Canadians: We Love Our Privacy

We’ve had a Privacy Commissioner here in Canada for decades now, but the office has become much more visible since January 1, 2001, when the first phase of PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) came into effect. Since January 1, 2004, the Act has applied to all organizations that collect and use personal data and assures some privacy for citizens. A good example is the transfer of personal data from one commercial organization to another. Under PIPEDA in Canada, such a transfer is forbidden unless the person to whom the data corresponds explicitly consents. From my own experience, I have noticed that subscriptions to American magazines always resulted in an increase in the volume of junk mail sent to our home, whereas the same doesn’t occur for Canadian magazine subscriptions.

With the Act in full effect for almost six years, it’s really nice to see the Office of the Privacy Commissioner backing it up and taking on significant problem cases. Recently, they confronted Facebook for passing on personal information to third parties without users’ prior consent. Last week saw the OPC get the changes they wanted from the social networking site. That’s a pretty big win and it’s made even more significant by the fact that the consequences aren’t limited to Canadians — all Facebook users will benefit.

Companies that keep users’ personal data in the cloud may be wise to check out Canada’s PIPEDA, even if they’re based in another country. If their business models depend upon transferring my personal data to other organizations, I hope they’ll have the decency of asking me first…

CLA Open House

The Canadian Library Association is holding an Open House event in two weeks’ time, and I’m hoping to drop in. Unfortunately, this seems to only have been announced through the listserv, with no mention on the CLA website, so here are the details:

CLA Open House
4:30 – 7:00 PM, Friday September 11th, 2009
328 Frank Street (near the intersection of O’Connor and Glastone)

If you’re attending, I’ll see you there.

Backup Recovery Testing

We have a new addition at work – a server for testing and development (mercifully, my suggestion to name it “dev-ergreen” didn’t stick). There were some initial ideas for this new server, including:

  • allowing staff to test out new features and upcoming versions of Evergreen; and
  • providing us with a proper place to test our own enhancements and developments.

While those forward-looking objectives are still planned, the first thing I did was rather more conservative: I tested our backup recovery procedure. If our production server spontaneously combusted, how quickly would we be able to restore our services? (After e-mailing the fire department, of course.) Although we have backed up our data from day one, we had not yet tried the backup restore procedure from bare metal.

We restored our data to the development server without a hitch. While doing so, it occurred to me that this is something that open source software makes incredibly straightforward. There’s no concern about obtaining permission from a vendor to install another copy of the ILS on a second server, or moving the data from the production to the development server. Both can be running copies of the ILS without any extra money being spent on licenses. Additionally, new versions of the ILS can be tested without having to sign NDAs and obtaining vendor permission.

As a result, we now have a separate system with a copy of our production data, ready for testing by us and our staff…and I can sleep a little bit more soundly.

The Piece of Paper

It has barely been three months but school seems so far away. Or it did, until my diploma arrived in the mail.

I know it’s just a piece of paper and that my graduation was never really in doubt…but it’s comforting to have it in hand all the same.


III Linking Policy

I was recently going through Innovative’s web site and, out of curiosity, clicked on the small “Legal Notices” link at the bottom of their front page. It instructed me to “PLEASE READ THESE ‘TERMS OF USE’ CAREFULLY BEFORE USING THIS WEB SITE”. It occurred to me that, if they truly wanted all visitors to read the legal notices before using the site, they should probably either feature the link more prominently on the front page or force a redirect to make sure everyone has a chance to read it beforehand. Most of us aren’t accustomed to reading EULAs for websites.

What got my attention was their “Links Policy”. Apparently, you are not allowed to link to III’s site unless you follow specific rules, including:

  • “(i) any link to the Web site must be a link clearly marked “Innovative Interfaces” OR “iii.com”;
  • “(iii) the link must “point” to the URL (www.iii.com) and not to other pages within the Web site”;
  • “(vi) Innovative Interfaces, Inc. reserves the right to revoke its consent to the link at any time and in its sole discretion.”

That means that if you want to point someone to a specific III product, such as Millenium or Encore, you are, according to III, not allowed to provide them with direct links. Evidently, Google doesn’t respect their policy either (of course, it might help if III provided a robots.txt file to help support their links policy).

It’s got a bit of a “Fight Club” ring to it: “The first rule of the Millenium web page is you don’t link to the Millenium web page. The second rule of the Millenium web pages is you don’t link to the Millenium web page.

At my place of work, we signed up for a site-wide license to RefWorks last fall. We’ve also recently moved to Evergreen for our new ILS (press release). Naturally, there was a request from library staff to add a function in Evergreen to export citations from the OPAC directly into RefWorks.

supercatI was happy to discover that Evergreen makes this relatively easy, thanks to SuperCat (part of Evergreen’s backend). With SuperCat and a record id, a record can be fetched in many different formats, simply by changing the URL (e.g., OPAC view vs marcxml vs MODS). This comes in handy when dealing with RefWorks.

Sending citations to RefWorks can be done with a callback. Essentially, you add a link to RefWorks’ import function page and send it your credentials, as well as a callback URL that RefWorks uses to grab the record from your ILS…in a RefWorks-supported format. The problem is that RefWorks doesn’t accept MODS, MARC, or even MARCXML. They say they accept MARC, but it’s actually what I call “MARC text” (it is described very well by Bill Dueber).

So with Evergreen, all that was needed to support Export-to-RefWorks was:

  1. a new transform for SuperCat that converts MARC to “MARC text”;
  2. a new SuperCat feed for the new format;
  3. a button in the OPAC that links to RefWorks and provides the credentials and callback URL.

Voilà! The new “marctxt” SuperCat feed (which uses the new transform) provides the callback URL for RefWorks to grab the record and import it. I submitted a patch yesterday to address #1 and #2, above. A patch to auto-generate the info needed for #3 is forthcoming (and pretty straightforward). So Evergreen should soon support Export-to-RefWorks right out of the box.

(“Fine. Now take it off.” [SuperCat] photo created by “Allergic to Work” on Flikr, and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike license).

Net Neutrality Town Hall

Information about a Net Neutrality Town Hall just came my way through a CLA mailing list. It features some interesting speakers: Michael Geist needs no introduction, and Charlie Angus has recently tabled a Net Neutrality bill in Canadian Parliament for the second time (Bill C-398).

Here’s the info:


  • Michael Geist, University of Ottawa
  • Jacob Glick, Google
  • Charlie Angus, NDP Heritage Critic
  • Rocky Gaudrault, CEO of Teksavvy Solutions Inc.

When: Wednesday June 10, 2009, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Ottawa Public Library Auditorium
120 Metcalfe Street

Note that the hosts are looking for an RSVP on http://saveournet.ca/ottawa