Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Supporting Attendance at Code4Lib

In the middle of a session at the Charleston Conference a month ago, I was in some keynote address about the future of libraries and the role of journals in scientific communication, and I got a bit fed up at a notion that scientists were some sort of exotic creatures that used libraries and information resources in ways that the library community needed to understand better. It occurred to me that a much better way to understand the needs of scholars was to just look around the room at the 300 people learning, communicating and synthesizing ideas with each other.

The Charleston Conference started in 1980 as a regional library acquisitions meeting with 24 attendees. This year was its 29th. It covered the world of scholarly information, library collections, preservation, pricing and archiving and it attracted well over 1000 publishers, vendors, librarians, electronic resource managers, and consultants from around the world. Its success is to a large extent the work of one person- Katina Strauch. Over the years, Katina's empire of hospitality has come to include print publications- Against the Grain and The Charleston Advisor, associated websites, and multiple blogs. The Charleston Conference has established itself as an important venue for many types of communication and learning; you might not call it scholarly communications, but so what?

Scientists and scholars aren't so different from librarians and publishers. They go to conferences, drink coffee and beer and learn in the sessions and in the hallways. They exchange business cards and send each other email. They tell stories about the experiments that failed. They gossip. The conferences provide them programs to take home and help them remember who said what. Occasionally someone mentions an article they found to be interesting, and everyone goes home to read it. The Charleston Conference and associated business properties has grown nicely into the internet age and would be an appropriate model for emulation by the scholarly communication community

Another vision for the future is provided by Code4Lib. Code4Lib started as a mailing list in 2003 as a forum for discussion of
all thing programming code for libraries. This is a place to
discuss particular programming languages such as Java or Python,
but is also provide a place to discuss the issues of programming
in libraries in general.
At first, it grew slowly, but people quickly discovered how useful it was. Today it has almost 1,300 recipients and a very high signal to noise ratio.

In 2006, the first Code4Lib Conference was held at Oregon State University. The conference was inspired to some extend by the success of a similar conference, ACCESS, held every year in Canada. The Code4Lib Conference has always been self-organizing (organizationless, you might say), and has been quite successful. Presentations are selected by vote of potential attendees; participation is strongly encouraged using lightning talks and unconference sessions. The conference has tried to stay small and participatory, and as a result, registrations quickly fill up.

Code4Lib is also instantiated as channels of communication such as an IRC channel and a Journal, and the community never seems to fear trying new things. In many ways, it's still in its infancy; one wonders what it will look like if it ever gets to be as long-established as Charleston.

This February, the fifth Code4Lib Conference will take place in Asheville, North Carolina. I hope to be there. But with the "Global Economic Downturn" and library budgets being slashed, I worry that some people who might have a lot to contribute and the most to gain may be unable to go due to having lost their job or being in a library with horrific budget cuts. So, together with Eric Lease Morgan (who has been involved with Code4Lib from that very first eMail) I'm putting up a bit of money to support the expenses of people who want to go to Code4Lib this year. If other donors can join Eric and myself, that would be wonderful, but so far I'm guessing that together we can support the travel expenses of two relatively frugal people.

If you would like to be considered, please send me an email as soon as possible, and before I wake up on Monday, December 14 at the latest. Please describe your economic hardship, your travel budget, and what you hope to get from the conference. Eric and I will use arbitrary and uncertain methods to decide who to support, and we'll inform you of our decision in time for you to register or not on Wednesday December 16, when registration opens.

If you want to help us with a matching contribution, it's not required to be named Eric.

Update: Michael Giarlo and one other member of the Code4Lib community have agreed to match, so it looks like we have enough to support 3 attendees.

1 comment:

  1. You can put me down for a matching contribution also, Eric(s). We can work the details out over e-mail.