Issue 28, 2015-04-15

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

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 […]

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 the tireless and unpaid efforts of over thirty individuals, including authors and our outstanding guest editorial committee.

Development for issue 28 began with the editorial introduction for issue 24 – Seeking a Diversity of Voices – in which Ron Peterson discussed the gender gap in C4LJ’s authors and editors. This was truly eye opening for many members of the editorial committee, and we began discussing proactive ways to seek these missing voices. The idea for a special issue came out of this conversation, and it is truly exciting to see how the final product has evolved from our initial conception.

At the beginning of this process, we reached out to people who have written or presented on diversity in library and technology in the past, and received some feedback that was pretty difficult to hear. The regular editorial committee could have written this off as a few people’s opinions, but instead chose to listen and try to amend the journal’s practices. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from this issue is that, when it comes to developing a more inclusive journal, nothing is unimportant and nothing is sacred. If even one person thinks that the journal’s practices are unfair or exclusionary, then their opinion is absolutely valid and should be thoughtfully considered. Conversely, no practice is absolutely necessary if it is inhibiting the inclusion of new ideas or voices.

As a direct result of this feedback, we developed a guest editorial committee for the special issue in the hopes that necessary changes could be made if we had new eyes looking at the journal’s established practices. This process began with an open call sent out over our usual listservs, asking applicants to address their background in diversity as well as their potential contribution to the development of the special issue. After receiving a good response, the journal’s regular committee developed a target number of guest editors based on the desired number of articles for inclusion in the special issue (8-10, with one guest editor per article) and selected the final members based on their responses, writing and editorial background, and overall professional experience. While we aimed to represent in the guest editorial committee the diversity we ultimately seek to support, there are some obvious biases (e.g., a large majority are academic librarians and researchers) – a result of the regular committee’s lack of nuanced knowledge of online communities focused on diversity in library technology in putting out the call for applications, the applicant pool, and our publication schedule.

The work of the guest editorial committee began in late 2014, so the process required great agility and adaptability on the part of every member. Not only were they up to the challenge, but they worked diligently through winter breaks and over vacations to send out our second call for proposals, vote on proposals, and work with authors to develop articles. They have helped the regular editorial committee to lay bare our practices and discussions that go beyond the public Code4Lib Journal-Discuss Google Group and Code4Lib Journal Wiki – things that are normally invisible to those outside of our small group. In sharing our development cycle, policies, and ad hoc practices with the guest editorial committee, it has provided a new lens through which to view Code4Lib Journal. I hope that we can continue this momentum and provide further transparency in the journal’s article selection and development processes on a continual basis. We still have great strides to make before the journal, and our field at large, is more supportive of diversity and inclusion, but we have begun the uncomfortable process of change and I hope that we continue to move forward in that.

In her essay Beyond the Measure of Men, Roxanne Gay pushes:

“Publish more women writers. If women aren’t submitting to your publication or press, ask yourself why, deal with the answers even if those answers make you uncomfortable, and then reach out to women writers. If women don’t respond to your solicitations, go find other women. Keep doing that, issue after issue after issue.”

We need to keep doing this, but of course not just with women. The biggest challenge in putting together this special issue has been locating and engaging the voices we haven’t heard from yet. While we sought out new listservs and online communities, the landscape is lamentably hard to traverse. Those who are already well-known advocates for diversity are inundated with speaking and writing requests, while those who are not are harder to locate and engage. There are myriad reasons why that is, but the bottom line is that we all are responsible for changing that; luckily, there are some great new resources being built to support better development of the community surrounding diversity in library technology. For example, http://whodidimiss.github.io/ provides resources and templates for opening a dialogue about the need for diversity in conferences. Attendees are able to provide constructive feedback while also creating a new bridge between their underrepresented community and the conference coordinators. I truly hope that some of you reading this will take the ‘Who Did I Miss?’ template, modify it to address Code4Lib Journal, and send it to journal@code4lib.org. We want to know what we can be doing better.

As one of our boundary-pushing articles, Code as Code, asserts, we need to be questioning the very basis of our push to inclusion:

“We suggest that by not probing LIS’ definitions of “diversity”, “inequity”, and digital literacies at the most personal level of lived experience, we in the LIS and technology professions will remain as well-intentioned, but in-effective in genuine inclusion. We question the editors’ statement “…we strengthen our libraries if we enjoy and engage with these differences.” Will we? How do we know? What evidence of success do we have?”

This is exactly what we were looking for in developing this special issue – articles that push the journal to be better, to evolve antiquated practices, and to question everything. One way in which we are experimenting with our limitations is by publishing Code as Code in a new way. Because Code4Lib Journal requires authors to write and edit their article within a four-month cycle, our publication schedule does not necessarily support inclusion of more theoretical or heavily researched works. In the case of Code as Code, we have worked with the authors to publish the first section of their work, with the aim of publishing more in subsequent issues. I am excited to see how this experiment turns out and I hope that we can continue to test the limits of our format in future issues.

The question now is, what next?

While Code4Lib Journal will always remain, at heart, a practical journal for library techies, we hope that this special issue will be the beginning of a new chapter of the journal’s development, as we continue to solicit articles that push boundaries and feature underrepresented ideas and voices. I hope that you enjoy this special issue, comment on the articles, email us feedback, and consider submitting your own proposal for a future issue. Code4Lib Journal is also actively seeking a few new editors to add to our regular editorial committee; consider applying to join us. Whoever you are and wherever you are, you are part of our community and we want to hear from you.

-Heidi Dowding, Issue 28 Coordinating Editor

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