Alt title: Gripe 2: Word is not for data. (Part of an ongoing series about using the right tool for the job.)
Returning to my theme (Sorry for the previous sidetrack).
Did you know that the spreadsheet was the killer app that propelled the personal computer to mainstream office use? It must be true- Wikipedia backs me up.
So why do librarians (and I admit am generalizing from the small sample I have worked with) have so little familiarity with their use?
In 1997 I was in Library School and I particularly remember one assignment. It was the budgeting assignment. We had to construct an imaginary library budget using a spreadsheet. It was an assignment I was born to. I had been using spreadsheets in my previous employment and I lived with someone who was a spreadsheet guru. I handed up the file on a floppy disc only for it to be rejected. She wanted a printout. I was confused. How could she judge my the worth and correctness of my formula on a printout?
Now, all things being relative, I do not claim to be a spreadsheet guru. I do not regularly use the full power of Excel but I live and work with people that use it as their main tool. So I know the power exists. I can sort, filer, use basic formula, create a chart or a pivot table but macros may take me a while. Even those that use it all the time can misuse it. And a spreadsheet may not the best tool- it may be a database that is required. It’s about knowing what is appropriate for the task that you have but also recognizing the future possible uses of your data. Now I know that many librarians see themselves as text focused but data, at the least, is a management and problem solving tool and knowing how to manipulate and best present data is, in my humble opinion, part of our professional skill set. Our ILS are just databases. Additionally, those of us working in research or academic settings are more and more being asked to aid our researchers by building data repositories and advise on metadata.
So I wince when asked to contribute data and I have to fill out a table in a word doc. I just do.