News & Opinion

The Benefits of Learning to Code

by on April 9, 2013

When working in public libraries, thoughts of becoming familiar with coding languages do not instantly come to mind. However, a recent Library Journal article extols the benefits librarians can reap if they learn to code. As a graduate student with San Jose State University’s online LIS program, I took an introductory coding course last year. We covered HTML, XML, CSS, XSLT, and JavaScript. I had absolutely no previous experience with coding languages, and learning it was quite frustrating at times. While I am still a beginning coder, the satisfaction I felt after successfully completing the final project proved to me that I made the right decision to take the class. It also helped that my instructor was accommodating and helpful.

One benefit Matt Enis discusses is that learning code could help librarians improve existing web-based resources.[1] Librarians could improve on their library’s website, or for the fearless, create a better website. The course I took allowed students to create a library website or other site (I chose to create an online version of my resume). The text we used was HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites by Jon Duckett. (To get a feel for what you would be learning, click the link above.) Andromeda Yelton says another advantage is that familiarizing yourself with code will keep you current with the “change and innovation happening” in the field.[2] Having experience with various software can facilitate this. My professor advocated using open-source software like JEdit (a very helpful, hyped-up version of NotePad) and GIMP (similar to PhotoShop). He provided us with basic guidance and then left us to explore them. He also stressed how important it is to validate your code to ensure proper functionality of your site. Finally, understanding code will assist you when communicating with IT staff.[3]

So if anyone is curious or has the opportunity to learn code, I suggest you take the chance. Yes you will be glued to your computer, and sometimes you may feel overwhelmed. Allotting time for all this is also a concern. But again, coding would be a worthwhile skill to acquire. You don’t have to become a coding whiz to feel the benefits of it. You will gain a basic understanding of the concepts, and perhaps get a step closer to creating that website you dreamed up.

For further reading: Coding tutorials: http://www.w3schools.com/



[1] Matt Enis, “Cracking the Code,” Library Journal 38 (2013): 24-26.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.


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