I went to Code4Lib again this year, and the experience reaffirmed how much I love this conference and community. As one might expect, practical applications of AI in the library and archives spaces got a lot of attention and time this year, but while these talks were fascinating, useful, and important, they didn’t resonate with me quite as much as some of the more human-oriented talks. There are so many smart people out there thinking about how to make life easier for people by using technology, which I find incredibly useful and uplifting. For me, Code4Lib has become less about unique expertise, and more about impact on a larger community, as Hillel alludes to in his recent conference report.

Recognizing My Passion

My title was some variation of “Digital Archivist” for the first ten years of my professional career after going to graduate school, and I always identified myself as an archivist, even as I undertook progressively more technology-focused work. That’s why it felt normal to have a bit of an identity crisis and feelings of imposter syndrome when my title changed to “DevOps Analyst” last year. It was only when I realized that my end goal of making life easier for people working with technology hadn’t fundamentally changed that I felt fully comfortable in my new role. I’ve always been drawn to the intersection of humanity and technology and sought out those talks at conferences in the past. This year, two talks really spoke to me at Code4Lib.

The Compassion of DevOps

Bess Sadler gave a talk titled, “The Compassion of DevOps” this year that flew to the heart of why we do this work. They quoted The Charter for Compassion in their introduction, and it’s the driving force behind why I show up to work every day: “Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.” We do what we do because we want to make life easier for others that work with our systems, and especially those people working on the backend systems.

I’ve found it common over the years to feel like every technology issue is an emergency, even though I know it has a relatively small impact. Bess reminds us all that this sense of urgency and stress has negative side effects on our work and our health. Their talk puts forward the idea of, “[Elevating] the improvement of work over the doing of work.” This is the approach I try to bring with me every day in my new role; my goal is to reduce stress for everyone working with our systems, whether that’s developers, frontend users, archivists and librarians, sysadmins, or myself.

After a decade of work, it’s clear to me that care is the most important part of what we do, and operationalizing our work to remove friction is just another way to show that we care about the people in our spaces.

The Power of Intentionality

Dr. Patricia Garcia introduced me to the “Feminist Data Manifest-no” in their closing keynote, and messaging of empowering ourselves to say, “No” for the betterment of our society immediately resonated with me, even though I seldom work with data. The Manifest-no’s commitment to “to taking back control over the ways we behave, live, and engage with data and its technologies,” is a powerful reminder that it’s important to be intentional about selecting and interrogating our choices of technology. According to the Manifest-no, “Refusal is work, one that - at its best - can help different feminisms recognize interlocking struggles across domains, across contexts and cultures, and that enables us to work in solidarity to prop up and build resilience with one another - to generate mutually reinforcing refusals.”

It was an important and powerful reminder to me that the whole point of a community like Code4Lib is to “prop up and build resilience with one another” through the commitment to say no to unethical or improper applications of technology. We must be intentional about the work we do with systems and attempt to fully understand the implications of our choices. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we can say no to work that is not in the best interests of our community.

You can say no to work that is against your professional, personal, and organizational values, and do things the right way. We can care for others through the way we do our work, and further strengthen our communities through example.