In order to keep things honest here, I would like to post something with substance behind the observations and gripes. After reading a fair number of blogs about tech services, programming and libraries, I’ve noticed several common threads that could be addressed with a focus on basics. I would like to offer readers of Robotic Librarian quality for their time. Lifelong learning for us as well.
Ideas are valuable when able to be put into practice. A continual theme of these posts call for an active role in encoding library services, and to that end we need to know the basics. For example, a common complaint about the ALA’s digital face is that the website is unappealing, and even archaic. As Norma says in a response to a post on Free Range Librarian, “I was never a member, but look in from time to time. I loved the smaller, deeper professional library organizations, but ALA seemed so out of touch. Still I was surprised by the ugly website comment. It seems to be a library afflication [sic]. The poorest websites with clunky, chunky links seem to be run by libraries. Doesn’t speak well for the profession.”
Some suggest outsourcing, or bringing in professional web designers. Perhaps that is the answer, but I would prefer to see us accelerate our own learning on the matter. A good beginning would be to start with some basic, accepted frameworks and develop it from there. Or perhaps start with designer supplied open source coding that is already dressed up a bit. Best of all would be to learn the CSS, Java, XML, Perl and Ruby on Rails to do it ourselves. Google, one of the most sophisticated of all net aggregators, often uses remarkably simple XML programming to achieve its aims. That very simplicity is a hallmark of new collaborative web environments. Just look at the O’Reilly Web 2.0 article from the last post for an in-depth look at it. For samples of working code that anyone can use, check out The Code Project, with online free source code boasting 4,222,461 members and growing.
To get more specific, there are wonderful resources for libraries as well. Check out the code4lib blog to hear about advances in the tech side of library service. By becoming a member you are able to get advice, code development help, and emotional support every time your code seems to creatively reimagine your data. If you want to connect with other library systems, and see exactly what they are up to today, you can go to the Library Weblogs index, which hosts feeds from Antigua, Egypt, Belarus, Kuwait, Singapore, and…well, just check it out if you’re interested. Amazing, isn’t it? If you’re interested, send in an email and you can get your library related blog feed posted to the list.
On a more personal note, you can subscribe to Blisspix, Fiona Bradley’s Sydney based blog about “Open access, technology and social futures.” Sometimes a bit technical, but a fine review of ongoing questions and problems with a practical focus.
As I come across problems while learning coding I will try to post suggestions, difficulties and pleas for help along the way. Hope this little guide helps even one of you on your way as well.
“And yet relation appears,
A small relation expanding like the shade
Of a cloud on sand, a shape on the side of a hill.”
(Wallace Stevens, “Connoisseur of Chaos”)