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Archive for June, 2010

Round The Block


This morning the conference committee announced the first of the real Keynote speakers for LIANZA10 in Dunedin.

From one extreme to the next, from the past to the future, from the fumigation of books to discussing the real challenges that libraries and the library profession are facing and the strategies we need to employ to ensure our success in our own and other learning communities. The Centennial Conference Committee is delighted to announce Stephen Abram as one of the keynote speakers for the LIANZA Centennial Conference in Dunedin where he will deliver a future focused address to inspire and focus delegates.

Stephen Abram describes himself as “a recovering librarian about to enter a 12 step program as an association junkie”. He is currently the past President of SLA but has endured the presidencies of his local, provincial, and national associations. Previously Vice President Innovation for SirsiDynix and Chief Strategist for the SirsiDynix Institute, in January 2010 Stephen moved to Gale Cengage as Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Markets where “he swims upstream continually to try to discover the future for all types of libraries and their vendors”.

Stephen was listed by Library Journal as one of the top 50 people influencing the future of libraries and has received numerous honours. He holds audiences hostage for about 150 speeches a year, writes all or parts of 6 books a year, posts thousands of blog postings and writes about 36 articles a year. His columns appear in Information Outlook and Multimedia and Internet @ Schools, and he is the author of ALA Editions 2007 bestseller, Out Front with Stephen Abram. He blogs at the popular Stephen’s Lighthouse. He is nuts and doesn’t sleep. He has two children in university and is therefore quite broke. He takes his wife to Europe every year to apologize.

Stephen says that we are well into the new Millennium and the challenges facing libraries are reaching an exponential roar. It’s the information age, there must be a huge role for libraries, right? What are the real challenges facing libraries and the library profession? Is it Google and the web, or is it what it’s always been – lighting the darkness with information? What are the top strategies we need to employ to ensure our success in our communities and learning institutions? Will advertising driven search engines really win the hearts and minds of our customers? Are our collections right for today or will use of Google’s vaults of digitized books grow wildly in importance? Are libraries and librarians ready for the next round of technological and social change? Will our local and national cultures be overwhelmed by generic world services? Stephen as always will deal with these issues in a provocative and entertaining manner.”

My first LIANZA conference was in Wellington nearly five years ago, and one of the Keynote speakers then was Stephen Abram. Even then he was a little controversial as the conference split between the Abram camp and the Tara Brabazon camp. He will certainly be polarizing for our Open Source enthusiasts. So that’s one speaker I will be sad to miss.

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Reputation


There is always an element when publishing something, either officially or unofficially, off being conscious of ones reputation and role. It is something that is constantly in the back of the mind as I write here, and on my other blogs. From your writing people will get impressions about you, and they may even get impressions of your workplace, even when you stress that ‘the opinions are your own and in no way reflect…’

I was struck yet again how difficult this is in today’s instant media age, and how easy it is to damage not only your reputation, but that of the place you work at.  In this morning’s New Zealand herald there is this story:

Tolley upset at paper on standards

Education Minister Anne Tolley is to complain to the Speaker Lockwood Smith over a Parliamentary Library research paper on national standards in primary schools.

Mrs Tolley said the paper was “unprofessional”, “highly political” and so biased it could have been written by the union opposing the policy.

Mrs Tolley wants the paper withdrawn and rewritten.

Library researchers frequently produce papers on topics of the day, on the economy and legislation before the House.

They are displayed in the library, in the Beehive cafeteria and some are available on Parliament’s website.

You can read the offending paper here.  I haven’t read it fully yet, so I can’t comment yet on whether the criticism is valid. Of concern to me is that a Minister felt they needed to complain to the Speaker in the first place.  The Parliamentary Library has for many years had an unblemished record of impartiality. It will take only one paper to tarnish that record. I hope that the Parliamentary Library has dotted it’s I’s and crossed it’s t’s. What it does mean is that I will be thinking about what the meaning of impartiality is. Is impartiality adopting the position of the government? Does it mean you can’t publish anything critical? I certainly don’t think so, but it does mean that if you do publish something critical it must be above reproach.

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Mostly At The Edge


The conference committee for the 2010 LIANZA conference have been busy setting up websites, calling for abstracts (which close tomorrow) and announcing keynote speakers. Looking at what they have been doing I have had some very mixed reactions.

So first up the positives. The conference committee get it. And by it I mean the web and social media. Their presence is vibrant, and well designed. In fact the conference website is so nice that I wish they had designed the LIANZA website. On the other hand though, seeing the 2010 Conference blog and website, I had to give a sad sigh. Why, or why are they not on the LIANZA site? That’s where they belong people. Yet again we are going to end up with individual sites, sitting out there on their own with no context, and becoming digital dead ends.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. The conference websites should all be on the LIANZA servers, and based on the LIANZA website. Then in coming years people will more easily be able to see what was said and done at each conference. It’s just so doubly frustrating considering what an excellent job the Conference team has done in setting up those sites.

