As a recipient of Diversity Scholarship for the 9th annual Code4Lib conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, I had an enlightening and incredible experience. I learned a great deal of information that revolved around library system usability, emerging coding frameworks, and applying social justice to user-centered design. Throughout the conference, I asked myself, how I could use these concepts and coding techniques for my daily work at my institution? As a “one-man shop” I have limited support for implementing many of these technologies. However, as I have networked with the diverse members of the code4lib community I know that it will be a bit easier trying to experiment with these techniques.
My time at the conference revealed that many libraries are passionately striving to make end-user systems usable, accessible, and transparent. There were numerous presentations that revolved around these ideas, such as using APIs to create data visualizations for displaying library statistics, real-time interactive discovery systems and interfaces, moving away from “list” type listings of holdings to network-node maps, web accessibility for differently abled patrons, and much more. The numerous lightning talks also provided a great wealth of information (all within 5 minutes!)
I was also able to attend the preconference. There were many diverse tracks and “hackfests” for a wide variety of library technologies and tools. However, the track that I enjoyed the most was the #libtechwomen/#libtechgender session. This preconference session explored the difficulties that women and underrepresented voices in tech/librarianship face. I've only had discussions like these in activist/social justice circles from my time as an undergraduate and graduate student. Some of the important take backs include conferences adopting a code of conduct, ensuring safe spaces, mentoring, and ally support. I was also very fortunate to be asked to run a half-hour session on being a good backup which is based out of the backup ribbon project. The greatest take-away was having a very enlightening conversations on these topics, as they may not be necessarily addressed (and at worst ignored) at a tech conference. It is also exciting to see these ideas discussed and hopefully being used within the profession.
Besides the actual content of the conference, I can’t stress enough how great it was to meet the various librarians and people who work in libraries outside of it. For future conference organizers and attendees I highly suggest continuing the Newcomer Dinner and code4lib Social Activities. During the conference, it can be difficult to talk to other attendees. The meals throughout the day allow people to network with one another; this is an invaluable aspect of any professional conference, but even more so for code4lib. Networking opens opportunities for future collaborations, discussing similar projects (and obstacles) at different institutions, and of course learning from others’ experiences. The tour of NCSU’s Hunt Library was also incredible, and I hope to see future conferences take tours of other libraries and institutions.
From what I understand, this is also the first code4lib that had meals offered throughout the conference. I believe that it is important for future conferences to continue this and make “breaking bread” with fellow coders easier for those with dietary restrictions. I think offering food for attendees with vegetarian, vegan, & gluten-free diets is leaps and bounds beyond other conferences. I would definitely like to see a continuation of this inclusion at future events.
The code4lib conference was an eye-opening experience and I am very grateful to the sponsors and the scholarship committee for providing me with this opportunity. On the way from the airport, I was lucky enough to share a taxi with a fellow codelib conference attendee. We both discussed how this conference was so great, because he said “it’s like being in a room where everyone is speaking the same language and doing the same job as you are.” I felt like this was a great way to sum up the conference. Talking about code and programming can be at times alienating, even with other librarians, but I felt a genuine sense of inclusion and understanding at code4lib.