Software Skills Training for Librarians - Programme outline and FAQ

This post originally appeared on the Library Carpentry website

In one way or another librarians play a crucial role in cultivating world-class research. And in most disciplinary areas today world-class research relies on the use of software. Software Carpentry offers introductory software skills training with a focus on the needs and requirements of research scientists. Library Carpentry offers comparable introductory software training with a focus on the needs and requirements of the library professionals.

This exploratory programme of four three-hour introductory sessions is held at City University London between 1730 and 2030 on Monday the 9th, 16th, 23th, and 30th of November 2015 and hosted by the Centre for Information Science. Around 50 participants from nine institutions have expressed interest in attending, most of whom will come as part of a group. Please note: Library Carpentry has been super popular and is now full! Hopefully we’ll get to run it again sometime…

The planned ‘syllabus’ for each session derives from existing, openly licensed training materials. These include materials created for Software Carpentry, the British Library’s internal Digital Scholarship Training Programme, and the Programming Historian. Sessions are designed to be practical and after some introductions and follow-my-leader tutorials primarily involve participants working in groups from worksheets at their own pace. Session leaders and helpers will be on hand to troubleshoot.

Library Carpentry is an introductory software skills programme, meaning that no knowledge of programming or the principles of programming are required. If you know more about the one or more of the topics we plan to cover, you are of course still welcome to join us. At the beginning of each session you will be asked to self-identify as knowing ‘Nothing’, ‘A Little’, ‘Lots’, or ‘Lots and Lots’ about the topic at hand and to proudly wear a badge signifying your confidence level. This will help us build a rich and collaborative learning environment that benefits all participants.

The programme is subject to change depending on how we get along, what you want, and what you need. It is anticipated, however, that it will take the following form:

Week One: Basics

  • Jargon busting
  • Generic skills and best practice
  • Regular Expressions

Week Two: Shell

  • Navigating the Unix Shell
  • Counting and mining tabulated data
  • Ripping a text apart
  • Named Entity Recognition

Week Three: Versioning

  • Version control with Git
  • Collaborating with Github
  • Publishing to the web with GitHub Pages

Week Four: Open Refine

  • What is Open Refine and what can it do
  • Cleaning Data with Open Refine
  • Doing more with Open Refine


Do I need to bring a laptop to Library Carpentry?

  • For weeks two, three, and four you will need to bring a laptop (not a tablet) or arrange to share a laptop (ideally between no more than two people). Laptops with a recent Windows, Apple, or Linux operating system installed should suffice (Chromebooks may work, but we have no experience with them). If you are using a laptop provided by your institution, please ensure you have the right to install software.

What software will I need?

  • Participants will need to install all required software between sessions. Setup instructions will be available in advance of each session. If you would like help installing required software, please bring your laptop to week one and we will do our best to help out.

What’s the wifi password?

If your institution is part of the eduroam network you shouldn’t need to make any changes to get online at Library Carpentry. Otherwise, guest wifi will be available to participants.

Who will lead the sessions and help me out?

  • All sessions leaders and helpers are volunteers with experience of the library sector. Session leaders and helpers are neither professional programmers nor experts in the tools and software that Library Carpentry covers. Rather, most of the leaders and helpers have software skills that are self-taught and/or picked up ad hoc as part of their day to day work. It is anticipated that learning from people with this perspective and experience will help you figure out how best to develop your own software skills in your own home environment.

Can I just come to a few sessions?

  • Ideally you would come to each session, though we appreciate that this may not be possible. Week one will cover the format of weeks two to four, so we recommend that every participant attends this session. Weeks two to four are independent of one another, so in principle picking and choosing between these is not a problem.

Do I have to stay for the whole three hours?

  • No. A significant proportion of each session is structured to allow participants to work through tasks in groups at their own pace. So if you finish early or your brain has had enough, please don’t feel obliged to stay.

Is this an official Software Carpentry event?

  • Library Carpentry is not an official Software Carpentry event. Nevertheless we sought approved from the Software Carpentry Committee to use the ‘Carpentry’ moniker. Lessons learned from Library Carpentry will be fed back into the work of Software Carpentry.

You say that ‘lessons learned will feed back intro the work of Software Carpentry’, so will you be collecting information about me?

  • Registration will require you to provide some personal information. This information will not be shared outside of the organisers. In order to understand the software training needs and requirements of library staff, we will ask you periodically to tell us something about how much you are learning, how you are feeling, how something went, or how you might apply something outside of Library Carpentry. This information will be collected voluntarily and anonymously via post-it notes. After Library Carpentry, this data will be collated and used in a publication/report on software skills and library training.

Will food and drink be provided?

  • Caffeinated drinks, water, juice, sugary snacks, and fruit will be provided. Participants are welcome to bring a more substantial meal with them if required.

Can Library Carpentry pay for my travel expenses?

  • Some funds have been allocated to cover costs for volunteers. Participants should fund their own travel to and from Library Carpentry. If you have trouble finding the funds, speak to James (email below).

Who funds Library Carpentry?

  • Library Carpentry is funded by the Software Sustainability Institute. The Software Sustainability Institute cultivates world-class research with software. The Institute is based at the universities of Edinburgh, Manchester, Southampton and Oxford.

Who coordinates Library Carpentry?

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