Also announced today are the first keynote speakers.

Keynote speakers

The Conference Committee is pleased to announce the following keynote speakers:

Mr H.L. James (Assistant Librarian, General Assembly Library, Wellington) will argue for the “effective usefulness” of the Dewey Decimal system in NZ libraries, based on his experiences in the General Assembly Library and the Christchurch Public Library.

Mr J.P. Frengley (District Health Office, Wellington) to address the hot topic of infectious diseases and library books. Stop the contagion: ban the infectious library patron.

Mr M. Cohen (Newspaper editor, Evening Star, Dunedin) to elaborate on the benefits of a travelling library for New Zealand. He will drawing on his extensive Australian observations.

Mr H. Baillie (Wellington Public Library) will continue the debate on the hot topic: infectious diseases and library books. Formaldehyde gas and fumigation are not enough. Destroy infectious books before the contagion spreads.

I am torn in my reaction to the speakers and their topics.

On one hand it is pleasing to see New Zealand librarians as keynote speakers at our conference. On the other hand I don’t find the topics very inspiring, or particularly in keeping with the theme of being On The Edge.  Since I am unlikely to get to conference this year, I suppose that is a good thing for me, as I am not thinking “but I wanted to hear that”. I am really hoping that there will be more keynote speakers announced that will make me wish I was there.

[Update: It seems I missed the obvious joke in the keynote speaker announcement. 😆 It’s not April the first so that’s my excuse]

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A Moderation Dilemma


On the library blog I like to occasionally post on something that isn’t really related to the library, but maybe of interest to readers. You know, those random little titbits’ that make you think have that’s weird/interesting/sad/cool.  On Friday I blogged on the Tararua District Library blog about a new web service in the States called Rentafriend. It’s a service that allows you to hire someone to act as a friend or acquaintance for an evening or a day.  It was a “say what?” sort of story, mixed with a “yeah right” Tui reaction.

The trouble being that someone commented on it, and I am unsure as to whether I should leave the comment up, or moderate it into the cyber waste basket. The comment itself isn’t spam, so not an instant delete type comment. In fact it’s an interesting comment that is quite relevant to the topic. The problem is it seems to be from an escort agency in the UK with a link back to said escort agency. So I find myself going back and forth, between trashing the comment and leaving it up. I suppose I could just delete the link.

What to do?

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Computerworld are reporting on the development of LSynCNZ, the proposed shared catalogue system. I am quite excited about this, and hope it moves forward.

Shared services system pitched to NZ public libraries

The National Library and the Association of Public Library Managers intend to commission a shared-service library management system, to be offered for licence to public libraries.

As a first step, the National Library has advertised for a manager for the project, known as LSynCNZ.

Some centralisation of resources and databases will be involved, but National Library deputy chief executive Sue Sutherland hesitates to describe the environment as a private cloud.

The project is only at a preliminary stage now, she says, and until there are responses to a request for proposal (to be issued towards the end of June) “we won’t know how it might be implemented”.

To date, libraries have used a large number of different software products for management. The libraries of the Greater Auckland region have a shared system, called elGAR. This runs on Millennium software, from US-based Innovative Interfaces.

While the National Library points to this as an example of the success of shared services, elGAR is not set up to admit libraries in other parts of the country, Sutherland says. In any case, Auckland library systems are likely to change again with the advent of the “supercity” administration. Nor, she suggests, is there anything to be gained by all libraries standardising on Millennium; there are other systems with their own merits.

As well as library management software, the RFP will seek a “discovery layer” of software that will enable information held by libraries to be searched. This will be “a step on” from the familiar search of the catalogue of holdings, Sutherland says, and will enable search access to other information about the libraries.

It will be up to each library how much of this data they make available to the public and whether they allow just their own information to be searched, or give access to information about other libraries using the shared service, she says.
The LSynCNZ backers will also be looking for hosting services.

Individual libraries will licence use of the system from a business unit of the National Library, but will be able to invest it with their own look-and-feel.

There is a critical point at which enough libraries volunteer to make the chosen system economic, but Sutherland declines to give an estimate of this in advance. It will be a measure of volume of business rather than a definite number of participating libraries, she says. <!—->

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The process by which Archives New Zealand and The National Library are subsumed into the Department of Internal Affairs continues at full pace, with the release of the Integration Plan.  You sometimes have to quietly appreciate management speak. Calling the process an integration seems less ominous than a merger. Maybe there is less baggage with that terminology.

The plan itself looks to be quite fast passed. I did note that implementation starts in November, so that will mean that the inevitable redundancies from the process will start at just in time for Christmas. I feel for the staff.

The Questions and Answers on the new Integration site were fairly interesting. Of particular interest to me was this:

Statutory officers

Summary

There will be no change in the standing or functions of statutory officers.

