Thursday 30 June 2011

Tips for applying for library jobs in the public service

I don’t purport to be any sort of expert when it comes to applying for jobs, but I’ve had some recent experience with this - both as a job seeker and a recruiter. The focus of this post is particularly on permanent Commonwealth public service jobs, although many of these tips will be applicable for state public sector jobs as well as jobs at universities.  That said, not all of the Commonwealth agencies will follow the practices which I’m describing here.
This post looks at the first half of the process: finding jobs to apply for and the written application. There are some things I have to say about the second half of the process: the interview, referees, the order of merit, but that will have to wait for another post.

Monitoring the job market

The first step is finding a suitable position to apply for. I’d really recommend only one place for the Commonwealth public service jobs: There is no requirement (and usually no budget) for Commonwealth jobs to advertised anywhere else, so if you’re at all serious about considering the public service as a potential place to work, then make a profile and alert on this site as soon as you can. If you don’t want to do that, than at least search the site every Thursday afternoon. The new jobs are advertised then - and that way you have the full two weeks to write your application.

You can often find out about new positions from ALIA or other professional associations. That’s convenient and may be enough for the casual observer, but not all library-type positions from APSjobs end up on the association-related lists and websites. That’s why it’s best to do your own monitoring – if you find a position that has gone under the radar, you may have a real advantage in your application.

If you’re looking for work, you’ve probably signed up with one of the library placement agencies. That’s a wise move, but it would be a mistake to do only that and expect that the agency is going to do the rest of work for you. This is particularly true if you’re looking for a permanent position in the public service. In most Commonwealth departments, there is only one way of applying for a position. It involves using that department’s online recruitment system - completing the various online forms, uploading your resume and statement addressing the selection criteria etc. For permanent positions, there is no shortcut for recruitment agencies. Even if you’re with an agency, the formal application has to be completed by you. This process is often relaxed when it comes to temporary positions and that’s when the placement agencies can be particularly helpful for you.

Be in it to win it

I’m the first to admit that applying for public service jobs is a chore. I’m not exaggerating when I say I could write at least five private sector job applications in the time it takes to write one good public service application. I’ve known some people, really good librarians who would be ideal candidates, who rarely apply for public service positions because they hear about positions too late and never have the time to complete a good application before the deadline.
The difficulty of applying for public service jobs is not all bad news for job seekers. It means that if you can satisfy the requirements and write a credible application, then you are at a comparative advantage because so many other potential candidates did not even reach that point.

Selection criteria

If you don’t have much experience or confidence with responding to selection criteria, this is what you need to do: Stop reading this post and get a hold of one of Ann D. Villiers books on the topic. Sometimes they’re difficult to buy in print, but most public and university libraries should have good holdings.

When a recruitment panel member is wading through a large number of applications, needing to make that crucial (and sometimes mean) first cut, applications which fail to address the selection criteria are a gift - because that’s an automatic fail. Sometimes it’s a bittersweet gift, because the candidate may have had some potential.

All selection criteria need to be addressed. It’s not good enough to address five out of six. The following are not ways of addressing selection criteria: “Refer what I wrote about criteria x”, describing the criteria in a different way, writing an essay about the why the criteria is important, stating that you meet the criteria without providing evidence from your education or work experience.

Selection criteria are the main reason why public service jobs are so difficult to apply for. As a job seeker you will see some criteria again and again. Some of them may be standard for that particular agency. In different agencies you may see a slightly different version of a criteria. Do not fall into the trap of recycling your public service job applications without extensive customisation! There are two reasons for this. First, selection panel members get annoyed if they sense that that the applicant is writing for a different job’s criteria. Those applications go straight to the reject pile. Second, writing the selection criteria is your only opportunity in the written application to state why you’d be good at this job and why you’re interested in working for that particular agency. Responses to criteria which have been copied and pasted from application to application end up sounding generic and passionless.

Selection criteria are the key to public service jobs - and not just for the written application. It’s common for interview questions to correlate directly with one of the selection criteria. You can’t anticipate the specific questions which you may be asked, but if you’re comfortable with expounding on aspects of the selection criteria, you should be able to handle any question.

- Morgan Wilson

Morgan has worked in several law libraries and business libraries in Sydney and Minneapolis - St. Paul in the USA. He is currently working as a librarian for the Australian Public Service in Canberra. He blogs and tweets occasionally at and @explodedlibrary

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Crowdsourcing and social engagement in libraries: the state of play

“The Australian Women’s Weekly 1932-1984 now available for 
text correction in Trove at the National Library of Australia” 
As Manager of the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program and now Trove at the National Library of Australia I have had the wonderful opportunity to utilise and promote crowdsourcing and social engagement technologies over the last three years.  This would not have been possible without the ideas and assistance of everyone on our small Newspaper and Trove team.

