By Terry Reese
One of the things that I’ve always appreciated about this community has been its ability to accept changes. Maybe this is because of the type of work that we do, technology, it’s rarely stable, but I think that one of the things that has made the Code4Lib community so successful and vibrant has been its ability to be malleable, to find common ground and move on. A great example of this process happens every year in the run up to the Code4Lib conference. As each new host works through their own unique set of challenges, the conference changes, it evolves and moves on. As someone that has been fortunate enough to attend every Code4Lib conference, starting in 2006 when 80 library technologies descended on Corvallis, Oregon, it’s been easy to track the changes in both the community and our seminal event.
So it should come as no surprise that this same flare for change, this same need to continue to evolve and improve processes exists with the Journal. As editors cycle on and off, processes are looked at, evaluated, maybe changed. Likewise, as new personalities are added to the editorial committee, new feature ideas may be discussed. In the short time that I’ve been a part of the editorial committee, a number of such discussions have been had, and I imagine, will continue to be had. It’s how we keep the Journal fresh, and how we continue to work together to produce a product that represents not only the broad interests of our community, but does so in a way that honors a community that values openness and transparency.
One of the benefits of being the Coordinating Editor is the ability to try something new, and in this issue we experimented with how articles were selected for this issue. The editorial committee is always looking at the process that we use to evaluate proposals. Each issue regularly receives a significant number of proposals each issue, and it’s up to the editorial committee to select the best proposals for inclusion into the Journal. In the past, proposals were evaluated as they were submitted, a process that allowed the committee to provide very quick feedback to potential authors. The problem for the editorial committee (myself included), is that as the issue fills up, it can be difficult to judge each new proposal without considering those that came before it.
When faced with this type of problem, the obvious answer is to hack a solution. Rather than provide a final evaluation of each proposal as it came in, we waited until the proposal solicitation period had passed, and then looked at what we got. Did this process work better? I don’t know. On the one hand, I think it may have been harder for authors because there was more downtime between submitting a proposal and a response of acceptance – but as an editorial member, I personally felt like I had a much easier time evaluating each proposal on equal footing. As I look back and assess the process, I definitely think that there are things that we learned and can apply to future Journal issues. For example, if we were to continue to tweak the evaluation process, the next Coordinating Editor should probably try to do a better job keeping potential authors abreast of the process.
As we put this issue to bed and start focusing on Issue 22, I expect that the editorial committee will decompress and continue to come up with a better process. And you know what, that’s ok…because that’s what Code4Lib is all about.
Summary of Issue 21
It’s been my great pleasure to be the Coordinating Editor for Issue 21. As one of the newer members of the editorial committee, it’s been interesting seeing how each new issue of the Journal takes on its own personality and tells its own story. While the editorial committee doesn’t solicit or select articles based on a specific set of agreed upon themes, each issue that I’ve been a part of seems to organically take shape around a few common topics – and it appears that this issue is no different. Issue 21 is a substantial body of work, consisting of 10 articles coalescing around Linked Data, API usage, and the broad topic of finding new and novel ways to repurpose tools and data available in the library. What’s more, this issue has a distinctly international flavor, with articles being provided by authors from the United States, Canada, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates; Issue 21 highlights both the universality of many of the challenges currently facing the library community, as well as the success the Code4Lib community has had in bridging culture and language through a shared interest in technology.
One of the new themes that pop up in this issue are around the practical implementation of Linked Data. I expect that future issues and authors will continue to wrestle with and discuss new and exciting ways in which Linked Data will allow libraries to become more interconnected with the world outside of libraries – and I expect that this issue will signal the start of that trend. M. Cristina Pattuelli, Matt Miller, Leanora Lange, Sean Fitzell, and Carolyn Li-Madeo’s paper, “Crafting Linked Open Data for Cultural Heritage: Mapping and Curation Tools for the Linked Jazz Project” and Götz Hatop’s paper entitled: “Integrating Linked Data into Discovery” provide an interesting look at two real life projects seeking to integrate Linked Data and Linked Data concepts into their design. These articles talk about some current tools, as well as some of the successes and challenges found in this approach.
In the proud Code4Lib community tradition, this issue also provides a number of articles for readers interested in learning how to do things better. Ted Diamond, Susan Price, and Raman Chandrasekar’s article “Actions Speak Loaders than Words: Analyzing large-scale query logs to improve the research experience” offers a timely look at how libraries can take an active role in improving the academic research experience for their users. While Diamond, et al’s article specifically looks at Summon query logs, the authors offer up a novel approach for any library currently utilizing a unified discovery service. Kyle Banerjee and Maija Anderson take a fresh look at utilizing existing tools and utilities to leverage facial recognition software to streamline the creation of image collection metadata in “Batch Metadata Assignment to Archival Photograph Collections using Facial Recognition Software,” while Donald Moses and Kirsta Stapelfeld provide a closer look at some of the new features that are a part University of Prince Edward Island’s Institutional Repository utilizing the Islandora repository system in “Renewing UPEI’s Institutional Repository: New Features for an Islandora Environment.” Richard Anderson writes about Stanford’s decision to utilize the “Moab” design for versioned archiving of digital objects in “The Moab Design for Digital Object Versioning” and Edward Iglesias and Arianna Schlegel explore how libraries can leverage Raspberry Pi devices to create inexpensive electronic signage in “Using a Raspberry Pi as a Versatile and Inexpensive Display Device.” Lisa Gayhart, in “Out From Behind the Firewall: Towards Better Library IT Communications” provides a thought provoking piece on the need to improve IT-specific communication within the library.
Finally, libraries continue to utilize a wide variety of services to improve discovery, enhance displays, and improve user experiences. Services are wide and varied, but what each have in common are application programming interfaces (API) that facilitate this sharing of information. Issue 21 features two articles specifically looking at a number of widely used library services. The first, by Thomas Hodge and James MacDonald entitled “Relevance and Phrase Searching in Summon: looking under the hood” provides an excellent analysis of some of the black magic behind the Summon API search and some ways to ensure that queries made using the Summon API return only relevant results. The second takes a closer look at three different bibliographic services, comparing developer ease of use, license restrictions and data provided in “Comparing the LibraryThing, OCLC, and Open Library ISBN APIs.”
As one can see, Issue 21 covers a wide range of topics with something for just about everyone. Whether you are a data wonk, an administrator, or just someone interested in library technology and the challenges therein, the Journal and its authors continue to illustrate the wide and ever expanding interests and talent found within the library community.