Meanjin online

Peter Craven writes in The Age about the potential moving of the literary jounal Meanjin online

Australia’s most famous literary magazine, Meanjin, is again about to lose its editor and the magazine, which was once described as having put Melbourne University on the map, looks like being forced to go online in a way that will effectively kill it.

No one who cares about the literary and intellectual history of this nation wants this to disappear into the evanescence of the internet.

They have to preserve Meanjin as a magazine a kid might pick up in a library or a punter might see in a book shop. Anything else will be barbarism.

Funny, I thought a ‘kid’ could ‘pick up’ or indeed read online works in any library or from a library website, or go to any online bookshop. People are quaint.

But essentially by stating that Meanjin will disappear if it goes online, he is saying that it is not a journal capable of competing for readers in a real marketplace.
And realistically of course Meanjin is already not competing successfully as a print publication, which is why presumably MUP want to cost cut and obviate the dead tree distribution system.

One thing which is often missed with prestige journals such as this, is that they actually rely on libraries to continue to exist in the first place. Probably something over 200 copies are bought by libraries in Australia and few more from libraries overseas. I would think this would be probably a fair proportion of sales. I think libraries might like to have a cheaper online version if possible, as most of them are not as tied to paper as some people.

Google supports journalism

Google which has been blamed by some old media proprietors for destroying newspapers is now donating US$5 million to support journalism initiatives around the world. Hopefully some of this will find its way to citizen journalism.

Of course Google hasn’t really killed any newspapers. Where newspapers have closed overseas is because they did not attract readers.

Google, is many things, but is mainly a search engine and merely takes teaser text and aggregates it, so that you can easily find news articles and links to those article on the news source it is on. And by so doing actually drives users to newspaper or other news media websites.

What will kill newspapers online and in paper is continuing to try and use old and now failed business models.

The paywall erected by News Corp for The Times and Sunday Times Online (and other titles) was an attempt to move away from the free culture of the web. News Corp won’t say how many subscribers they now have to their newspapers but estimates say their readership figures have dropped by over 88%.

The print subscribers to these newspapers also get access to the online version, so they would make up a significant proportion of the readership. Otherwise institutional subscribers (which would have a large number of readers at work for whom the newspapers are seemingly free) would most likely make up the rest of the readership. Whether this is a sustainable model we are still yet to see.

Microsoft millions and Gov 2.0

Microsoft announces a further $1 million to go towards Gov2.0 initiatives.

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… following further discussion with the Australian Government Information Management Office, Microsoft has made available to the Federal Government $1 million to support the further development of tools and processes to enable the culture of Government 2.0 to be realised across the Federal Public Service. The $1 million has been provided without condition and Microsoft has neither requested nor expects to receive any reconciliation of the use of these funds.

Any libraries out there thinking about ways to improve the flow of government information to the governed?

Is a library with no librarians still a library?

Faced with funding cuts, reduced staff numbers and minimised opening hours, the library powers that be are forced to ask the question – how can we still provide services, and items, to our clients? The answer to the problem may include the provision of library vending machines that are capable of dispensing items from the library’s collection to clients in locations other than the library and keeping them secure until the client comes to collect them. Enter the world of the library vending machine, book locker and public information kiosk where clients can select, request and borrow items from the collection, or do a little bit of research and even access remote databases.

Seem farfetched? A number of libraries in the US are already making this concept a reality.

Checking books out at the Washington County Library
Checking books out at the Washington County Library book locker via the Wall Street Journal

The library vending machine concept offers libraries a way to expand their reach further into additional locations where their clients are – such as malls and bus, train or ferry stations – and extend their services beyond the physical closing time of the library branch. Public Information Kiosk Inc. manufactures a range of library vending machines with varying features including touch screens and secure telephones, internet connection and database access.

Library vending machines from the Public Information Kiosk Inc.

Library vending machines from the Public Information Kiosk Inc.

The ability of libraries to service the needs of their community with dwindling resources is a constant challenge for many libraries. Libraries need to make the most of what resources they do have and the library vending machine may go some way in addressing that need.

It’s here – OAIC

The website of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has just appeared, in advance of the official commencement of the Commissioner, Professor John McMillan AO, on 1 November.

The role of the OAIC will be to manage:

  • freedom of information functions, in particular, oversight of the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and review of decisions made by agencies and ministers under that Act (see the Freedom of information section)
  • privacy functions, conferred by the Privacy Act 1988 (see the Privacy section) and other laws
  • government information policy functions, conferred on the Australian Information Commissioner under the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 (see the Information policy ).

