“If librarians are going to continue being relevant in the age of Google and Google Scholar, they need to move beyond the document and facilitate access to the increasing amounts of data that is being made available on the web. To do this effectively, librarians need to develop their programming skills.”
David Stuart in Research Information
In the same article, David highlights the role/power/benefit of APIs and mashup tools -which can help create rich and dynamic websites. Nowadays we often find ourselves with the dilemma of “too much” information and “no time” for an effective online research experience. While there won’t be an easy solution for this web usability challenge, many also agree that the effective use of web widgets can help developers to create websites where a single interface can integrate and display several –but related- pieces of data from different sources. This approach will most likely benefit the end-user experience; but for many web librarians/developers this will also mean learning and understanding the “programming language” for those web applications.
The above image from http://www.ProgrammableWeb.com gives a good picture of the top APIs on the web. For those of us dealing with historical collections, I think it’s inspiring to see GoogleMaps at the top of the list, although our first own project/experiment was done in Flickr and the next one in the list will most likely be in YouTube.
Ok, so for us in the library world the question might be: do we have the time and resources to quickly learn the technical skills for creating those new web widgets/mashups? Well, we certainly have some choices; here is a list of some sites I’ve found useful:
Linda, a leading software training with a great tutorial video library, limited free access & previews on hundreds of tutorials; but your institution may be paying for it already.
PHP, a great site with introductory tutorials, online manuals, and may example with users’ feedback.
XML Files, a site where developers can get a basic introduction to XML, XML DTD, XML DOM, XML XSL, XML RSS and ASP.NET; with an online test environment too.
Last, for those interested in a more formal program, the Graduate Certificate in Digital Information Management program may be a good option. They were part of the panel “Educational Opportunities for Library and Museum Professionals” at the WebWise 2010 Conference -the second half of the video has some interesting questions from the audience!