As I think about the award idea more, I still don't really like it.
Some comments at
With a shorter version below (thanks Jodi).
The award will inevitably be seen as an endorsement of the awarded
project by ‘Code4Lib.’ While some supporters say this is not the
intention, I’ve also seen supporters say the reason they want the
Code4Lib name on it is so the award will have more prestige. To me, this
implies that an implied endorsement in fact is part of the idea: What
else would this prestige be for? But whether it’s intentional or not,
The Code4Lib community has indeed garnered a fair amount of prestige
lately, including by people who don’t really understand the informal and
non-official nature of Code4Lib. I’ve seen Code4Lib erroneously referred
to as an ‘organization’ several times. Much of this audience will see
such an award as an endorsement of the project awarded, by the
But I don’t think Code4Lib actually has the capacity to accurately and
useful determine value of an open source project.
Libraries need to learn how to evaluate open source projects on their
own, for their own circumstances and needs. Libraries, always on the
look-out for shortcuts, are going to be really tempted to use a Code4Lib
award as a shortcut to their own investigation. If it’s awarded by
Code4Lib, it must be good. I worry about anything that discourages
libraries from the hard work of developing their own capacity to
evaluate projects; and I also worry about such an implied endorsement
actually steering them wrong because I don’t think we have the capacity
to reliably make such universally applicable evaluations as a community.
Sure, the award won’t be intended as such, but it will be read as such.
I would actually love to see a regular “notable project review” feature
in the Code4Lib Journal, perhaps in every issue. This could cover only
articles that the reviewers thought were exceptionally good, or it could
cover any project of note.
And reviews would have particular reviewer’s bylines attached, making it
clear who was doing the evaluation, and discouraging the reader from
thinking it’s the “Code4Lib community”, which isn’t capable of speaking
with one voice anyway (nor do we desire it to).
If the goal of the idea is to inject some money into library-domain open
source software development, than rather than an award with
compenstaion, I think the money could more effectively be spent funding
an internship or some kind.
Perhaps something like Google Summer of Code. Give a stipend to some
library student (or currently un- or under-employed Code4Libber, but I
like the idea of getting library students involved as bonus) to work on
a Code4Lib community project. Perhaps the community could vote on which
project(s) were eligible for such an internship, and then people could
apply expressing their interests, and a smaller committee would actually
match an intern with a project.