The last policy management area is one which will be well worth watching. The moves towards increasing openness and transparency, instituting Gov2.0 and improving IP policy in the public service is setting a great agenda for good governance.

ebook use continues to rise

“For the top 10 bestselling books on Amazon.com, customers are choosing Kindle books over hardcover and paperback books combined at a rate of greater than 2 to 1. Kindle books are also outselling print books for the top 25, 100, and 1,000 bestsellers.”

“The Association of American Publishers’ latest data reports that e-book sales grew 193 percent between January and August 2010.”

- Amazon press release

facebook founder smarter


A new film you may have seen lots of publicity for is the Social Network purporting to tell the story of the invention of facebook. Written by someone not on facebook, who doesn’t think facebook is a social good, it has been praised similarly by those who don’t use or like the technology.
Funnily enough >500 milion people do use the technology and see a use for it.

There are many people who dislike facebook, probably as many who used to express dislike for Microsoft and Apple, and their founders.
Bill Gates was the subject of much hate for many years, just as Mark Zuckerberg is now.

It seems that if someone uses technology, as Gates did, to increase worldwide productivity by at least 5% thus creating trillions of dollars in real benefits for economies, then he should be derided and attacked by those who haven’t and can’t create anything. Similarly Zuckerberg provides a free service for hundreds of millions of people and is attacked for it. There seems to be large numbers of people who spend their time whining about a) privacy (even though privacy is your own choice), b) owners getting rich, and c) that social media is anti-social.

If only these people would create a working alternative.

UK libraries in recession

I have been virtually following the UK CiLIP Public Library Authorities Conference 2010 on twiter (#PLAc10) – the conference title was “What future for public libraries in the age of austerity?” which says it all.

In the UK the recession and now the attempt to cut government debt is having a drastic effect on all public services, not least libraries. Up to 500,000 public service jobs are to be shed, and follow on job losses will be more than equal to that. This atop an already 2.5 million unemployed.

Libraries become a most vital resource in a time of mass unemployment, as the UK economy collapses, losing libraries and library staff will just exacerbate the problems of the unemployed. But this is what is happening, libraries across the UK have been closed down, others are operating with reduced hours or reduced staff or both, and the threat of more and deeper closures is ever present.

But libraries are needed more in times of mass unemployment as:

a) People will have more free time and less money, thus they will borrow rather than buy entertainment in the form of books, cd’s, dvd’s etc.
b) People will lose their home internet access so they will need access at the library
c) People will need help finding job vacancies in newspapers and online
d) People will need free computer access to write c.v.’s and job applications
e) People will need textbooks and manuals to retrain or keep up to date with skills
f) People will need medical and self help resources to fight depression and maintain healthy lifestyles
g) People will need social interaction in a public space that they no longer get at work
h) There will be more school pupils requiring study help as teens will stay on at school longer rather than leave to go to work
i) People will need somewhere to go

What librarians need to do, is recognise that this is going to be an ongoing crisis where they have to think not only of themselves as potentially losing their jobs, but of a society without work.

Priorities are going to have to be made. There is no point asking for book budgets at this time. What is required is a concentration on what needs to be done. Various ideas are being offered about amalgamating library services with other services, including amazingly with police stations. Any use of libraries for another purpose is generally not wise and very difficult to disengage with later. It is important that libraries keep their independence, but however reach out now to unemployed people and their organisations. In the early 1980s when there were similarly high numbers of unemployed people there sprung up unwaged centres, it would be wise that librarians look back on the role of those centres and adapt them to today’s demands.

As Annie Mauger, Chief Executive of CILIP said at the conference:

Particularly in times of hardship in society, the social contribution of libraries comes to the fore. People need community spaces to learn, to access support, to develop skills, to get information, to relax and escape and to do things for free. People need places to take their children, to spend time and feel welcome and to get help with daily problems.

Libraries and ebooks

A very good article from Benedicte Page on Bookseller.com give a very good insight into how publishers are negotiating and thinking about ebooks and library lending. The post includes a speech given by Stephen Page at the CILIP Public Library Authorities conference in Leeds. A portion of which is below.

The members of the Publishers Association have now created an agreed base line position on e-lending. All the major trade publishers have agreed to work with aggregators to make it possible for libraries to offer ebook lending. The following maximum controls were agreed, though I want to stress that some publishers will chose to be less stringent than others. This is merely a base position to ensure that we are able to start to make the complete, vast library of ebooks available for loan:
Firstly the fee paid by a library in purchasing a book covers the right to loan one copy, of one book, to one individual, for a fixed short term period at any given time – various licensing models exist to support this condition.

Secondly, robust and secure geographical-based membership must be in place for all library services, with permanent members required to demonstrate their residence within the locality and with provisions to cater for temporary membership for visitors.

