Waiting for the NBN

Once upon a time,  we thought it would be a great idea if the Bookgrrl household was connected to the NBN. Ballarat is one of the places to be connected and our street already has had the NBN truck in the street ,so we knew we could get connected.

After a couple of phone calls to our ISP, we were booked for connection at the end of April. The work had to be completed by NBN Co, who came up from Melbourne to undertake the connection.

After waiting for nearly an hour for them to arrive, I had a phone call from them asking where I was. At home I replied, a tad perplexed. It turns out they had been working on a property around the corner as their GPS had not been accurate enough. Sometimes it helps to look up and check for road signs, but that’s another story.

While the street was connected, the connections hadn’t been made to each house. The technicians couldn’t do it, as it was another department. No connection.

A few days later, I did notice that contractors had been out to the house, dug up our nature strip and obviously done something to connect us to the NBN connection in the street. A subsequent phone call then had us booked in for the 11th June.

The day finally arrived and Mr BG was to wait for them in the morning. 12pm came and went, with both of us by this stage, slightly cheesed off. Due to the state of the nature strips, the council had refused access to NBN to undertake any work. The issue was that NBN had not informed the ISP nor any of their customers to this.  I rang the council and learned that the NBN had been refused access for  nearly 3 weeks- hmm…

3rd July, our fingers are crossed! 3 young men turn up, lay a cable underneath the house and connect a tiny little fibre to a hulking big box. It’s done in just over an hour.

2014-07-03 13.48.09Then they say the words- “Um there’s a statewide shortage of batteries (???), and we can’t connect you. We should get them in next week, and we’ll give you a call to make a time to install them. It’ll take about 5 minutes. It’s not our fault, they just didn’t order enough of them”.

I know it’s not they young guy’s personal fault that some desk jockey dickhead in Canberra could not be arsed to add an extra couple of zeros to an order for batteries, and in doing so has affected hundreds of customers, but to have everything connected and then to tell me at the last minute as they’re leaving is kinda cruel. I stifled a whimper and headed to the lounge room to console myself with popcorn and “Back to the Future” with the kids. It’s still as good as what it was in 1985 and Master BG loved it :).

To be continued.


SOPA-Journey to the Dark Side

On January 18 or today, Wikipedia will go dark, or disappear from view for 24 hours in protest to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) Bills currently in a committee stage in the United States Congress. The Internet Archive  and Reddit will also disappear for 12 hours and Google will use its homepage to provide information on the two bills, which will force Internet Service Providers to block non-US websites if they display pirated content, or content which infringes copyright. When you consider all the clips on Youtube, Facebook, links on Twitter, pictures on Pinterest and Tumblr, it’s a lot of content that television networks, movie studios, media outlets and the music industry want to have under their control.

It’s not just content- it’s information and the right to interact with this information that is under threat with this legislation. It’s yet another attempt by a national government to try and censor global information at the behest of a group who are fearful of losing  traditional revenue sources.

Mashable has suggested other alternatives to Wikipedia, to allay the concerns of students and trivia nerds everywhere (cough), and libraries have been keen to emphasise their resources.

So for the next 24 hours, if you have a question and you can’t ask Wikipedia, ask a librarian. Or me :).



Brave New World

You know you’re old when you remember a time before the Internet. I worked for a year in a library before the Internet was introduced. The library’s main source of information was the library catalogue and the reference collection of books to answer questions. We had CD-ROMs of some databases, largely indexes and hardly any full-text, and the World Book Encyclopedia. We relied on fact sheets and books for big school assignments such as the Olympic Games, and had parents fighting over them at our information desk.

I communicated with friends via phone, face to face and letters. I still have correspondence from old school friends, to whom I used to write before email. They’re filed away with hard copy photos which were enclosed with the letters. Mr BG used to spend his Sundays writing to friends in the UK and US because international phone calls were too expensive.

Now at work, most of the information our clients need is stored or accessed online. Media, both broadcast and print are digitised, papers and reports are digitised and linked to the catalogue records and for the most part, my ‘discovery layer’ is Google!

Nowadays I can Skype my brothers in London, IM my cousins in Ireland, or keep up to date with them on Facebook. I can have meaningful conversations with friends in 140 characters or less on Twitter, and upload my photos to Facebook, Flickr, Picasa for my friends and family to see.

A couple of years ago, I attended a seminar with Stephen Abram on Web 2.0, which blew me away with the wonders of social networking. The concept of YouTube as an information resource, though, was laughable to some of my colleagues.

