Category Archives: Librarians Role

Catherine goes to prison

prisonLast Friday, I went to visit a Forensicare researcher at the Melbourne Assessment Prison (formerly the Melbourne Remand Centre). Our library services a large range of groups who work in a variety of locations. Forensicare staff work in high security sites as well as in the community. This researcher worked in a prison and I thought it would be an interesting excursion to visit her (OK, I was very curious – I’ve never visited a prison before) and sometimes, showing a person how to search databases etc works better if they are in a familiar environment. It was raining when I left work to get on the tram and by the time I was at LaTrobe St, it was pouring heavily. My trousers were almost soaking! The researcher met me at reception and I signed in. Then I passed over my passport and staff ID for ID purposes to the guard and was then given a blue bracelet and visitor lanyard.. I had to put all my stuff in a locker – not even allowed to bring a pen in, but allowed paper. I had my sheaf of library bumpf and how-tos – that was allowed. Then we passed through a body scanner and then another scanner (this was for items being brought in ). Then to get to the staff meeting room with a PC, we had to go through 3 or 4 heavy doors with eye scanners. The researcher had to lift the flap and look into the scanner. At one guard point, it was looking in the eye scanner for her and for me, holding up my wrist to the window to show the guard I had been processed by the guards at entry. Past the first heavy door was the prisoner visitor communication booths. It was quite small and cramped looking. The building looks quite large from the outside but inside, from the areas I saw anyway, it was quite small. I guess the walls are very thick. I was warned it would take a long time getting through (it took about 30mins) and before I even got to this point, I had to provide the researcher with some personal details in order to be approved.

How can I end this post? If you have clients in multiple locations, it is worthwhile to do site visits. Not every client is able to physically visit the library for instruction sessions or research advice. Not only is it an excursion for you, it is also an opportunity to see what their work environment is like – what is technologically possible and what work-arounds could work. Next up is a visit to the Royal Park campus.


451? Its library ethics!

I was invited to join in this movement by Sarah Houghton this week. 451 has a US focus, but librarians of all types in Australia can engage in 451 activities on January 20th 2017 in their own way – be it individually, as a group or as an organisation. These activities are:

  1. libraries should co-operate with people working to resist restriction of freedom of expression and access to ideas
  2. a person’s right to use a library should not be denied due to cultural heritage, views or age
  3. no one should interfere with a persons right to free speech, freedom of assembly or association

There is a worrying trend of ultra-conservatism mixed with the rise of fake news and racism and it is easy to feel disheartened. However, there are positive steps being taken.  IFLA recently announced the creation of a new network for librarians interested in Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE). Article 19 in the Universal Bill of Human Rights is Intellectual Freedom, which all information industry workers should and must work for. In early 2015, ALIA introduced FAIR – Freedom of Access to Information and Resources, but its main focus is on access and not expression or privacy.

Contrary to popular belief, Australia does not have a freedom of speech clause in the Australian Constitution, freedom of political communication is implied only. However, the Constitution does ensure the right of Australians to a trial by jury in criminal cases. This (these?) seems to be the only human rights enshrined by the Constitution. Australia is signatory to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which gives people the right to assembly and association, but these can be restricted under certain conditions. In some cases, these conditions are being circumvented.

What can you do? There are a number of things I can think of:

  1. Help people to distinguish fake news from fact
  2. Assist people in how to protect themselves online – not only from scammers but also from organisations harvesting their details and from intrusive spying
  3. Have an inclusive public library collection
  4. Make library spaces safe neutral zones
  5. Protest against government mass metadata collection and broadening of spy agencies powers
  6. Support individuals in their Freedom of Information requests
  7. Condemn censorship

Let’s make Jan 20 2017 a day to celebrate and support intellectual freedom. Let’s make this day an everyday.


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.