Category Archives: Information Access

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.






MLA13 and ICML – Day 3

It has been a few weeks since my last post and as time goes on, I remember less. Luckily, I still have my notebook!

The first session was the 10.30am NLM Update session. At last, a sleep-in morning and time for a nice breakfast with my husband before we separated for the day. NLM is a large service and offers many programs, many that are not relevant to me. However, it was interesting to learn that it is MedlinePlus’ 15th birthday this year! 2% of usage comes from Australia for both online and mobile applications. MedlinePlus can also be integrated into the electronic medical record. is now an international service and I’m sorry to say that Australia,along with  China and countries in Africa (you can’t just mention Africa when you are mentioning individual countries – Africa is a continent! Rant of the day over …) are contributing the least. Australia has it’s own register though, so perhaps contributing to would just be duplicating records.

There was some time to kill between this session and the next, so I went out to get some tea and have an early lunch. Lunch is not provided at this conference but as the conference centre was connected to a shopping centre and surrounded by cafes and restaurants, finding food wasn’t a challenge. I was tipped before going to North America that if you want a cup of tea, you have to specify ‘hot tea’ otherwise you will end up with iced tea! Of course, for morning and afternoon tea, you could always go to the exhibitors hall to get refreshments from suppliers who were offering them.

The next session was ICLC2 which I was a blog correnspondent for. You can read my contribution here. The first presentation was by MacEachen who talked about the ever expanding list of apps for commonly used resources (one of them called Diagnosaurus which I hadn’t heard of before), which quickly became unweildy. Where to draw the line? What about listing those that are easily available and are free (via the library or OA)? What was interesting about this talk though was the course elective (a collaborative venture between librarians, educators and tech) where students were encouraged to develop their own and discuss the merits of locally developed apps. Next up was an interesting bioinformatics project where a librarian (Margaret Henderson) is a key project member. i2b2 – intergrating biology at the bedside, which aims to facilitate use of exisiting data for research and building targetted therapies for genetic-based diseases. The audience was thrilled to learn that librarians are getting involved right at the nuts and bolts level! Librarians are very versatile and this reinforced for many that bioinformatics is a viable avenue for librarian participation, espeically since librarians understand highly structured data (and were early adoptors too!). Henderson mentioned 2 things that are worth repeating: 1) Drs need to be vigilent in documentation and 2) librarians need to get involved in the semantic web to avoid others reinventing the wheel. Julia Esparza was next and she talked about the early results of the Consumer Health Information Services Survey (CHISS) – full results will be published in JMLA. The main purpose of this survey is to find out what the current situation is with providing health information to consumers. Health literacy is of great interest to me and I was interested to hear that some medical and public libraries in the US have developed partnerships, though low numbers provide products and educational activities. A high percentage of hospitals provide information to the public outside of medical care (with or without librarians) through a library. The final presentation for this session was by Lydia Whitman, who revealed at the end of her presentation that it was her first! The audience applauded – it was such a fantastic presentation for a novice presenter (I bet many seasoned presenters were jealous). Whitman’s presentaiton was about a small iPad trial at her library. She desribed the hoops needed to jump through but then got to really interesting uses for the iPad like – showing patients YouTube videos! Accessing the EMR via the iPad was unclear so clincians who wanted access did it via their desktops. Despite it being a small trial, it was a success. You can read her interim report here.

After a break, it was the final session of the conference for me  (I decided not to go to the last 1/2 day because I wanted one full day in Boston before leaving for Melbourne the next).  This was the ICLC3 Q&A brainstorming session after being opened by a few short presentations. Carol Lefebvre talked about the reason behind the double NOT Animals NOT Humans limit used in systematic reviews. If you just NOT animals, you will exclude studies involving humans and other animals (humans are animals – another rant of mine but I will leave that for another day) and if you limit to Humans using predefined filters, you will exclude all unindexed items (human is a indexing checkword). There was a long discussion about this on the expertsearching e-list not long ago. Lisa Kruesi (sorry I forgot your name earlier!!) talked about adding disclaimers to search results and using a template to standardise reporting results of literature searches. I don’t do any of these. I think it would take too long to report results expecially if there are a lot going on. I do use a form letter and tidy up files though. Terry Ann Jankowski talked about differing search result numbers between Medline and PubMed (PubMed has now incorporated articles from 1946 onwards) and other databases. This was also discussed at expertsearching recently, especially in regard to CINAHL. CINAHL has many forms and results will differ from version to version. Document everything, even the database version you are using!! This lead to Rebecca Jerome’s presentation about systematic reviews. Document everything, even discarded terms!! Make sure you discuss and clarify the question with researchers! Document everything!!

Well, that was an experience! I was tired but envigorated. My husband and I went for a walk before heading back so I could write the blog post and it was a lovely warm day. We walked by the Charles River and had a lovely dinner. It rained tremedously on our final day, but I did manage to pop into some bookshops and have a walk around old Boston. Will I go to another MLA? I hope to yes! And I recommend it, at least once.

ALIA National Advisory Committee – 8th Aug Meeting

ALIA is the national body representing librarians, information specialists, library technicians, and information science academics in Australia. I recently joined the Health Libraries Australia special interest group as an executive member (my membership became active in July after I finished my term as Chair of the Information Resources Group (HTAi)), and I thought that I should attend the Victorian NAC meeting. It was held at the university were I did my undergraduate degree and I hadn’t been back (apart from a reunion) since. Boy had the library changed! I didn’t recognise it. Of course, a lot can happen in a library over 20 (gasp!) years. The meeting was to discuss the ALIA discussion paper ‘Future of the Profession‘ and to solicit ideas from Victorian ALIA members. Two issues stood out for me – one that keeps on reoccuring again and again and the other a new one to me but valid and applicable in all types of libraries. The reoccuring one is Visability. The other is the superficiality of information trends and technology. How do you deal with these issues? I almost groaned aloud when the discussion leader said that a public librarian in Perth had been ‘caught’ going to Google for an answer to a question. I would have turned it into an educational opportunity – show people how to search for the answer using the tools that they use frequently! What would you have done?