Category Archives: Electronic Devices


Communication is the topic du jour. And it has been for a little while too. I’m reading old posts from Laika’s MedLibLog and it was this post from 2008 about an article in NEJM called Etiquette-Based Medicine that got me thinking.  The author, Dr Michael Khan, wrote that patients don’t complain about clinicians not being empathic or not understanding them, they complain about clinicians not looking at them, not smiling or not introducing themselves. As a patient, I haven’t had the bad luck to be stuck with a clincian who stared at a computer screen throughout my visit (yet…), but I imagine with would be annoying and probably disconcerting for many people. So many people seem to be more and more addicted to looking at computer screens than communicating with others in real life. How often do you bump into someone who is walking with their head down focusing on their screen? And worse yet, not even apologise? Last week I went to  Stephen K Amos’ gig at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and one of the things he commented about was communication – “talk to people!” This was in context of being sent a break-up text via mobile phone. Then he merged that into talking to young people about sex. Lots of young people in the audience and young adults he talked to before his performances revealed that their parents weren’t giving them the ‘facts of life’ talk. Amos didn’t have one either from his parents (I did and I bet he is younger than me). Even though it may be awkward and/or embaressing, talk to people! Leave the screens and communciate in real life. It is how we have relationships.

Changes to the Privacy Act – what does it mean for librarians?

Amendments to the Privacy Act will come into effect on the 12th March 2014 and apply to all organisations and government agencies. These ammendments are:

  • Must have a privacy policy readily accessible explaining how  and why personal information is used, collected and shared. Information must also be made available detailling how a person can find out what information is held about them by and now to correct erronious information.
  • People must be able to use anonimity and pseudonyms
  • Personal information other than sensitive information is not to be collected unless it is reasonably necessary or directly related to function or activities
  • If unsolicited information is received and was not able to be collected by usual  means, the information must be destroyed or deindentified as soon as is practicable
  • People are to be notified as soon as is practicable that their information has or will be collected
  • Personal information that has been collected must not be passed on to a third party
  • Personal information must not be used in direct marketing unless consented to by the individual. This consent must be easy for the individual to deny or accept.
  • If personal information is given to overseas entities, it must be ascertained that they will not breach privacy laws
  • Government-related identifiers must not be disclosed
  • Personal information must be able to be accessible to the individual, take steps to correct information if notified by the individual of errors

Exceptions apply in some circumstances – click here to read the ammendments in full. Here is a checklist to help organisations ensure they are compliant.

So what do these ammendments mean for librarians and libraries? I can think of 4. Please let me know if you think of any others.

Borrower information: Libraries typically collect personal information about people registering with the library. This information includes names, addresses, contact numbers. What borrower information is reasonably necessary for libraries to function? Libraries must take reasonable steps to inform borrowers about personal information that is held/going to be stored about them, allow potential borrowers to use pseudonyms or remain anonymous if they desire and provide them with details as to how to access their information and how to correct it should there be errors. Library systems used in Australia must be modilfable to be compliant.

User surveys: Librarians doing user surveys must ensure that any personal information that is collected is directly related to library activities or function. How much personal information is needed to make survey results useful? Names and addresses are not necessary. Perhaps age groups if your library is a public library (this might be applicable to academic libraries in respect to mature age students), or area of work (it is usful to know what training etc is most/least appreciated per area in an organisation).

Library resources: We all know that electronic resources collect usage information. What other information is collected? The library must be sure that information collected by overseas suppliers is be compliant with Australian Privacy laws. Do we have to inform users about the potential of  information collection or is it the responsibility of suppliers?

User statistics: I keep record of literature searches and training/education sessions. I have only informed people on some occasions that I was collecting information for records. So why do I keep these records? Training – I discover what classes are popular by attendance numbers. For individual training, I can use it to fashion new training classes and modify others. Literature searches – this is just a numbers game. Names are collected but perhaps this is not necessary to keep on record – perhaps dept information is enough.

Disclaimer: I am not a soliciter/barrister and have no legal training.  These are my thoughts about how these ammendents may have impact.






How not to make collections accessible

My husband and I visited MONA in mid-September this year. The ferry there and the approach to the gallery is impressive, but it started to go downhill when we were given the ‘O’ , an electronic device which contains title/artist information with more information available under ‘Art Wank’. It was all rather puerile and icky. The  O makes locating information a difficult task. Nowhere on the device was the fact that two or even three collections were in one room – the device only shows ‘nearby’ art works grouped in collections. There were no signs in the rooms as to what collection you were looking at – you had to work it out via the O. The staff were unhelpful in instructing how to use the device – one woman opened her instruction to us with ‘It’s easy!’ You should never make your audience feel like idiots. If I were organising electronic guides for MONA, I would have put QR codes on each object or collection so people could scan for information if they wanted to find out more. I would also have put signs on the walls for people to read if they didn’t want to use or couldn’t manage electronic devices. Electronic devices all very funky and exciting etc but I still believe there should be multiple information access points.