Saturday, November 29, 2008

Librarians for the Intelligence Service

I meant to write a post a few days ago about an information session I attended about the new facility that the Archives of Ontario is moving to at York University. I will write a few notes and then move onto the main theme of this entry. The new building looks quite inviting and I like the prospect of having areas and facilities to deliver programs to the public. I do very much hope the proposal to provide free (?) wireless Internet access to the research areas comes through - that is a fundamental requirement for an archives and one that is fairly cheap to provide. The move and re-opening at the next institution is scheduled for April 2009 and looks set to happen.

Now onto the main reason I'm posting today. For my 100th post (wow, I can't believe I'm there already), I'd like to look at two recent career options I have learned about. Researching job opportunities is something I generally do and find fulfilling. In this case, I was much interested by two particular opportunities. At CSIS (Canadian Security and Intelligence Service), there is a posting for a Librarian to work in the Intelligence Assessment Branch (salary range: $67,660 to $82,340 per year Canadian) and at the GCHQ (British: Government Communications Head Quarters), there is a posting for an Intelligence Specialist (£24,456 - £27,546). Both of these positions strike me as quite interesting, I must say.

Of the two, I have a better chance of obtaining the British position since it appears to be open to new graduates to a greater degree than the Canadian position. I presume that I would be barred from blogging about librarian work in the intelligence field, but I think other people out there should know that there are opportunities in this field.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Reflecting on the Archivist 2.0 Manifesto

I don't think I've previously commented on the Archivist 2.0 manifesto. The manifesto has 17 points and it is partly inspired by the American Libraries article “A Manifesto for Our Times," by Laura B. Cohen which explored similar issues.

From my perspective, I think there are a few points that are particularly interesting.

I will educate myself about the information culture of my users and look for ways to incorporate what I learn into the services my archives provides.

Researching users has been an interest of mine for quite some time. I would love to get paid (or just have it as one of my major job duties) to do user research and stay informed about new trends in the information culture. Arguably, I make the effort to stay informed anyhow though.

# I will take an experimental approach to change and be willing to make mistakes.

The development of professional standards like RAD or AACR2 encourage a culture of perfection, but I'm fine to leave that behind. I would like to see archives embrace a culture of pilot projects - including allowing staff time to think about new approaches.

# I will not wait until something is perfect before I release it, and I’ll modify it based on user feedback.

This has the vital benefit of bending and reshaping services to meet user needs.

# I will be willing to go where users are, both online and in physical spaces, to practice my profession.

Archivists really need to hear this. But let's be thoughtful too. Does it make sense to establish a presence in the World of Warcraft game? I know that a group of scientists recently held a research meeting in that environment (here's the amusing titled Science article: Slaying Monsters for Science). What about social networking websites like Facebook or MySpace?

# I will create open Web sites that allow users to join with archivists to contribute content in order to enhance their learning experience and provide assistance to their peers.

I want this badly but whenever I've mentioned to people, there seems to be quite a bit of resistance. From those conversations, I think there is a technical solution that addresses everybody's concerns. Make user generated content modular (i.e. you can use it or toggle it off); that way, users who want to use the official, "plain" finding aids or database can still have that

# I will lobby for an open catalog that provides personalized, interactive features that users expect in online information environments.

This strikes me as interesting idea but I think it would be difficult to design. Perhaps archives could ask for help?

# I will encourage professional blogging in my archives.

Yes, yes, and yes. Blogging should remain optional, of course (can you imagine mandatory blogging? Ugh!). The key to this point is only partly about the technology. The best blogs have a real persona powering them and that sense of connection is a great deal of the reason that keeps me coming back to blogs. I can't think of any Canadian institutions where professionals directly blog about their institutions, but last week I read about a senior person blogging at the Federal Reserve (aka the US Central Bank, more or less) in the United States. If that kind of organization has/allows professional blogging, then information organizations should at lest be open (if not outright encouraging) of the notion.

