Article Guidelines

Style and Formality

Code4Lib Journal (C4LJ) seeks to lower the barriers to professional communication. The rigid structure and style enforced by traditional refereed scholarly journals is one such barrier, preventing busy library workers from contributing because of the added commitment this entails. While articles in C4LJ should be of a high quality, they need not follow any formal structure or guidelines.

To promote the high quality of our articles and supporting proper referencing and citation of scholarship, the C4LJ does recommend that authors format references and end notes using the Council of Science Editors (CSE) Style Guide.  A Bibliography and Notes section (if needed) immediately follows the last of the article’s narrative text. References are indicated by author and year (Smith, 2007). Notes are indicated in the text by note number in square brackets [1]. Bibliographies are recommended to follow CSE reference style. Authors may choose to use a different bibliographic reference style, keeping in mind the goal of formatting bibliographies and notes is to accurately and efficiently identify their sources for their readers. Authors can refer to this guide for using the CSE Reference Style.

Writers should aim for the middle ground between, on the one hand, blog or mailing-list posts, and, on the other hand, articles in traditional journals. Publishing in C4LJ should be easy and painless, helping the community to share timely, relevant information that is currently shared all too rarely.

C4LJ values clarity and utility over formality. Please write in good English (American or British usage is accepted, but not a mixture of these). Manuscripts are expected to be clear, cogent, and readily understandable by an international readership.


C4LJ welcomes articles on a wide range of subjects, so long as they support its mission. No article is necessarily too short (or too long) for C4LJ—an article should be the right length for what is being covered, although 1500-5000 words is a rough target. Articles should emphasize practical applications, and need not include comprehensive literature reviews and bibliographies, although pointing the reader to useful work that has gone before can certainly be helpful. Articles are encouraged where appropriate to include code samples, algorithms, and pseudo-code (We may be able to host extensive code passages in a yet to be determined repository). A good article will not just describe the tool or technology itself, but also consider that particular tool or technology in comparison to other options.

Content welcome in C4LJ includes but is not limited to:

  • Case studies of projects (failed or successful), how they were done, and challenges faced.
  • Descriptions of projects in progress, project updates and new project proposals.
  • Effective processes for project management.
  • Reviews/comparisons of software, frameworks, libraries, etc.
  • Analyses and case studies of using library metadata in technological application: novel applications or solutions, or unsolved challenges.
  • Thought pieces on the big problems associated with library and technology, ideas for new solutions, visions for the future.
  • Findings on user behavior and interaction with systems.
  • Best practices.

Above all, C4LJ encourages creativity and flexibility, and the editors welcome submissions across a broad variety of topics. Anything that supports the mission of C4LJ is welcome. Feel free to contact us with a proposal or query, as well as draft articles. We may have editorial suggestions and will work with you to prepare your article for publication, but we hope to keep this from being burdensome. We may at times solicit articles on particular topics, or from particular people. You may also be interested in our Editorial Process.

Content Evaluation Guidelines

Editors will use these guidelines when editing and approving drafts. They are quite intentionally subjective judgements, but some guidelines for our collective editorial goals.

  • Clarity of writing:
    • Clear, concise writing, easy to follow and understand.
      • It can take more time to write concisely, but is a service to our readers to make articles no longer than neccesary.
    • At appropriate technical level, neither too basic nor too jargon-y. Different parts of article may be appropriate at different technical levels.
    • Section headings where appropriate–we are not interested in the standard ‘scholarly paper’ sections unless it helps readability, but appropriate section headings typically help readability a lot.
    • Check for grammatical errors, spelling errors, passages with unclear, ambiguous, or confusing meanings.
    • Humor can be appropriate if it helps with getting information across.
  • Embedded content
    • Screen shots–where (and only where) useful and appropriate.
    • Code samples–where (and only where) useful and appropriate.
  • Sufficient depth
    • If appropriate, don’t just describe the focus tool or technology itself, but also consider that particular tool or technology in comparison to other options.
    • If feasible and relevant, don’t just say what you did, say why you did it, what other options were explored, what challenges you ran into and how you dealt with them, etc..
    • If possible and appropriate, talk a bit about ‘what it means’, future steps/directions, what lessons to draw from experience, etc.
  • Consider audience.
    • What is/are the intended audience(s) for this paper?
    • How will this article be of use to them?
    • Both author and editor should be able to answer these questions, and the answers should be apparent from the paper.
    • Are there easy or necessary ways to make it even more useful?
  • Make sure we have author bio material and abstract.

Submission of Articles

Proposals or articles should be submitted to or sent in the body of an email to The article should be accompanied by some brief author metadata and, if appropriate, disclosure statement (see below). Figures or other graphics may be in png (preferred), gif, or jpg formats. Images that are going to be inline in the article should be no more than 500 pixels wide. We can also use a small thumbnail in the article that links to a larger image, when that works better. Note: All images must be submitted as separate image files; included in a zip or other archive is fine (and ideal); but included images only as embedded in a Word file does not work well for us.

Authors are welcome to contact the Editorial Committee with a proposal, rather than a complete article. The more specifics you provide about your article, the easier time we’ll have making a decision in your favor. Due to the Journal’s relatively quick turnaround time, work on finished or mature projects is strongly preferred.

Submissions/proposals will be forwarded to the entire committee for provisional approval. Authors will be notified if their article has been provisionally approved within a month of submission, hopefully sooner. Provisional approval does not commit C4LJ to publishing the article or set a date when it might be published, but it does signal to the author that C4LJ will likely publish the article provided the any necessary changes in content or style are made and space allows. If changes are made to the article after the provisional approval, prior to publication the article will be sent to the editorial committee for final approval.

For more details about the process, see the section on our Editorial Process.

Author Metadata

Authors submit the following information at the time of their article submission:

  • Article title
  • Article abstract
  • Author full name (as it will appear in the published journal)
  • Author biography (one- or two-sentence description of who the author is, including job title and place of work)
  • Author email (for editorial and public communications)
  • Author URL (optional)

Authors retain copyright on their works, but articles we publish in the journal must be licensed by their authors under a US CC-BY license. We recommend but do not require that any included code also be given an open source license suitable for code.

Authors are free to publish it anywhere else in addition to C4LJ.


Authors should disclose with submission any financial interest they or their employers have in any product or service addressed or impacted by their article. That statement will be provided to the editorial committee, and included with any published articles.


Code4Lib Journal Guest Editor Policy
Code4Lib Journal Post-Publication Name Change Policy

ISSN 1940-5758