Library Carpentry

Perl Problems

I had no idea why I was being encouraged to get into librarianship. I was an IT guy working at the University of Otago in Dunedin, with a 10 years of IT training experience, a bit of systems administrations and programming, and facing redundancy. I had been working in the library as the local IT support, and the managers there were all suggesting I should become a librarian. I had all the usual preconceptions of libraries as outdated book museums, but I was (reasonably gently) set right. Libraries are the access point for vast digital collections, with complex and nuanced systems based on all sorts of technologies.

I did my research, got my MIS, and got a wonderful job as a research data co-ordinator at Canterbury University, in Christchurch NZ. It’s a mid ranked international university, with lots of research activity, especially anything to do with earthquakes.

It was obvious that my mentors were right – the baseline skills of my colleagues were excellent with office style software, and the systems team had a depth of understanding far beyond mine, but there was a real gap – the ability to turn boring jobs into scripts, using command line interfaces, advanced pattern matching – the kind of things that make my day easy when dealing with volumes of data.

I started teaching software carpentry – who would have thought I’d still be showing people bash scripts and SQL 20 years after I picked them up! I also deepened my python, and started using a bit of R. It is fun teaching postgrads, but I really still want to share my skills amongst my colleagues. It’s not until you’ve developed your own data and manipulation pipelines you understand how you can help the researchers we are working with every day.

Belinda Weaver did a whistlestop tour through some of NZ’s main academic libraries, visiting from Australia. I’d like to help develop the local Library Carpentry instructor pool, both by facilitating sessions and inducting a few more instructors into the fold.

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