why johnny librarian can’t code

A thoughtful and amusing post from Caveat Lector. It’s not just that librarians can’t code, it’s that they can’t even agree that coding is what (some) librarians ought to be doing.

Librarians can’t code because too many librarians and library schools have their noses so far up in the air about computers that they are neither recruiting coders (which is purest, sheerest madness—why are we not using the exodus of women from comp sci to our advantage?) nor creating them.

librarians do and do not need to be coders.

When I said “librarians need to be coders” I mostly meant that they need to involve themselves in their technology. Science Library Pad has gone further and explicated this idea with a fancy diagram and some smart talk. Go read librarians 2.0 don’t need to be coders 2.0

Don’t try to build big complex systems. Live in the beta world. Get some chunk of functionality out quickly so that people can play with it. The hardest part is having the initial idea, and the good news is I see lots of great ideas out in the library blogosphere. I can understand the frustrations in the gap between the idea and running code, but I hope I’ve presented a bunch of areas above in which you can work to turn the idea into the next hot beta, without necessarily needing to code it yourself.

The systems world is not just buy/build. It’s buy, build, transform, collaborate, extend, transform, inspire, lead…

Dan Chudnov “more librarians need to be coders”

I’ve been meaning to link to some of Dan Chudnov’s essays for a while now. He’s a librarian programmer, or a programmer with an MLIS, who works on some pretty interesting tools. Unlike many other people who can codeswitch between high-tech and low-tech aspects of the profession, he hasn’t eschewed one for the other. In fact, he spends an awful lot of time trying to bridge the gaps that exist. His work log should be on everyone’s rss feed list. The latest entry is about library development, not fundraising, but coding. Dan codes, for a library. Dan thinks more of us should learn to code. I’ll let him tell it.

There seem to be two levels operating here of relevance to library types: First, you cannot afford to be slow, so whatever it takes to learn how to do things faster and better. Second, don’t be stupid about being faster and better – the means exist today to design scalable platforms on top of scalable platforms, and tools on top of tools. So you’d better know what you’re doing, and you’d better be good at it. Or, you’d better know whom to emulate and take every possible advantage of their good work when it can get you up your own curve.

This kind of message needs to be broadcast profession-wide – at the TLA meeting this past April several audience members challenged my assertion that “more of us need to be coders.” My response was, and remains, that in the aggregate, our profession is borderline incompetent w/r/to software development, and the more people we can get who understand this stuff, the more likely our chances of basic survival as an industry.