DEVCONNECT 2017: An Inaugural Success!

It was a great pleasure hosting OCLC’s inaugural DEVCONNECT conference. (ICYMI, DEVCONNECT was held May 8 – 9, 2017, at the OCLC Conference Center in Dublin, Ohio.) As a member of the core planning team, I saw firsthand how many people it takes to pull off an event like this: organizers, speakers (both community members and OCLC staff), support staff, and, of course, attendees! On behalf of OCLC, I must take a moment here to thank each and every one of you who participated in hosting the event as well as those who took time out of your schedules to attend. Without you, we wouldn’t have had such a knowledge-packed, smoothly run event. Oh, and it was fun, too!

So, what happened at DEVCONNECT? We had so many wonderful speakers that I can’t possibly cover everything here, but here are a few highlights.

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Jennifer Vinopal, Associate Director for Information Technology at Ohio State University Libraries, gave the keynote address on IT and organizational change. Her talk was particularly illuminating on social issues in the library technology space (she even referenced Michael Gorman’s classic paper in which he coined the phrase “vapidities of the digerati”) as well as the importance of problem framing, not just problem solving.

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OCLC’s Karen Coombs led a workshop on her “Five+” tips for developers who are creating applications using APIs. The tips, in brief, are: understand HTTP, catch and log your errors, manage your code, manage your dependencies, make your application understandable and configurable, and ensure your application is reliable.

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Charles Ed Hill, Systems and Digital Services Librarian at Westfield State University, shared how he used the WMS Acquisitions API, Rollbar, Google Sheets, and other tools to automate acquisitions workflows.

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Elliot Polak, Assistant Director of Discovery Services at Wayne State University, filled us in on his library’s analytics dashboard and experimental applications of artificial intelligence (and how they integrate OCLC APIs).

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Jeff Jacobs, OCLC’s CIO, explained recent improvements to our global technology infrastructure and data protection strategy.

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Members of the audience, such as Andrew Bullen, Information Technology Coordinator at the Illinois State Library, asked a lot of great questions. (Andrew also gave a great talk on CONTENTdm APIs!)

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Community members also shared their thoughts about the future of OCLC APIs at two roundtable discussions.

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But, I mustn’t forget, we had fun, too! Attendees and OCLC staff (here, Terry Reese of The Ohio State University and Roy Tennant of OCLC) mingled at Monday night’s reception at OCLC headquarters.

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We even managed a few group photos! First, here we are in OCLC’s recently renovated atrium.

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Then, we gathered in front of the WorldCat servers in our data center.

We received a lot of great feedback from attendees both during and after the conference through Sched, through the follow-up survey, and by just talking to folks. What we learned from this year will help us make an even better event in 2018. We thought we would share some of what we heard.

All the sessions were rated a 9 or 10 out of 10 by attendees. Breakfast received the lowest overall rating of 8.9, so we’ll try to do better next year! Several attendees mentioned how valuable it was to have face-to-face time with OCLC staff, and one attendee noted that she loved “[h]ow friendly the OCLC staff was… it helped me engage.” So we will make sure there is plenty of opportunity for that at DEVCONNECT 2018. We are also working on some virtual events to connect the library developer community with OCLC staff in the meantime.  

In our post-event survey, we also heard a clear demand for more workshops involving hands-on coding. We will be sure to incorporate more opportunity to engage in that that type of experience next year for those who are new to APIs as well as for more seasoned veterans in the coding community. That said, those of you who “loved hearing about the problems that other libraries are trying to solve” and “loved seeing cool things that other libraries are doing” can expect more to love at DEVCONNECT 2018. Let the planning begin!