Library and Archives Canada's new survey

Library and Archives Canada has launched a new survey to help them design their future programs. I've already completed the survey but I wanted to blog about it as well

The survey indicates that LAC is looking at creating programs on: Canada's Prime Ministers; Canadian film, music and broadcast shows; Canada's Constitution and founding documents, an exhibition on Sir Winston Churchill, the Rocky Mountains. Further, I like the range of programming experiences that LAC is considering - workshops, lectures, Web content and the like. During the summer, I had the chance to see two exhibits (one on Anne of Green Gables and the other on the Treaty of Paris) which I very much enjoyed.

Of the broad topics described above, I would like to see them all happen though I admit I'm not sure what an exhibit on the Rocky Mountains would be like. It is not a region of the country that I know very well, so it could be enlightening.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Statistics Skills and Software

I'm starting to think that I need to develop some substantial statistics skills. There are a few different reasons for this: I'd like to be able to assess studies I read better, I'd like to be able to do my own studies better (will need to do analysis on some survey results in a few weeks) and I'm getting interested in doing more policy work.

In terms of statistics software, my university provides discounts to purchase Stata and SPSS. A friend of mine doing doctoral work in economics prefers Stata and I am inclined to take her lead on this.

Does anybody reading have any preferences on statistical software or recommendations on how to get a grounding in applied statistical skills?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Demonstrating information skills

It occurs to me that information professionals - at least the ones that I know - need to get better at personally using their information skills. For example, I was recently talking to some fellow graduate students in my program about developing some kind of archive to preserve some of the interesting projects that students create every year. The purpose of such an archive is essentially knowledge management: by sharing experiences, the archive helps students better design and benefit from practicum opportunities. There are several other examples I could refer to, such as managing email (one area where I need to become more systematic).

It occurs to me that this kind of heightened more personal use of information skills could also be helpful in the workplace. Rather than vaguely referring to productivity and the hypothetical value of a well designed intranet system, one could present a narrative of personal success. Something like, "Ah, before I adopted a knowledge management system in my group, most of the gains made by short term staff were being lost and training for new staff took 20 hours. Now training time is down to 5 hours and stress levels in the office are much lower."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Decisions, Decisions...

Both this week and the first week of December, I have to make a decision that's a bit tricky. Specifically, I have to decide between attending a class and attending an event put on by a professional association. I find this quite vexing as I really want to do both and see that both contribute to my career development. I think I may ultimately go for the professional event as the classes meet multiple times and it happens that those particular classes are a bit flexible.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wikipedia's National Presence?

I'm sure everybody who reads this blog uses Wikipedia a great deal. For the most part, I find it a valuable resource and yes, I have edited a few entries here and there. In some books I've read lately (e.g. Remix by Lawrence Lessig), the point is made that Wikipedia is leaving about $100 million US on the table by not running ads. Arguably, the non-commercial nature of Wikipedia partly explains its great success. Anyhow, I started to think about contributing financially to support the project (something small as I am still a graduate student, but something all the same).

Sadly, I found that there is no chapter of the Wikimedia foundation in Canada. There are some efforts afoot to start such a chapter, but that project has not yet been registered formally as a charity. I'm embarassed to see that such discussion apparently did not formally start until January 2008. In contrast, many other countries founded Wikimedia chapters already: the United States, United Kingdom (Feb 2006), Russia (established May 2008), Austria (Feb 2008), France (Oct 2004), and Germany (June 2004).

The question I have is this: Why has it taken so long for Wikipedia to establish a Canadian presence organizationally?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Information Archiecture

For years, I've looked at O'Reilly books and have always been interested to read them. I was always put off though; the highly technical titles was something of a turn off, even if I always found the covers to be friendly.

Well, about a week ago, I started to take a course in Information Architecture (IA) where the above is one of two text books (the other is Prioritizing Web Usability) that I'm using. Quite apart from the relatively rosy job prospects that this field offers, I am fascinated by this field. The IA field has been defined in a number of different ways, but there is a common focus on making it easy for users to find what they want. I find the field to be a stimulating mix of applied psychology, usability and librarianship.