I wrote an article called ‘Many Hands Make Light Work’ two years ago which outlined the activities and motivations of Australian newspaper text correctors in the first six months of service.  This generated wide international interest in the library and archive world.  Australia was under the spotlight for breaking new ground and demonstrating library innovation.  The two main things that people asked are: “will the user activity continue?”, and “how can these technologies be applied more widely in the library/archive world?” I shall attempt to answer these two questions in this blog post.  

1. Will the user activity continue?
The newspaper text correction activity has expanded in leaps and bounds and continues to grow. This is despite the fact that since start up little has been done to change the process or motivate correctors and no extra staffing has been available to support users/volunteers.  I remember getting very excited when a million lines of text had been corrected after the first four months.  Now we have two million lines corrected every month and this figure continues to increase.  There are nearly forty million lines of text corrected to date, by over 30,000 volunteers. The Trove annual report gives highlight statistics. We think we are doing things right and other people seem to agree since we were very honoured to recently win the Excellence in E-Government Award for Service Delivery for Trove/Australian Newspapers.  The keys to success of newspaper text correction seem to be:

  • The simplicity of the task
  • The addictiveness of the task
  • Volunteers wanting to help a worthy Australian cause. 

I have compared and analysed the growth of user activity with other similar services such as Wikipedia and Distributed Proofreaders.  This has helped me to identify and write about the top ten tips for crowdsourcing, so that librarians and archivists can make their own crowdsourcing projects a success. I also gave a presentation to the NAA/CAARA Archives 2.0 workshop on this topic.  Using certain features in the design and functionality of your interface/website can make it a success.  Crowdsourcing functions go hand in hand with utilising social media features.  So, still being a reference librarian at heart I am going to recommend you to read a book on this topic:

Our users are motivated by being part of an active social online community and Trove has a forum, twitter, blog and YouTube presence so that they can engage with each other and us. This is critical to maintaining the crowdsourcing activity. Social engagement has been a learning curve for us, and we have been operating in a ‘pilot’ mode for the last six months. One of our team members recently gave a presentation on the social engagement pilot.

 2. How can these technologies be applied more widely in the library/archive world?

I think there is greater if not more potential to utilise crowdsourcing in archive collections, rather than library collections. It can be used as a means to improve our basic functions (collect, describe, organise, deliver, preserve). For example most handwritten documents in archives still cannot be effectively converted into text by a computer program (OCR) and are therefore not full text searchable.  The current method is to transcribe these documents manually into text files. Very few libraries or archives would even consider starting such a mammoth task that has no end in sight.  However users of these documents particularly genealogists have a strong inherent desire to help other users. Large transcribing projects have been started by volunteers, rather than libraries or archives and have been going on for years.  Most notably these include transcription of birth, marriage, death, and shipping records (i.e. people’s names). However until recently the technology to do this was fairly clunky, it did not involve the utilisation of social engagement tools, or harness a willing crowd of library users, so involvement and activity, although good was not maximised.  Now we know so much more we can put it all together and I really believe librarians and archivists have a significant role in this area. Five good examples of this are:

  • Transcribe Bentham from the University College London. Transcribing the Jeremy Bentham archives.
  • Civil War Diaries Transcription Project from the University of Iowa.
  • Digitalkoot from National Library of Finland.  Uses gaming technology to correct historic newspaper text. 
  • Waisda from Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. Uses gaming technology to add search terms to archival films.
  • World Memory Project from the United States Holocaust Museum. Transcribing 17 million names from Nazi records of Holocaust victims.

I have been a member of the RLG Partners Social Metadata Working Group for the last two years. We are now in the final stages of publishing three reports with our research findings. We have released a summary discussion document. This outlines our key findings and makes recommendations for how libraries and archives can effectively and easily apply some of these new technologies into their services.   

But technology alone is not the answer. We need to look firstly at what people want to do, then the basics of what libraries want to do, and then ask “how can we harness new technologies to achieve all our needs?” We need to learn the art of working ‘with’ our users not doing things ‘to’ or ‘for’ them. Charles Leadbeater calls this ‘The Art of With’ (this is a great read). Our users want to have meaningful opportunities to participate and contribute, and be offered the opportunity to do so; to share easily and think and work laterally; to have viable ways to collaborate and get things done. Librarians and archivists (information management experts) have the tools and knowledge to work effectively with our users and come up together with good practical ways to do these things.

