Computers in Libraries
Vol. 22, No. 2 • February 2002

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A Tribute to the Do-It-Yourself Crowd
by Kathy Dempsey 

Are you one of those people who really believe that if you want anything done right, you have to do it yourself? (I know I am.) However, sometimes another person or organization really could do as good a job as you could do yourself (almost). On occasion you have to stop worrying about how well the job gets done, and only be concerned that it does get done. Still, I maintain, there are those times when you really can do it better than anyone else, and it's not just your imagination or pride telling you that.

This idea of "anything you can do, I can do better" does arise in the library world from time to time. And librarians are pretty good, I think, at sharing their accomplishments with each other, through networking, consortial groups, conferences, and papers. I want to encourage that sort of idea sharing, which is one reason that we chose this month's topic of Home-Grown Technology Solutions. CIL magazine is all about everyday information professionals sharing their knowledge, thereby preventing colleagues from having to reinvent the wheel. And what better way to do that than for us to publish stories about how your peers built their own solutions to problems that plague many others?

There is one classic case where you can definitely do something better yourself—when the tool that you need hasn't been created by vendors. So it was with the Gemini Observatory library. There just wasn't an OPAC that was right for a very small special library that didn't have much money. After looking around for a couple years and questioning various vendors, this determined librarian teamed with a scientist/programmer from her company, and they grew their own OPAC from seed. It has all the functionality she needed, and it's still working just fine, thank you. Share her triumph by reading the article that begins on page 20.

If you think that's impressive, don't miss the story about the guy who built his own backup server, from discarded parts, for no money. At first he was just experimenting, but then he made a real failover server, and it was put to the test (and passed!) when the library's Web site was hacked. And in the true spirit of sharing for the greater good, he gives you all the details, starting on page 24.

These are just two examples. There are two more features (one about building a relational database, one about creating a portal for a global corporation) and also our usual columns. Don't miss Techman's Techpage, which is a quick primer for making your own good-looking brochures and handouts—a job small enough that you can realistically tackle it. Perhaps it could be a jumping-off point for greater things?

So for all of you who have too little money or too much pride to hire designers, programmers, or vendors, take heart: People just like you have made important projects work. I hope their stories inspire you.

Kathy Dempsey, Editor

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