Library Carpentry: Library Data

This one day Library Carpentry workshop is an introductory event for librarians and library workers who want to develop their knowledge and skills to make the most of data.

There are already excellent materials from the official Library Carpentry site; we are squeezing 3 workshops into one day so are tailoring a selection of these into this guide.

Library Carpentry (© Library Carpentry) materials form the basis of these lessons, and are linked to throughout. Library Carpentry builds on the work of Software Carpentry (Copyright © Software Carpentry) and Data Carpentry. It uses the same license as these projects, which is the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY 4.0).

Additional materials here are released under the same terms, aside from data files which are provided with their own licence details.


Welcome to Library Carpentry! This series of introductory workshops on software skills for librarians started life as an exploratory programme funded by the Software Sustainability Institute and supported by Software Carpentry and City University London.

The rationale for Library Carpentry is twofold. First, as Andromeda Yelton argues in her excellent ALA Library Technology Report 'Coding for Librarians: learning by example', code is a means for librarians to take control of practice and to empower themselves and their organisation to meet user needs in flexible ways. Second, librarians play a crucial role in cultivating world class research. And in most research areas today world class research relies on the use of software. Librarians with software skills are then well placed to continue that cultivation of world class research.

Thanks go to the British Library and the University of Sussex where James Baker, who developed the workshops, worked when planning and delivering the workshops. The aim of Library Carpentry is to create a set of tools the community can manage, support, enrich, and reuse as it sees fit.

Library data

We are focussing on data skills for this day. This brings in materials from the Library Carpentry workshop, 'Data Intro for Librarians'. We are also using materials from the 'Git Intro for librarians' module. Git is a tool primarily used by software developers to store, share, and manage code, but is now increasingly used by a variety of users, including for storing and sharing data.

The last module, written specifically for this course, is 'Everyone Loves Maps'. This builds on a talk that was given at the Glass Box in Taunton in 2016, to the local developers Meetup group. It has been adapted into practical exercises, particularly with a public library data focus.

These three topics were chosen in a poll we conducted before applying for funding to run the workshop.

  • Data introduction. See here for original lesson. Less emphasis is placed on regular expression writing (though it is covered), and more on the data discussion exercise, and specific data tasks within a library context. We have also taken materials from Data Carpentry's Data Organization in Spreadsheets.
  • Git introduction. See here for original lesson. Focus has been shifted to using the GitHub web interface (a cloud hosted version of Git), and using GitHub for hosting Open Data. Also, using the features of tagging and licensing.
  • Everyone Loves Maps. Not part of the Library Carpentry series, but a new set of materials aimed at introducing GIS (Geographic Information Systems) concepts and some practical exercises in creating online maps. Adapted into a library context from rough notes for a talk given to the Taunton developer group.

Where to go for help

First, identify people on your table who can help: you will all be working from the same material, so someone around you may have mastered the point you are stuck at. Second, there are helpers on hand to help if those around you can't.

We'll take regular breaks to give people the opportunity for refreshment. Don't worry if you find you've got stuck on something - use a break to ask for help (or if it's a presentation, interrupt if anything needs clarification).

We encourage you to finish up or repeat tasks after class timem as well. These materials are published in order to be available all the time. You can revisit them whenever you like.

Structure of workshops

We have structured each of the 3 workshops to include a variety of exercises:

  • Teaching. Usually presentations to listen to. If anything doesn't make sense to you then feel free to interupt so we can clarify. There are no stupid questions!
  • Group exercises. Chances to work within your groups on diuscussion tasks. We'll always feedback to the wider group.
  • Exercises. Individual exercises. This is in the sense that you are likely to be completing tasks on your own devices, but we encourage using those around you to collaborate. We'll also come round and visit each group.

The workshops tend to include a group exercise to act as an icebreaker, and establish current knowledge, then a presentation, and then the exercises.

Sometimes you will fall behind. If you do, alert us and we can slow the pace. Your issue may be specific to your computer. Computers are stupid, can frustrate, and as you all have different machines it can be tricky to resolve problems. Please be patient, particularly if your issue is local. Stepping outside and taking a gulp of fresh air always helps.

Key Points

  • Don't be scared to ask for help


Events are being held at the following locations.

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