Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Skills Training for Librarians: Expanding Library Carpentry

Post from the University of California Curation Center of the California Digital Library


In today’s data-driven, online and highly interconnected world, librarians are key to supporting diverse information needs and leading best practices to work with and manage data. For librarians to be effective in a rapidly evolving information landscape, training and professional development opportunities in both computational and data skills must be available and accessible.

Over the past couple years, an international Library Carpentry (LC) movement has begun that seeks to emulate the success of the Carpentries — both the Data Carpentry and Software Carpentry initiatives — in providing librarians with the critical computational and data skills they need to serve their stakeholders and user communities, as well as streamline repetitive workflows and use best data practices within the library. This Library Carpentry community has already developed initial curriculum and taught more than 40 workshops around the world.

We are excited to announce that California Digital Library (CDL) has been awarded project grant funds from IMLS to further advance the scope, adoption, and impact of Library Carpentry across the US. CDL’s 2-year project will be conducted by their digital curation team, University of California Curation Center (UC3), and will focus on these main activities: 1. development and updates of core training modules optimized for the librarian community and based on Carpentries pedagogy 2. regionally-organized training opportunities for librarians, leading to an expanding cohort of certified instructors available to train fellow librarians in critical skills and tools, such as the command line, OpenRefine, Python, R, SQL, and research data management 3. community outreach to raise awareness of Library Carpentry and promote the development of a broad, engaged community of support to sustain the movement and to advance LC integration within the newly forming Carpentries organization

Why Library Carpentry?

Library Carpentry leverages the success of the Carpentries pedagogy, which is based on providing a goal-oriented, hands-on, trial-and-error approach to learning computational skills, and extends it to meet the specific needs of librarians.

It is often difficult to figure out what skills to learn or how to get started learning them. In Library Carpentry, we identify the fundamental skills needed for librarians and develop and teach these skills in hands-on, interactive workshops. Workshops are designed for people with little to no prior computational experience, and they work with data relevant to librarians (so that librarians are working with data most applicable to their own work). Workshops are also friendly learning environments with the sole aim of empowering people to use computational skills effectively and with more confidence.

How does this relate to the Carpentries?

Two sister organizations, Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry, have focused on teaching computational best practices. The ‘separate but collaborative’ organizational structure allowed both groups to build a shared community of instructors with more than 1000 certified instructors and 47 current Member Organizations around the world. However, as Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry grew and developed, this ‘separate but collaborative’ organizational structure did not scale. As a result, the governing committees of both Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry recognized that as more mature organizations they can be most effective under a unified governance model.

On August 30, 2017, the Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry Steering Committees met jointly and approved the following two motions, which together form a strong commitment to continue moving forward with a merger. As part of this merger, the new “Carpentries” organization will look to increase its reach into additional sectors and communities. The nascent Library Carpentry community has recently met to decide they aim to join as a full-fledged ‘Carpentry’ in the coming year.

This grant will help LC solidify approaches to learning and community building, while also bringing resources to the table as we embark on future integration of LC within the merged Carpentries organization.

How does the Carpentries model work?

In the Carpentries model, instructors are trained and certified in the Carpentries way of teaching, using educational pedagogy, and are asked to commit to offering workshops in their regions and reworking/improving and maintaining lessons. These instructors teach two-day, hands-on workshops on the foundational skills to manage and work effectively with data. The goal is to become practitioners while in the workshop and then continue learning through online and in-person community interaction outside the classroom.

With the “train-the-trainer” model, the Carpentries are built to create learning networks and capacity for training through active communities and shared, collaborative lessons. They have used this model to scale with parallel approaches of developing lessons, offering workshops, and expanding the community. The LC community has also used this model and our grant project aims to extend this further.

Next Steps

As an immediate next step, CDL has begun recruiting for a Library Carpentry Project Coordinator. This will be a 2-year and grant funded position. You can apply at the UC Office of the President website. Due date is November 31, 2017.

While this position will report to CDL’s Director of University of California Curation Center (UC3), this position will focus on extending LC activities in the USA and working globally to gain capacity and reach for the Library Carpentry community and Carpentries staff.

For more information on this project, please feel free to contact CDL’s UC3 team at uc3@ucop.edu. You can also follow UC3 on Twitter at @UC3CDL). To learn more about Library Carpentry, you can visit https://librarycarpentry.github.io and follow on Twitter at @LibCarpentry.

We look forward to these next steps for Library Carpentry and a growing network of data savvy librarians.

COMMUNITY · LIBRARY CARPENTRY

Dialogue & Discussion

You can review our commenting policy here.