Software Skills for Librarians at EPL

Stanley Milner Library, 7 Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton, AB
Jul 10-11, 2014
9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Our bootcamp is now full, but please add yourself to the waitlist. The waitlist size will help us plan for the future.

General Information

Software Carpentry's mission is to help people become more productive by teaching them basic computing skills like program design, version control, data management, and task automation. This two-day hands-on bootcamp will cover basic concepts and tools; participants will be encouraged to help one another and to apply what they have learned to their own research problems.

Instructors: Cam Macdonell, Sam Popowich, Dana Ouellette, Vicky Varga

Who: The course is aimed at librarians and other information management professionals.

Where: Stanley Milner Library, 7 Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton, AB. Get directions with OpenStreetMap or Google Maps.

Requirements: Participants must bring a laptop with a few specific software packages installed (listed below).

Contact: Please mail for more information.


Thursday 09:30 Introduction to task automation with the Unix shell
Coffee break at 10:30.
10:45 Programming basics with Python
12:00 Lunch break
13:00 More Python Basics
Coffee break at 2:30.
15:00 Library Card Example
16:15 Day 1 Wrap-up
Friday 09:30 Processing Library Reports in Bash
Coffee break at 10:30.
12:00 Lunch break
13:00 Processing Other Library Data in Python
Coffee break at 14:30.
15:00 Putting it all together
16:15 Day 2 Wrap-up


Note that the following is a complete list of possible topics for bootcamps. Some topics may not be covered.

The Unix Shell

  • Files and directories: pwd, cd, ls, mkdir, ...
  • History and tab completion
  • Pipes and redirection
  • Looping over files
  • Creating and running shell scripts
  • Finding things: grep, find, ...
  • Reference...

Programming in Python

  • Using libraries
  • Working with arrays
  • Reading and plotting data
  • Creating and using functions
  • Loops and conditionals: for, if, else, ...
  • Defensive programming
  • Using Python from the command line
  • Reference...

Working with Library data

  • Cleaning up a library circulation card
  • Exporting reports (Excel, Director's Station) to plain-text CSV
  • Processing with command-line tools: grep,cut, ...
  • Processing with Python
  • Merging catalogue data files
  • Reference...

If time allows...

  • Reading MARC21 files using pymarc
  • Generating HTML from data


To participate in a Software Carpentry bootcamp, you will need working copies of the software described below. Please make sure to install everything (or at least to download the installers) before the start of your bootcamp.



When you're writing code, it's nice to have a text editor that is optimized for writing code, with features like automatic color-coding of key words. The default text editor on Mac OS X and Linux is usually set to Vim, which is not famous for being intuitive. if you accidentally find yourself stuck in it, try typing the escape key, followed by ':q!' (colon, lower-case 'q', exclamation mark), then hitting Return to return to the shell.

The Bash Shell

Bash is a commonly-used shell. Using a shell gives you more power to do more tasks more quickly with your computer.


Python is becoming very popular in scientific computing, and it's a great language for teaching general programming concepts due to its easy-to-read syntax. We teach with Python version 2.7, since it is still the most widely used. Installing all the scientific packages for Python individually can be a bit difficult, so we recommend an all-in-one installer.


Git is a state-of-the-art version control system. It lets you track who made changes to what when and has options for easily updating a shared or public version of your code on



There are two parts to installing Python on Windows: Python itself and Wing 101 for writing programs.


Notepad++ is a popular free code editor for Windows. Be aware that you must add its installation directory to your system path in order to launch it from the command line (or have other tools like Git launch it for you). Please ask your instructor to help you do this.

Git Bash

Install Git for Windows by download and running the installer. This will provide you with both Git and Bash in the Git Bash program.

Software Carpentry Installer

This installer requires an active internet connection

After installing Python and Git Bash:

  • Download the installer.
  • If the file opens directly in the browser select File→Save Page As to download it to your computer.
  • Double click on the file to run it.

Mac OS X


The default shell in all versions of Mac OS X is bash, so no need to install anything. You access bash from the Terminal (found in /Applications/Utilities). You may want to keep Terminal in your dock for this workshop.


We recommend Text Wrangler or Sublime Text. In a pinch, you can use nano, which should be pre-installed.


Install Git for Mac by downloading and running the installer. For older versions of OS X (10.5-10.7) use the most recent available installer available here. Use the Leopard installer for 10.5 and the Snow Leopard installer for 10.6-10.7.


Python is already installed in OS X by default, but we will need an IDE.



The default shell is usually bash, but if your machine is set up differently you can run it by opening a terminal and typing bash. There is no need to install anything.


If Git is not already available on your machine you can try to install it via your distro's package manager (e.g. apt-get).


Kate is one option for Linux users. In a pinch, you can use nano, which should be pre-installed.


Download and install Wing 101 version 5.


Firefox SQLite Plugin

Instead of using sqlite3 from the command line, you may use this plugin for Firefox instead. To install it:

  • Start Firefox.
  • Go to the plugin homepage.
  • Click the "Add Now" button.
  • Click "Install Now" on the dialog that appears after the download completes.
  • Restart Firefox when prompted.
  • Select "SQLite Manager" from the "Tools" menu.