Earlier, Mr BG was researching guitar pedals through YouTube, checking videos of guitar geeks who were demonstrating what sounds and effects a particular pedal could achieve. I felt vindicated in a little way :).

The world is a wonderful place.

I shine light into the dark- the case for public libraries

I spent my formative years as a librarian in a public library in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. It was initially a maternity leave replacement position, but one thing lead to another and I was there for 5 years, performing tasks like collection management, book acquisition, cataloguing, Internet training, book reviews and reference desk shifts. Our library service served a wide spectrum of people: old and young, English and non-English speaking, and the well-to-do and not so well-to-do.

Reading this article by Susan Nemitz On the front lines of the digital divide, made me remember those days. Internet terminals were always heavily booked, training sessions booked out very quickly and we spent a lot of time with people who needed help with a wide range of technical issues.There will always be people who need access to information and can’t afford internet access and it’s heartening to know there’s a public library to bridge that divide.

Public libraries bridge the divide in many other ways. Homework clubs, and storytimes are nothing new, as is assistance to jobseekers, but the San Francisco Public Library has employed a social worker to assist with the homeless who would use the library as a refuge.

So when I read something like the Case against Public Libraries, which questions the value of public libraries because they’re expensive to run and the books are populist, my first thought is ‘he doesn’t get what public libraries are about’.

The author seems to equate private (subscriber-based) libraries with keepers of knowledge, because they have books he would not otherwise find on the shelves of his public library (those very books may be available in a public library, but they may be out on loan). Knowledge does reside in books, but there is a wealth of information available online, access to which public libraries are keen to promote. The author himself asserts he uses the internet for useful and handy information.

Not only that, my experiences with working in a public library, have taught me that libraries are more than just books. Paul Sutherland from the Christchurch City Library said libraries weren’t about books, but ideas. To me, some of those ideas are freedom of access to information and knowledge, free access to information and knowledge and community. A public library is providing a public service to those who may not otherwise be able to afford access to a private library.

Private libraries are very good at serving the needs of their special (paying) users. I should know, because the library in which I work is a special library with a defined clientele. Public libraries also face the opportunity and challenge of trying to be everything to everyone. If they were to close, it may be to the council’s financial gain, but the community’s detriment.

“I’ve got my cardigan”*

To tell you the truth there would have not been a need for any cardigans at the VALA conference. It was warm, balmy, sticky, humid- all of the above in fact. Fashion trends on the day were comfortable shoes, loose floaty dresses for the ladies, and for the gentlemen casual pants and untucked shirts. A special mention to Michael Gonzalez for his all-black ensemble with dark-grey tie- he joked that people had mistaken him for a vendor and were asking him for pens (free stationery, another perk of conference attendance).

The conference is at the new Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, which involved a promenande along the Yarra past Jeff’s Shed (does that make the MCEC Steve’s Shack?). It utilises exhibition space from Jeff’s Shed, with the meeting rooms and theatres part of the newer buildng. An clever use of an existing building to complement the use of another.

I’ll be honest with you- I am a part time attendee, having a shared registration thanks to work.  I couldn’t attend every session, but I have found that this can induce a serious case of conference fatigue from which the only way to recover is copious amounts of alcohol and sleep. With two energetic kids under 5, this would prove to be somewhat problematic. I’ve kept up to date so far with following tweets to get an idea of what has been happening (wifi problems) and opinions on the presenters (incredibly positive).

Lunch was spent catching up with former colleagues and gossip in libraryland. It is the social aspect of conferences that have their own special buzz. It was also a chance to catch up with some people whose tweets I have been following, and who are just as great in the flesh as they are on Twitter.

The session I attended yesterday was the afternoon Discovery session with John Garroway from the University of Auckland, Michael Gonzalez from the University of Western Sydney and Shirley White and Rina Brettell from the Parliament of Australia. John was quite self deprecating and got all the New Zealand accent jokes out of the way early and focused on the new resource discovery layer for the University of Auckland Library (Primo), which harvests the records, re-indexes them before displaying them. With an array of different formats, such as images, articles and media clips, this way of displaying information could have applications for our library. Michael Gonzalez spoke as well on a similar development, using Aquabrowser as their discovery platform.

What was interesting were the responses of the users to the new interface; for the University of Western Sydney, there was a strong negative response. Could it be that the testing and consultation did not appear to involve students, rather staff who would be considered expert users? The removal of the native interfaces to e-resources caused a fuss to the extent that a link to them was re-instated. Perhaps greater consultation with students in the form of surveys and testing would have been needed.

It is these types of presentation that makes you head buzz with possibilities about what can be achieved in libraryland with committed staff in organisations that value the library. Libraries are a valuable asset for universities, and a vital link to the community for public libraries, and this is demonstrated by the number of presentations from these sectors.

The final presentation ultimately demonstrated how a special library, a valuable information resource, can be subsumed by the parent organisation. When Parliament is in session, parliamentary business prevails over any ongoing project- it is like the House(s) wins. With 17 stakeholders, all of which had differing expectations and knowledge, the Parlinfo upgrade had a huge challenge ahead just trying to balance their needs, let alone trying to update the search facility of  all the data which is generated by the Parliament of Australia. Not only does it search library material, but it searches Bills, Hansard, Committee papers, and Parliamentary Papers. Parlinfo searches information which is accessible to the public as well as available to internal users. It still is an unwieldy beast to use and frustratingly slow (server upgrade please!). I have had it open for 10 minutes and it is still loading. It’s a shanme because there is some really great information there- you just have to discover it.

My day at VALA was curtailed due to a kinder function for Master BG. And no, it was still warm and muggy enough in Ballarat for me not to worry about a cardigan :).

* libsmatter OH in hotel lift: ” I’ve got my cardigan#librariansonwaytoconference #VALA2010 Feb 9, 2010

You can’t always get what you want

To the kids, the PC is what Mum and Dad sit at, or where you can play games, see ‘Foxy’ (the Fantastic Mr Fox trailer) or Doctor Who (am a firm believer of getting ’em when they’re young- speaking as a happily lapsed Catholic).

They’re yet to grasp the myriad of information you can access and search for online, and have no clue about the internet (although Master BG knows the URL of the  ABC kids website off by heart).

It was no surprise then, when I read this article about how children use the Internet to search for information. Just because children grow up with technology unbeknownst to their parents at a similar age does not mean they are instant experts. People can and do spend years searching and refining search strategies and techniques- you may know them as librarians.

In my previous life working in public libraries, I was involved in teaching adults how to use the internet- the classes were always heavily booked. Users of our library still call upon library staff to assist in locating a tricky bit of info they know is out on the interweb, but can;t seem to locate. If adults still find it challenging to construct a search, children whose brains are still developing are even more ill-equipped.

Google does make it easy for children by designing their search interface with a large search box (so children can ask questions), and the use of the Arial font; I still think there is more search engines can do, by answering back with a do you mean…you know like what a librarian would do when asked a question!

As for internet filtering to make it safe for Stephen Conroy children, well that’s another story…

Santa Claus is coming to Town

After much discussion, it has been decided to leave out some gingerbread and a glass of apple juice for Santa, as this is what Master BG likes and some carrots for the reindeer. (Mental note: may sub the apple juice for some whiskey…)

As a Christmas present to my family and my overloaded brain, I am spending time away from the PC- no emails, facebook, twitter and definitely no blog until my return to work on the 4th January.

As a Christmas present to you my dear readers, (and I think I know every one of you by name), here is some holiday reading. I hope you all have a happy and safe Christmas, read lots, eat lots, drink lots and love lots- which is what I hope to be doing :). If anyone is still wondering what to get bookgrrl for Christmas, I would like David Tennant in my Christmas stocking. Failing that a kiss under the mistletoe is always welcome…

Much of the links involve looking back over the past decade and looking at what will be.

According to Mashable, Marketing in 2010 will be about Data-the article also mentions issues of privacy and the concept of metadata. Actually the world has been becoming about data for a while, especially if you consider a search engine company is about to enter the world of telecommunications, real estate and is sitting on mountains of data, not just the web, but our thoughts, dreams, desires and viewing habits. Speaking of viewing habits, also check out the top trends in Twitter, and Digg.

The 15 Biggest Internet Controversies of the decade– mainly social networking issues (MySpace, Twitter and Facebook), also issues of censorship (China and Amazon’s censorship of gay and lesbian literature), filesharing and net neutrality. I just remember in 2001-2 telling other librarians in a zine about Google when it first cam out. A lot has happened since then.

Another myth busted, namely the 3-clicks rule, which stipulates that any content on a website or intranet should only be three clicks away from a home page. Usability testing by Jared Spool has shown that users don’t mind how many clicks are involved, provided they know they’re on the right path. What is entailed then, is designing navigation that is intuitive and allows users to ‘scent’ the information.

More library blogs– Lisnews published every year a list of 10 library blogs to read each year, here is a retrospective list of the last four years. Some are good, some are not so good…