Librarians in Film

I was going through some old ALIA Incites (our national association’s magazine) when I came across a mention of the Hollywood Librarian. Oh the excitement! In 2008, librarians of all stripes came together for a movie evening, followed by or preceded by a talk from the director. The Hollywood Librarian examines librarians in film and contrasts these with real life examples.

This wasn’t the only time librarians have got together to watch a film. I remember going to the Capitol Theatre in Melbourne to see Read or Die – a Japanese manga cartoon based on the manga series of the same name. Plans to destroy the world? A superhero who can manipulate paper comes to the rescue!

On the flight to Toronto for MLA16 this past May, I watched another Japanese film about superhero librarians. This one was called Library Wars: The Last Mission. The basic plot of this film is the fight against repression and censorship. The librarians wear military uniforms! Armed battles around and inside a library! I laughed many times during this film – it was really fun. They used a real public library I think, which was really cool.


Census Fail

There has been a lot of concern and controversy over the August 9 census. Many people are alarmed and rightly so. The Australian Government has made steady incursions into peoples privacy and the decision to collect names and addresses and then store this information for 4 years (rather than 18 months) along with other census information is the latest attempt.There was no public consultation about this decision (the ABS had earlier raised the possibility of long-term storage twice before but were advised against it). And the case for long-term data retention has not been put to the public. Names have always been collected, but then the forms were de identified and names destroyed.How the data will be managed now is anyone’s guess. The method of collecting information has changed as well. Even though people have been able to fill out the census online since 2006, this is the first time the ABS is moving to a digital-only method of data collection. Over the last month, ABS sent out letters with codes to enter online which would then lead to the census form. This move was ill advised for many reasons. Firstly, many rural areas (remote areas will get paper copies) are not well covered by telecommunication networks and in places where there is high coverage, there have also been network outages. Telstra has recently had many problems with national outages meaning companies and healthcare organisations have been unable to operate at normal levels. Australia’s telecommunication networks are not mature or sophisticated enough to cope with a digital-only national census. Secondly, this move is discriminatory. Many people in our community cannot afford to own computers let alone afford high internet charges. Money for food, housing and clothing is more important. Public libraries may not have the resources to cope with this population..Many older Australians do not desire to be digital citizens and don’t know how to operate the equipment from choice. Thirdly, sending personal information over telecommunication networks is risky and highly liable to being stolen (even an IT security expert has had his PayPal account hacked). And storing sensitive information electronically for any period of time makes it accessible for longer and thus open to legitimate and illegitimate use.

So what should you do? Don’t boycott the census.Obtain a paper form (all sensitive information should travel via paper). Do not fill in your real name and address but provide correct information for all other questions. That way, agencies get correct information for planning purposes and your privacy is mostly secure. My mother is even removing identifying codes from the paper form.

Scientific racism?

At one of the many journal clubs I regularly attend, the article we were discussing included Race in the demographics. I’ve been mulling over Race in medical articles for some time now and my belief, informed by my cultural values, indicates to me that this is ingrained racism. I asked members of the journal club what they thought and whether they thought it a useful metric to count. The responses were mostly around the article being from the US and that it reflects how most of the US population think of themselves (there was some awkwardness there).  Earlier in the week, I emailed a well respected epidemiologist and asked him what he thought, and he said that it is almost impossible to separate socio-economic and genetic factors . Race is a sociocultural concept that is used to classify humans by skin colour. It has been used to justify superiority of one group over another group. Ethnicity is expressing belongingness to a social group with similar cultural or national traditions. An ancestral group is the genetic link from an ancestor to descendants. Socio-economic groupings uses a persons position in society and is mainly based on occupation, industry or other professional activity. So what is a useful metric in medical research? Socio-economic grouping can indicate what food, health care, housing, education and other services a person has access to. Ancestral group can indicate who will suffer disease or other negative health outcomes due to genetic susceptibility. Race – what does that indicate? I suspect the use of race is a result of social conditioning and not intentional racism. It’s a curly question.


Templeton AR. Biological races in humans. Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci. 2013 Sep;44(3):262-71. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.04.010. Epub 2013 May 16.

Fujimura JH and Rajagopalan R. Different differences: The use of ‘genetic ancestry’ versus race in biomedical human genetic research. Soc Stud Sci. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2012 Feb 1.

Ousley S, Jantz R, Freid D. Understanding race and human variation: why forensic anthropologists are good at identifying race. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2009 May;139(1):68-76. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21006.