Code4libBC Lightning Talk: Code4lib(BC): What It’s All About

As part of an introduction to the fifth annual Code4libBC unconference, I did a brief talk on the history and community of Code4lib and Code4lib BC.


Hi Everyone. I want to thank you all for joining us at the 5th annual Code4libBC unconference, and I particularly want to thank all the local organizers for taking the unconference out of the Vancouver area for the very first time. It’s actually very unusual for a regional unconference not to move from year to year, so I’m glad we’ve gotten the ball rolling so that we see Code4libBC move around BC in the coming years.

So you may be looking at me, wondering, what is Code4lib? I often get asked what Code4lib is about and more specifically, what Code4libBC is, so we thought the first presentation slot would be a good opportunity to talk about what Code4lib and Code4libBC are all about.

Brief History of Code4lib

Code4lib started in 2003 as a mailing list with a group of library programmers who wanted to discuss issues that were not specific to a system, programming language, or type of technology. An online chat channel was created shortly after for synchronous discussion. As the community grew, there was increasing demands to have face to face meetings based in the US. Side note: In the US specifically, since Canada has the Access conference, which has a slightly broader audience, but had been (and continues to be) a great venue to get library technology staff together in Canada. In 2006, the community held the first Code4lib conference in Oregon.

The idea behind Code4lib was to make it single track, highly technical, and informal. Many aspects of the conference are pulled from the more informal unconference style with attendees participating in multiple breakout sessions, signing up same day for lightning talks, and voting on everything from the location to the program to the t-shirt design. Another key piece of Code4lib was its commitment to affordability: registration fee at the first conference was $125 for 2 ½ days.

The initial conference drew together over 80 attendees, and after 10 years, the annual Code4lib conference has grown to over 400 attendees a year.

Sources: About. Code4lib.; Barrera, A. et al. 2007 Code4lib Conference Report. Library Hi Tech News, 2007, vol. 24, n. 6, pp. 4-7.

During those years, there have been numerous regional groups that have popped up based on demand and primarily, organizers willing to put in the effort.

  • (Hungary, 2008-2010)
  • Code4Bib (Netherlands, 2009-2010)
  • PNWCode4Lib (Pacific Northwest, 2010-2011)
  • Code4GLAM Australia (2011)
  • Code4Lib Great Eastern (Atlantic Provinces, 2012)
  • Code4Lib Mid-Atlantic (Philadelphia and Tri-State Area, 2012-2013)
  • Code4lib North Ottawa (2012-2015)
  • Code4LibNYC (New York, 2008-2015)
  • NEC4L (New England, 2008-2016)
  • Code4lib Chicago (2010-2016)
  • Code4Lib YEG (Edmonton, 2013-2016)
  • Code4Lib SoCal (Southern California, 2014-2016)

While not all of them have lasted, some have merged, new ones are still being created, and many continue to provide meetups or unconferences regularly, especially for those who cannot travel to the national conference.

  • Code4lib DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia, etc., 2009-)
  • Code4Lib Japan (2010-)
  • Code4Lib Midwest (Illinois and area, 2010-)
  • Code4lib North (Ontario, 2010-)
  • Code4lib Toronto (2012-)
  • Code4Lib BC (2013-)
  • Code4Lib NorCal (Northern California, 2014-)
  • Code4Lib SE (South East, 2015-)
  • Code4Lib South Central (Texas and area, 2017-)

Brief History of Code4libBC

Despite being part of the original group of organizers, I don’t actually know how the idea came to be, so I’m actually going to ask Mark Jordan to come up and give us a quick history on how Code4libBC came to be.


Thanks Mark for enlightening us on Code4libBC’s origins.

[As I heard it, the Access conference only makes it out to BC every few years, and the only time Code4lib national was in Washington state was Seattle 2012, so the group wanted to start a regional.]

I was very excited to help start a regional as a time and place where people could get together, and present, discuss, and work on problems and projects together, across departments and institutions.

As such, I want to give a huge thanks to the first Code4libBC organizers, who invited me to join them, as well as all the other people who helped organized this event from one year to the next, including this year’s organizers.

