I got skillz and I know how to use them

What I wouldn’t give for a pre-conference workshop on XML or SQL or some programming language that I could apply to my daily work!

Recently, Dorothea Salo was bemoaning the lack of technology skills among librarians. I hear her, and I agree, but I don’t think that the library science programs have as much blame as she wants to assign to them.

Librarianship has created an immense Somebody Else’s Problem field around computers. Unlike reference work, unlike cataloguing, unlike management, systems is all too often not considered a librarian specialization. It is therefore not taught at a basic level in some library schools, not offered as a clear specialization track, and not recruited for as it needs to be. And it is not often addressed in a systematic fashion by continuing-education programs in librarianship.

I guess my program, eight years ago, was not one of those library schools that doesn’t teach basic computer technology. Considering that my program was not a highly ranked program, nor one known for being techie, I’m surprised to learn that we had a one-up on some other library science programs. Not only were there several library tech (and basic tech) courses available, everyone was required to take at least one computer course to learn hardware and software basics, as well as rudimentary HTML.

That being said, I suspect that the root of Salo’s ire is based in what librarians have done with the tech knowledge they were taught. In many cases, they have done nothing, letting those who are interested or have greater aptitude take over the role of tech guru in their libraries. Those of us who are interested in tech in general, and library tech in specific, have gone on to make use of what we were taught, and have added to our arsenal of skills.

My complaint, and one shared by Salo, is that we are not given very many options for learning more through professional continuing education venues that cover areas considered to be traditional librarian skills. What I wouldn’t give for a pre-conference workshop on XML or SQL or some programming language that I could apply to my daily work!

4 thoughts on “I got skillz and I know how to use them”

  1. I’m not quite sure why this has to be offered as part of an MLS program — as Salo seems to argue.

    Continuing Ed. or even a 2nd Masters can make up the difference.

  2. It’s an interesting problem, considering that at my institution, our head librarian is also the de facto chair of our information literacy working group (which I’m on along with our instructional technologist, another techie humanist and techies from two other divisions at the college–though I think I’m about the techie-est of the faculty).

    What’s most interesting to me is that we’re not really considering information systems, information architecture, or information design as part of “information literacy.” When, clearly, from the perspective of librarians (those who do a lot with information literacy every day), these things are part and parcel of the whole deal.

    As to programming/coding, I can see how XML would be very useful in your work. It’s biggest drawback, in my book, is that it’s strictly structural–and requires two levels of styling in order to make it accessible/useful on the Web (XSL and CSS). And the deal with SQL is about the same–it’s entirely structural (in a database sense)–thought it’s great for mass creation and population of a database, if you’ve got your data somehow otherwise organized. But with it, you’ve still got to know PHP or something else that can make the organized data in the dbase useful. On the upside, none of these is all that difficult to learn, especially if you’ve already got some X/HTML skills (and if you know HTML, you should look into XHTML); if you had a good project to work on, you could probably teach yourself (ie, I did).

    More than you had in mind?

  3. Not at all, Mike. I probably could teach myself some of this stuff — the problem is finding the time to do it. On the other hand, the longer I wait the more likely someone else will come up with the programming to do what I want.

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