Eric Lease Morgan wrote:
> Computers are great tools for storing vast amounts of data/information.
> Combined with a network, computers are also great tools for
> sharing/communicating this information with other computers, and therefore
> Librarianship is (partially) about collecting, organizing, archiving,
> disseminating, and sometimes evaluating data/information/knowledge. These
> processes seem very similar to the sorts of processes computers can
One of the most overlooked capabilities of computers is that they can
simplify or outright eliminate a lot of the day to day "heavy lifting"
that is part of many jobs even though it is not the primary focus of the
job. Shrink wrapped applications can automate a lot of this for us, but
there is still a lot of work that is specific to our institutions,
environments, or even to our particular jobs that doesn't have a readily
available off-the-shelf solution. In many cases, it is easy to write a
small program to automate an otherwise time-consuming or impractical
task, if you know how. A lot of data evaluation, sorting, filtering,
editing, and other manipulation tasks fall into this category, and a lot
of librarians work with data sets even if they are not systems or IT
librarians. Having solid, basic programming skills can often be the
difference between a lot of mind-numbing (and error-prone) manual labour
and a few minutes of programming to script a solution. These problems
crop up all the time in a library environment and affect librarians with
all kinds of specialties: not just systems and IT-related areas, but
cataloging, administration, and everything else.
In a lot of cases, the things that you do or don't do are determined by
the capabilities of the software you have. A lot of the time, It is
amazing how much work a little custom-written ad hoc program can do for
you, but it is often impractical to get someone to write one for you,
especially if you need it today.
Not everybody needs rigorous computer science training but, in general,
I would say that almost everyone who works with data using a computer
can benefit from some practical programming skills. Learning basic
computer literacy can help you approach certain problems in a more
efficient manner. An IT stream in library schools is a good idea, but I
think that teaching basic computer programming and computer literacy (as
in understanding how computers work and how to think about using
computers as general-purpose problem solving tools for getting everyday
things done) is also a worthwhile thing to do.
Electronic Systems Specialist
Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions (CIHM)