Code4Lib 2015: Closing Keynote

While I didn’t make it to Code4Lib 2015 this year, I did manage to catch the closing keynote on the livestream, so here are the notes.

Architect and Wanderlust: The Web and Open Things

Andromeda Yelton @ThatAndromeda

Update: Andromeda put a transcript of her talk

Links and ideas from talk

Nine years ago, we were in a much smaller building. No one knew we’d still be here holding a 10th conference, and evolve into an IRC channel, journal, mailing list, etc.

We built a thing, an open thing that anyone can access and contribute to.

Building an Open Thing

Why did Tim Berners build the World Wide Web 24 years ago? To share.

Why did it work?

Determined agnosticism. Didn’t care about formatting. Generalized idea of information connection without being prescriptive of content.

The important thing wasn’t the information, but the interconnection, the way it enabled people to connect to information and to each other.

He wrote into his proposal that it would be free. Also wrote a ton of documentation. Made it possible for it to spread that everyone could build together.

What Evolves isn’t what we predict

Organizing committee comes from a lot of different places, even more so if you include all the attendees.

We also come from a lot of different places in terms of religion, ethnicity, previous careers, backgrounds, perspectives, etc.

The wanderlust that brought us here, together, is important for everyone’s story.

A Disciplined Empathy

Important to user experience and important to library technologies. It’s about how they interact, find, and create their own stories.

Architect for wanderlust

People can inscribe their name on the list to be the next holder of the duck prop. Originally purchased for a skit, now hundreds gather every year to see who gets it next. (You should listen to Andromeda’s talk for the full effect of this story.)

The Dark Places

Of course, things don’t always work out well. There are many people who are threatened by open and unguarded things, because things that grow in open can be vicious. There are a million small ways that open things can be scary, overwhelming, threatening, etc. including neglect

If you’re not a 19-year old white man, you may have difficulty seeing yourself as a “coder”.

When people who look in the mirror, do they see someone who looks like themselves? Can they fit technologist into the other pieces of their identity?

Importance of Disciplined Empathy

This is why the code of conduct is so important. This is how you operationalize disciplined empathy.

Spent a year wondering whether cool, smart, etc. enough to join code4lib, and it was fun, but spent all the time after that waiting for the “other shoe to drop”.

It wasn’t until Bess Sadler asked our community to do this thing. What was amazing was the number of people who had political capital, influence, to sign their names and put that capital on the line. People here are nice, but didn’t know that until this happened.

Hospitality matters

Was a first timer two years ago and now on the stage. Many first timers attending today, but we don’t know where they might be in two years, whether it’s on the stage, writing the hottest new software, etc.

Whose wanderlust are you architecting for? Who’s stories are writeable? It’s about going out of your way to take away the barriers that might have been erected.

What is a library?

Every Saturday go to an arts and craft makerspace. What makes it a library is that it’s self-directed exploration, about exploring information in ways that matters to you, supported by collection and staff who don’t tell you what to do, but recognize when parts of the collection are relevant.

The Advanced Search is not library software. When search results are not found, an advanced search is not helpful. There are so many other options that would allow you to further explore: Ask a Librarian, ILL, Worldcat search of other libraries; another chance of success.

Need to facilitate wanderlust, interact, let’s you build and generate.

Examples and Comments

Harvard library API brings back most popular items from collection. Built intersectional library cloud focus on women, african-americans, LGBT. When think history, doesn’t “think” these things.

Our cataloguing practices keeps up our prejudices, and can hide many items. e.g. history of gay people in military gets shelved in gay section, not military history

NYPL create software to connect people and their cultural heritage. e.g. Google maps mashed up with historical slider. Has an API makes it possible for others to have fun with it, explore historical data in their own way

edsu wrote bot that would tweet what wikipedia articles were edited by Library of Congress, but more importantly, he posted the code on GitHub, which allowed others to fork it, and tell stories that matter.

Zoia (code4lib IRC bot) has little bits of many of us. It’s our little thing. Wrote a plugin for zoia, and saw people use it, saw people mashing it up, wrote documentation which allowed people to write even more things.

Take Away

Spent the last 9 years building code4lib. Want to think about what we spend the next 9 years inventing, and how we invent code that is deeply informed by library.

Want to spend the next 9 years building library software: that intentionally removes barriers, for people to build their own technology, transform themselves, ways in we cannot predict.

Build library software, architect for wanderlust

Stay Warm and Dry


Hope to have time to take notes on another session or the closing keynote.

Published by

Cynthia

A librarian learning the ways of technology, accessibility, metadata, and people

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