  • Paul Joseph
  • Calvin Mah
  • Caroline Daniels
  • Cynthia Ng
  • Gordon Coleman
  • Jeff Davis
  • John Durno
  • Mark Jordan
  • May Chan
  • Shirley Lew
  • Trish Mau
  • Tara Robertson
  • Tamarack Hockin
  • James Fournie
  • Sara Allain
  • Daniel Sifton
  • Ben Hyman
  • Corey Davis
  • Charles Hogg
  • Dana McFarland
  • Geoffrey Allen
  • Paris Carr

I also want to give a shoutout to the sponsors who supported us the first two years, allowing us to hold the event and seed money for us to build enough of a budget for the event to support itself in subsequent years.

  • BCCATS (BC Cataloguing and Technical Services Interest Group)
  • BC Electronic Library Network
  • BC Libraries Cooperative (2013 – Present)
  • Kwantlen Polytechnic University Library
  • Simon Fraser University Library
  • Surrey Public Library
  • University of British Columbia Library
  • University of Victoria Library

A special thanks to the BC Libraries Cooperative, who continue to support Code4libBC by being our fiscal and administrative host.

Participating in Code4lib

With most conferences, you attend and listen, and while there is a certain amount of that at Code4lib,

the more you give, the more you get.

Particularly here, at an unconference, we leave time for questions at the end of each talk, and we have whole afternoons dedicated to breakouts, where the more engaged everyone is, the better a breakout tends to be. If you have an idea or problem you want to discuss, here is the time and place to do it, when you can pick the brains of your peers. The whole point is to take this opportunity to have others help you plan, write, build, develop, and implement.

Imposter Syndrome

I want to take this opportunity to also address imposter syndrome.

When surveyed,

the average Code4lib community member frequently experienced imposter syndrome.

Source: Bortmas, D. (2017). Destroying Impostor Phenomenon in Code4Lib and Ourselves. Code4lib 2017 Conference.

If at any point, you feel like an imposter or lost, then also know that you are not alone.

You are not alone, and you are not an imposter.

I have met people whom are considered experts in their area and have told me that they feel like an imposter. Personally, I was shocked, because these were also regular attendees to Code4lib. After a few discussions with other attendees, it became obvious that I wasn’t the only one who felt like an imposter or felt lost through parts of the conference. When I became a repeat attendee to national and regionals, I began assuring newcomers that if they even understood 10% of what was presented, they were doing very well, and many regulars agreed.

Participating in Breakouts & More

If you were an imposter, then the rest of us would be as well, because as you do not know everything that the person standing up here or sitting next to you does, neither does anyone know everything that you do. You are an individual who brings their own pool of knowledge and experience.

So I highly encourage you to contribute to discussions, breakouts, and other parts of the unconference, because you add value to the conference by participating

Presenting at Code4lib

We encourage attendees to present on what they have been working on, what their library has been working on, or even something they are excited about. While Code4lib began as a highly technical conference, I like to think that rather than presentations needing to be technical, Code4lib is a space where presenters aren’t afraid to explain and discuss technical pieces.

If anything, presentation topics have broadened over time, especially the past few years, topics may include anything related to technology in libraries, archives, galleries, museums, and similar organizations from development in specific systems to project management to user experience to work-life balance.

At Code4lib 2012 in Seattle, with much encouragement from others, I did a lightning talk and presented on something I have never worked on, nor really played around with in front of hundreds of people. I decided to simply do a quick demo of the website and a couple of samples to raise awareness about bringing Processing projects to the web with processing.js.

As a quick side note, Processing is a an open source programming language used for visual content, and processing.js is a web, JavaScript, library that runs what you have programmed in Processing for viewing and interacting in the browser.

Certainly, at Code4libBC, the very first year, we had presentations related to:

  • Cataloguing
  • Linked Data
  • Archivematica
  • Accessibility
  • Scripting
  • APIs
  • Subject Guides
  • Metrics and Analytics

And we continue to have presentations and breakouts on a large range of topics.

Becoming a Code4libber

So how do you become a Code4lib community member?

Hopefully, at this point it’s obvious, but you are now all community members just by being here. Whether you ever join the mailing list, the slack channel, IRC channel, LinkedIn group, and Twitter discussion, or not, by being here, you are already part of the loosely affiliated group that makes up what one might call the Code4lib community.

Just take these two squishables for example. Even Mao-kun and Chibibifox are considered to be part of the community, and all they do is pose for pictures. Though maybe not a surprise since many members of a soft spot for cute animals, and they are pretty cute.

So let me just say, your presence and willingness to participate has brought us together, and I hope you will take full advantage of that over the next two days.


Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

Leave a Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: