Issue 28, 2015-04-15

Special Issue on Diversity in Library Technology Guest Editorial Committee

The guest editorial committee for Code4Lib Journal’s Special Issue on Diversity in Library Technology (issue 28) was developed in order to include new voices and perspectives on the journal’s practices and how they support inclusivity. The committee is comprised of eight guest editors and two regular editorial committee members. More information on the development of […]

Finding and Supporting New Voices: Code4Lib Journal’s Issue 28 on Diversity in Library Technology

Heidi Elaine Dowding

Welcome to Code4Lib Journal’s special issue on diversity in library technology. As C4LJ’s first-ever special issue, 28 brings together a plethora of voices from the library tech world in order to approach the challenge of inclusivity within our field from all directions. Over a year of development has gone into this project, which has involved […]

Feminism and the Future of Library Discovery

Bess Sadler and Chris Bourg

This paper discusses the various ways in which the practices of libraries and librarians influence the diversity (or lack thereof) of scholarship and information access. We examine some of the cultural biases inherent in both library classification systems and newer forms of information access like Google search algorithms, and propose ways of recognizing bias and applying feminist principles in the design of information services for scholars, particularly as libraries re-invent themselves to grapple with digital collections.

How to Hack it as a Working Parent

Jaclyn Bedoya, Margaret Heller, Christina Salazar, May Yan

The problems faced by working parents in technical fields in libraries are not unique or particularly unusual. However, the cross-section of work-life balance and gender disparity problems found in academia and technology can be particularly troublesome, especially for mothers and single parents. Attracting and retaining diverse talent in work environments that are highly structured or with high expectations of unstated off-the-clock work may be impossible long term. (Indeed, it is not only parents that experience these work-life balance problems but anyone with caregiver responsibilities such as elder or disabled care.) Those who have the energy and time to devote to technical projects for work and fun in their off-work hours tend to get ahead. Those tied up with other responsibilities or who enjoy non-technical hobbies do not get the same respect or opportunities for advancement. Such problems mirror the experiences of women on the tenure track in academia, particularly women working in libraries, and they provide a useful corollary for this discussion.

We present some practical solutions for those in technical positions in libraries. Such solutions involve strategic use of technical tools, and lightweight project management applications. Technical workarounds are not the only answer; real and lasting change will involve a change in individual priorities and departmental culture such as sophisticated and ruthless time management, reviewing workloads, cross-training personnel, hiring contract replacements, and creative divisions of labor. Ultimately, a flexible environment that reflects the needs of parents will help create a better workplace culture for everyone, kids or no kids.

But Then You Have to Make It Happen

James Williams III and Joland-Pieta van Arnhem

Librarianship as a profession has a strong commitment to diversity and tends to attract professionals ethically inclined to champion inclusion. The authors, both from historically underrepresented populations in library information technology, have a half-century of combined experience in the field and have held positions ranging from technician, systems librarian, instructional technologist, head of circulation, and digital scholarship and services librarian to associate dean in an academic library. The authors share their experiences and discuss how diversity and inclusion must be embraced at the individual level in order to develop a culture of diversity within an organization and to attract and retain diverse technology teams. Internal commitments to supporting a diverse environment are ultimately critical to recognizing, assessing, and fulfilling the needs of patrons. The authors identify and detail individual and grassroots efforts that have led to library technology programming for underserved populations, including programs involving outreach to diverse student and prospective student communities over the course of their careers. They reflect on strategies to create and retain a diverse technology group within the library and to advance and support diversity within the day-to-day work environment. They posit that a mix of experiences is necessary to advocate for access to underrepresented patron populations and to negotiate and implement a truly diverse environment with regard to ethnicity, gender, age, and socioeconomic background.

Code as Code: Speculations on Diversity, Inequity, and Digital Women

Sharon L. Comstock, Jerica Copeny, and Cynthia Landrum

All technologies are social. Taking this socio-technological position becomes less a political stance as a necessity when considering the lived experience of digital inequity, divides, and –isms as they are encountered in every-day library work spheres. Personal experience as women and women of color in our respective technological and leadership communities provides both fore- and background to explore the private-public lines delineating definitions of “diversity”, “inequity”, and digital literacies in library practice. We suggest that by not probing these definitions at the most personal level of lived experience, we in the LIS and technology professions will remain well-intentioned, but ineffective, in genuine inclusion.

User Experience is a Social Justice Issue

Sumana Harihareswara

When we’re building services for people, we often have a lot more practice seeing from the computer’s point of view than seeing from another person’s point of view. The author asks the library technology community to consider several case studies in this problem, including their root causes, and the negative impact of this problem on achieving our mission as library technologists. The author then recommends specific actions that we, as individual contributors and organizations, can take to increase our empathy and improve the user experience we provide to patrons.

Recognizing Cultural Diversity in Library Interface Development

Nik Dragovic

The rapid increase in complex library digital infrastructures has enabled a more full-featured set of resources to become accessible by autonomous users, whether onsite or remote. However, this trend also necessitates careful consideration of the usability of new interfaces for populations with increasing cultural, geographic, and socioeconomic diversity. Researcher Aron Marcus has become an authority on how cultural principles affect interface perceptions and inform their development. This article will explore Marcus’ work to contextualize diversity issues within usability before exploring the redevelopment strategy for the New York University Libraries’ web presence, which serves a broad and global set of users.

Transforming Knowledge Creation: An Action Framework for Library Technology Diversity

Barbara I. Dewey

This paper will articulate an action framework for library technology diversity consisting of five dimensions and based on the vision for knowledge creation, the academic library’s fundamental vision. The framework focuses on increasing diversity for library technology efforts based on the desire for transformation and inclusiveness within and across the dimensions. The dimensions are people, content and pedagogy, embeddedness and the global perspective, leadership, and the 5th dimension – bringing it all together.

“What If I Break It?”: Project Management for Intergenerational Library Teams Creating Non-MARC Metadata

Kelly Thompson

Libraries are constantly challenged to meet new user needs and to provide access to new types of materials. We are in the process of launching many new technology-rich initiatives and projects which require investments of staff time, a resource which is at a premium for most new library hires. We simultaneously have people on staff in our libraries with more traditional skill sets who may be able to contribute time and theoretical expertise to these projects, but require training. Incorporating these “seasoned” employees into new initiatives can be a daunting task. In this article, I will share some of the strategies I have used as a metadata project manager for bridging diverse generations of library staff who have various levels of comfort and expertise with technology, and strategies that I have used to reduce the barriers to participation for staff with diverse perspectives and skill sets. These strategies can also be helpful in assisting a new librarian with technology-rich skill sets to more successfully orient themselves when embedded in a “traditional” library setting.