Thirdly, the system works on a download model, whereby library users come on to the library’s physical premises and download an e-book at a computer terminal onto a mobile device, such as an e-reader, laptop or mobile phone.

Finally, a downloaded e-book will expire after a predetermined length of time (e.g. two weeks), after which it will cease to be available to read on the library user’s mobile device.

As I say, some publishers may take a more relaxed view, particularly of remote downloading, but the above criteria allow for a strong beginning that replicates physical lending. It is worth also saying that this may not be the only model. Subscription services are already emerging as in the academic world – Bloomsbury’s Public Library Online being a prime early mover.

We will now work with the digital library suppliers to ensure that this service can be quickly brought to libraries. What’s important is that we have been able to establish the principle of support for lending ebooks, and an environment in which this can be done that will put authors and publishers minds at rest while supporting the notion of universal access. It’s an important first step along the way and no doubt once underway we’ll work out further developments.

There are some good and some bad issues here. Firstly the contention about users having to enter the physical library to borrow is new and will have 2 effects, a nuisance for users, but a gain for library management who still insist that the only
statistic worth having is for people through doors.

That publishers are willing to engage at all and see the value in libraries is hopefully a good sign. However, initiatives like Bloomsbury’s Public Library Online are subscription models, whereby libraries will be forced onto annual contracts for books, and will never own any as of right. And, like any other subscription services, you will lose access to everything you previously had/have if you don’t renew.

ALIA call for comments

“The final draft National Vision and Framework for Public Libraries is available for comment until close of business on Friday 29 October. Download the summary of the project, strategic overview, workplan and executive summary. Feedback should be emailed to sue@thelibraryagency.org.au.” – From the ALIA website

National Library at Senate Estimates – PANDORA!

Proof Committee Hansard
SENATE
FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
ESTIMATES
(Supplementary Budget Estimates)
TUESDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2010

