Concerning python-bibtex 1.2.4 the setup script need the following addition in order to make it possible to refer to a user-installed location of recode:
include_dirs = includes,
library_dirs = libdirs, <---- add this
libraries = ['recode'])
Background: One some systems the where you don't have root priviledges, you have to install the (pateched) GNU recode 3.6 into your home or somewhere else where you can write to.
Telling the setup.py the location by altering the lines:
includes = ['/home/JUSER/include']
libs = 
libdirs = ['/home/JUSER/lib/']
is not enough, because in line 210 of setup.py you must add
library_dirs = libdirs,
so that gcc / ld can find the lib.
I am not sure but I think this may be a littel bug.