Rose Holley is the Manager of Trove – Australia’s National Discovery Service

Tuesday 28 June 2011

I just 'Gotta Share' this great video with you

Just for a bit of fun, this video is a joyous celebration of social media, put on by the folks at Improv Everywhere at the latest GEL Conference in New York, which I just had to share...

I stumbled upon this video from the Scholarly Kitchen, one of the blogs that I keep-up-to-date with. If you're interested in finding other library- related blogs to read, you can read Vicki's blog post here.
You can find the original post and video about Twirlr here.

We hope you enjoy the last week of blog every day in June!
- Crystal

Crystal Choi is an ALIA Sydney committee member, and tweets @crystalibrary

Monday 27 June 2011

Social media & libraries: keeping an ear to the ground

Recently I’ve been keenly alert to what is happening in social media for professional use. From what I am hearing, I am not alone. Businesses, education, research institutions, to name some, want to find out what their clients want and how they can reach further by using social media. A very good reason behind this interest is that many people worldwide use social media daily. GlobalWebIndex has just released an infographic that visualises the global state of social networking in 2011. In Australia alone, there are 7.5 million active social networkers. According to the statistic, we are mainly a nation of content sharers, and messagers and mailers, but we are less likely to be joiners and creators of groups.
While the number of people using social media is significant, it isn’t always clear how and why online engagement would benefit organisations. Many organisations and their libraries are not sure whether social media is worth the effort at all.
Government & workplace 2.0
Last month the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner released the policy document Principles on open public sector information, which identifies open access to government information as an area of national significance. The second of six principles, Engaging the community, recommends active online engagement with the community and the use of Web 2.0 tools. This policy document is created with an intention to inform and influence information management policies and practices of government agencies. It is not clear at this point how it will be adopted in practice.
Earlier this month, Dr Chen presented a seminar entitled Online engagement or neo-liberal Trojan horse at the Parliamentary Library in Canberra arguing that the Government 2.0 does not serve only the interests of the public. In discussing how to avoid potential pitfalls, Dr Chen emphasises, among other factors, the importance of general information literacy and motivation of government agencies. Libraries clearly have a role to play in identifying and developing critical information skills, which are required for online engagement, but they also may be able to lead the way, as so many times before, in developing motivation of their organisations. However, developing motivation may not be an easy task when government libraries, like many libraries in other sectors, often operate in an environment where openness is not a default position. It is difficult to argue for an online engagement when a librarian cannot access many useful web pages and when Facebook and Twitter are blacklisted with all other social media sites.
Positive examples of online engagement may help in making the use of social media acceptable and even desirable at a workplace. Luckily, libraries provide numerous examples of successful online engagement and ALIA Sydney can certainly point towards some inspiring practices.
Disturbing the dust
Last month I followed the ‘disturb the dust’ campaign, which provided lots of good reading material and an excellent example of online engagement. The University of Sydney Library is planning renovations of its oldest and largest branch, Fisher Library, which houses material in the humanities and social sciences. When it was announced that a large part of the collection will be accessible from a repository rather than in the library, parts of the University community started to express their dissatisfaction, even anger and outrage, protesting against the decision. Funding and staffing cuts also featured prominently in discussions about changes. Since the University Librarian mentioned a ‘dust test’ as a criterion for relocation, the Facebook page Save the books! Disturb the dust! Mass book borrowing & READ IN 18/05 was created.
A week before the event, numerous postings discussing library developments appeared on the page. Witty, angry, emotional and rational posts made for great reading, potential research data for discourse analysis and, most importantly, were a testimony of a committed library community. At the same time, archival library pictures evoked memories and numerous comments were exchanged on related Facebook pages. When the big day of mass dust disturbance came, the library staff greeted users in the foyer, helped them with borrowing and answered their questions. Pictures from the protest were posted on the Flickr by students and further distributed by the Library.
From my online post, it appeared that Facebook exchanges contributed greatly to airing concerns, engaging the community and bringing the cherished library into focus. Rather than hiding from upset customers or trying to have the last word in discussions, the Library did all the right things to engage with its clients and promote open discussion and good will. Informal public exchanges on Facebook gave a new dimension to the event. If the Fisher Library ‘disturb the dust’ case is anything to go by, social media provides powerful tools for libraries to keep an ear to the ground and promote its profile of a responsive and engaged service provider.
By the way, as I was about to finish this blog, I read the following Twitter post: julian0liver Julian Oliver ‘My six month trial of Twitter ends today. Verdict? Perfectly distracting, hopelessly useful, disturbingly interesting. See you tomorrow.’
- Suzana Sukovic
Suzana is Research Associate at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the University of Sydney and a peripatetic librarian.
Join her on Twitter (@suzanasukovic) and Facebook

Sunday 26 June 2011

Technology, puffins and the endless sun

I would like, if I may, to take your mind away from the technology theme of this month’s blog. I’d like to invite you to join me up north, where I’m writing this submission from a land where the sun doesn’t set. I’m in northern Iceland, and have been travelling around the region for the last month. I’ll be honest: libraries have not been the first thing on my mind, but I was intrigued by (and found time to visit) the Faroese National Library, so I’d like to tell you a little about it.

