Issue 2, 2008-03-24

Code4Lib: More than a journal

It is a pleasure and an honor to be able to introduce this, the second issue of Code4Lib Journal. Code4Lib is much more than a journal. It is a thriving community.

by Eric Lease Morgan

Something for everyone

Each article in this issue has a little bit of something for all who call themselves a librarian or work in a library. Each identifies some sort of library problem to be addressed, and offers one or more solutions. Many are complete with code snippets. After all, this is Code4Lib.

For example, people in public service may be interested in Edward M. Corrado and Kathryn A. Frederick’s review of database-driven subject guide applications. Kenneth Furuta and Michele Potter describe a simple help system that brings librarians running to the reference desk. Margaret Mellinger and Kim Griggs explain how library resources can be organized into course pages without the need of HTML knowledge and yet sport Web 2.0 features. Nancy Fried Foster, Nora Dimmock, and Alison Bersani shed light on participatory design.

For those of us who enjoy cataloging and metadata issues, Jonathan Gorman outlines how he modified VUFind to exploit Wikipedia and cataloging authority records to enhance information about authors in a library catalog. Chris Freeland, Martin Kalfatovic, Jay Paige, and Marc Crozier illustrate a different use of Library of Congress Subject Headings by integrating place names with Google Maps. Carol Jean Godby, Devon Smith and Eric Childress describe a technique for crosswalking just about any metadata format into just about any other metadata format.

For the systems librarian in you, Dan Scott and Kevin Beswick share how they used Linux live CDs customized as kiosk browsers to provide laptops as ‘quick lookup’ stations at their library. Andrew Darby takes advantage of the Google Calendar API to easily manage the display of library hours. Jody DeRidder exploits Google sitemap technology and static HTML pages to make content in the “deep Web” more accessible. We hope you find these articles useful, stimulating, and relevant to your daily working lives.

We’re growing!

A few months ago we put out a call to solicit more Code4Lib Journal editors. We received quite a number of well-qualified applicants, and selecting a few from the pool was very challenging. We are happy to announce that Christine Schwartz, Andrew Darby, and Ryan Wick will be joining the Editorial Committee. “Welcome!” Anyone else interested in helping with the journal, whether or not they are on the Editorial Committee, is welcome to participate on our public discussion list.

The Code4Lib community

Code4Lib is more than a journal. It is a community — a group of loosely federated problem solvers who work in libraries and exploit computers to solve library problems. The exact date when it all began is impossible to track down, but it can probably be traced back to November 2003 when Ed Summers, Robert Fox, Chuck Bearden, Dan Chudnov, and myself discussed the possibilities of starting up a new mailing list. Ed stated it most succinctly:

code4lib would be for *any* language, not just Perl. People could discuss non opensource software (although they probably wouldn’t want to), and conversation will not be limited to XML. It will be a discussion list for programmers, who like programming in/for libraries or dealing with information sciencey things.

Thus the Code4Lib mailing list was born. [1, 2] Presently the mailing list includes about 900 subscribers from all over the world, and it grows by about one person every other day.

Since then an IRC channel has become an additional venue for discussion. [3] It is a “place” where real-time discussions occur. “What is the proper syntax for this command?” “Have you heard about that new API?” “How do you suggest I tweak this script?” The channel is full of mis-spellings, any number of seemingly random thoughts, bad jokes, and simultaneous conversations whose participants talk right past one another. It is inhabited by a robot named Zoia who tells you the weather, searches Google, plays hangman, defines words, and constantly trawls the ‘Net for relevant RSS feeds. It is a place where “karma” is increased or decreased by incrementing and decrementing usernames or words through the use of double plus and minus signs (ie. books++ or taxes–). Presently Mike Giarlo, Ed Summers, and Ross Singer have the highest karma. In this seemingly chaotic environment relationships are built, ideas are formulated, and problems are solved.

More recently the Code4Lib conference has come into being. There have only been three conferences, but each one has been filled to capacity and greatly anticipated each year. Code4Lib is more than the discussion on a mailing list, more than the idiosyncrasies of text-based chat sessions, more than a conference, and more than journal articles. Code4Lib is a growing community exhibiting the characteristics of the Internet. It is a decentralized organization with no defined leaders. There is very little formal governance and when consensus is not apparent voting is employed. Processes are relatively transparent; we value collaboration. There are no dues. Everybody contributes what they can and the resources just seem to flow. Sociologists and anthropologists would have a field day if they studied the inner workings of Code4Lib.

Consider participating in Code4Lib. We would love to have you, and we are sure you have something significant to offer. You don’t need to know how to program. You don’t need to be an expert in computers. You just need to be a person who enjoys a collaborative working environment where diverse and sometimes conflicting ideas abound. code4lib++

Notes and links

[1] These quotes are buried deep in the Code4Lib mailing list archives.
[2] The official home page of the Code4Lib mailing is
[3] Find an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) client like IRSSI or a use gateway like, connect to, and /join #code4lib to share your ideas and become a part of the community. Find out more at

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3 Responses to "Code4Lib: More than a journal"

Please leave a response below:

  1. Mike Giarlo,

    I won’t say the karma system is rigged, but that I am currently atop the pile exposes deep and fundamental flaws in it.

    Great introduction to the issue and the community, Eric!

  2. Adam Chandler,

    Thank you for putting out a fine issue, Eric. I wonder, though, does batching these articles up into an issue really add any value? Why not release the articles through the RSS feed as soon as they make it to the end of the editorial process? I would rather read one here and one there over the course of few weeks.

  3. Eric Lease Morgan,

    Adam, the editors discussed the pros and cons of publishing the journal in issues vs the continuous release model. The latter model is, in some ways, easier from the editor’s point of view. But, we came to agree that publishing issues seemed like the better choice for our particular group dynamic. We also thought that many of our readers still favored discrete issues and a predictable publication schedule. If, in the future, we get more article submissions than we feel we can deal with using this model, we may change our mind rather than adopting a more frequent publication schedule. Nothing is irrevocably set. –ELM

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ISSN 1940-5758