Part of the course involves doing a critique of an existing website. I wonder how it would be received if I did a critique of a website of a place I'd like to work at? Would it be perceived as helpful or irritating? I suspect the latter...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On Open Meta-Data & Catalogs: Open Library vs. OCLC

The notion of open source content and data is a no-brainer for me. As far as I'm concerned, public institutions should make their work available to all - such is the mission of most archives and libraries anyhow. Thus, I was happy to learn about The Open Library, which seeks to combine official meta-data (e.g. MARC records) with user-contributed content (seemingly inspired by wiki software, but not as flexible). I'm pleased to see that they're working with the Berkeley iSchool too; three cheers for applied research. I'm proud to note that the Open Library is supported by the Open Content Alliance.

Contrast all of those positive developments to the closed nature of what the OCLC is doing. Essentially, the OCLC (a "non profit" organization based in Ohio, USA) provides much of the machine readable data that powers the world's library catalogues. So good, so far. However, the organization has recently revised its policies to limit the re-use of catalogue records in other non-OCLC contexts. The fantastic website, LibraryThing (very useful! I encourage everybody to have a look at this service), has a line by line comparison showing OCLC's policy changes. The changes have been amusing summarized as: This appears to be an engineered, legal virus for our bibliographic ecosystems.

As I understand it, this policy change lets OCLC claim that all data submitted to it is the property of OCLC rather than the property of the original submitting library. Not good! I gather that the organization has changed the policy a bit this month, but the biblioblogosphere is still not pleased.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Employee Reward Systems

For a paper in grad school, I am looking into the concept of employee reward systems. While that is a bit of awkward way to describe it, I find it interesting to think about. In all the places I've worked in, there does not seem to be much of any employee reward system in place. Sometimes there are annual events of various kinds, sure. Anyway, I find it quite stimulating to think about these kinds of management ideas.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Giving my opinions...

This is an interesting kind of day where I will spend a lot of time sharing my opinions. I just finished an inerview on how I experience the Internet, the role of regulation on the Internet and how I experience the system as a Canadian. I'm presenly researching Internet regulaion so this was interesting to think about... In related news, tonight I will be participating in a focus group to help the SLA.

It feels a bit odd to get paid to offer my opinions, but I find it worthwhile. I like supporting research projects and professional associations.

EDIT: To my disappointment, SLA members (at least ME!) were NOT paid for participating at the 3 hour focus group. I think I was misled in this regard and that's what bothers me. The focus group event involved reacting to videos (mostly or entirely by the leadership of the SLA) and riffing on the meaning of worlds like "librarian" and "information." Still disappointed though.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Some brief notes: Google Copyright Settlement, Wireless Spectrum

I've been following two issues lately with some interest, but have not yet learned enough to comment. I gather that Google has recently come to a legal settlement regarding the books it is scanning for inclusion in its Google Book Search system - I have heard that is mostly a good result, in terms of access but need to read more. I've also heard some interesting things about a recent decision (by the Federal Communications Commission in the US?) on changes to the wireless spectrum which has some potential to substantially increase connectivity.

I know that's not much to say, but I just wanted to note my interest and I shall hopefully return to those topics later in a more substantial way.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New Career Role Model: Michael Stephens & Tame The Web

A few days ago, I discovered Michael Stephens' great blog Tame The Web. He did his doctoral research on, "social software and blogging, including his dissertation “Modeling the Role of Blogging in Librarianship.” Fascinating! I don't know of a single Canadian who has done work on that but maybe I'll be one of the first, a few years from now.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Library and Archives Canada gets on flickr

At long last, Library and Archives Canada has made the leap to use Flickr. I had heard about this project several months ago and I'm happy to see that it has finally launched. The 84 photos available here showing different aspects of Irish-Canadian history. All the content is copied from an earlier online exhibit - the purpose appears to be changing the content to facilitate RW (Read-Write) interaction instead of Read-Only, as Lawrence Lessig would put it.