All entries for January 2008

January 07, 2008

Privacy Assessment for risk management at project inception

Writing about web page

Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) at the initial stage of a project can save you a lot of trouble and cost. This is the idea behind the new PIA Handbook by the office of the Information Commissioner.

The objective of the PIA is to avoid the following risks:

loss of public credibility as a result of perceived harm to privacy or a failure to meet expectations with regard to the protection of personal information;
retrospective imposition of regulatory conditions as a response to public concerns, with the inevitable cost that entails;
low adoption rates (or poor participation in the implemented scheme) due to a perception of the scheme as a whole, or particular features of its design, as being inappropriate;
the need for system re-design or feature retrofit, late in the development stage, and at considerable expense;
collapse of the project, or even of the completed system, as a result of adverse publicity and/or withdrawal of support by the organisation or one or more key participating organisations, or
compliance failure, through breach of the letter or the spirit of privacy law (with attendant legal consequences).

This privacy impact assessment tool could not be more timely when privacy concerns for the use of social networking sites have filtered down to the level of BBC news. The HE sector has been weighing the pros and cons of using Web 2.0 services external to the institution and after witnessing the initial jolliness of the early adopters one could be forgiven for remaining wary of any projects involving such services.

It is not only that the operating costs of social software marketing of your academic library services may cancel out any possible benefits, but there could be more to lose than to gain by the institution in terms of reputation if it is seen to engage in activities that compromise user privacy.

Of course it is not only projects but also the behaviour of individuals employed by the institution. Would you agree with the following advice reported on the CoHE, 54 (15), p.A1 ?

And so, when undergrads ask to friend her, this professor politely declines. She encourages them to contact her again when they graduate — when there’s no chance of their turning up in another class, or before a judicial panel she is on.
Most faculty members on Facebook keep their profiles professional — nothing racier than would be posted, say, on an office door. The consensus on friending seems to be: Accept students’ requests but don’t initiate any.

January 04, 2008

Cataloguing skills in demand for the digital revolution!

Writing about web page

Manuel and Oppenheim (2007) briefly assume a loss of cataloguing skills within the library and repository communities, which would be resulting from the practice of libraries outsourcing their cataloguing work by buying shelf-ready books. Their article then considers the possibility that such a “loss of key skills may have long-term implications” for libraries’ ability to provide good quality metadata in the preservation of digital assets. This concern seems to be expressed in the context of HE repositories.

Libraries in the public sector may have undergone a reduction of their cataloguing staff overall, as claimed, but the sector is obviously experiencing the boom of digitisation, a boom that is only starting and which has no bust in sight. There is still a lot of scope for growth in digitisation since only 1% of the content of European libraries has been digitised so far according to a recent estimate reported by Ayris (2007), who likens library digitisation to a revolution.

Such digitisation and the resulting digital libraries require metadata librarians as digital asset managers with a skills set not too distant from the fundamental profile of the cataloguer. Accordingly the role of the cataloguer is becoming ever more interesting and challenging as it evolves into the role of digital repository manager and requires the kind of knowledge about digital preservation that Manuel and Oppenheim (2007) mention in their article.

In particular the staff employed in HE libraries as cataloguers are in a good position to take on roles in Research Support as it shifts to include digital preservation and publishing (see our previous post on university digital presses and the shift to OA). Similarly HE serials librarians are also well placed to take on the challenge of supporting academics in the publishing of their research in spite of the decline of the print journal in the next five to ten years, which is predicted by Johnson and Luther (2007, p.31) as part of the shift of libraries to providing only e-collections.

Ayris, P. (2007) Why is Google showing us the way forward in digitisation? asks senior UK librarian. JISC Podcast 21.

Johnson, R. and Luther, J. (2007) The E-only Tipping Point for Journals: What’s Ahead in the Print-to-Electronic Transition Zone. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries.

Manuel, S. and Oppenheim, C. (2007) Googlepository and the University Library. Ariadne, 53, October.

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