Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Derek Mackie: Don't judge a book by its library data system

Most of us would agree that New Zealand has lost its mojo over the past 6 years and is an unhappier and more divisive place. 
We struggle to make a single thing on time and to budget anymore, other than a coffee, and the nation seems to be a dreary shadow of its former self. The state of our roads and the ever-present roadworks and traffic cones are a depressing symbol of our productive and social malaise. 

 I’m hoping our new Coalition government will turn things around and, to be fair, it’s still early days. Indeed, there have been lots of encouraging announcements of cancelled, race-riddled Labour policies like Three Waters and the Maori Health Authority. 
However, the Coalition's much trumpeted new Fast Track Approvals Bill has astoundingly taken a leaf out of Labour’s book and given iwi guaranteed representation on the “expert panels”. 
What the hell’s that all about? It's not what we voted for, or what the Coalition agreements assured us would happen. 
So, let’s hope the Coalition doesn't follow Labour’s submissions policy as well, and disregards any that criticise this blatantly racist provision 

As promised, even government departments have announced job cuts to shed some of the excess fat that led to chronic staffing obesity and wastage of taxpayers money during Labour’s tenure. Mind you, the proposed numbers of retained “public servants” is still far higher than the trimmer, more productive pre-2017 public service, when they achieved far more in half the time. 
Dare we hope we’re finally turning the corner, albeit with the odd Stop-Go operator on duty while another speed bump gets installed; replacing can’t-or-won’t-do with can-and-might-do?

 That was my happy thought of the day until the following email from my local library popped up, rattling my fragile illusion of a return to the nation’s ability to manage itself back to productivity, prosperity and social cohesion. 

 IMPORTANT UPDATE: Data Migration - what you need to know

 Let me contextualise this for you. 
Changes are being made to the way that libraries in my city and 41 other councils, who are part of the Kotui Consortium, store data for the library catalogue, customer records and other services. 
Kotui is Maori for interlace or interweave, apparently. 
All this precious data is currently interlaced in Christchurch and Auckland but from 17 May it will be interweaved in……Melbourne and Adelaide

 Shit! Things must be getting bad. We can’t even store our library data now.  We have to give it to the Aussies to manage for us. 
Well, that’s a blow, but I guess if it’s going to be considerably cheaper then at least we’ll save some money, even if we have to face the fact that we’re simply incapable of storing basic digital library records for our own ratepayers anywhere in New Zealand. 

 However, the official reason given for this is:- 
 “This change is important to keep up to date with the way we provide you with library services and has been assessed by our IT, legal and governance experts and has their approval.” 

 What the hell does that mean, exactly? Standard bureaucrat-ese for telling you nothing. 
Delve a little deeper into the website link, and you discover that the Kotui Consortium is not a billion dollar iwi corporation benefiting from tax-free status, but is actually… managed by the National Library of New Zealand…which is part of the Department of Internal Affairs…who follow expected project protocols to ensure DIA security requirements are met. 

 Mmm! Nothing about substantial savings, then. In fact, there’s no mention of cost at all. The new system may very well be much more expensive than our current one. 
It seems to be all about keeping up to date and meeting security requirements and I guess you can’t put a price on that, which is probably why they haven’t bothered doing a cost:benefit analysis and advised us of the outcome, as per standard government department practice.

 Now, libraries have been around for a very long time and they basically lend books. Their computer systems have also been around a long time and have stored our data safely and let us borrow books when we want them. It’s not rocket science…or is it? 
They also provide a meeting place for local community groups… as long as your group fits the woke narrative. 
Some even have cafes and, in very recent times, have provided a venue for drag-queens to read stories to little children…. or, in other words, Daddy dressed as Mummy, looking scary, reading to Johnny and Janey. 
How inclusive, if highly disturbing and inappropriate! 

