It pains me a great deal to write this post, since at one point I advocated that librarians learn HTML, and not just as a lark. I was quite serious, and I even wrote a book to help librarians learn how to do it. The sales figures for that book should have been a clue. You weren’t going to to do it. You didn’t do it. You didn’t do it in droves. But that’s OK, since I’m now over my pitiful delusion. I get it now.
Don’t learn HTML. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some of you who should — most notably anyone writing software — but the vast majority of you can die in ignorant bliss some decades from now, having never understood the difference between a “class” and an “id” CSS selector. Not that you need the additional incentives, but let me go ahead and spell it out for you:
- Nearly all of it is now done via software, which you don’t know how to write. Let’s be clear. Despite my early belief that virtually anyone who entered the profession after, say, 1990 should have learned computer programming, that’s clearly just me. Many of you have entered the profession without such background, and are doing just fine, thank you very much. I was wrong. Plenty of you can be very successful without such knowledge, by providing lots of added value in many other, just as important, ways. So unless you know how to write software, these days you mostly don’t need to know how to code HTML. Lucky you.
- Others do it better. I’ve created more web sites than most people invite over for Thanksgiving dinner. And yet I still can’t do it better than people who really know what they’re doing. I can’t. Go to a site like Wix.com and inside of an hour or so you will have a web site up and running that is much better than I ever could have done for you. I mean, seriously. It makes me weep to say this, but it’s true.
- Even when you do it, you do it in really weird ways. My workplace has a wiki. Perhaps yours does too. A wiki is a clusterf&$k. What it does is make everyone who knows nothing start from scratch to learn how to mark up something using their proprietary (and never repeated) markup syntax. What it also does is make everyone who knows everything start from scratch and learn how to mark up something using their proprietary markup syntax. Joy.
- It is a dead-end: it will give you nothing you really need. Read the above. If you do not intend to write software, or be employed as web lackey, then learn something else.
So does all of this mean I am taking back much of what I have said to young librarians just entering the profession? Not on your life. I continue to believe that the more skills you have, the better off you are. If you can be an awesome story-telling, PHP-coding, book-club-organizing, metadata-wonking, you-name-it librarian, then the world is, uh, your oyster. More power to you. But will I insist that everyone learn HTML? No, that ship has passed in the night, even if it had ever been destined for port. Carry on. There’s nothing to see here.