(CNI): Using Wikipedia to Meet Information Searchers at Their Point of Need

Trying my hand at conference blogging, here at the CNI Spring Task Force Meeting in Phoenix (Hey, my flight here was a 20 minute drive from home). Can I blog faster tan Bryan Alexander? Heck no.

This first session of the breakouts is from Ann Lally head of digital Initiatives at University of Washington, and Carolyn Dunford, a former students now at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Their project began with some 2005 data from OCLC that reported ony 2% of information searches began at the web sites of libraries (!), while 89% started at search engines. Recognizing the high number of Google results that linked to WikiPedia, they developed an idea to insert links into WikiPedia articles to content or resources that UW has knowledge of or has in their digital collections.

Beagin with a content analysis of the strengths of the UW holdings, and then review WikiPedia articles to see if there was a gap that they could fill. Begain be adding 100 links to 40+ articles, and found a large increase in the visits to the library web site that came from Wikipedia.

We view this as a very low cost way to enhance access to our collections as well as ane effective way to participate in the creation of resources that are used by millions around the world.

Examples include links added to article on the Klondike Gold Rush

Offered some tips for starting out- reviewing external link policies, using watch lists to monitor pages they are editing.

Stats indicated library links from Google had the expected drop off over summer (as students are off during the summer break)… but Wikipedia generated links continued to increase over the summer! In March 2006 links form Wikipedia were the 12th on their incoming links; in October 2006, it was fourth. Also searches from The Free Library, Answers.com, Lycos which mirror content from WikiPedia.

Future — need to maintain links, assess if they are worth it if links were removed, continue adding links, and explore nore “viral marketing” techniques.

School and University projects that use Wikipedia — such as evaluate and verify content on a Wikipedia article using non-Internet resources; reserach and rewrite/write Wikipedia articles, evaluate wikis as a collaborative writing tool.

Summary – (a) It’s interesting to see an embracing effort towwards Wikipedia from a library! (b) This is a great assignment idea that teachers can us! Identify a content area your students may have knowledge, or access to some resources not yet in Wikipedia (meaning not just counting on Google to find them), and then doing an analysis to see if there are places in Wikipedia to contribute. Or something like that.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


  1. Yes, this is a great idea and a good assignment for students. I am not sure how scalable this is given that human resources in libraries are already well stretched, but I will mention it to the folks at Thompson Rivers University.

    Thanks for sharing this.

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