One of things that I find that programmers (specifically web programmers) are divided on is the use of books. Ed said that “No one (or nearly no one) reads a programming book front to back” – well Ed – meet nearly no one 🙂 After I took a 4 day training course on PHP I went out and bought the Web Applications with MySQL & PHP book by O’Reilly and read it cover to cover! I found that reading the book gave me ideas and helped me have a better understanding of what I could do with PHP. Now that I’ve been writing PHP for years I come up with ideas on my own and look for help online – but I keep my books right next to my computer on my desk so that they’re always is easy reach.
Someone – can’t remember who – mentioned that programming is easy in libraries because expectations are low – people are just happy to have something that makes their jobs easier. I’m here to tell you that that changes! While expectations start out low – over time, your staff learns what you can do and they will ask for the world! It’s a great feeling – and a stressful feeling at the same time. It’s easy to program when no one knows what you’re capable of – but as time goes on – people catch on and start asking for bigger and bigger projects – like the insane one I’m working on now.
On Formal Education
I agree with whoever said that going into library school with work experience under your belt makes all the difference – in fact I think this is true for any higher education. I’m a big believer in working while in school to see what it’s like out there. I think that high school and college should both require work and take 5 years each so that students can experiment. College was a waste of money for me – I didn’t know what I wanted to do until my Junior year and by then it was too late to change majors so all I could do was add a computer programming minor onto my degree (or stay in school longer – which I wasn’t about to do).
A good example (once again I don’t remember who said it) that was given was that experience makes you see what classes will be useful. I wanted to take a class called Professional & Scholarly Communication but apparently, for the last few terms no one has signed up for this class and they have canceled it – this is because the students have no idea how important communication is going to be to their jobs – and it’s a shame.
On becoming a library programmer
Dan asked what advice his visitors had to give to students who wanted to do what we’re doing. Ross said “Vision” and everyone agreed – even me. I think that if you can look outside of the box and see what things could be like then you can be a programmer in a library – but one thing that wasn’t mentioned was that you also need perseverance! If you’re not willing to fight for what you think is right then you might as well hang up your hat now – librarians are notorious (based on what I’ve read and see) for being afraid of change – and changing the way they work by adding new applications can be one of the most scary things you’ll ever suggest.
On being a library geek
Well it was fun pretending I was part of the discussion by writing my answers out here – maybe one day soon you’ll actually get to hear me talk to the library geeks!!