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1 June 2001














Cross Currents No 2 June 2001 


A digest of cross sectoral information management events, issues and ideas in organisations, libraries, archives and museums, with special emphasis on arts and the humanities.




Bruce Butterfield offers the following advice on strategic planning in a chapter from  the American Association of Association Executives' publication Professional Practice in Association Management, available on Forbes Group website 


Step 1, strategic thinking. Must use member-needs research to judge how well the association or group meets fitness tests on standards, current needs and future needs, external and internal environmental scans, including assessments of structure, culture and resources.


Step 2, strategic planning. Must focus on meeting core member or customer needs, be a process not an event, be continuous, address outcomes, be based on research, not opinions of the few, be done by small groups with large group input. The plan should be a set of priorities, be achievable, measurable and time sensitive, be flexible and responsive to changing conditions, be a unit not a menu, be a means to an end, not an end in itself, and be based on a three year period. 


Step 3 is strategic implementation, involving the use of programs, procedures and budgets, and Step 4 is evaluation and feedback. Poor planning leads to lack of organisational memory; lack of organisational definition; budget driven decisions rather than needs driven decisions, crises driven management, shifting priorities, membership restlessness and dissatisfaction. Website:


The National Office of the Information Economy offers The Information Economy Digest, summarising international trends and issues and NOIE Update, an email based newsletter containing information about the various current projects of NOIE, such as small business, e-commerce and smart card technology issues. Subscriptions to both can be activated via the NOIE website


A fact sheet detailing changes made to the Copyright Act 1968 and their impact on  Australian libraries, archives, museums and galleries is now available on the website of the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. It covers such topics as: supplying material in response to user requests, copying for research and preservation, placing material on an intranet or website, making electronic works available to the public, dealing with Rights Management Information, public computer terminals, copyright protection measures, and linking.


Other fact sheets include Frequently Asked Questions about the Digital Agenda Copyright Reforms; Digital Copyright for Creators; Digital Copyright for Web Publishers. [Source: DCITA]


The Australian Society of Archivists e-list, aus-archivists, was in full swing last  month, demonstrating the value of groupware in facilitating meaningful conversation, challenging professional thinking, clarifying misconceptions and influencing association policy. The debate was sparked by the National Archives of Australia’s sale of buildings and record culling program..


According to Adrian Cunningham, Director of Recordkeeping and Policy at the National Library, in his article Commonwealth Records and Social Memory: If we Can’t Remember Everything, Can We Choose What to Forget? (Australian Historical Association Bulletin December 2000), the National Archives of Australia in recent years has pursued a policy of retaining about 5% of Commonwealth records as national archives. This compares with the international benchmark of about 2%. 


Issues raised in the thread included the impact of technology, increased quantity of information and increased number of archive enquiries, the economic drivers of archival strategy, the quality of archival practice in the past in evaluating information for retention (some decisions were placed in the too-hard basket), public perceptions about the culling exercise and the role of the association in shaping policy.


The debate is not a new one. The American historian, Charles Francis Adams (1835-1915), wrote: "The question of the future, so far as the material of history is concerned, relates to the getting at what has been accumulated - the ready extraction of the marrow. In other words, it is a problem of differentiation, selection, arrangement, indexing and cataloguing. Today we are men wandering in a vast wilderness, which is springing up in every direction with tropical luxuriance. The one great necessity is to have paths carried through it in some kind of intelligible plan, which will enable use to find our way wither we would go, or to tell us in what direction research would be futile". 


In 1965, T.R. Schellenberg in The Management of Archives (1965) wrote: "The volume of printed material is so great that it is questionable whether scholars and governments should be justified in preserving and by a small proportion of the unpublished book".

The sentiment was echoed by F. Gerald Ham in Archival Choices: Managing the Record in the Age of Abundance: "The age of overabundant records and information, combined with scarcity of resources, is forcing archivists to replace the essentially unplanned with a systematic, documented process of building, maintaining and preserving collections".  


And David Bearman assumed the mantle of agent provocateur in Archival Methods, 1989 when he wrote along the lines that the sooner we admit to the futility of efforts to accumulate a comprehensive and unbiased records for some future generation, the easier it will be to argue our benefit to the present and compete for resources with other essential services. We need to better understand the nature of the cultural document itself and connections to social action. We need to explore the internal structure and its use. We need to design systems for its retrieval which provide access to a variety of perspectives and allow users to move between views in the conduct of research. The challenge is to make sense of the documentation, not to keep it. To deliver where it is needed, not to store it. Let us stress making comprehensible connections of acquiring comprehensive collections or we risk amassing a rotting storehouse of knowledge. If current methods to not achieve our goals, how can they be changed to make them achievable. Instead of envisioning ourselves as victims of the information explosion, we need to emphasise a vision…. to bring about an information implosion.  


Bearman’s suggestions on life cycle management, risk management and the transfer of responsibilities from the grave diggers to the mid-wives, of removing steps in the pass-the-parcel game, have influenced Australian government legislation and record keeping programs. 


The most interesting point emerging from the ASA discussion was a call by members of its Queensland Branch on 4 April 2001 for an Australian Documentation Strategy encompassing all the distributed archival mandates, whether commonwealth, state or private. “It was felt that the documentary heritage of Australia was lessened and even that the archival mandate was weakened through the distributed nature of archival record-keeping in umbrella strategy needs to be developed to encompass all forms of memory. In this way, the archival mandate would be enhanced across all  jurisdictions, greatly contributing to the collective memory of the nation”.  


