Librarian by Name

This past summer, Amy Frazier wrote a post on the Hack Library School blog called “Librarian by Name, Geek by Nature.” The post itself deals with the idea of what is taught/learned in Library and Information Science (LIS) programs (a.k.a. library school), and what isn’t. Her article focused on what isn’t taught – what we don’t learn, and what we wish we did.

I rarely read the comments on any blog post or article, but the comments on this one are well worth reading; it’s a real conversation. People weigh in about the importance (or not) of coding skills and other IT skills; other “wishlist” items include more courses on project management, teaching, and customer service.

The desire to learn, not just in school but throughout life, is somewhat characteristic of librarians. One theme that is repeated throughout the comments is that library students and librarians would like to learn more technical skills and coding languages, but the course offerings in most programs are insufficient.

Like many of the participants in the discussion, I went to Simmons, where the only required technology course was Technology for Information Professionals. I lucked out (i.e., fought my way in) and took this class with Michael Leach, who gave us both a conceptual background and some hard skills. Linda Braun’s Web Development and Information Architecture course, though, was the one that made me excited about technology and coding and gave me confidence in the skills I had learned in her class, and in my ability to learn more.

However, I spend a lot of time with software developers – full-time coders  – and the odd technology librarian, and my knowledge of HTML/CSS/PHP pales to nothing next to theirs. (They write in a variety of languages including PHP, JavaScript, C++, Python, Ruby on Rails, and others.) As Andromeda Yelton wrote, “We can always find people who make us feel inadequate as coders. Sometimes it’s genuinely because they’ve forgotten more code than we’re ever likely to know, but most of the time? They know things we don’t because code is big. No one knows all of it.”

Not every librarian needs to be a coding expert, but if the discussion over on Hack Library School is any indication, most want to learn more – or at least have enough of an understanding to communicate with those who do it full-time. At the very least, librarians should be a few steps ahead of patrons in terms of tech-savviness.


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