Laura Akerman takes us with her as she attends the Code4Lib 2017 conference in Los Angeles, CA.

March 4, 2017

Excited to be on my way to Los Angeles for Code4Lib 2017.  Although I’ve attended several of these events over the years, there is always something new happening that I wasn’t expecting.  This year, I was more involved with the organization, serving on the Budget and Finance committee.  Code4Lib, in contrast to an organization like ASIS&T, is all volunteer run, the “membership” being whoever joins the mailing list or Slack channel or IRC or signs up on the wiki or whatever channel they are find, and then gets involved.  Issues are often discussed via email and may be voted on via an online poll.  There is an inner circle that weighs in heavily on the decisions, but it’s not an official one.

Another contrast to ASIS&T:  the core of Code4Lib’s purpose is to share information among practitioners – people who are supporting and building the IT systems at the core of modern libraries.  At the conference, while respect is given to those who are also academic heavyweights, there’s no reading of papers – presentation powerpoints are focused on real world problems and may indeed contain slides of code.   Topics are usually “hot” in terms of new technology, trends, and related social issues – in no small part because selection of presenters, keynote speakers, poster presentations and much else including the T-shirt design is voted on by the members (usually, people planning to attend) via online polls.  Code4Lib does have a more scholarly side – the peer-reviewed Code4Lib Journal – where more detail about presented topics may appear.

Code4Lib has been a leader in fostering openness, inclusivity and sharing, developing one of the earliest conference Codes of Conduct, livestreaming and archiving the entire conference on YouTube, and, as the cost of attendance has grown and the membership has became more international, providing diversity scholarships.

An issue that is sure to be discussed is whether circumstances are going to push Code4Lib to become more of a regular organization – and to what degree.  The increasing popularity of the annual conference (this year, registrations were capped at 450), means larger budgets, and it has become increasingly hard to find a different fiscal sponsor organization through which to run the financial side, and some continuity would be useful.  There’s a lot of resistance, though, to becoming a full-fledged registered organization with a board of directors and management.   As I understand it, the growth of Code4Lib from its origins as a discussion list and IRC channel into a large, multifaceted conference-sponsoring group came in part because of a desire for a more agile, responsive, and perhaps affordable alternative  to ALA/LITA, ASIS&T and other large professional organizations.  I’ll be interested to hear the discussions and see what direction the group decides to take.

By Laura Ackerman, Discovery Systems & Metadata Librarian

Emory University