What is Library Carpentry? It is a toolkit providing core lessons to help build librarians’ knowledge, skills and confidence of data and software tools, including:

  • Data intro
  • Shell
  • OpenRefine
  • Git intro
  • Python intro
  • SQL

Library Carpentry was the winner of the 2016 British Library Labs Teaching and Learning Award. This provided funding, which Somerset Libraries Glass Box Project bid for to run a workshop for librarians across the South West (and further afield).

Purpose? The Library Carpentry pages say:  ‘Library Carpentry is made by librarians, for librarians to help you:

  • automate repetitive, boring, error-prone tasks
  • create, maintain and analyse sustainable and reusable data
  • work effectively with IT and systems colleagues
  • better understand the use of software in research
  • and much more…

Library Carpentry introduces you to the fundamentals of computing and provides you with a platform for further self-directed learning.’

Target audience? Library professionals

How might it be used? The modules have been developed and published under Creative Commons to be delivered in face to face workshops, used online for self directed learning or adapted by library professsionals. We ran our Library Carpentry South West workshop recently – I have included details of what we did below.

How to find out more? There is a lot of information on the Library Carpentry GitHub pages. You can access the modules online. Also check out Twitter @libcarpentry and #librarycarpentry.

Recipe we used for Library Carpentry South West

I’ve had a few requests for information about how others can organise a Library Carpentry event. There’s loads of information on the Library Carpentry pages and I hope our recipe for a successful event is also helpful:

  1. 1 host – this was me as part of the Somerset Libraries team. We’ve been working on an experimental digital collaboration space for a year and Library Carpentry leapt out as an obvious fit.
  2. 1 trainer – this is the most essential ingredient! Dave Rowe is a software engineer and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) developer. He works as a library systems officer, freelance developer and CTO for CartoConsult. He knows his stuff! Dave and I collaborated on the event from the start, as we were both tweeting about the opportunity at the same time, knew each other and were in a similar locality. Finding a confident presenter with a good working knowledge of the content is key.
  3. 2 or 3 Modules/Lessons – we selected the modules by creating google doc survey that we circulated on Twitter. This helped us to choose content that was relevant and also collect contact details for potential attendees. As a mapping enthusiast Dave also offered to create an ‘Everyone loves maps’ module, which was a very popular choice.
  4. 1 date – this was set a couple of months in advance (after a couple of attempts to get it right).
  5. 1 space booked – we chose the Glass Box Taunton, which has good Wi-Fi, large screen (although the bigger the better), electric for laptops to plug in, plus tables and chairs set up for group work.
  6. 1 online booking page created – we used Eventbrite (click view details). We always overbook by about 10% to get a good turnout. We had bookings from public, health and academic library workers.
  7. A good pinch of promotion – we spread the word via social media, our networks and the Library Carpentry pages.
  8. 1 planned timetable.
  9. 2 emails to attendees – it’s important to keep in touch with the event participants, providing information about IT kit to bring (we had laptops to borrow if required), location and transport, confirmed timings etc. This also reminds people to get in touch if they can no longer make it.
  10. At least 1 helper – I am no expert, but working through some of the tasks in advance allowed me to help out with some of the group data tasks.
  11. Plentiful refreshments – we had funding for this, but the ‘library camp’ style lunch could also work – everyone brings something to share. There is a lot of group discussion so water, tea and coffee was essential. The WI cakes from the local market also went down a treat!
  12. 20 sheets of flipchart paper and pens that work (I’d recommend not using your daughter’s dried out felt tips).
  13. 2 or 3 helpful hands to support with room layout, signposting and general navigation of the day (Thanks Catherine, Olly, Emma, Christina and Mandy – ok then, the more the better!)
  14. Enjoy a fun, mind stretching day!

The content of our event can be viewed in full (well apart from our group discussions) at: Library Carpentry South West. You can also view the tweets at #librarycarpentry.

I’d like to thank Dave for his time and efforts in making the day a success, everyone who attended and helped on the day, the creators of Library Carpentry and British Library Lab for funding the event.

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