One of the first courses I was required to take on my MA LIS curriculum was something about computers. (And yes, the fact that I can’t even remember what it was called is directly related to how much I valued it at the time.) The main assignment was creating a simple website using HTML and CSS, and I spent most of the term moaning to anyone available about how much I was dreading it.
In the end, of course, it wasn’t so bad. I put aside a day, collected my notes together, and just got on with it. Of course I encountered problems along the way, several of which necessitated angsty emails to a sympathetic friend who also happened to be a programmer. (Lest anyone accuse me of cheating, I should add that he didn’t write any of it for me, but was very good at saying things like “look at the tags about half way down, are you sure you’ve closed them all”, which I regard as the programming equivalent of proof-reading.)
So what? Well, for a start it taught me that I will never be a programmer myself! It also made me understand how HTML works in a way that I couldn’t possibly have got from just reading about it. Fast-forward 6.5 years (yikes) and I can still look at a page of HTML and understand what bits of it do. This means that when I’m working on web pages in a form-based CMS and things go weird I can pop into the HTML side and usually manage to work out what’s going on, as well as make simple changes to it. I also know which bits to copy and paste when I want to replicate a particular thing elsewhere (a surprisingly useful skill, I’ve found!).
I was reminded of this the other day when understanding HTML made something a whole lot easier, and I started thinking how grateful I was that I was made to learn about it. I’m certainly not one of those people who believes that all library & info types should know how to program (though if you have the time and inclination to learn, good for you), but an ongoing strand of my professional life would have been much more frustrating had I not received this small introduction to it. In fact, it’s probably the single most useful thing I was taught in library school.
2 Comments so far
Leave a comment