DIY library tech

Over at Information Wants to be Free, Meredith Farkas makes a case for the benefits of every librarian acquiring some basic tech skills. With a small amount of tech savvy and a “willingness to mess around with it and break it a few times,” she says, libraries of any size and budget can take advantage of new technologies.

As an inveterate tinkerer, I couldn’t agree more. I am lucky to have great IT support for my library, but if I want to experiment with new technologies, I have to be able and willing to play with them myself. For example, we are using both Plone and WordPress. The sys admin will help me install and update the software, and we have a great webmaster who maintains our main web site, but why should they have to learn all the inner workings of the software themselves? Both Plone and WordPress have great development and user communities, and as long as I have a sandbox to play around in, I can experiment until I get the results I want.

If I had to wait for someone to do these things for me, I’d still be in a queue, great IT staff or no. The library catalog, let’s face it, is not their top priority.

I would never call myself a programmer, but my parents introduced me to programming as a kid, and I’ve always enjoyed the challenge. In college, I satisfied my lab requirement by taking every computer science class my college offered – all two of them. These days, with the support of open source communities, it is incredibly easy to play around with programming. I think the biggest challenge is seeing it as playful and fun instead of scary – and I thank my parents for giving me the right attitude.

Plone Bootcamp in Seattle

I promise this isn’t becoming a Plone blog, but the coincidence is too much to pass up.

The same week I will be in Seattle attending SLA 2008, Joel Burton will be at the University of Washington holding a Plone Bootcamp. I’m not suggesting that anyone pass up SLA for the Bootcamp, just noting that a whole bunch of library and information folks will be in the same city with a (smaller) bunch of Plone folks.