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MLA ’24 Continuing Education: Meet Paige Scudder, the Instructor of Master Data Cleaning and Wrangling with OpenRefine and Python

In the weeks leading up to MLA ’24 in Portland, we’ll profile the conference Continuing Education instructors and their courses. We begin the series with Paige Scudder, who teaches Master Data Cleaning and Wrangling with OpenRefine and Python.

Every student of the virtual Python for Data Visualization course she taught last June who evaluated the course agreed or strongly agreed that the course was engaging and would recommend the course to a colleague. Responses included:

  • "I loved that we immediately learned a skill I could use in real-life applications."
  • "The examples and hands-on work in the collab notebooks are a great way to learn and make for a durable resource I can refer back to. I found the instructor's willingness to share resources and answer questions to be particularly helpful as well."
  • "Clear explanations, great examples, and helpful resources to learn more."

To see all four CE courses, visit MLA Continuing Education. If you’ve already registered for the conference, open the Registration Form and click ”Already Registered” to add a course.

What are you most looking forward to seeing/eating/experiencing in Portland?

I always try to visit a yarn/fabric store when in a new city and stumbled across Scrap Creative Reuse. It looks like a place that will be really fun to walk through!

How did you get interested in your topic and what most excites you about it?

I took a course on Python in college and never stopped thinking about it because it was designed with the beginner in mind while having more advanced functionality. I love how readable the codes are and how little you need to know in order to take advantage of many of the built-in functions and libraries.

What problems, obstacles, or lack of knowledge might your intended audience experience that your course addresses?

If you've never programmed before, it can be hard to know both when to start and what you can use programming for. This course focuses on the practical applications of both OpenRefine and Python with the goal of having you leave the course ready to apply new skills to your day-to-day work.

What practical, immediately applicable information or skills will learners gain from your course?

This is a practical course in which students will learn how to use Openrefine and Python in their work. My favorite joke to make during class is that the hardest part of the course is making sure everyone has access to the Google Colab notebook and has saved a copy to their drive. Once that's done, most mistakes--even my own-- are spelling mistakes.

How will your course help learners provide value to their employers and advance in their careers?

I believe that every librarian should have data cleanup and data analysis tools in their toolbox to use in their work with researchers or their own projects.

What’s the main thing you hope learners will take away from your course?

I hope they walk away feeling more confident in their coding skills and excited to try new things.

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