Having the knowledge to think about our services and needs from the programmer’s point of view allows us to know what is possible, know how to ask for exactly what we want from others, and can lead to custom software development and technology projects. The program will look at how librarians can become familiar with different aspects of computer technology to better serve the needs of our users while avoiding the high cost, long build times, and the close-but-not-perfect outcomes of other options.
Coding, computer literacy, IT projects, programming, design, implementation
From the Programmer’s Point of View: Imagining Creative Solutions to Serve our Patrons
Jost Foundation Room
When seeking to expand our services and the experiences that we offer to our patrons, librarians have the opportunity to find creative solutions in ways that provide a meaningful improvement and demonstrate an engagement with modern systems. As the shift to exclusively computer-based resources, online channels of communication, and web services continues, the information side of library information science requires that we take up the task of becoming familiar with computer programming, software engineering practices, and data handling in order to provide the best services possible.
The need for computer literacy, more specifically how to think programmatically, in all areas of our community is paramount in the face of every conceivable library resource and service converting to or existing exclusively in the digital realm. This need is compounded by the expectation from our patrons that we provide compelling experiences that are competitive with those of the consumer technology that they are exposed to throughout their daily lives.
While there is a rich history and fertile ecosystem of library led IT projects, including projects that rival and surpass many commercial offerings, there exists a need for librarians outside of IT roles to wield an understanding of programming and information systems.
For many technology-oriented projects librarians have traditionally been faced with two less than ideal options. The first, to shop around for a vendor-supplied but not-quite-perfect product or solution that often includes a high-cost and having to settle on an existing product. The second, to appeal to our institutional or municipal IT departments or other departments with expertise. While both options can and do often work, librarians with programming literacy have the tools needed to forge our own path.
The program will look at how librarians can become familiar with different aspects of computer technology from the programmer’s point of view. The results of which can lead to knowing what is possible, knowing how to ask for exactly what we want, and how to take up small scale software development and technology projects. Specifically, small scale custom development allows us to glue together larger systems to better serve the needs of our users while avoiding the high cost, long build times, and the close-but-not-perfect outcomes of other options.
A small amount of coding skills and interest in technology coupled with the abundance of programmable platforms can lead to highly customized and engaging experience for our patrons with a relatively low cost and time commitment. In addition to the improved user experience, these types of projects help to reflect our changing profession. The design and implementation of two projects will be explored in detail. These include a standalone Twitter bot incorporating Raspberry Pi hardware, 3D printing, and programming and an online Reserves listing kiosk incorporating programming, iPad hardware, and Google Docs. The common thread is the small amount of programming literacy that allows for the leveraging of larger systems and platforms to rapidly create custom solutions.