National Library of Australia
Senator HUMPHRIES—I read a little while ago about the concerns that the efficiency dividend was likely to impose on the National Library. They are concerns being expressed by the Community and Public Sector
Union. Could you indicate what the actual effect of the efficiency dividend would be on the National Library in the course of this financial year?
Dr Cathro—Our Director-General, Jan Fullerton, is currently on leave prior to her retirement on 9 November. The impact of the efficiency dividend on the library this year will be similar to what it has been in
the past. First of all, in financial terms, I think a little over $600,000 is the impact. We respond to that by trying to make our work flows more efficient, including introducing automation. We make efficiencies but also make
reductions in either the quality or throughput of services. That will continue this year. We are currently struggling to meet our targets for the processing of our collections, so that results in backlogs, which impact on
users. That is probably the main example of impact.
Senator HUMPHRIES—So what specifically is the effect on the collections or the collecting policy of the library?
Dr Cathro—The efficiency dividend does not impact our collecting policy. We have a policy that, of course, draws from the mandate in our act. We will go on collecting published and unpublished analog and digital collection items. Where we are challenged is cataloguing and processing those collections so that they are accessible promptly by users.
Senator HUMPHRIES—So, what, you might defer processing? Do you digitise routinely the new works coming into the library?
Dr Cathro—Only a small fraction of new works are routinely digitised. A great majority of pictures, for example, are digitised. But, no, our digitisation is very selective.
Senator HUMPHRIES—That is not a product of the efficiency dividend? That is just a question of not having the time and resources to do that?
Dr Cathro—That is right.
Senator HUMPHRIES—I want to ask about the policy of the library to collect election material. I recall many years ago when I was first a candidate receiving a letter from the library asking for election material. Does it collect material from every federal election?
Dr Cathro—This year we made a special effort. I think we wrote to every candidate for the House of Representatives and Senate to collect election ephemera. We have done this in the past but perhaps not on such an extensive basis. In addition, of course, we archive election websites so that they are available for posterity.
Senator HUMPHRIES—And there are about 350 websites that were archived at the 2007 election. Is that right?
Dr Cathro—I do not have that figure with me, Senator. I will have to take that on notice.
Senator HUMPHRIES—How many websites are expected to be archived from the 2010 election?
Dr Cathro—Again, I do not know that number. I would expect it to be similar, but I do not have the numbers with me. I can certainly get them.
Senator HUMPHRIES—Presumably the archiving has already happened since the website in a month is going to be shut down and so on after the election.
Dr Cathro—Exactly. Some types of website archiving have to happen quite promptly before the website disappears.
Senator HUMPHRIES—Could we have a list of all the websites that have been archived from 2007 and from 2010?
Dr Cathro—Just the election related websites?
Senator HUMPHRIES—Just the election related ones, yes.
Dr Cathro—Yes. I can get the list. They are available online in our PANDORA archive for browsing, but we can still get you a list.
Senator HUMPHRIES—Look, if they are available online, we will have a look. Is it easy to identify what is related to each of the elections on the PANDORA website?
Dr Cathro—Sorry?
Senator HUMPHRIES—It is easy to identify from the PANDORA website what relates to—
Dr Cathro—Yes. The election material is quite easy to find and browse.
Senator BERNARDI—Before you continue, I also have a question on the archiving of websites. An organisation that I am involved with received a request to have their website archived. It was not specifically a political campaign website at all but rather about a topical issue. What is the criteria for selecting websites to archive that are in the non-political sphere?
Dr Cathro—Well, we look at the value for research and the extent to which they document the Australian people, historical developments and so on. We actually publish the criteria. It is, however, of necessity a quite selective process. I think over the last 14 years more than about 20,000 different websites have been archived, many of them in multiple snapshots over time. But that is still a very small fraction of the significant websites. As I said, it is research value and the extent to which they sort of document significant developments in Australia and important issues, such as social issues and so on.
Senator BERNARDI—How are the websites identified? Do people refer them to you, or do you have a special section that surfs the web?
Dr Cathro—We have a small team of staff who themselves identify. There is also a suggestion facility on the archive itself where people can make suggestions. We do this collaboratively with the state libraries and some other cultural institutions. So those other agencies themselves are identifying what would be relevant in their sphere.
Senator BERNARDI—You will not hear this very often, I am sure, but I will congratulate you on the diligence of your staff because the nonresponse from our end was followed up continually. So that is something to suggest that your systems are working quite well.
Dr Cathro—Thank you.
Senator BERNARDI—You said that the criteria are published.
Dr Cathro—Yes.
Senator BERNARDI—Is all that available on the internet?
Dr Cathro—It is.
Senator BERNARDI—Do you know where? Is there a straightforward link?
Dr Cathro—I can get the exact address. I think PANDORA is the name of the archive. On its home page I think there is a link to the selection policy.
Senator BERNARDI—That is fine. That is great. That is all I need to know. Thank you.
Senator HUMPHRIES—PANDORA is not run by the National Library, though, is it?
Dr Cathro—Yes, it is.
Senator HUMPHRIES—It is. Okay.
Dr Cathro—As I said, we have collaborating partners as well.
Senator HUMPHRIES—What does it cost, apart from the time taken to download a website? Is there any cost associated with the library downloading a website and storing a website?
Dr Cathro—Yes. There is a small team—I think it is something like five staff; I would have to check on that—so there is the cost of those staff. There are IT support costs as well. I would not like to make an estimate on the run as to what that all typically is.
Senator HUMPHRIES—What I really meant is whether there is any sort of copyright cost in taking a website and putting it in.
Dr Cathro—There is not. This is our selective process. We seek permission from the website publisher. If we do not get permission, we do not make an archived copy. In some cases, the websites have a commercial aspect to them. Users have to pay. So in those cases we reach an agreement with the website publisher to have an embargo period before it is made available. I should have also said that, in addition to that, the library has a non-selective web-archiving approach whereby we try to capture the entire Australian web domain once a year. That is currently in a dark archive, but we hope to make that available to people at some stage in the future.
Senator HUMPHRIES—Lastly, what is the timeframe for selecting a replacement for Ms Fullerton?
Dr Cathro—The selection process is being managed by the department.
Mr Eccles—I can give you an update on that. The applications closed on 11 October, and the panel will be meeting this week to discuss moving forward on those.
Senator HUMPHRIES—Do we have a good field of candidates?
Mr Eccles—That is what we are meeting to discuss, so it would be inappropriate for me to speculate.
Senator HUMPHRIES—Are there any international contenders for that role?
Mr Eccles—Again, it is probably not appropriate for me to go into great detail, partly because I am not sure exactly who has applied. We will know more tomorrow when we sit down and discuss it.
CHAIR—Thank you very much. I thank the officers who have attended from the arts section of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. We will now proceed to the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government. I also thank the minister for his attendance and Mr Eccles and other officers.
[11.10 am]

Social media inside your enterprise

Interesting post entitled 5 Reasons to Do Social Media Inside the Enterprise

Highlight –

•60% –> the amount of time the average worker spends being social (collaborating) in pursuit of goals (Dion Hinchcliffe)
•40% –> Amount of a creative team’s productivity MIT researchers found to be directly attributable to social interaction (MIT)
•7% –> Average productivity increase among employees with extensive digital networks (MIT)
•30% –> Average productivity increase among employees with extensive face-to-face networks (MIT)
•20% –> Average increase in employee satisfaction among companies that implemented social media tools (McKinsey)

Go have a look at the other reasons.