The Faroe Islands are a collection of 18 islands that lie halfway between Norway and Iceland. Just under 50 000 people live there, almost 20 000 of which live in or around the capital of Tόrshavn (pronounced “tor-shorn”). The Faroes are a self-governing region of Denmark, and it’s an area that holds its independence tightly – they have their own parliament and flag, and have not joined Denmark as a member of the European Union. The Islands are stunningly beautiful, remote, and absolutely covered in sea birds and a few very determined sheep.

The Faroese National Library is in Tόrshavn, and the Executive Director, Erhard Jacobsen, was kind enough to spend some time talking to me about his world.
The National Library also serves as the university library to the University of the Faroe Islands, the only university in the region. There are 15 public libraries spread throughout the Faroes, but some of these are so small they are only open a few hours a week. So in reality, the National Library is the only widely accessible library for many of the Faroese people.

Residents have access to a book delivery network, as well as interlibrary loan which tends to be sourced from Denmark. Erhard told me that while pretty much everyone in the Faroe Islands has internet access, the Library’s online resources are limited to a few databases purchased for the use of the university.
The Faroese are rightly protective of their culture and language, but the National Library has struggled to acquire or develop Faroese online resources. The small population limits the commercial viability of such resources. Erhard tells me that his biggest priority for the coming year is to champion the role of the Library in creating, describing, storing and distributing digital resources. Librarians in the Faroes really struggle to get this issue on the government’s funding agenda.

And what is it like to be a librarian in the Faroes? There are about 30 people working in libraries, not all at a professional level. (When I asked Erhard if they all knew each other, he replied “Of course!”) But one cannot study to be a Faroese librarian – the nearest library school is in Denmark. Individuals will usually do their degree either in Denmark or by distance study through a Danish university, then return to the Faroes to build their understanding of Faroese cultural, literary and administrative history. Anyone working in a Faroese library would have to be fluent in Faroese, Danish and English – but then, almost every Faroese person has that as a minimum.

I was struck by the extent to which the Library has to balance the big picture priorities that are taken care of by national and state libraries that we’re familiar with – things like ensuring equity of access, struggling to make government publications available – with the more immediate concerns of almost every library. Erhard is full of ideas – he’d like to change the layout of the library to allow for flexible study spaces for students; they are exploring the concept of “lending a librarian” to researchers to review their work; they would like to expand information literacy training for the whole population. But the fact is that they are a small library, and they have to make difficult decisions about priorities. Erhard was honest when he told me that libraries in the Faroes, including the National Library, were not heavily used by clients, but tended to direct most of their resources to preservation, collection, and technical services. In a time when customer service is king in many Australian libraries, I found it interesting to see an environment where preservation was considered more important. After all, if they don’t preserve the cultural history of this tiny region, who will?

Like me, I’m sure you’ve read this and found a lot familiarity in the circumstances of the Faroese National Library. And you’re right – this is a first world country that, while still struggling with issues like resource allocation and cultural preservation, doesn’t have to worry about other basic things denied in some libraries around the world: a safe place to work, basic human rights, etc. But we don’t have to compare ourselves to the far extreme to place our work in context, and I found it comforting seeing the sense of responsibility Erhard felt for the collection and promotion of Faroese cultural resources. I hope that they are able to undertake the digitisation projects that they are dreaming of, as I’d love to see these resources more widely available.

If you’d like me to tempt you to visit this part of the world, just have a look at the stunning scenery here. Erhard and the other staff at the National Library were very gracious with their time and allowing me to take the attached photos – Erhard asked me to send him a link to this blog, and I’m sure he’ll be eager to read any comments you’d like to post.

Alyson Dalby is  the NSW State Manager for ALIA. 

Saturday 25 June 2011

a conferencing we shall go

What do you look for in a conference?

In the course of the average year, there are plenty of conferences and professional gatherings to choose from in our industry. They range in size from a tweetup of half a dozen or so, through to major conferences like VALA, Information Online and LIANZA. Not to mention major international conferences such as IFLA and ALA. Models too, vary depending on the event: the standard model has mostly been to run a conference over 2-3 days with a series of speakers in lecture mode, i.e. out the front with an audience seated in rows.

