people drawn from the domain name industry and other interested groups - lawyers, the Internet industry, business, and domain name users more widely. Support is provided by Jo Lim, auDA's Chief Policy Officer.

I chaired the panel which developed the current policy in 2000 and 2001, so its been a long road, but a fascinating one. And an interesting contrast to the world of libraries.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Word of the day

Given my last post, the word of the day is part of the rich vocabulary of domain names. The word is domainer - "a person who makes a living from domain name speculation or by purchasing popular domain names and filling the sites with advertising." Australia's best known domainer owns 600,000 domain names. The definition is from Word Spy, which is a pretty nice site, too.

Another nice one is typosquatter "A person who registers one or more Internet domain names based on the most common typographical errors that a user might commit when entering a company's registered trademark name (e.g.," Australia has a policy on registering misspellings as domain names - you can't do it.

Librarians as Change Agents

This is about lobbying. It is the title of an article in Information Today by Mary Alice Baish, the associate Washington affairs representative of the American Association of Law Libraries. I mention it because I spent Friday in Canberra - as it turns out the first day of the parliamentary hols (they're back in May for the budget session).

There is so much that we want to say, but we have too few people to say it - even comparied with American law librarians, who clearly have more than one lobbyist in Washington.

What's most interesting about the article? Three things.

First, the issues (this is a law librarian):
- Federal Research Public Access Act - open access to government-funded research
- Net neutrality
- strengthening the Freedom of Information Act
- copyright - legislation to reaffirm fair use
- orphan works (another copyright issue, active in Australia too)
These are all issues that are active, current and alive in Australia too.

Second, the section headed "fellow travellers", which is a list of friends. I have mentioned this before as an issue for us - we need friends and allies who share our goals and are interested in sharing the task of exercising influence.

Third, ten quick rules, a nice summary.

I guess that to be serious about lobbying, we need people who know what they are talking about, and a clear idea of the messages we want to communicate - about open access to information, copyright, the future of the Internet, support for libraries.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Word of the day

Todays word of the day is cybrary. This word once graced the website of the University of Queensland Cybrary but, browsing around today I noticed that it had completely disappeared. The end of a noble experiment in word-coinage, and a lesson for those of us who like to encourage neologisms. See for yourselves.