The same point was made several years ago by Adrian Cunningham in From Here to Eternity: Collecting Archives & the Need for a National Documentation Strategy (LASIE March 1998).


It is an issue for library associations and their sub-groups as well as the Australian Society of Archivists and Records Management Association of Australia – particularly groups in the corporate library and special library sector. 


Coincidently the Aus-Archivists discussion occurred in a month when the Cultural Heritage Council, through the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, published Significance: A guide to assessing the Significance of Cultural Heritge Objects and Collections for the museum sector. The guide includes selection criteria, case studies and implementation options.


Aus-archivists was also the forum for extended debate on professional qualifications and competencies  – arising from the ASA's submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Capacity of Public Universities to Meet Australia's Higher Education Needs [available at] and in the context of declining graduate numbers emerging from the university system: 


Susan Mouer, in The Australian Library Industry Competency Standards: present perspectives and future prospects (Australian Library Journal May 1997), gives a useful background on how competency standards grew out of government-led plans to restructure the Australian economy, promote economic development through increased productivity and create a nationally consistent approach to vocational training and education by providing greater flexibility, clearer career path options and improved mobility between jobs locally and nationally. The competency standards developed for the library industry were essentially intended to complement qualifications from educational institutions by providing benchmarks that indicate performance requirements or outcomes in accord with broader industry standards. Problems experienced during the first engagement with the concept included the difficulty of assessing knowledge versus competence, problems relating to the industrial context of award restructuring and enterprise bargaining and decreases in permanent employment. 


The prospect of cross sectoral competencies increased in February when the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) and Records Management Association (RMAA) met to consider  joint issues and actions on professional education, core knowledge across the three information sectors; integration of course recognition activities, mapping equivalences in Australian Qualifications Framework, and action on undergraduate and graduate courses, lobbying, training and CDP and mentoring programs.


Dublin Core

The UK Government has adopted the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set for the description of information resources. The UK Government Metadata Framework is available online from the Metadata tab at [Source: aus-archivists]

Networked Reference Services  

The National Information Standards Organization sponsored an invitational workshop on Networked Reference Services on April 25-26, 2001. Approximately 25 people attended, representing the broad spectrum of practitioners, researchers and software developers. The goal of the workshop was to recommend to NISO the most appropriate next steps for possible standards development in providing comprehensive and seamless service for the user, libraries and service providers. It identified aspects of digital reference that could benefit from standardization, prospective stakeholders, existing work that could be used as a starting point and the time frame for development of the standard or set of standards. More information including background documents and presentations:  [Source: DIGLIB]


According to Information Week 14 May 2001 (XML Coming to a Business Near You and XML to Infuse the Workplace) the percentage of e-commerce transactions using XML will rise from 0.5% in early 2000 to more than 40% by the year 2003. Sales and XML products and services will rise from $90 million in 2000 to US$2.4 billion in 2004. Each vertical industry has a major XML effort under way to define the data term definitions and schemas for industry-wide exchange of data. Hurdles to overcome include security, standards development, schema development, maturity of XML tools and lack of understanding of XML by top management.


The latest Current Cites recommends the following sites for SGML/XML references: and Another source listed in Current Cites is Jane Hunter’s article MetaNet: A Metadata Term Thesaurus to Enable Semantic Interoperability Between Metadata Domains in Journal of Digital Information 1(8) February 2001 ( Cites abstract: “Mapping terminology and cross-walks are all the rage when it comes to gathering and homogenizing sets of XML data. The problems of mapping (exact matches and semantic mappings) are articulated, and the use of a thesaurus -- MetaNet -- is posited as an alternative solution. Instead of "hardwiring" ontologies between data, terms looked up in a thesaurus with the usual characteristics in order to build mappings and crosswalks. This is interesting because what is old is new again; take note of how a age-old library tool is being used in a new environment”.


Internet World Australia 2001

The Internet World Australia 2001 Conference will be held at Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, 18-20 July 2001. Topics: e-business, Internet technology, Web marketing and advertising, eCRM, Design Online, Wireless Streaming Media, Small business strategies. Website:

Web Design 2001

A series of five conferences, presented by FirmwareDesign in Sydney and Melbourne, will continue throughout 2001. Conference 1, held in April, covered web application development. The remaining conferences are: Conference 2 Web Integration [June]; Conference 3 Content Management [July/August]; Conference 4 Developing for Business [October]; Conference 5 Broadband to Wireless [December]. Registration and website:


Open 2001 Publish, the first annual conference for standards and process in publishing, will be held at the Sydney Hilton Hotel 30 July-2 August 2001. Topics: PDF, workflow, mark-up languages, on-demand printing, colour management, graphic design and other issues on publishing digital, electronic and traditional forms of information. Website:


For information on Convergence, the 2001 Joint National Conference of the Australian Society of Archivists and Records Management Association, see the ASA website at  [Source: Aus-Archivists]  


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This issue of Cross Currents compiled by Paul Bentley



The Wolanski Foundation would be grateful for feedback on the scope, format and content of this bulletin..


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