Last summer, Bloomberg BusinessWeek devoted an entire issue to “What Is Code?” a single article by Brooklyn-based writer and programmer Paul Ford. Ford’s breakdown of key concepts pulls back the curtain on the fundamentals of computer programming and makes a compelling argument that any smart person can learn the basics—and that the basics are worth learning even for those who aren’t planning to become professional coders. It is, in part, a case for coding as a new frontier in digital literacy. There’s a growing interest in this type of education among kids, teens, businesspeople, career changers, and the generally curious. And a growing number of public libraries are already responding to this need within their communities. Here’s a look at ways in which a few libraries have made their programs a success.
Whether the topic of discussion is electronic resources, collection development policies, or patron-driven acquisition, academic librarians have a history of giving media and video short shrift, argues deg farrelly, media librarian and streaming video administrator for Arizona State University Libraries (ASU).
Even at large libraries that have staff dedicated to digitization projects, the additional effort needed to enable researchers to extract data from these collections—such as transcribing OCR-resistant text, or adding item-level tags to large collections of images—would be an untenable chore for a library to take on alone. So, in the past half decade, libraries have taken cues from long-running projects, using crowdsourcing as a way not only to outsource work that would be impossible for staff to attempt but also to engage volunteers.
Librarians have always taught patrons how to use the tools that serve their information needs. We had to explain card catalogs, vertical files, microfilm/fiche, photocopiers, and OPACs. The fundamental difference about the tech needs of the 21st century is the ever-changing variety of personal devices that patrons use to access our services. Some libraries are lucky enough to have dedicated staff with special training to serve these patrons directly, but most of the time it’s a library generalist fielding question after question about something new every day. How do frontline staffers with self-taught or very basic knowledge of technology stay savvy about the latest and hottest gadgets? How do we train nontechnical staff to troubleshoot effectively and train our patrons to use their own gadgets?
Selecting a library management system is never an easy decision. Vendors of integrated library systems (ILS) offer solutions tailored to public, academic, school, and special libraries, but even when organized by type, libraries are hardly one-size-fits-all organizations. Choosing a new vendor tends to mean a major investment, with a multiyear commitment to a solution that often will require new training, adaptation, and trade-offs among cost, features, and functionality. Still, it’s a tough choice that many libraries are facing once again. This second edition of Library Systems Landscape, the successor to LJ’s annual Automation Marketplace feature, will examine the impact of recent mergers, the continued adoption of next-generation library services platforms, the emergence of mobile-optimized staff clients, and new partnerships and feature development in the open source arena.