Code4Lib trip report
31 March 2014
As a diversity scholarship recipient, I was afforded the opportunity to attend the 2014 Code4Lib conference in Raleigh, NC. The conference consisted of two and a half days of presentations and one day of preconference workshops. Looking back on the experience, I am impressed by the content of the presentations, the openness of the community, and the overall sense of curiosity and exploration. I learned a great deal and am looking forward to applying the inspiration and motivation that I took away from the conference in my daily work.
Prior to the start of the conference itself, I attended the “Archival Discovery and Use” pre-conference session. True to its name, Code4Lib has historically been more library-focused, but this session covered topics like the modern relevance of archival finding aids, archival crowdsourcing, and presentation methods for digitized materials. Because librarians and archivists have so many intertwined concerns, I was glad to see the archival community represented.
I would have liked to see more hands-on workshop sessions, particularly targeted at beginner and intermediate skill levels. Activities like the RailsBridge workshop that was offered encourage individuals who might not consider themselves to be “coders” to get involved with the community and technology. Training was an ongoing theme throughout the conference, and intermediate-level training can often be difficult to find, so perhaps the Code4Lib conference is a good venue for that kind of opportunity.
Many of the conference sessions that I found most useful related to tools that most of us are already familiar with, but applied to new uses. For example, I don’t think I’ll ever look at Google Docs spreadsheets the same way again after Bohyun Kim’s talk, “Quick and Easy Data Visualization with Google Visualization API and Google Chart Libraries.” Similarly, Josh Wilson spoke about the customization possibilities of Google Analytics with in his presentation, “Personalize your Google Analytics Data With Custom Events and Variables.” And although I had used visualization tools like Gephi before, I was amazed by the NYPL Labs work presented by Matt Miller in “Visualizing Library Resources as Networks."
In light of the discussion around next year’s conference possibly having concurrent sessions (rather than the current model, where there is a single presentation track), I’ve been reflecting on the experience and feel strongly in favor of the one-track model. Although allowing concurrent sessions would mean that more people could present on their work, I found that only having one option both exposed me to content that I would perhaps not have seen otherwise and created a greater sense of community and camaraderie. While I am confident that the organizers would be successful in implementing a different scheduling model, I hope the possible risks of altering the conference in this way are taken fully into account.
So many of my favorite things about the conference have very little to do with the content of the presentations. The high spirits throughout the week, the sense of humor, the friendliness of every person I spoke to, and the sense of community make Code4Lib a truly exceptional conference. I was inspired by Valerie Aurora’s closing keynote as well as Bess Sadler’s presentation on training for open source projects. In addition to supporting diversity through these scholarships, the Code4Lib community is one that makes a true effort to be inclusive. It’s exciting to see the group put its money where its mouth is by supporting these scholarships and speakers.
Thanks again to the conference sponsors and scholarship committee, for the opportunity to participate in this conference. Hopefully I’ll see you all again next year in Portland!