Building a digital skill set with Aus GLAM Blogs

By Hugh Rundle, Manager, Digital Innovation, La Trobe University Library

Several years ago I created an aggregator service for blogs by Australasian GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) workers. Initially this was a simple Twitter bot, but later I built a web application that eventually allowed blog authors to register their blog, and readers to search by keyword, browse by tag, or subscribe to new posts via RSS or directly into their Pocket list, including the ability to filter out content they may be less interested in. If you’re interested in what Australian librarians are thinking and talking about, this is now a useful place to look.

One of the obvious questions for people wanting to start independently learning computer programming skills is where to start. The best advice I was ever given was to start by working on a real project you want to see exist, or contributing to an existing project you like. Aus GLAM Blogs was one my first “real” coding projects. I had unsuccessfully tried to teach myself some kind of computer programming for a couple of years, but it didn’t “stick” until I had something tangible to work on. Having a real life project to work on – especially one that was operating in public – really helped provide an incentive and focus to develop and practice the skills I needed to complete the job. The first version was quite rudimentary – a simple text file of manually-entered RSS feed URLs, some JavaScript loops, and a Twitter account back in the days when Twitter API keys were very easy to obtain within a couple of minutes. It barely worked at all, but it was something I thought would be helpful to bridge the gap between library bloggers looking for an audience and Library Twitter looking for good local content.

Last year I wrote about re-building Aus GLAM Blogs from scratch when I had developed more knowledge and skills. Developing the app in incremental stages meant that it wasn’t completely overwhelming. This sort of project-based learning approach can be used in many contexts, but is particularly useful when building your digital skills. Creating a web application meant I needed to host it somewhere, which led to learning about Linux server management. Gradually increasing the scope of the application led to developing an understanding of how databases and software applications interact. Re-writing the entire thing led me to consider problems of data normalisation and to what extent it is useful and acceptable.

Scaffolding my own learning like this has enabled me to slowly build a technical skillset around computer programming and server management, and think more deeply about the sort of data management questions colleagues working with library metadata have to deal with every day. I will never consider myself an “expert” in coding or server administration, but through a personal project I’ve been able to build my knowledge over time. For a while this was simply to amuse myself, but I now find myself in a library job where these skills are really useful and help me to look at problems in a different way.

Your own interests may be different. Perhaps you want to be able to make animated videos, or build your own computer from parts, or fancy being the in-house Excel macro expert. If you’ve been telling yourself that you’re “just not a technical person” or you will “never be able to do it”, I don’t believe you. The trick is to find some small projects – ideally personal ones where there are few consequences of failure – and work on them because you’re interested in the actual thing you are making. It’s surprising how much you can learn “accidentally” just by focussing on what you want to create rather than on the skills themselves. Then, simply increase your ambition for the next project, and the next one, and the next one.

Oh, and don’t forget to share it in a blog post so the rest of the library world can share your learning journey!

2 thoughts on “Building a digital skill set with Aus GLAM Blogs

  1. The Pehr experience is a completesilver jewelry for girls in india
    one and why not? After all, each collection has been carefully curated as an ode to the complete woman. As we talk of all things shiny and sparkly, we are mindful that “to sparkle like the sun, we must burn like it too.” Behind our jewellery, is a philosophy which resonates with our values – where we strive for perfection, to complement the already perfect woman. To achieve this, we maintain a high benchmark for quality and purity, using 92.5 sterling silver to create our jewellery.<a herf="https://pehrsilver.com/&quot;
    silver jewelry for girls in india

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *