Library Carpentry in Aotearoa

I’ve written recently about the need for Librarians to embrace data science tools and techniques. I’m sure you’ve read something similar – but the question is how?

No solution is perfect, but there are two main professional development resources you may want to look at – the Australian National Data Service’s 23 Research Data Things [1] and Library Carpentry [2]. These two programmes are complementary. 23 Research Data Things is a paced set of self run tutorials that introduce the concepts of data management, including, ethics, storage, description, and much more. I heartily recommend it.

Library Carpentry is a multi day instructor led training with certified instructors, co-developed openly available lessons, being taught globally. It’s designed to meet a gap between the normal practice of Librarians and the tools and techniques of data science.

So, I’m hatching a plan on how to get New Zealand/Aotearoa Librarians more comfortable with data, programming and tools to help work with data. The end goal is a self sustaining community of Library Carpentry Instructors who can volunteer to lead classes all over the country, and contribute to the global effort of developing lessons – especially as we can make them more relevant in our local environment. I’d like to see the program embedded in the MIS programme at the University of Wellington, and through the Library and Museum studies curricula at the Open Polytechnic – to the point where graduates could be expected to contribute to the Carpentries themselves as helpers or instructors.

How do we get from here to there? Firstly – run Library Carpentry events. By showcasing the lessons and the approach the community can decide for itself if it thinks the courses are valuable. I’m using my contacts in the institutional repository and professional association communities to maintain the interest after a visit from our Australian carpentry instructor Belinda Weaver. (As I wrote that last sentence I got an email from one of my contacts saying they were thinking about it…)

My next tactic is to encourage people to become instructors during the sessions. Though I think it’s a fallacy to think young people have better computational or programming skills, I do think that graduates from the digital humanities, biology or even computer science do. It’s these potentially more recent recruits (as well as us older nerds) I think can show leadership in takingon instruction in the Carpentries. Leadership from below, my favourite kind.

Community management is a delicate thing. Since the aim is to create a sustainable community, the aim must be to constantly improve the capacity of the instructors and helpers, engaging them with the global Library Carpentry community, developing new and maintaining older lessons. I can see a place for data ethics to be included in the curriculum, including research data plans and advising on handling indigenous sovereign data.

So – does that sound sensible? Is it a way forward? I’m very keen to get feedback on my ideas, and (especially) expressions of interest. There’s no better way to learn something than teach it!


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