Working together to join Software Carpentry in New England

Lora Leligdon, Dartmouth College Library
Kristin Lee, Tisch Library, Tufts University
Joshua Dull, Yale University Library

It seems that great collaborative efforts come together through a magical combination of timing, a common problem, and a group of enthusiastic people. This has definitely been the case with the creation of the New England Software Carpentry Library Consortium (affectionately known as NESCLiC), where seven New England institutions of higher ed are joining forces to provide researchers with the basic coding and data toolkit that will help them get the most out of their projects.

If you are unfamiliar with the Software Carpentry (SC) family of organizations, its basic mission is to “[teach] researchers the computing skills they need to get more done in less time and with less pain” ( Membership in the SC organization has many advantages, like faster access to instructor training (so that we can teach the workshops), access to the rest of the community and curricula, and the ability to use the widely-recognized Software Carpentry branding to promote workshops that we teach on our own campuses. There are trained SC instructors all over the world and those instructors specialized in different aspects of the curriculum. This could mean that they know a particular coding language very well or that they have special insight into how those skills can translate into a certain discipline. This is a dynamic and growing community.

The NESCLiC members decided to join as a consortium for both practical and philosophical reasons. SC offers tiers of membership, and as a group we were able to join at the top level (Gold). This allows the seven schools to get 15 people trained as instructors. We have members from different areas of academic librarianship and technology including the digital humanities, statistics and HPC, STEM and medical libraries, and data librarians. We are all familiar with aspects of the SC curriculum at different levels, and intend to work together to make sure that everyone is supported to learn new skills, apply the rusty ones, and provide the best workshops to our communities. Self-organized workshops are free with our membership, so we will have the opportunity put what we learn into action.

Our first group activity is to attend a SC workshop as learners. This workshop, led by James Adams from Dartmouth, will give us the chance to see what it is like to be a workshop participant – which is essential as we learn how to provide this instruction. It will also let us get to know each other beyond our Slack team so that we can all put a face and a voice together with an avatar and email address. Creating connections within our diverse group will also allow us to broaden our professional networks and think about new approaches to research and coding. Once our 15 members are trained as SC instructors, we hope to not only provide training, resources, and support for our institutions, but also to other new England institutions that may not have the needed resources or staff.

I realize that a lot of this post is about possibilities. This first year is a pilot for us; not just to see how Software Carpentry works in our schools but also to find ways for information and technology professionals in New England to combine our collective resources and skills to provide programming that might be impossible if we all act alone. In this world of greater demands, smaller budgets, and broader interdisciplinary and inter-university research connections, this kind of consortium seems like a great way to meet the needs of our communities.

The NESCLiC organizing team includes:
Andrew Creamer, Scientific Data Management Librarian, Brown University
Lora Leligdon, Physical Sciences Librarian, Dartmouth College
Julie Goldman, Countway Research Data Services Librarian, Harvard University
Sarah Oelker, Science Librarian, Mount Holyoke College
Kristin Lee, Research Data Librarian, Tufts University
Thea Atwood, Data Services Librarian, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Joshua Dull, Research Data Support Specialist, Yale University

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.