NLS for example, have varied the basic model by having cabaret seating where folk sit around tables in small groups - the idea being to encourage interaction. At the other end of the spectrum is the unconference whereby everyone has the opportunity to engage with the material and speak up. Plus there have been attempts to combine various forms within a single conference whether through the addition of satellite events or the incorporation of streams within the larger conference structure.

Each model has its strengths and weaknesses, and can appeal to different sorts of audiences. At the core of each, there are perhaps a few items that strike me as common:

• a desire to learn new things
• meet new people
• catch up with old friends
• a chance to engage in conversation with your peers

Different trends come and go, but those basic needs seem constant.

Conference communication is changing too and here I'm not speaking in terms of marketing but rather the way people engage with the conference community both in the run up to, and during. Social tools such as twitter are playing a substantial part in this area particularly. I have a sense, as one who has attended many conferences, that VALA 2010 represented a key moment in communication changes in this region hitting critical mass. There was a strong presence via twitter involving folk physically and virtually present. Sufficiently strong that those not on twitter, experienced a markedly different conference to those that were. This is not an either/or scenario where one is better than the other, and of course there were some overlaps so they weren't necessarily distinct groups. That sense of engagement continued throughout 2010, e.g. we saw it again at ALIA Access several months later, and with Online this year.

Ultimately though, what are conferences about and what do we expect from them? For folk involved in social media, there is occasionally a sense that we are getting information much sooner in the publication cycle. There can be times where the mainstream media is days or weeks behind the twitter feed when it comes to breaking a story. Yet, there is the danger of restricting yourself to the circles of similarly minded people – i.e. it’s easy to lose track of stuff you don’t otherwise stumble across. I see a conference as presenting a range of ideas, some of which I’ve encountered before, but I’d also like to think that I’ll come across items that haven’t crossed my path.

I want to know what I don’t know.

I don’t think the old conference model of individuals lecturing to a group is particularly effective anymore by itself. Even with backchannel conversations via other media occurring, a rigid structure can inhibit rather than encourage. Though the unconference model suits a particular group of people well, it isn’t for everyone either. There continue to be experiments with hybrid conferences and incorporating other media into more formal structures. I am unclear as to what the best model is, particularly for larger scale conferences, and indeed what sorts of models are viable.

What sort of conference model best encourages learning?

- snail

snail is a librarian who currently works for a vendor and has been to far too many conferences. snail was on the organising committee for NLS2006 and co-convened Library Camp at ALIA Acess 2010. Blog: and tweets @snailx

Friday 24 June 2011

Technology, learning and the teacher librarian

The 21st century learner

“The 20th century in learning and teaching was largely spent finessing
the teaching model of the 19th century.”
Stephen Heppell

We are now well into the 21st century, although it seems that our education system is still resisting the change.
Profiles for the 21st century learner abound, sharing the common idea that learners need to be inquirers, flexible thinkers and collaborators. The ALA standards for the 21st century learner emphasise the need for critical thinking, creating and sharing new knowledge, as well as pursuing aesthetic and personal growth.
Technology has largely been responsible for the vast changes that have occurred in these approaches to learning.
School libraries have often been the hub of technology in the school, from the times when catalogues were computerised to the location of the school’s first interactive whiteboard and laptop trolley. The teacher librarian’s role has been to support and guide students and staff in using the technology effectively and ethically.
The shift from locating information to creating and sharing information has made the role of the teacher librarian even more crucial, and yet more challenging. 

A recent presentation by George Couros put forward some thought-provoking statistics:

  • 60 percent of Fortune 500 businesses are using socialmedia spaces to reach out to customers
  • 95 percent of colleges and universities are using socialmedia spaces to reach out to customers
  • 70 percent of school districts have policies that specifically BAN social networking in schools

How can the teacher librarian serve students in a conservative, risk-averse environment such as the typical school?

The 21st century teacher librarian
There are several practical approaches the teacher librarian can take.
“Thin walls” expand the classroom, and in the process deepen our understanding and practice of all of those “21st Century Skills” that we examined earlier, the critical thinking, the problem solving skills, and the rest. And as students begin to experience the powerful pull of connection to other students and teachers outside of their physical spaces, they also begin to see the world writ large as a part of their daily learning lives. In our school, we have been connecting with students beyond our immediate classroom, although still within our school. This is just a first step, but a step with the big picture in mind.
  • Remember reading. One of the main underpinning beliefs of the ALA standards for the 21st century learner is that reading is a window to the world.  Social reading invites readers to put a technological spin on the age-old book club, providing an online space to discuss ideas about what they’re reading. At our school, students share their thoughts about their books on a blog as part of a reading challenge. It is far more engaging than a standard book review and helps develop some of the skills of the 21st century learner, such as critical thinking and creating and sharing new knowledge.

