suzanne wang

Library is open source!

October 27, 2019

I spent last summer interning at the New York Times on the Interactive News Team. It’s a really fantastic group of people who build tools for the newsroom: data pipelines for election night live coverage, NYT’s anonymous tip collection system, self-serve tools for reporters to make their own interactive stories. My first project involved working with the obituary desk— I built a tool that powers their yearly Notable Deaths interactive. It was a great lesson in building human-centered software.

My other project was Library, a tool for collaborative documentation with Google Docs. It was open-sourced earlier this year! The New York Times uses it to share information across the newsroom. To use it, you simply configure Library with a shared folder or team drive. It will then ingest everything to create a searchable, organized interface, where you can view the content without having to go to Google.

Library

As an open source project, I’m excited to see where Library can be helpful. I’ve been a part of many organizations (particularly in college) where we lacked a place for relevant institutional knowledge, and something like this would be lightweight and helpful. You don’t need much coding knowledge to get up and running: to deploy to Heroku, you just need to click a button and configure some Google environment variables. NYT is partnering with Northwestern University’s Knight Lab to test and pilot the tool.

I love this project because it met our users where they were. While there wasn’t a way to easily share up-to-date information across the newsroom, Google Docs was already widely adopted. Library solved the former problem quite nicely, without prescribing a radically new workflow. Teams could easily add to and maintain their existing docs on Library. It was a thoughtful approach that reflected deep knowledge of and empathy for its users. This is always how I want to build software (and I’m lucky to get to do that now at Stripe!).

To read more about Library, check out our post.