Thursday, November 13, 2008

Meeting New Users in Wikipedia

I've just read an interesting article by Dreanna Belden called Harnessing Social Networks to Connect with Audiences: If You Build it, Will They Come 2.0? (Internet Reference Services Quarterly; 2008, Vol. 13 Issue 1, p99-111). Unfortunately it's not available in full text online as far as I can see but it is indexed in Ebscohost Masterfile Premier, which all NSW libraries should have access to. You may even subscribe to it at your library - if not you can request a copy from Sutherland Library through Interlibrary Loans.

At the author's library at the University of North Texas they are using Wikipedia to drive traffic to their digital library initiatives. They add references to relevant Wikipedia articles that link to items in their digital collections. When I read this it struck me as so obvious. Why aren't all libraries and librarians taking a much more active role in editing the references in Wikipedia articles? This is what we do best isn't it? The author gives some statistics in the article suggesting that they are receiving more referral traffic through Wikipedia than through Google Search.

Talk about putting your reference service 'in the way' of the user. If users aren't coming to the library for their information searches then lets put our services right in front of them where they are looking. How much could libraries improve Wikipedia articles by adding some comprehensive reference and reading lists? It doesn't have to be limited to referencing resources held in digital collections either. The combined book stock of libraries worldwide offers enormous opportunity for reading lists across the range of Wikipedia articles.

Book references could be linked to Worldcat records as a way of guiding people to libraries as the place to find a copy of the book (rather than Amazon, which so often happens online for book references).

I see this as a similar philosophy to Slam the Boards. You might not be directly helping your immediate local users but a cooperative effort by libraries creates a better outcome for everyone.

This is such an obvious idea that I can't believe that librarians aren't already doing this. Maybe they are? Maybe you are? Have you ever heard of this going on in libraries?


Ellen said...

Thanks for highlighting this article. It is a great example of using social media tools to drive traffic to digital content which people may otherwise have not discovered.

Library resources need to be in places people are already in so that they can follow links to discover amazing collections and resources on library websites they would not otherwise have known about. The Flickr commons project is an example of making already online images available in another context for access.

I also think that book references could be linked to Google maps for discovery. I am going to start pursuing this idea - so please get in touch if this interests you.

Ross said...

I recall Mosman Library outlining a similar strategy a year or so ago. They use wikipedia and flickr etc to direct people to their site/service. Simple but effective.