Issues raised

The Chief Archivist and the National Librarian are statutory officers. Concern has been expressed that such officers should not be employees of a Chief Executive, but must be completely independent. It is argued that the changes announced by the Government will lead to a reduction in necessary independence, and make the Chief Archivist and National Librarian subject to undue influence. It is argued that the positions are similar to that of the auditor-general or the ombudsman, and should be treated in the same way.

Response

The Chief Archivist and National Librarian are statutory officers, but not officers of parliament, as are the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman. At present, they are employees of the State Services Commissioner. Under the Government decision to integrate, it is very likely that the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs will appoint people to these positions. The Chief Executive would be the employer, rather than the State Services Commissioner, in the same way that the Chief Executive would be the employer of all staff in the new Department.

The Chief Archivist and the National Librarian will act independently, and not be subject to the direction of the Chief Executive in matters of their statutory authority.

They will be accountable to the Chief Executive for their effectiveness, efficiency, and managerial actions.

The positions will then have the same status as other statutory officers now within Internal Affairs, for example such as the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, the Chief Executive of the Local Government Commission and the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management. Examples in other departments include the Commissioner of Crown Lands, the Surveyor-General, the Registrar-General of Land and the Valuer-General, who are each employed by the Chief Executive of Land Information New Zealand.

It would be unlawful for the Chief Executive to interfere in the statutory decision-making of any of these officers, and unlawful for the statutory officer to accept such interference.

The intention of the three Chief Executives in advising Ministers is to ensure the legislation required by integration does not:

    • alter the nature of the services associated with Archives New Zealand or the National Library.
    • constrain the current levels of independence of the Chief Archivist and the National Librarian.
    • diminish the ability of key stakeholders to take action to protect the independence of the National Librarian and the Chief Archivist.
    • change the role of the Alexander Turnbull Library.
    • change the role of Ministerial Advisory Groups.

The following information was added on 9 June 2010:

Clarification has been sought on the exact scope under which the Chief Archivist and National Librarian would act independently of the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs. The decisions that have been made to bring about the integration of the three departments have made clear that the legislative changes will give effect to: the Chief Archivist and the National Librarian being appointed by the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs; the appointees being responsible to the Chief Executive, without predetermining reporting structures and without compromising the statutory roles they are responsible for performing; the intent that current statutory independent functions will be retained, including protection from improper influence.

Legislation will need to be introduced to Parliament before the end of the year and the implementation of the integration. Inevitably that legislation is likely to be fast tracked. When it does come down the stakeholders will need to go over it with a fine tooth comb to ensure that it does what the above response states.

Looking for a positive in the whole process, it may mean that The Chief Archivist and National Librarian will have more time to put their energies into their statutory roles, and have less administration to worry about. I am thinking that the best thing we as external observers can do is to engage in a positive manner to ensure that our concerns are dealt with properly.

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It  won’t come as too much of a surprise, but the whole recent election process has had my mind quite occupied.

As I said earlier, I think that the small profile that was included on the voting papers didn’t provide people with enough information. I feel  that with the launch of the new website, LIANZA could have made a better effort in giving people more information, and provided a forum for members to ask questions of the nominees. LIANZA Head Office should have asked for fuller statements. They should have then  had those statements published on the blog as the voting papers went out, and then had the candidates answering questions posted to the blog.

It seems to me at the moment that LIANZA is not fully utilising the new models  of communication that the Internet has opened. We seem stuck in a strange paper and process dominated rut that the organisation is loath to break free from. Really, for a professional body that represents a wide range of people working with information in the online environment everyday, it is quite a bad look.

I must also confess that I was disappointed with the number of votes cast. The most recent information available from the LIANZA website says that as of September last year there were 1,808 personal members. That means that the 222 who voted consists of 12% of the personal membership. Which had me questioning why that is so? Is it apathy? Lack of information on nominees? Lack of relevance?

All this has me wondering just how can LIANZA engage with the membership? What is it that we need to do to make LIANZA relevant? To lift the apathy?

I know what I am going to be doing. I have said that while acting from within LIANZA that I felt constrained in speaking my mind. This is because as regional chair I felt I  needed to publicly support LIANZA and in some cases defend it, even where I felt that defence was not warranted. It comes from being part of a body and acting constructively. I decided that I wanted to make more noise to enact change and to provide leadership. I felt I had two opportunities, either be voted onto the council and from there promote what I felt was necessary internally, in a way that you can’t by acting as regional chair, or to remove myself from more official channels and be more vocal in a more external setting. Since the former didn’t happen, the latter is the path I am following.

I want LIANZA to be  “The vibrant, vital professional voice for those engaged in librarianship and information management in New Zealand Aotearoa.“  To do that it needs hard working conscientious  volunteers, and a vocal engaged membership. I might be wrong but I think we have plenty of the former and not enough of the latter, so that’s what I am going to be doing this year.

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