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CODE4LIB  February 2013

CODE4LIB February 2013

Subject:

Re: back to minorities question, seeking guidance

From:

phoebe ayers <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Code for Libraries <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 21 Feb 2013 15:02:04 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (79 lines)

On Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 8:34 AM, Shearer, Timothy J
<[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> Hi Folks,
>
> I'm teaching systems analysis at SILS (UNC CH) this semester.
>
> Though the course is required for the IS degree, it's not required for the
> LS degree.
>
> However, the majority of my students this semester are LS. And the vast
> majority are women.
>
> Apropos of the part of the thread that dealt with numbers:
>
> For those of you who came into this community and at some point went
> through a MSLS or MSIS program I am wondering if there are things I could
> try to do that might have an impact on better aligning the ratio of men to
> women in code4lib and the technology end of the field in general to that
> in the general population?
>
> Was there a moment of clarity? A person who said or modeled the right
> thing? A project that helped uncover a skill you didn't know you had?
>
> And, I am not just interested in what I can do through one class, but also
> what the curriculum and school could do more holistically.
>

I am de-lurking to say I also really appreciate these questions.

I am not a coder or a systems person or anything else like that officially
(though I do seem to spend a lot of time on the web committees) -- I'm an
academic reference librarian, who has the distinction of being the
technical one in my dept. because I am unafraid of my computer.

My experience is most of the MLIS's I graduated with -- and me, too --
needed a basic background in CS stuff that we did not have (network
administration, simple web programming, basic database stuff), but were
also mostly interested in how to be practical in the real library world
with it. And so I think the most important set of skills to have is a basic
understanding of what underlies the applications we use every day, and what
those things do -- and how to approach learning more about things if you
need to (I'm not going to remember, say, PHP if you teach it to me in class
-- but I may well remember what it is and what it can do and how to
recognize it in the wild).

The other important issue that I see a lot of when working with librarians
is not having a good sense of what's *possible* -- say the tradeoffs
between security and flexibility, or making something look pretty versus it
being user-editable, etc. (And remember that often means what is possible
even though you might be working in a government or academic environment
with its own rules -- for instance, the only way I could get away with
setting up a server is to do it at home!) Also this may not be as true of
students, but many public services folks in the library world may for
instance have learned HTML 15 years ago when it was a thing to write your
own webpages by hand: but they haven't kept up with web technology over
time. So their understanding may be hazy.

So: though I wrote faux SQL in my databases class, and that was a necessary
and important thing to learn, it would have been more interesting for me to
learn how an ILS works, generally. Or what the parts are of a basic digital
repository -- even if I didn't get down in to learning the programming
language they were written in. Etc. I think for me, I might have ended up
on a more technical path than I'm on if it had been more clear to me how
technical projects interacted with the aspects of librarianship (reference,
collection development, etc) that I loved and figured out more easily.

I'll just second what Abigal said too, there are tons of different levels
in the MLIS program. I'd poll your class at the outset to see where they
are and teach accordingly. And yeah, I don't think many people realize how
good technical work can be an approach more than specific knowledge: the
instinct for when to google something.

-- Phoebe


--
* I use this address for lists; send personal messages to phoebe.ayers <at>
gmail.com *

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