The thorn in the side
The teacher librarian has evolved from ‘keeper of the books’, to ‘information literacy instructor’ to ‘information and literature specialist’, and the evolution continues.  Regrettably, however, it seems that the image of the ‘dragons in pearls’ remains within schools and the wider community. The recent inquiry into teacher librarians in Australia highlighted the need for greater understanding and appreciation of their contributions to learning outcomes. It’s ironic that the role of the teacher librarian is being questioned in the age of Google. However, it’s been said that such questions are akin to wondering about the purpose of an accountant when everyone has access to a calculator.

Sue Krust is the junior school teacher librarian at a P-12 private girls’ school in Sydney.
Follow on twitter @TL_Talker

Thursday 23 June 2011

Mosman Faces – Putting YOU in the Picture

Way back in August 2009 the seed was planted for Mosman Faces.

An application for a Library Council of NSW Library Development Grant followed and in early 2010 success!

Grant received; it was time to put the verboseness of a grant application into action - Local Studies at Mosman Library hit the ground running.

In creating Mosman Faces the plan was to build on our already existing websites Mosman Memories, a place for past and present residents of Mosman to share memories of their street and Mosman Voices, which provides access to our oral history collection.

We wanted to go one step further and bring Mosman’s stories to life on screen through filmed interviews. We wanted the interviews to be online and interactive and we wanted these interviews to be complemented by scanned images of materials from our Local Studies collection. In short, we wanted Mosman’s story out there!

So the fun began. Since I had planted the seed I took on the implementation of the project, but not without the able assistance of staff members Donna Braye, Mosman’s Local Studies Librarian and Bernard de Broglio, Mosman Council’s Internet Coordinator.

Recreating Mosman’s story in a new attractive format requires much activity behind the scenes – choosing the interviewees, gathering information, selecting materials and images, scanning images, setting up the website and of course the interviewing and filming.

How many interviews? Who do we interview?

Ten ‘Faces’ were chosen and all agreed to tell their story. The Mosman Faces included Barry O’Keefe, ten times Mayor who was known to have shed blood for Mosman’s bush land, Paul Delprat, local artist and self proclaimed Prince of Wy and Judy Gibson, who never lived in Mosman but knows many of its inhabitants intimately from her days at Taronga Zoo.

We started off filming ‘on location’ but with the amount of equipment and tight time frame and possibilities of things going wrong the remainder of the interviews were done in the relative calm of our Library meeting rooms.

And what’s a story without images?

Following filming, the interviews were transcribed and they were edited and now it was time to match images to the words.

I won’t go into the detail of selecting and scanning of the images or the tediousness of the paper edit, with one eye on the timer code, one on the transcript and an ear on the interview but every project has its ups and downs and the show must go on!

Whether it was song and dance with the Mosman Musical Society, romance at the classic old cinema, The Kinema, or talking to the animals at Taronga, Mosman was planning to put on its face for a launch in Library Week, 23-29 May 2011.

The website was in Bernard’s capable hands, text was added, snaps were added, a logo was added and waiting, waiting, waiting…the day of the launch the films were added!

The night of nights was not exactly as planned but Mosman’s story was out there!

This week additional images, music and film footage is being edited into the stories and of course these ten interviews are just the beginning – stay tuned to Mosman Faces, another exciting installment from Mosman Library.

- Mary Lou Byrne

Mary Lou Byrne spends most of her work life at Mosman Library in Local Studies but also frequents the Reference Desk. She does not tweet, blogs irregularly, uses Facebook occasionally, emails frequently but does love a good story!

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Internet Based Non State Actors And Their Potential Affect Upon Digital Archives

Lately Iʼve been mulling over the significance of Internet Based Non State Actors and
their potential affects upon Internet accessible archives, mostly due to the new star on the
scene, Lulz Security, aka LulzSec. For those of you who havenʼt heard about their recent
exploits theyʼve included disabling, hacking, and obtaining data from a number of high profile
targets due to their sociopolitical stands or just plain fun. These have included corporations,
governments and non-profits such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), InfraGard, the
National Health Service (NHS), Nintendo, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Sony, and the
US Senate to name a few.

