Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Librarians and the ABC Library

On Wednesday night myself and many of my Australian library folk colleagues sat in front of a screen and watched the first episode of the new Australian comedy The Librarians. Like most, I thought it was okay - it wasn't as good as I was hoping, but it was better than I was expecting. Australian comedy can be really bad, and it wasn't that bad. It was better than Hey Dad, for example, although a friend did point out that sawing your own head off is better than Hey Dad, so I guess that's not much of a compliment. My favourite joke in the show was the first one, where the camera pans over the sign on the door that identifies the Middleton Interactive Learning Centre, to which someone felt the need to add a piece of paper with the word "Library" on it - a nice little jibe about the whacky names we call our libraries / resource centres / knowledge centres / know how centres.

But what was cooler than the show was the place that I got to watch the show. With the assistance of my ALIA Local Liaison Officer I managed to arrange for a group viewing at the the ABC Library - can you imagine a more fitting place? The staff at the ABC were the most wonderful hosts - they put on an amazing spread of food and drinks for us. They were originally expecting about 20 people. They cut off the RSVPs at 50, and ended up having to turn away another 150 people - that's 200 library folk that wanted to come!

Before the show the staff gave us a tour of the ABC Library, and by god it's a huge beast. I was astounded. I guess I'd never really thought about it, but it's massive! They do all the reference and research support behind the shows, as you'd expect, but there's also the sound and film archives which they manage. They have a huge archival responsibility, and have different rooms kept at different temperatures for different material - there was the 18 degree room and the 12 degree room. Kate Burnham (one of our hosts) talked about her role in the music library, and how she gets people singing to her at least once a day. They do a huge amount of conversion work, moving things bit by bit onto digital tape, and they do all original cataloguing. Yep, you read that right - ALL. They catalogue video and sound material to an incredibly detailed extent.

I told my dad about the tour - he used to work for Film Australia as a documentary director, and he has an appreciation for old film stock. Despite how much I've been telling him that I love my new job, he's been trying to convince me to get a job at the ABC instead! I think he wants a tour as well. If they do these tours again, I'll see if I can sneak him in!

So, a huge thank you to the hosts at the ABC Library. It was a fantastic night, and the TV show at the end was just the icing on the cake.

As an aside, remember that post I did a little while ago about how very few people turned up to the Sydney ALIA National Advisory Congress meeting? Think about it - 9 people came to that, but 200 people wanted to come and watch The Librarians. Damn right ALIA has an image problem.

The Google-isation of my world

I don't know whether to be excited or horrified by the extent to which my online activities are increasingly linked to Google.

I've got me an iGoogle page, which I love. I use it to link to my gmail account, and it also tells me how many unread items there are in my Google Reader. It also links directly to documents sitting on Google Docs, which I'm using for personal and professional collaboration - I'm working with two other people on a conference paper using Google Docs, and the ALIA committee that I'm on has given up waiting for ALIA to create an online storage space for us and we now use Google Docs for, well, everything.

I used to read my feeds in Bloglines, but at my last job they had a filter blocking most websites that used blog software, which included Bloglines but didn't include any Google websites, so I moved all my feeds to Google Reader. I've got links to my favourite websites on my iGoogle page, and I just adore the little fox creature and his turtle companion. And, of course, one day I suddenly started logging in to Blogger with my Google account.

Is anyone else getting a bit weirded out by this?

On one hand, it's really cool. Jumping around jobs this year has made the iGoogle thing so handy - not only do I not have to continuously update my email address with friends and family, but for some reason I've had a string of jobs that had crappy computers associated with them, and it's been easier to put work links for any given job on the iGoogle page than it is to bookmark them in Internet Explorer, only to loose them all when my computer died (seriously, I've been plagued by this in the last 6 months. My kingdom for a good work computer and network!). I feel as though my previous internet activities were scattered, like I needed to go to a million different places to do the things I wanted to do. Now I feel like some of it is starting to be grouped together, and I'm creating my own space on the internet. And no, I'm not talking about MySpace.

But on the other hand, it makes me nervous. I know all my data is being read. I know that "they" know all about me now. There's all kinds of information being gathered, and I know that I can be nicely profiled and targeted by advertisers. Or, you know, The Man. Plus, the more I use Google the more reliant I become on it - and things change quickly on the internet. A lot of people have bet a lot of money (sorry, invested through share holdings) that Google will be around for some time yet, but we don't have many business models for that - no one on the internet has been around very long, so what if one day Google is gone? I know, I know, it won't happen overnight, and there'll be others, and by the time it does happen everyone (including slow-on-the-uptake me) will have moved on. But still...

As an aside, I love seeing the ads on the side of my gmail - some of them are so wonderfully random that I enjoy trying to figure out what in the email prompted them.

Dear readers - is your life being taken over by Google? How do you feel about it?