Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Don't tell me what to learn...

I got riled up this morning after reading some blog posts shared in listservs* and posted on my friends blog.

First, I read an article called Why You Should Not Learn HTML. From the get-go the title annoyed me. Not because I don't agree. Personally, a basic understand of HTML makes my life easier, but most librarians can do their jobs well and not know a lick of HTML. I use Blogger, Google Sites, and other make-your-own websites, but knowing how to go in and change the HTML to better display it when, for some reason, it just won't put the picture where I want it to be, is an invaluable tool. From a teaching perspective, I absolutely need to understand HTML, because our curriculum requires that I teach it. So, for me at least, yes, I should learn HTML.

Second, I read my friends blog which summarizes a post by Wayne Bivens-Tatum and a rebuttal to it. Bivens-Tatum argues that librarians don't need to learn to code. Or, more accurately, that knowing a programming language is not necessary to being a librarian. For me, knowing a programming language isn't essential, but, again, it is certainly helpful. Being able to parse through code to understand why the dang patron import isn't working makes my life easier. Or, as Meggan says it better
...scouring the code did allow us to talk to the web designer in a way was more intelligent than taking the car to the mechanic and saying, “It just won’t go.” 

Now you're asking what I was riled up about. Being a librarian means knowing a lot of things about a lot of different topics. For me, there is no one set, robust definition of what being a librarian is, because it changes from library to library and from librarian to librarian. Trying to pigeonhole the profession into a specified description that everyone must fit into takes away the beauty of librarianship, which is that we can be masters of any knowledge, if our patrons need us to be.

The question we should be asking ourselves is, for us to best serve our patrons, do we need to learn HTML or know a programming language? My answer, for my situation, is unequivocally yes. Your answer, for your situation, who knows.

Oh, and don't ever tell me what I should or should not be learning, I will choose that based on my understanding of the needs of my patrons.


*Google insists this is misspelled. The listserv I received it from is from the University of Michigan School of Information, which I graduated from in April 2012. It's made up of current students and alumni.

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