Issue 1, 2007-12-17

Editorial Introduction — Issue 1

This mission of the Code4Lib Journal is to cover "the intersection of libraries, technology, and the future." We hope that this journal can be one more contribution to the developing culture of collaboration around library technology, and we welcome you to join in our experiment.

by Jonathan Rochkind,
Coordinating Editor, Issue 1

This is a decisive time for libraries. In the changing social and technological environment, libraries must adapt to fulfill their missions and satisfy their users. Library technology is acutely involved in this adaptation. Digital services, content and tools have become a part of nearly every aspect of library operations. The “digital library” is here–if you work in a library, you probably work in a digital library.

This mission of this journal is to cover “the intersection of libraries, technology, and the future.” We plan to provide practical information to help the library community envision and achieve our technological future, to bring libraries’ tradition of collaboration to bear on new challenges. We want the digital libraries of today to be transformed into the digital libraries of tomorrow, providing quality information while meeting new and changing needs. Rapid transformation has risks, but maintaining the status quo brings its own, greater, risks. Libraries must take a leading role beside their vendors in the technological innovation that must accompany this needed transformation.

The Code4Lib Community

One locus of pragmatic innovation has been the Code4Lib community. Inspired in part by the social dynamics of distributed open source projects, Code4Lib is an informal online social and professional network of library technologists, embodying values of transparency, cooperation, and pragmatic problem solving. The Code4Lib infrastructure includes a listserv, an irc channel, a blog aggregator, and an annual conference [1]. Code4Lib is a dynamic community which fosters collaboration and encourages the sharing of skills and ideas [2,3,4]. But paradoxically, this amorphous informality can make it hard for someone new to the field—or wanting to take a new look at the field—to find a comfortable entry point to the community and the resources it has to offer.

We hope the Code4Lib Journal can manifest the values that have been successful for the Code4Lib community, while providing increased access to the collective knowledge and experience held throughout our diverse professional networks and local organizations, increasing cross-pollination and collaboration among library technology innovators–and helping more people and organizations become innovators.

This Journal is an Experiment

The Code4Lib Journal project aspires to balance a variety of sometimes competing goals. We want to provide quality articles providing useful information and discussion on bringing library technology into the future. We want every article to be a useful intervention into our communities of practice. We value readability over formality, and hope to meet high standards for quality and utility. We’d like articles to have the technical detail for reproducibility, while still being accessible to readers at varying levels of technical expertise. At the same time we want to ensure an easy process for authors, letting authors share their important work and ideas with as few barriers as we can get away with. The Journal is intentionally edited rather than refereed, and we try to contribute editing advice to help authors improve their articles without aggravation. We are committed to the Journal’s free online availability, to increase its visibility and impact in addition to its accessibility. We want the immediacy of a blog, the usefulness of a professional conference, the reliable quality of a good scholarly journal, and the participatory nature of our online communities, all in one easy to read and easy to produce package.

And we are trying to accomplish all of that on a shoestring, with an all-volunteer editorial committee sharing management and editorial responsibilities in an informal, open, and pragmatic way as per the Code4Lib ethic. Our Coordinating Editor will rotate with every issue; I’ll soon be passing the baton to Eric Lease Morgan.

The Code4Lib Journal project is in that sense much like some of the technology projects many of us work on in our daily lives, balancing competing values and priorities with limited resources. And we’ve tackled this project the way we do those projects, with a ‘can do’ spirit and an agile development approach—in other words, we’re making it up as we go along.

So how is the experiment working out? We think we’ve got a great first issue. This is due to the great work of our authors, and of the Editorial Committee. I am not alone among the Editorial Committee in discovering that inventing a journal—even one solely online which is intended to be relatively informal and agile—is more work than I personally expected. All of our authors and editorial staff deserve to be proud of what we’ve produced together through hard work [5]. But ultimately only the judgments and actions of you, our readers, can measure our success. If you think this first issue is evidence of a worthwhile endeavor, you can contribute to its future success.

How Can You Help?

You can read our articles, suggest them to others, and continue the discussions in your blogs, listservs, and in comments attached to the articles themselves. We want every article here to be part of an ongoing conversation towards cooperative innovation among libraries.

You can submit articles to us, and when you run into a colleague with an interesting project or idea, you can suggest that they submit articles to us. We’re happy to accept articles and proposals at any time; proposals for our third issue are due by Friday March 14th. We welcome anyone interested in participating in the operation of the journal to join our public discussion list for journal business [6]. At some point in the future, we will solicit more official members of the Editorial Committee, too.

We hope that this journal can be one more contribution to the developing culture of collaboration around library technology, and we welcome you to join in our experiment.

Code4Lib Journal Founding Editorial Committee

Notes

[1] http://www.code4lib.org

[2] Barrera, Antonio, Parmit Chilana, Kevin Clarke and Michael Giarlo (2007). 2007 Code4Lib Conference Report. Library Hi Tech News 24(6). pp. 4-7. http://eprints.rclis.org/archive/00011670/

[3] Frumkin, Jeremy and Dan Chudnov (2006). Code4Lib 2006. Ariadne Issue 47, April 2006. http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue47/code4lib-2006-rpt/

[4] Chudnov, Daniel (2007). code4libcon Shows What a Participatory Conference Looks Like. Computers in Libraries 27(5), May 2007. pp. 37-40. (COinS)

[5] Special thanks to Jonathan Brinley for providing the nuts-and-bolts web management that many of us wanted to leave at our day jobs. He deserves the credit for the clean look and useful functionality of the site.

[6] http://groups.google.com/group/c4lj-discuss/

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