What is an Internet Based Non State Actor? In fact there isnʼt really a proper term for
them since some schools of international relations do not account for them at all, since Non
State Actors of any kind do not fit into the Westphalian State Model. On the other hand newer
models that do recognize Non State Actors (NSA) lack a category that really fully describes
internet based groups such as Annonymous, LulzSec, Wikileaks, etcetera, since these groups
shift their focus continually, while simultaneously exerting both soft and hard power upon
multinational corporations, traditional nation states and international relations. These groups can
be at times categorized as Violent Non-State Actors (VNSA) yet simultaneously can carry the
traits of a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO). This issue of taxonomy will likely be further
explored in the coming years as traditional state power continues to erode and droves of
academics delve into archives, libraries, and online databases to come up with a multiplicity of

However, my original question is more hypothetical in nature; how will these Internet
Based Non State Actors or IBNSAs affect digital archives that are accessible over networks?
Centralized libraries have not always faired well throughout history with the burning of the
Library at Alexandria, the Fourth Crusadeʼs destruction of the Imperial Library of Constantinople,
or the Hanlin Academy Libraryʼs damage during the Boxer Rebellion. Centralized digital
archives really fair no better and possibly worse since physical proximity is no longer required to
destroy, damage, or pillage a collection of servers housing an archive and if anything has also
added an element of surprise in favor of an IBNSA or sole individual that might want to inflict

Decentralized and distributed models may prove a harder target as they spread risk
around, since not all the data is stored in a central location or if it is, it is replicated and
distributed in a fashion that is geographically decentralized. However, this does not fully isolate
or remove vulnerability, especially since interconnects between the nodes, in decentralized and
distributed networks, can act as gateways of attack once one node is compromised. At the very
least this can disrupt the confidence of a decentralized or distributed digital archive per this
discussion, which may not be that dissimilar to the recent hack and compromise of the Mt. Gox
Bitcoin Exchange, which tanked the value of the distributed peer to peer currency known as

With the rise of NSAs and the yet to be categorized IBNSAs, in a post state globalized
and network centric world, we also have an explosion of varying and unpredictable agendas that
can be exercised with a certain amount of impunity. These entities may or may not view the
content of archives and libraries as sacred as they may not hold data, information, or knowledge
to their liking and thus become targets, which is not something uncommon in human history. Of
course they may also just do it for the Lulz. In any case as we continue to bite and scratch over
exactly how archives and libraries should be digitized and made available to the world via the
Internet, remember it might be worth keeping a few of those physical copies around just in case.

Emery Martin is an Artist, Educator, and Techie currently based in LA and teaching at CalArts: School of Film/Video.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Behind the Scenes at the Powerhouse with ALIA Sydney

In response to popular demand ALIA Sydney is so pleased to announce that we have arranged a very special behind the scenes tour of the Powerhouse Museum. 

In this very special half-day tour, on Thursday August 4th: 12:30 - 4:30pm, we will be going behind closed doors, including a visit to the archives, the library and a one and a half hour exploration of the Powerhouse Museum's basement. We will cap off the day with a talk from Seb Chan's Digital, Social & Emerging Technologies team. 

ALIA Members $10, Non-Members $15

Spaces are very limited so it is important you RSVP as soon as possible so that you don't miss out.  To RSVP please email with your name and contact phone number. 

NOTE: (24 June 2011) This event is now SOLD OUT. Thank you all for your support and interest. 

Don't hit me, I'm a Records Manager

I'll start with my confession. You see, I'm not nearly a librarian at all. I am in fact, a records manager. Oh, do I work for Sony, or a minor label? No, I manage corporate evidence. No, not in a legal sense, I never make it into a courtroom. I file.

At parties, this is usually the point where my interlocutor's eyes will glaze over and they'll start looking for another canape, another drink, another friend - anything to get them away from me before I start expanding on how interesting records management "really is".

I'm not here to tell you how records management will set the world on fire. I've looked over the other Blogjune posts - wow. They're all about NewStuff(tm) and how we're going to use the NewStuff(tm) to do EVEN MORE NewStuff(tm). Librarians seem to have successfully shucked prim maiden aunt image and are now bright young things doing more with less in a digital era.

Records isn't like that. "New" doesn't really happen in records. What I do now is what I've been doing for the past 8 years - helping people to get into good habits and helping them to stay in good habits. The people change. The places change. The subject matter and archival quality of the information changes. The struggles rarely change.

I help people to wrangle with the tools provided for them to manage records. Sometimes this is as simple as showing them how to save their documents in 2 mouse clicks rather than 3. Sometimes its as complicated as going into a well-established area of the business and convincing everyone (from the temp admin assistant to the manager) that what you've got to offer is going to make their lives easier, not harder. That can be a tough sell. People have their processes worked out. They know they're going the long way around, but at least they know that it gets them there in the end. Why swap what they know for a heap of new processes with new hurdles to be cleared? People know the problems with their system of handling information and they know how to manage those problems - why would they change to my system with its unknowns?

