Library Carpentry: where we are (nearly) 1 year on

Library Carpentry is a software skills training programme aimed at the needs and requirements of library professionals. Just over a year ago the first Library Carpentry workshop, generously funded by the Software Sustainability Institute, took place at the City University London Centre for Information Science, and since then it has grown in ways I could never have imagined: we have a suite of lesson materials managed and maintained by an international community of librarians and people interested in training librarians; 11 Library Carpentry workshops have been organised in 5 countries across 4 continents; we have momentum; we have a paper coming out (details soon, hopefully); and we have a super exciting announcement to make next month.

Today a representative chunk of the community got together for a call that (just) fitted the requirements of our various time-zones. The purpose of the call was to agree on where we are and to set an agenda for future work. You can see the latter play out in public (for maximum transparency and accountability) on GitHub. This post is intended merely to ‘publicise’ our first proper document: text that represents what we think Library Carpentry is as it heads for its first birthday. The live document is on GitHub. The soon to be outdated version is below. If this inspires you to get involved in Library Carpentry, please introduce yourself in our forum, raise an issue on one of our lesson repos (we are *always* looking for examples of how librarians use computational tools to work with library data), or leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

Library Carpentry – state of play October 2016

This document is an attempt to define/agree what we consider to the be the core principles of Library Carpentry. It is written in the context of the (very exciting) expansion in recent months of Library Carpentry in terms of what it is offering, where it is being offered, and who is being offered.

What is Library Carpentry?

Library Carpentry is software skills training aimed at the needs and requirements of library professionals. Training takes places in face-to-face workshops where one or more of the developed modules are taught. Modules are also made available online (CC BY, published via GitHub Pages) for self-directed study or for adaption and reuse by library professionals.

Library Carpentry is in the commons and for the commons. It is not tied to any institution or person.

What is a workshop

A Library Carpentry workshop comprises one or more half-day, face-to-face sessions where one or more of the currently developed modules are taught. Ideally, 4 modules (e.g, Data Intro, Shell, Git, OpenRefine) will be taught in a workshop across four half-day sessions, but this is not mandatory. Organisers may prefer to teach the workshop over two or more days. While the original material is key, organisers may choose to swap in the SQL module to replace one of the core lessons, or teach it in addition. Workshops are interactive. Ideally attendees will bring their own laptop to workshop so that skills learnt can be replicated outside of the workshop without the need for additional setup.

Workshops are run by a team. Ideally this will consist of:

  • a Host (who is the principal local contact for the workshop)
  • Instructors (who present the tutorials and lead the practical exercises)
  • a Lead Instructor (who is in charge of deciding what will be taught by whom and ensuring the teaching aspects of the workshop go smoothly)
  • Helpers (who provide assistance during practical sessions). Workshops can be any size.

To maintain the quality of Library Carpentry workshops, it is highly recommend that a Software/Data Carpentry certified instructor is present at each workshop. For more on Software/Date Carpentry instructors and instructor training, see

What is a module

A Library Carpentry module is a set of training materials that can be used either to run a half-day, face-to-face training session or as self-directed learning. Each module comprises 3-4 sections, is interactive, works across Windows, OS X, and Linux operating systems (with all setup instructions included) and has a combination of follow-my-leader sections and exercises (and additional exercises) that map to library practice. Modules introduce software and concepts relevant to librarians and have a preference for open source and widely used software. Data used in exercises is library-related, e.g. bibliographic data.

Who is an instructor

A Library Carpentry instructor is anyone willing to lead a Library Carpentry workshop. There are at present no prerequisites or training required to run a workshop. Going forward we will continue to evaluate this, mindful of the success of the Software Carpentry Instructor Training approach and with the ambition for the lead instructor of every Library Carpentry workshop to have undergone Software Carpentry Instructor Training.

How Library Carpentry is managed

Library Carpentry was developed and is maintained by volunteers. There is no central organisation or command structure, and all activity is – at present – voluntary. Management and maintenance are distributed. Each module is ‘owned’ by one of more individuals responsible for coordinating maintenance of that module. Changes to lessons are managed using the GitHub Issue tracker. Announcements and initial discussion take place on Gitter. New members are welcome to join this community.


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