Issue 41, 2018-08-09

Editorial: Looking to the Past to Find the Future

I reflect on my 10+ year tenure with the Code4Lib Journal. Ponder the work of our editors and authors. And come out the other side ready for 10 more years.

I’m pleased to present the 41st issue of the Code4Lib Journal, which is packed with useful information that I am sure will help you at your libraries. The Editorial Introduction for each issue of the Code4Lib Journal is an opportunity to reflect on libraries, coding, and the Journal. It’s an opportunity to step back and think about where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going. Recent internal discussions have gotten me thinking about my tenure at the Journal.

I have been a part of the Code4Lib Journal since the beginning, for more than 10 years, longer than I have had any one position. Longer than about anything else that I have done. I have watched it grow from infancy, when Jonathan Rochkind put a call out to volunteers, through 346(!) published articles, 34 different editors, a special issue on diversity, and much more. I have been able to watch the journal mature. It has been a gratifying experience.

But it isn’t just the journal, I’ve gotten to know my fellow editors and the authors – well, at least through email – and I’ve gotten to see them develop. For example, one of the authors in our current issue, Kelley McGrath, was also an author in our very first issue – she also served as a editor for awhile. In the current issue, she writes about “Getting more out of MARC with Primo” with Lesley Lowery, a first-time author. It’s rewarding to see returning authors, like Kelley, continue to work with the Journal. For this issue, Denis Galvin and Mang Sun, who first wrote in our 13th issue, teamed up with their colleague, Hanjun Lee, to write about Room Reservation Systems. Suzanna Conrad contributed to issue 27 and, for the current issue, helps us with “Spinning Communication to Get People Excited About Technological Change.” Bringing with him two new authors, Véronique Lecat and Veronica Ramshaw) for “WMS, APIs and LibGuides: Building a Better Database A-Z List” is returning author Thomas Hodge. This issue also include a veritable super group made up of Code4Lib Journal alums Margaret Mellinger (issue 2), Hui Zhang (36), and Ryan Wick (Editorial Committee) who are joined by new contributors Steve Van Tuyl, Josh Gum, Gregorio Luis Ramirez, and Brandon Straley to perform “Are we still working on this? A meta-retrospective of a digital repository migration in the form of a classic Greek Tragedy.” One of the things that I really enjoy about serving on the Editorial Committee of this journal is that it exposes me to topics I wouldn’t come across in my regular job, such as returning author Michael Bennett’s article on High Efficiency Video Coding.

It is also exciting to work with authors that we haven’t worked with before. Particularly when they can help you understand a topic better, like Charlie Harper does in “Machine Learning and the Library or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Robot Overlords.” Pretty much everything that I know about digital repositories, I learned by editing and reading articles in the Code4Lib Journal. That trend continues with three articles from from authors who are new to the Journal. Lisa Lorenzo taught me about “Using XML Schema with Embedded Schematron Rules for MODS Quality Control in a Digital Repository.“ I learned about “Extending and Adapting Metadata Audit Tools for Mountain West Digital Library Members” from Teresa Hebron. And Saskia van Bergen and Lucas van Schaik walked me through “Copyright and access restrictions–providing access to the digital collections of Leiden University Libraries with conditional access rights.” Finally, I learned how the NYPL manages their web site designs in the article, “Adaptation: the Continuing Evolution of the New York Public Library’s Digital Design System,” by Jennifer L. Anderson & Edwin Guzman.

Working with authors, returning and new, is often the most rewarding aspect of being part of the Editorial Committee. It is also time-consuming and difficult work, as we all want to make sure that we are putting out the best product that we can and that the articles will be useful to people in accomplishing their goals. The patience and fortitude that the authors and editors put into every issue never fails to impress me. It’s invisible for most people, but we couldn’t put out an issue without the hard work of everyone involved.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to meet several of the authors that I have worked with and talk with them about their experiences publishing in the Code4Lib Journal. It’s usually a positive review, even when the article was challenging. The positive review may be the result of hindsight softening the edges or just the author being too polite to complain, but I find it encouraging to hear that they had fruitful experience working with me and the rest of the committee. It has always been a goal of the Journal to lower the barriers to publication. To get useful information out to the people who need it, when they need it.

Judging from the frequency that I see articles in the Code4Lib Journal cited in other work, I think we have been successful at getting people the information they need. It makes me proud when I see one of the articles from the Code4Lib Journal cited in an article or presentation. When someone tells me that something that they learned in the Code4Lib Journal made their work or their life even a little bit easier, I know that all the hard work that the authors and our editors do is worth it.

A few days ago, my wife asked me how the Journal was doing. I hesitated. When you are caught up in the work of putting together an issue, it can seem precarious or even unsustainable. But now that it is ready to launch, I feel much more confident about the future of the journal. Looking back over the 10+ years that I have worked on the Journal, there have been many challenges – and there still are. But the energy and commitment of my fellow editors and our authors shows me that the Code4Lib Journal is valued and, as long as there is a need, the Journal will continue to “foster community and share information among those interested in the intersection of libraries, technology, and the future.”


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