 So, what else has changed or is changing that renders our current NZ data systems simply inadequate to “keep up to date” and “meet DIA security requirements”? 
Well, the website advises:- 
 “Experts in the IT, legal, and library fields found that the hosted environment is the best way to deliver an efficient, modern and secure library service – and there is no infrastructure in NZ to deliver this. The data centres in Australia meet ISO international standards for security and reliability and are better suited to hosting this data. “ 

 Now hold on here! 
I’ve no idea what a hosted environment is but I can only deduce from the above statement that my personal details and borrowing history have effectively been an open book to the average 15-year old computer hacker for years now. 
As we speak, our “inefficient, ancient, unsecure” library service is wide open to cyber attack and there is no infrastructure to protect it. 
We all know how bad NZ is at infrastructure these days but this is appalling! Where’s the Fast Track Approvals Bill when you need it? 
On the long and winding submissions and approvals road, hemmed in by road cones, waiting for the sign, and the local iwi "expert", to say Go…. that’s where. 

 What’s more, without the hundreds of huge binders, containing countless ISO procedures, stored in Australian data centres, that no bugger ever reads or follows, apart from the systems control manager and his extensive team of desk jockeys, our library security and reliability appear fatally compromised…even though I’ve never heard of a serious data breach at my local libraries, or any other library in NZ. 
Though I may be wrong, readers. 

 Still, at least we can rest assured that the army of backroom management, legal and governance staff have expended a tiny proportion of their fat taxpayer/ratepayer funded salaries on this decision and approved it. 

 Now you may not be comfortable with your personal data being exported across the Tasman for the average Aussie IT professional to play around with. 
But don’t worry. If this is you, there are options…well one option, actually. will need to cancel your library membership no later than Monday 6 May.” 

 Personally, I don’t care who sees my book borrowing history, even if they are Australian. So I intend to keep using a service I already pay for through my rates and I’ll be waving my personal details off to Oz on 15 May. 

 In the scheme of things, and with all the really big issues we have to tackle, this is not something typically to get your knickers in a knot over. But, to me, it’s just another example to add to the long list of tasks that NZ can’t or won’t do for itself. 
Yet, we still require legions of in-house administrative and middle management wallahs to oversee the self-inflicted maze of regulations that prevent us from being productive and achieving tangible results. 

 New Zealand has become the land of the long-winded, multi-ethnic bureaucrat. 
Adding no value just costs; creating no wealth or real employment; slowing things down; increasing inefficiency; decreasing productivity; leeching off the genuine taxpayer for no benefit. 
Nowadays we’re a you-can’t-do-that society; the number-8 wire snapped years ago; fill out these forms, take a seat, we’ll keep you waiting an inordinate amount of time then decline your request, most likely for ridiculous environmental, cultural or security reasons. 

 In the library of life we need to turn over a new page as a nation, weed out all those pointless publications that don’t add value or knowledge, remove from circulation all those duplicate copies, and streamline the shelves to ensure quick access to the volumes we need to be successful. 

 Now, that’s a book I want us all to read. 

Derek Mackie is a former geologist with a keen interest in current affairs and a penchant for satire.


Anonymous said...

Analyzing your reading preferences is essential to determine which re-education camp you are sent to when Labour next take power.

Anonymous said...

It should be easier with 80 books removed from the library system under Ardern because they no longer met the idealist approval by Labour's censors.

Will also be easier when they have a German type book burning.

Anonymous said...

Derek unfortunately you are spot on. I doubt the rot that has set in can change quickly. Is the best thing to do let it grind to a halt and break? Let us drown slowly in the bs that we allowed to happen?

I think we are well on the way to hell, fast tracked by the left loonies...they will almost certainly finish this poor country off in 2029 or 2032, however I don't intend to be residing here then. I will unfortunately watch the demise from afar. Gosh, I hope I'm wrong, I do love being proved wrong.

Anonymous said...

So there is nowhere in NZ that is secure enough to store this data?

Anonymous said...

Increasingly a question of " How long have we got left "? Tragic.

Anonymous said...

Kōtui is the name of the consortium of some public libraries in NZ and supported by the National Library.

Kōtui members use the library management system Symphony from the vendor SirsiDynix.

Hosting a service like this overseas is pretty ho-hum these days. I’d be very surprised if there aren’t data security protocols in place for data transmission, password access and similar. I guess the writer could simply ask his local library if he has concerns.


Anonymous said...

"I’m hoping our new Coalition government will turn things around"?

Not going to happen. They are just the 'other cheek' of the same arse.

Nothing will change until we get rid of the arse.

Anonymous said...

The public library has now lost much its appeal. Fortunately, I have enough unread books on my shelf to last a few years, some of which I got a few years ago from Auckland Central Library’s weekly purges of quality books.