That's sometimes the issue. Its "us" versus "them". I'm often cast as the villain who wants to replace a perfectly awesome system of information management with something less than perfect. I once worked in a small office which had always relied heavily on its information resources. Once upon a time, that meant employing a large number of clerical staff to manually index and file legal transcripts. When I arrived, there had been a half-hearted transition to electronic records management, which didn't include those most important transcripts. A young lawyer challenged me to a retrieve-off, and of course I lost. After 10 minutes on the card files he had found the volume and page of the transcript and hence his vital precedent. I was still searching the broadest keywords and coming up with nothing.

Why? The company had saved 3 clerical salaries by introducing electronic records management, (and hired the young lawyer as a result). But they didn't invest in transferring their existing information assets to the new system. In theory, everything was 'faster now", but in practice we were still reliant on the index cards.

Good records management is all about continuity as well as doing things the very best way that we can. Records managers want continuity with the past. We bring in the existing information assets where we can. We spend hours and dollars on digitisation projects. We hire people to enter accurate metadata so that last century's records are still as retrievable as today's.

As well as continuity with the past, we also strive for continuity across the business. It is vital that we're all working from the same playbook and contributing to a shared resource. The ultimate aim is to develop a "single source of truth" for an organisation's information assets. In reality we're still searching multiple systems - the index cards, the records management system, the financial system, the data forecasting system, and the intranet page. A search is only as fast as its slowest stream, hence spending the dollars on digitisation.

Even contributing to multiple systems is a "win" in records management terms. One of the biggest hurdles I face is convincing people to contribute at all. When information is stuck in private drawers, in private email systems and on private drives, it isn't contributing to the information asset. I've heard all the excuses, from "but its a draft" to "its not a record, its a document" (that's like saying a manuscript doesn't belong in a library because "its not a book, its a novel"). So I'm not just the person who's saying "your work processes aren't working for the organisation at large", I'm also the person who's saying "you don't own the information you produce at work". That is incredibly challenging for a lot of people to hear, however much they've suspected it in the past.

Records management is about bringing lots of different elements together to form a whole picture. It is exciting to see that picture form differently in different places. Sometimes its as easy as importing data from an old system into the records management system. Sometimes its as difficult as wading through volumes and volumes of handwritten data - coding, classifying, digitising and thereby making it instantly available in the same place as work that is happening right now.

Although "new" doesn't really happen in records management, the same struggles bring new results every time. And hey, that's cool, even if I don't work for Sony.

- Meela Davis

Meela is a TRIM Jockey who works for a Large-ish Organisation. She dreams of global records domination... or at least better participation. You can see her personal tweets at @meeladavis.

Monday 20 June 2011

The Role of the Subject Specialist Librarian

There are many different aspects of an academic librarian’s role. Collection development includes making decision on monograph and serial purchases, database subscriptions and the cancellation on resources. Reference is probably the most recognised role being the “Help” for people finding it difficult to locate what they need. This help can often vary from “how do I photocopy?”, “my internet connection doesn’t work”, to a quick location of a resource and in depth strategic resource searching. Liaison or outreach roles can incorporate collection and reference skills on a higher academic staff level. We are also faced with new challenges in the competitive tertiary environment assisting faculties with demonstrating impact within their discipline through various bibliometric measures and citations tools. 

So as librarians how do we learn to be an expert in all these areas on top of subject specialisation? Should librarians have a 2nd degree in a specialised area to be able to help people at a tertiary and research level and how often would this knowledge be used? This subject expertise may be beneficial for assisting research students with high level needs and thesis references, academic staff with their specialised research as well as identifying the most relevant resources for a running course at an undergraduate and postgraduate level. On the other side of this, general search strategies and skills are required more than specialised expertise when on a reference desk or help area when you have students and library users from all subject areas asking for assistance. 

These information needs could possibly be met with identifying key general strategies that could be communicated and implemented through online information literacy tutorials, resource guides and subject guides. With the detailed creation of these guides and strategies it may be possible for library users from various disciplines to delve into any resource effectively. This may create a new role for the subject specialist librarian to have an in-depth knowledge of databases and to be able to appropriately understand, document and communicate resource specific intricacies. Is subject expertise really required for this role or does it require knowing the functionalities of specific databases, in turn making the subject specialist redundant?

So do we need to be subject specialists in University Libraries? Perhaps we have come to a point where more importance lies in knowing and understand the changing nature of our resources. This includes e-journal, e-books, databases, and the fast developing computer and mobile technologies and not forgetting the still very present and popular print material. As professionals this may be enough for us to build our collections and disseminate to our library users effectively. I have posed many ideas which would be interesting to gain feedback on. How are our current librarian roles developing? What training is required to build these skills and knowledge?

Bruce Munro is an ALIA Sydney committee member