A Report on LibHack

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What happened at LibHack? Wait, what was LibHack? LibHack was a library hackathon held during ALA Midwinter on Friday, January 24 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections. Organized by the LITA/ALCTS Code Year Interest Group and sponsored by OCLC and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), the event featured two separate tracks — one specifically catered to beginners that worked on the OCLC WorldCat Search API, and another track open to beginners and advanced hackers that worked on the DPLA API.

OCLC Track

Of the 55 attendees, there was a 50-50 split between the two tracks. The OCLC track was led by Steve Meyer, Technical Platform Project Manager at OCLC, and several other OCLC staff members were on hand to lend support. Since the track was designed to meet the needs of beginner programmers, Steve led a workshop that used the WorldCat Search API to introduce participants to some of the basics of programming. For example, Steve provided a walkthough of PHP and XML using lesson files, making sure people understood the connection of the code back with the API output.

The OCLC track filled a need within the ALA community for introductory level programming at ALA conferences. Based on the success of the Intro to Python preconference at the 2013 ALA Annual conference in Chicago and data gathered from an initial planning survey gathered by the LibHack organizers (Zach Coble, Emily Flynn, and Chris Strauber) in August 2013, it was clear than many librarians were interested in a more structured learning opportunity. LibHack’s old-fashion, synchronus, face-to-face environment contributed to the OCLC track’s success in teaching participants the basics and helping them to become more comfortable with the challenges of programming.

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DPLA Track

The DPLA track, on the other hand, was more loosely organized and was open to all levels of hackers. As with the OCLC track, we were fortunate to have four DPLA staff members on hand to provide guidance and technical assistance. At the beginning of the day, people pitched ideas for projects, and groups quickly formed around those ideas. Some of the projects that were worked on include:

  • WikipeDPLA, by Jake Orlowitz and Eric Phetteplace, a userscript that finds DPLA content and posts relevant links at the top of Wikipedia pages.
  • @HistoricalCats, by Adam Malantonio, a DPLA Twitter bot that retrieves cat-related items in DPLA.
  • #askDPLA Twitter bot, by Tessa Fallon, Simon Hieu Mai, and Coral Sheldon-Hess, replies to tweets using the #askDPLA hashtag with DPLA items.
  • [Exhibit Master 2000[(https://github.com/chadfennell/exhibitmaster2000), by Chad Fennell, Nabil Kashyap, and Chad Nelson, aims to create a simple way for users to create exhibits based on DPLA search terms.
  • Thomas Dukleth, Jenn (Yana) Miller, Allie Verbovetskaya, and Roxanne Shirazi, investigated how to systematically apply rights for DPLA items. While DPLA’s metadata is CC0, the items themselves have a spectrum of rights and reuse rights tied to them, all in free-form metadata fields.
  • VuDL DPLA extension, by Chris Hallberg and David Lacy, created a DPLA extension to VuDL, the open-source digital library package Villanova University develops. The extension can be seen at http://digital.library.villanova.edu/
  • Other projects included Francis Kayiwa, who started work to apply LCSH subject terms to DPLA items, and Dot Porter and Doug Emery, who worked on integrating DPLA’s medieval holdings with the Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance’s federated search.

Since LibHack was a one day event, many projects were not completed, although some groups made plans to continue working. Chad Fennell and Chad Nelson’s project Exhibit Master 2000 was continued as last weekend’s GLAM Hack Philly. And the project investigating copyright and reuse rights is a long-term DPLA project that will take many more hackathons to complete!

Future Plans

Given the overall success of the event, the Code Year Interest Group is exploring the idea of hosting another LibHack, possibly at the 2014 ALA Annual conference in Las Vegas. If you are interested in organizing or sponsoring, contact libraryhackathon@gmail.com.

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