Code4lib 2008 (Mini) Roundup

I’ve been to my share of library conferences over the last couple of years. They all have something to offer in their own way: networking, schmoozing, wacky vendor displays, swag, etc. It’s been my experience, though, that as a geek/developer, I’m often a little disappointed at the content — it’s just not geared toward someone like me. This is why I love Code4lib. The conference is densely packed with interesting technical presentations. They are the kind of talks that not only inspire you, they give you something concrete to take back home. In addition to the presentations, you are surrounded by an interesting gang of library technologists, who, I get the sense, all have tricks up their sleeves. It makes for a fulfilling week, to say the least.

Some highlights

My week started with the Evergreen pre-conference, skillfully lead by Dan Scott. Dan blogged about it here. Apart from some technical woes, a lot was seen and (hopefully) learned by all. We performed the install, imported bib and holdings data, implemented new functionality (new OpenSRF method and OPAC UI) to email a user their password if they have forgotten it, and took a quick look at some of the staff client interfaces.

Conference day 1 began with Brewster Kahle’s keynote address on his work with and Brewster’s vision and chutzpah is refreshing and inspiring. The goal of “One wiki page per book” sounds so simple (and obvious) when inserted into a slide show, but the implementation will require tremendous work and resources. I applaud their efforts, not only in principle, but because I think it will lead to better information and resource sharing in the long run.

After lunch, Winona Salesky and Michael Park did a joint presentation called “XForms for Metadata Creation”, which included two different MODS editors developed with XForms. I liked this talk in particular for two reasons. For starters, the demos I saw were that of a simple (yet powerful) bibliographic data creation interface, which I see as potentially useful for any ILS. Additionally, the use of XForms, which I only have a basic understanding of, gave me a chance to see some new (for me) technology in action. My interest is piqued.

I skipped the breakout sessions that day to put together a (5 minute) lightning talk on Pylons. One of the interesting challenges of lightning talks is the use of a shared PC and what amounts to a moratorium on web access for the sake of efficiency. My presentation was a set of images and screenshots, the first a crane on a sunny Portland day, which seemed apropos of the topic. I discussed one particular aspect of Pylons, which allows you to easily plug in custom pre and post-processing middleware applications for your web apps. I demonstrated a simple XML validator and a highlighting plugin which bolded pre-defined terms in the HTML on its way to the client. These gave me the chance to dig a little deeper into Pylons, an architecture which I think has a lot of interesting potential.

Wednesday morning I learned a lot about RDA. Later, I thought the discussion on of the ILS Discovery Interface Task Force segued well into Ross Singer’s lightning talk on Jangle, which, as Ross pointed out, could be used to implement the proposed standardized ILS interface.

I was not able to attend the last day, so I missed a chunk of the conference, including Dan’s CouchDB talk. Glad it went well, Dan!

Wow, now I realize why most folks blog about conferences as they are happening 😉 It’s a lot to digest, especially for a conference as dense as code4lib. There were a lot of great presentations, breakout sessions, and lightning talks this year and this post only comments on a few of them. Next year’s conference will be held in Providence, RI, and if you can, I would recommend checking it out.