Hackathons and Libraries

The Evolving Landscape 2014-2020

  • Meris Mandernach Longmeier The Ohio State University Libraries


Libraries foster a thriving campus culture and function as “third space,” not directly tied to a discipline.[i] Libraries support both formal and informal learning, have multipurpose spaces, and serve as a connection point for their communities. For these reasons, they are an ideal location for events, such as hackathons, that align with library priorities of outreach, data and information literacy, and engagement focused on social good. Hackathon planners could find likely partners in either academic or public libraries as their physical spaces accommodate public outreach events and many are already providing similar services, such as makerspaces. Libraries can act solely as a host for events or they can embed in the planning process by building community partnerships, developing themes for the event, or harnessing the expertise already present in the library staff. This article, focusing on years from 2014 to 2020, will highlight the history and evolution of hackathons in libraries as outreach events and as a focus for using library materials, data, workflows, and content.

[i] James K. Elmborg, “Libraries as the Spaces Between Us: Recognizing and Valuing the Third Space,” Reference and User Services Quarterly 50, no. 4 (2011): 338–50.


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Alex Carruthers, “Open Data Day Hackathon 2014 at Edmonton Public Library,” Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library & Information Practice & Research 9 no. 2 (2014): 1–13, https://doi.org/10.21083/partnership.v9i2.3121.

Alexander Nolte et al., “How to Organize a Hackathon—A Planning Kit,” arXiv preprint arXiv:2008.08025 (2020), https://arxiv.org/abs/2008.08025v2.

American Museum of Natural History, “Hack the Stacks,” https://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/adults/hackathon/hack-the-stacks, https://github.com/amnh/HackTheStacks/wiki, https://github.com/HacktheStacks.

Anderberg, Frenkel, and Wilk, “Hack Your Library: Engage Students in Information Literacy Through a Technology-themed Competition.”

Anderberg, Frenkel, and Wilk, “Hack Your Library: Engage Students in Information Literacy Through a Technology-themed Competition.”

Andrea Valdez, “Inside the Vatican’s First-Ever Hackathon: This is the Holy See of the 21st Century,” Wired Magazine, March 12, 2018, https://www.wired.com/story/inside-vhacks-first-ever-vatican-hackathon/.

Andrea Valdez, “The Vatican Hosts a Hackathon,” Wired Magazine, last updated March 7, 2018, https://www.wired.com/story/vatican-hackathon-2018/.

Angela L. Pratesi et al., “Rod Library Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon,” Community Engagement Celebration Day (2018): 10, https://scholarworks.uni.edu/communityday/2018/all/10.

Angela Pashia, “Empty Bowls in the Library: Makerspaces Meet Service,” College & Research Libraries News 76 no. 2 (2015): 79–82.

Ann Marie L. Davis, “Current Trends and Goals in the Development of Makerspaces at New England College and Research Libraries,” Information Technology and Libraries 37, no. 2 (2018): 94–117, https://doi.org/10.6017/ital.v37i2.9825.

Anna Grant, Engage. Respond. Innovate. The Value of Hackathons in Public Libraries (CarnegieUK Trust, 2020), https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/engage-respond-innovate-the-value-of-hackathons-in-public-libraries/.

Anna Grant, Hackathons: a Practical Guide, Insights from the Future Libraries Project Forge Hackathon (CarnegieUK Trust, 2017), https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/hackathons-practical-guide/.

Antje Theise, “Open Cultural Data Hackathon Coding Da Vinci–Bring the Digital Commons to Life,” in IFLA WLIC 2017 Wroclaw Poland, session 231—Rare Books and Special Collections (2017), http://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/1785.

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Bethany McGowan, “The Role of the University Library in Creating Inclusive Healthcare Hackathons: a Case Study with Design-thinking Processes,” International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions 45, no. 3 (2019): 246–53, https://doi.org/10.1177/0340035219854214.

Bob Warburton, “Civic Center,” Library Journal 141, no. 15 (2016): 38.

“A Brief Open Source Timeline: Roots of the Movement,” Online Searcher 39, no. 5 (2015): 44–45.

Chad Nelson and Nabil Kashyap, GLAM Hack-in-a-Box: A Short Guide for Helping You Organize a GLAM Hackathon (Digital Public Library of America, Summer 2014), http://dpla.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/DPLA_HackathonGuide_ForCommunityReps_9-4-14-1.pdf.

Clemens Neudecker, “Working Together to Improve Text Digitization Techniques: 2nd Succeed Hackathon at the University of Alicante,” Impact Centre of Confidence in Digitisation blog, last updated April 22, 2014, https://www.digitisation.eu/succeed-2nd-hackathon/.

David Eaves, “Open Data Day 2013 in Vancouver,” eaves.ca (blog), March 11, 2013, https://eaves.ca/2013/03/11/open-data-day-2013-in-vancouver/.

David Ward, James Hahn, and Lori Mestre, “Adventure Code Camp: Library Mobile Design in the Backcountry,” Information Technology and Libraries 33, no. 3 (2014): 45–52.

David Ward, James Hahn, and Lori Mestre, “Designing Mobile Technology to Enhance Library Space Use: Findings from an Undergraduate Student Competition,” Journal of Learning Spaces 4, no. 1 (2015): 30–40.

Ed Yong, “Edit-a-thon Gets Women Scientists into Wikipedia,” Nature News (October 22, 2012), https://doi.org/10.1038/nature.2012.11636.

Eduard Mititelu and Vlad-Alexandru Grosu, “Hackathon Event at the University Politehnica of Bucharest,” International Journal of Information Security & Cybercrime 6, no. 1 (2017): 97–98.

Elyssa Kroski, The Makerspace Librarian’s Sourcebook (Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017).

Eric Lease Morgan, “WorldCat Hackathon,” Infomotions Mini-Musings (blog), last modified November 9, 2008, http://infomotions.com/blog/2008/11/worldcat-hackathon/.

Gérald Estadieu and Carlos Sena Caires, “Hacking: Toward a Creative Methodology for Cultural Institutions,” (presented at the VIII Lisbon Summer School for the Study of Culture “Cuber+Cipher+Culture”, September 2017).

Geri Diorio, “Programming by the Book,” Voices of Youth Advocates 35, no. 4, (2012): 326–327.

Gordon Dunsire, “Toward an Internationalization of RDA Management and Development,” Italian Journal of Library and Information Science 7, no. 2 (May 2016): 308–31. http://dx.doi.org/10.4403/jlis.it-11708

Gustavo Candela et al., “Reusing Digital Collections from GLAM Institutions,” Journal of Information Science (August 2020): 1–10, https://doi.org/10.1177/0165551520950246.

H. Michele Moorefield-Lang, “Makers in the Library: Case Studies of 3D Printers and Maker Spaces in Library Settings,” Library Hi Tech 32, no. 4 (2014): 583–93.

Hannah-Louise Clark, “Global History Hackathons Information,” accessed April 19, 2021, https://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/socialpolitical/research/economicsocialhistory/projects/global%20historyhackathons/history%20hackathons/.

Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities, “Helsinki Digital Humanities Hackathon 2017 #DHH17,” event held May 15–19, 2017, https://www.helsinki.fi/en/helsinki-centre-for-digital-humanities/dhh-hackathon/helsinki-digital-humanities-hackathon-2017-dhh17.

Islandora Collaboration Group, “Templates: How to Run a Hack/Doc,” last modified December 5, 2017, https://github.com/Islandora-Collaboration-Group/icg_information/tree/master/templates_how_to_run_a_hack_doc.

Ivonne Jansen-Dings, Dick van Dijk, and Robin van Westen, Hacking Culture: a How-to Guide for Hackathons in the Cultural Sector, Waag Society, (2017): 1–41. https://waag.org/sites/waag/files/media/publicaties/es-hacking-culture-single-pages-print.pdf.

James K. Elmborg, “Libraries as the Spaces Between Us: Recognizing and Valuing the Third Space,” Reference and User Services Quarterly 50, no. 4 (2011): 338–50.

Jamie Lausch Vander Broek and Emily Puckett Rodgers, “Better Together: Responsive Community Programming at the UM Library,” Journal of Library Administration 55, no. 2 (2015): 131–41.

Joshua Tauberer, “Hackathon Guide,” accessed March 26, 2021, https://hackathon.guide/.

Kevin McArthur, Herb Lainchbury, and Donna Horn, “Open Data Hackathon How To Guide v. 1.0,” October 2012, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fBuisDTIiBAz9u2tr7sgv6GdDLOV_aHbafjqHXSkNB0/edit?pli=1.

Kristi Bergland, Kalan Knudson Davis, and Stacie Traill, “CatDoc HackDoc: Tools and Processes for Managing Documentation Lifecycle, Workflows, and Accessibility,” Cataloging and Classification Quarterly 57, no. 7–8 (2019): 463–95.

Kurt Schiller, “Elsevier Challenges Library Community,” Information Today 28, no. 7 (July 2011): 10.

Lauren Barack and Matt Enis, “Where Teens Teach,” School Library Journal (April 2016): 30.

Leonardo Moura de Araujo, “Hacking Cultural Heritage: The Hackathon as a Method for Heritage Interpretation,” (PhD diss., University of Bremen, 2018): 181–231, 235–38.

Lindsay Anderberg, Matthew Frenkel, and Mikolaj Wilk, “Hack Your Library: A Library Competition Toolkit,” June 6, 2019, https://wp.nyu.edu/hackyourlibrary/.

Lindsay Anderberg, Matthew Frenkel, and Mikolaj Wilk, “Hack Your Library: Engage Students in Information Literacy Through a Technology-themed Competition,” in American Society for Engineering Education 2019 Annual Conference Proceedings, (2019): Paper ID 26221, https://peer.asee.org/32883.

Lindsay Anderberg, Matthew Frenkel, and Mikolaj Wilk, “Project Shhh! A Library Design Contest for Engineering Students,” in American Society for Engineering Education 2018 Annual Conference Proceedings (2018): Paper ID 21058, https://cms.jee.org/30900.

Maitrayee Ghosh, “Hack the Library! a First Timer’s Look at the 29th Computers in Libraries Conference in Washington, DC,” Library Hi Tech News 31, no. 5 (2014): 1–4, https://doi.org/10.1108/LHTN-05-2014-0031.

Marco Büchler et al., “Digital Humanities Hackathon on Text Re-use ‘Don’t Leave Your Data Problems at Home!’” Electronic Text Reuse Acquisition Project, event held July 27–31, 2015, http://www.etrap.eu/tutorials/2015-goettingen/.

Margaret Heller, “Creating Quick Solutions and Having Fun: The Joy of Hackathons,” ACRL TechConnect (blog), last modified July 23, 2012, http://acrl.ala.org/techconnect/post/creating-quick-solutions-and-having-fun-the-joy-of-hackathons.

Mark Bieraugel and Stern Neill, “Ascending Bloom’s Pyramid: Fostering Student Creativity and Innovation in Academic Library Spaces,” College & Research Libraries 78, no. 1 (2017): 35–52.

Matt Burton et al., Shifting to Data Savvy: The Future of Data Science in Libraries (project report, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, 2018): 1–24, https://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/33891/.

Matt Enis, “Civic Data Partnerships,” Library Journal 145, no. 1 (2020): 26–28.

Michelle Demeter et al., “Send in the Crowds: Planning and Benefiting from Large-Scale Academic Library Events,” Marketing Libraries Journal 2 no. 1 (2018): 86–95, https://bearworks.missouristate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1089&context=articles-lib.

Moura de Araujo, “Hacking Cultural Heritage.”

Museomix, “Concept,” accessed March, 29, 2021, https://www.museomix.org/en/concept/.

Nancy Shin, Kathryn Vela, and Kelly Evans, “The Research Role of the Librarian at a Community Health Hackathon—A Technical Report,” Journal of Medical Systems 44 (2020): 36.

Orna Almogi et al., “A Hackathon for Classical Tibetan,” Journal of Data Mining and Digital Humanities, Episciences.org, Special Issue on Computer-Aided Processing of Intertextuality in Ancient Languages, hal-01371751v3 (2019): 1–10, https://jdmdh.episciences.org/5058/pdf.

Patrick Timony, “Accessibility and the Maker Movement: A Case Study of the Adaptive Technology Program at District of Columbia Public Library,” in Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities and the Inclusive Future of Libraries, Advances in Librarianship, vol. 40, (Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2015), 51–58.

Porter Anderson, “Futurebook Hack,” Bookseller no. 5628 (June 20, 2014): 20–21.

Rachel Wittmann et al., “From Digital Library to Open Datasets,” Information Technology and Libraries 38, no. 4 (2019): 49–61, https://doi.org/10.6017/ital.v38i4.11101.

Robin Camille Davis, “Hackathons for Libraries and Librarians,” Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian 35, no. 2 (2016): 87–91.

Rose Sliger Krause, James Rosenzweig, and Paul Victor Jr. “Out of the Vault: Developing a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon to Enhance Public Programming for University Archives and Special Collections,” Journal of Western Archives 8, no. 1 (2017): 3.

Samantha Fritz et al., “Fostering Community Engagement through Datathon Events: The Archives Unleased Experience,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 15, no. 1 (2021): 1–13, http://digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/15/1/000536/000536.html.

Sandra Tuppen, Stephen Rose, and Loukia Drosopoulou, “Library Catalogue Records as a Research Resource: Introducing ‘a Big Data History of Music,’” Fontes Artis Musicae 63, no. 2 (2016): 67–88.

Sarah Shaffi, “Inaugural Hack Crowns its Diamond Project,” Bookseller no. 5628 (June 20, 2014): 18–19.

Sarah Shujah, “Organizing and Embedding a Library Hackfest into a 1st Year Course,” Information Outlook 18, no. 5 (2014): 32–48.

Stanislav Bogdanov and Rachel Isaac-Menard, “Hack the Library: Organizing Aldelphi [sic] University Libraries’ First Hackathon,” College and Research Libraries News 77, no. 4 (2016): 180–83.

Thomas Finley, “Innovation Lab: A Conference Highlight,” Texas Library Journal 94, no. 2 (Summer 2018): 61–62.

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How to Cite
Longmeier, M. M. (2021). Hackathons and Libraries. Information Technology and Libraries, 40(4). https://doi.org/10.6017/ital.v40i4.13389