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> Are there any conventional ways to have a library return its version?
> I'm thinking of something simple I can use in a build system like
> lua -l foo -e 'print (foo.version)'
> which simultaneously tests that the library can be found and gets its version.

Mos of my libraries support this. 
> Something standard about the format of the version would also be nice.

This is harder to support or standardize but my libraries use this format:

ascii85 library for Lua 5.1 / Mar 2010
bc library for Lua 5.1 / Apr 2010 / based on GNU bc-1.06
md5 library for Lua 5.1 / Jun 2011 / using OpenSSL 0.9.8
random library for Lua 5.1 / Nov 2010 / using Mersenne Twister