Thoughts from a Newcomer: Code4Lib 2018 Recap

by Erica Titkemeyer

After prioritizing audiovisual preservation conferences for so long, this year I chose to attend my first Code4Lib annual conference in Washington, D.C. I looked forward to the talks most directly related to my work, but also knew that there would be many relatable discussions to participate in, as we are all users/creators of library technology tools and we all seek solutions to similar data management challenges.

The conference started with Chris Bourg’s keynote, detailing research on why marginalized individuals are compelled to leave their positions in tech jobs because of undue discrimination. Calling for increased diversity in the workplace, less mansplaining/whitesplaining, more vouching for and amplification of marginalized colleagues, Dr. Bourg set out to “equip the choir”. She also pointed out that Junot Diaz said it best at ALA’s midwinter conference, when he called for a reckoning, explaining that “A profession that is 88% white means 5000% agony for people of color, no matter how liberal and enlightened you think you are.”

I appreciated her decision to use this opportunity to point out our own shortcomings, contradictions and need to do better. I will also say, if you ever needed proof that there is an equity problem in the tech world, you can:

  1. Listen to Dr. Bourg’s talk and
  2. Read the online trolling and harassment that she has since been subjected to because of it.

Since the backlash, Code4Lib has released a Community Statement in support of her remarks.

Following the keynote, the first round of talks further assured me that I had chosen the right conference to attend. In Andreas Orphanides’ talk: “Systems thinking: a practical field guide”, he cleverly pointed out system failures and hacks we all experience in our daily lives, and how they are analogous to the software we might build and where there might be areas for improvement. I also appreciated Julie Swierczek’s talk “For Beginners – No Experience Necessary”, in which she made the case for improving how we teach to true beginners in workshops. She also argued that instructors should not assume everyone is on the same level-playing field just because the title includes “for beginners” as it is not likely that attendees will know how to self-select workshops, especially if they are truly beginners to the technology being taught.

As a fan of Arduino (an open source hardware and software platform that supports DIY electronic prototying), I was curious to hear Monica Maceli’s “Low-cost preservation Environment Monitoring” talk, where she described her experience developing an environmental datalogger using the Raspberry Pi (similar microcontroller concept to Arduino) comparing the results and associated costs with a commercial datalogger, the PEM2. While it would require staff with appropriate expertise, it seemed to be a worthwhile endeavor for anyone wishing to spend a quarter of the price.

With the sunsetting of Flash, I was eager to hear how Jacob Zaborowski’s talk “Save Homestar Runner!: Preserving Flash on the Web” would address the preservation concerns surrounding Homestar Runner, an online cartoon series that began in 2000 using flash animation. Knowing that tools such as Webrecorder and Archive-it would capture, but not aid in preserving the SWF files comprising the animations, Zaborowski sought out free and/or open source tools for transcoding the files to a more accessible and preservation-minded format. Like many audiovisual-based digital formats, tools for transcoding the SWF files were not entirely reliable or capable of migrating all of the unique attributes to a new container with different encodings. At the time of his talk, the folks at Homestar Runner were in the midst of a site redesign to hopefully resolve some of these issues.

While I don’t have the space to summarize all of the talks I found relatable or enlightening during my time at Code4Lib, I think these few that I’ve mentioned show how varied the topics can be, while still managing to complement the information management work we are all charged with doing.

TitkemeyerErica.jpgErica Titkemeyer is the Audiovisual Conservator for the Southern Folklife Collection (SFC) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the Project Director on the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant Extending the Reach of Southern Audiovisual Sources, and overseas the digitization, preservation and access of audiovisual recordings for the SFC.

#snaprt chat Flashback: Archivist and Technologist Collaboration

By Ariadne Rehbein

This is a cross post in coordination with the SAA Students and New Archives Professionals Roundtable.

The spirit of community at the 2016 Code4Lib Conference in Philadelphia (March 7-10) served as inspiration for a recent SAA Students and New Archives Professionals Roundtable #snaprt Twitter chat. The conference was an exciting opportunity for archivists and librarians to learn about digital tools and projects that are free to use and open for further development, discuss needs for different technology solutions, gain a deeper understanding of technology work, and engage with larger cultural and technical issues within libraries and archives. SNAP’s Senior Social Media Coordinator hosted the chat on March 15, focusing the discussion on collaboration between archivists and technologists.

Many of the chat questions were influenced by discussions in the Code4Archives preconference workshop breakout group, “Whose job is that? Sharing how your team breaks down archives ‘tech’ work.” On the last day of the conference, SNAP invited participants through different Code4Lib and Society of American Archivist channels, such as the conference hashtag (#c4l16), the Code4Lib listserv, various SAA listservs, and the SNAP Facebook and Twitter accounts. All were invited to share suggestions or discussion questions for the chat. Participants included archives students and professionals with varying years of experience and focuses, such as digital curation, special collections, university archives, and government archives. Our chat questions were:

  • How do the expertise and knowledge of archivists and technologists who work together often overlap or differ? How much is important to understand of one another’s work? What are some ways to increase this knowledge?
  • What are some examples of technologies that archives currently use? What is their goal/ what are they used to do?
  • Who created and maintains these tools? Why might an archive choose one tool over another?
  • What kinds of tools and tech skills have new archivists learned post-LIS? What is this learning process like?
  • What are some examples of tasks or projects in an archival setting where the expertise of technologists is essential or extremely helpful? Please share any tips from these experiences.
  • Do you know of any blogs/posts that are helpful for born digital preservation / AV preservation / digitized content workflow?

Several different themes emerged in the chat:

  • The importance of an environment that supports relationships between those of different backgrounds and skills. Participants suggested developing a sharing a vocabulary to clearly convey information and providing casual opportunities to meet.
  • The decision to implement a technology solution to serve a need may involve a variety of considerations, such as level of institutional priority, cost, availability of technology professionals to manage or build the system, security, and applicability to other needs.
  • Participants suggested that students gain skills with a variety of different technologies, including relational databases, command line basics, Photoshop, Virtual Box, Bitcurator, and programming (through online tutorials.) The ability and willingness to learn on the job and teach others is important too! These are useful tools and may also help build a shared vocabulary.
  • Participants had engaged in a number of collaborative tasks or projects, such as performing digital forensics, building DIY History at the University of Iowa, implementing systems such as Preservica, and determining digital preservation storage solutions.
  • Some great resources are available for born-digital, digitized, and audiovisual preservation, including AV Preserve, the Digital Curation Google Group, the Bitcurator Consortium, The Signal blog, Chris Prom’s Practical E-Records, the Code4Lib listserv, Digital Preservation News, and National Digital Stewardship Residency blog posts.

Please visit Storify to read the full chat:

Storify of #snaprt chat about archivist and technologistsMany thanks to Wendy Hagenmaier of the ERS Steering Committee for inviting SNAP to share this post. #snaprt Twitter chats typically take place 3 times per month, on or around the 5th, 15th, and 25th at 8 PM ET. Participation is open to anyone interested in issues relevant to MLIS students and new archives professionals. To learn more about the chats, please visit our webpage.

Rehbein_snaprtcode4lib_ersblog_02Ariadne Rehbein strives to support students and new archives professionals as SNAP Roundtable’s Senior Social Media Coordinator. As Digital Asset Coordinator at the Arizona State University Libraries, she focuses on processing and stewardship of digital special collections and providing expertise on issues related to digital forensics, asset management workflows, and policies in accordance with community standards and best practices. She is a proud graduate of the Department of Information and Library Science at Indiana University Bloomington.