I am, like many librarians, sort of a crabby nitpicker about some things. I think there are optimal ways to do things, particularly with technology. I have, over the past 20+ years of helping people, gotten better at working with people to reach their own good place with how they want technology to work for them. I only talk “optimizing” if someone asks. They rarely ask. This is fine. Working on my anxiety levels has also helped with this somewhat.
I visit libraries like it is my job. I always like a nice public place where I can sit and read or work among other people and not have to buy anything. I like getting ideas by looking at hundreds of books or flipping through magazines. Last night I was at the Tiverton Public Library which is just a few miles from my dad’s place in Massachusetts. They were having a speaker talk about Lizzie Borden. Fun! I found it via the Facebook “events near me” feature which I have never tried before since IN Vermont you usually get … nothing.
The author, Rich Little (above), a math teacher at a local community college, had written a book called Cold Case to Case Closed, Lizbeth Borden, My Story. Fall River is right up the road and the place was PACKED with people, many of whom had a lot of knowledge about the case, some of which conflicted with the speaker’s. It was an entertaining 90 minutes learning more about the Bordens and about Fall River at that time.
Mister Little used large blown-up images of the key players and I immediately thought “Uh oh, no slides?” but it turned out it worked pretty well in the packed room and we could all focus more on what he was saying. He was even pretty deft in dealing with the people in the audience who were pretty set against his interpretation of events (which seemed to be the vibe I got from the Lizzie Borden Society members reviews). I was pleased that I’d overcome my initial concerns to enjoy this great library program.
One weird part, however, was RSVPing for the event. They asked you to call and RSVP. Not usually my communication preference but okay. I left my name, spelling it, and phone number with the library. When I arrived that evening the entire list of names and numbers (with mine written JAZMYN WEST) was on a clipboard in the front lobby on an unstaffed table. While I am pretty good at my “this is a thing on which reasonable people disagree” stance, I think this is a library privacy gaffe. At the same time, I don’t want my only feedback on this otherwise superb event to be “I felt weird that you left my phone number out in public.” so I decided to write all of this out.
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 canâ€™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 madnessâ€”why are we not using the exodus of women from comp sci to our advantage?) nor creating them.
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…
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.