Library Issues

Why no coders?

Just a quick note that in trying desperately to keep up with the ton of phenomenal writing going on in the biblioblogosphere, I somehow missed this post by Meredith that sums up some of the thoughts I’ve had about library systems departments.

I’ve wondered this myself…having gotten my degree in a department that emphasized both LS and IS, and had a significant number of opportunities to learn code, why more people with those skills aren’t recruited.

The sad fact of the matter is that it’s largely salary based. If you know PHP/MySQL/Java/AJAX stuff these days, you can make much, much, much more than any library is going to be able to offer you. I dabble in PHP/MySQL stuff, and I’m certain it was a large part of my being hired in my current position, even though I don’t directly deal with it on a day-to-day basis. But I also know that if I wanted to market myself in that way, my stock would jump quite a bit. I’m happy being a librarian, but it’s hard for a new programmer to look at $30K vs $80K and choose the $30K.

With that said…if I were a library director, I’d be scrambling like crazy for funds to hire a full time programmer. The amount of benefit there would so far outweigh the salary needs that I can’t even describe it.

EDIT: Turns out Jenny said a little something about this the other day as well.

By griffey

Jason Griffey is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at NISO, where he works to identify new areas of the information ecosystem where standards expertise is useful and needed. Prior to joining NISO in 2019, Jason ran his own technology consulting company for libraries, has been both an Affiliate at metaLAB and a Fellow and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and was an academic librarian in roles ranging from reference and instruction to Head of IT at the University of TN at Chattanooga.

Jason has written extensively on technology and libraries, including multiple books and a series of full-periodical issues on technology topics, most recently AI & Machine Learning in Libraries and Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design from 2018. His newest book, co-authored with Jeffery Pomerantz, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.

He has spoken internationally on topics such as artificial intelligence & machine learning, the future of technology and libraries, decentralization and the Blockchain, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property. A full list of his publications and presentations can be found on his CV.
He is one of eight winners of the Knight Foundation News Challenge for Libraries for the Measure the Future project (, an open hardware project designed to provide actionable use metrics for library spaces. He is also the creator and director of The LibraryBox Project (, an open source portable digital file distribution system.

Jason can be stalked obsessively online, and spends his free time with his daughter Eliza, reading, obsessing over gadgets, and preparing for the inevitable zombie uprising.

3 replies on “Why no coders?”

It depends on cost of living too I guess. 80k in SF might actually be equiv to 30k+ in TN. If my next job doesn’t send me abroad, then I’d think very seriously about working at a university or library. But then again that may be because I’ve been feeling very much like a capitalist lately.

Have you read Sam Ruby’s excellent Homesteaders of the 21st Century post? I kind of imagine things heading in a direction where pretty much everyone is a “coder” on some level, faciliated by languages like PHP and Ruby. I think that’s a development that libraries and universities will only benefit from.

As a coder, I wish everyone did have these skills. I dont think it takes a certain personality to program at a basic level. An algorithm is nothing but a recipe or a set of instructions. I feel like it should be considered an essential skill like english and math.

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