Reviewed by: Cheryl LaGuardia, Research Librarian, Widener Library, Harvard University
Code4Lib Journal was created in December 2007 to “foster community and share information among those interested in the intersection of libraries, technology, and the future.” The volunteer editorial committee shares management and editorial responsibilities for the journal in “an informal, open, and pragmatic way as per the Code4Lib ethic.” The journal began as an experiment among members of the Code4Lib community, with the purpose of publishing “quality articles providing useful information and discussion on bringing library technology into the future. [The edtiors] want every article to be a useful intervention into our communities of practice. We value readability over formality, and hope to meet high standards for quality and utility. We’d like articles to have the technical detail for reproducibility, while still being accessible to readers at varying levels of technical expertise.” This approach to creating the journal was inspired “in part by the social dynamics of distributed open source projects, Code4Lib is an informal online social and professional network of library technologists, embodying values of transparency, cooperation, and pragmatic problem solving.”
As the editors want to make publishing in the journal an easy process for authors, the journal is edited rather than double-blind refereed (although several articles in the journal, notably Edward M. Corrado’s “Editorial Introduction: The Code4Lib Journal Experiment, Rejection Rates, and Peer Review,” in Issue 10, 6/22/10 and Andrew Darby’s “Editorial Introduction: A Peer Network,” in Issue 19, 1/15/13 make the case that the Code4Lib Journal is, in fact, peer-reviewed, and based on the overall high quality of what’s published here, I believe them (the procedures for processing submissions is covered on the site, at: http://journal.code4lib.org/process-and-structure).
The journal editors’ aims are commendable, and ambitious. As they set out on their journal experiment, it was their plan to “provide practical information to help the library community envision and achieve our technological future, to bring libraries’ tradition of collaboration to bear on new challenges.” Further, they “want[ed] the digital libraries of today to be transformed into the digital libraries of tomorrow, providing quality information while meeting new and changing needs. Rapid transformation has risks, but maintaining the status quo brings its own, greater, risks. Libraries must take a leading role beside their vendors in the technological innovation that must accompany this needed transformation.”
The present Editorial Committee, along with Editorial Committee Emeriti, is composed of a stellar group of individuals with impeccable credentials from a variety of institutions. Despite the fact that the journal is run solely by volunteers operating on a shoestring, each issue offers high quality articles addressing a wide variety of topics. The most recent issue available at the time of this review (Issue 26, 10/21/14) holds the following content: Kelley McGrath’s “Editorial Introduction: On Being on the Code4Lib Journal Editorial Committee” (which provides a behind the scenes look at the Journal); Corey Davis’ “Archiving the Web: A Case Study from the University of Victoria,” Daniel Chudnov, Daniel Kerchner, Ankushi Sharma and Laura Wrubel’s “Technical Challenges in Developing Software to Collect Twitter Data,” Jakob Voß and Moritz Horn’s “Exposing Library Services with AngularJS,” Annette Bailey and Godmar Back’s “Hacking Summon 2.0 The Elegant Way,” Jenny A. Toves and Thomas B. Hickey’s “Parsing and Matching Dates in VIAF,” Rico Simke’s “Mdmap: A Tool for Metadata Collection and Matching,” Meghan Finch’s “Using Zapier with Trello for Electronic Resources Troubleshooting Workflow,” and Josh Weisman’s “Developing Applications in the Era of Cloud-based SaaS Library Systems.”
As you can see, the subject matter is largely targeted at coders. But, as Kelley McGrath notes in her Editorial Introduction to Issue 11, “A Cataloger’s Perspective on the Code4Lib Journal,”
“I sometimes feel myself a bit of an odd duck on the Code4Lib Journal editorial committee as I am not a coder. I am a cataloger. However, when I think about this a little more, it no longer seems so odd for a cataloger to be on the editorial committee. The future of library cataloging and metadata is inextricably bound up with technology.”
So a wider segment of the library community than just coders will likely be interested in this journal. Recommended enthusiastically for those involved in developing the libraries of the future; as the Journal’s mission statement notes, “By communicating both the problems and possibilities of current and future systems to the wider library community, C4LJ aims to help engender collective understanding and the necessary support for improving library technology and digital services.”