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Advice for a software dev who is not a librarian but now finds themselves writing software for libraries

Well, around 3ish years ago I stared working for a company that sells software to libraries and I didn’t know a thing. I have learned a lot since then, but I am now embarking on a new journey and I would like to leave some advice to other software devs who might find themselves in similar situations.

The best advice I can give is to find a community who can remind you of how important libraries are.

Because of my job I’ve meet many new people over the last few years from all across the country. One of them works for the NYPL, they work at the main building (the one with the lions out front). He was kind enough to give me a tour one day. The building is old and grand with marble walls and floors. I asked him what it felt like to walk into that building every day, and he said “I’m not gonna lie, It’s pretty great”. He added a little later, “sometimes I just brush the wall with my hand on the way in and feel the marble and think, a person made this”. Unfortunately, we don’t all have marble walls, but that shouldn’t stop you from having the same feeling that he does walking into work. That feeling that would make you want to reach out and touch the grand walls of a grand library and realize that its made by people just like you and me. And it probably took them a lot longer to build that staircase then it does for you to write sort function.

Remember, always, that you build software for libraries. I’ve always appreciated libraries, but these last few years taught me that libraries are right in the middle of all these grand discussions and passionate fights we have as a society. Smack dab in the middle of it all are librarians. As any person in their situation would do they respond to what they see on a daily basis in their buildings. Sometimes that means bringing in puppies during finals and sometimes it means creating inclusive programs for local communities and sometimes it means building websites that can connect their communities to all the knowledge that their institutions have created.

We are apart of that and when we are at our best we are making their jobs a little easier so that they can do their best to contribute to a better world.

There are lots of technical battles you will fight on a daily basis, but if you can keep that larger struggle near you will eventually make a positive impact.