Friday, March 28, 2014

A couple common Code4Lib skillsets

Last year was my first Code4Lib (2013, in Chicago). It was both a stretch and a good thing for me to be around so many people who were not only passionate about libraries, technology, and the future, but who were actively building things to evolve libraries into 21st-century organizations.
If Computers In Libraries is more of a consumption-based model, wherein we discuss the use of technological tools in service of the library, Code4Lib is about the production of such tools. Don't mistake me, those tools are built on other tools, but the role of the technologist is less that of a systems administrator and more that of a programmer.
Or, another way to think about it is the difference between the mechanic and the engineer. The mechanic doesn't have a lot of latitude, s/he works with the systems that they've been handed. Yes, they can tweak those systems and yes, this is critical, much-needed work. But no, they can't redefine the fundamentals to meet a customer's needs.
If I bring my '96 Subaru Legacy into the shop, I can't expect a mechanic to turn that into a luxury car. I can't have them change the experience of my Subaru in any of its essential ways. Coders/developers have more latitude than that. They can iteratively improve experiences that their users have.
In Code4Lib 2013, though I never got a chance to post about it, I realized that I had to learn/master certain toolsets. I gained awareness of them, but had only dipped my toe in the water. This year, however, I dove in... a bit. These skillsets, which seem common to so many Code4Libbers (& important to any 21st-century librarian) include:
  • Github
  • Ruby on Rails Programming
and then there's the favorite communication tool of Code4Libbers - IRC. But I'm not going into that now & to be honest, I don't often use it myself. But know that it's out there, in case you want to get more heavily involved. I'll follow up with my notes from the preconference workshops on Github & Intro to Ruby on Rails.

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