Wikipedia and libraries: a match made in heaven

John Mark Ockerbloom's "From Wikipedia to our libraries" is a fabulous proposal for creating research synergies between libraries and Wikipedia, by adding templates to Wikipedia articles that direct readers to unique, offline-only (or onsite-only) library resources at their favorite local libraries. Ockerbloom's approach acknowledges and respects the fact that patrons start their searches online, and seeks only to improve the outcomes of their research -- not to convince them not to start with the Internet.

So how do we get people from Wikipedia articles to the related offerings of our local libraries? Essentially we need three things: First, we need ways to embed links in Wikipedia to the libraries that readers use. (We can’t reasonably add individual links from an article to each library out there, because there are too many of them– there has to be a way that each Wikipedia reader can get to their own favored libraries via the same links.) Second, we need ways to derive appropriate library concepts and local searches from the subjects of Wikipedia articles, so the links go somewhere useful. Finally, we need good summaries of the resources a reader’s library makes available on those concepts, so the links end up showing something useful. With all of these in place, it should be possible for researchers to get from a Wikipedia article on a topic straight to a guide to their local library’s offerings on that topic in a single click.

I’ve developed some tools to enable these one-click Wikipedia -> library transitions. For the first thing we need, I’ve created a set of Wikipedia templates for adding library links. The documentation for the Library resources box template, for instance, describes how to use it to create a sidebar box with links to resources about (or by) the topic of a Wikipedia article in a reader’s library, or in another library a reader might want to consult. (There’s also an option for direct links to my Online Books Page, if there are relevant books online; it may be easier in some cases for readers to access those than to access their local library’s books.)

From Wikipedia to our libraries (via Making Light)

(Image: library card, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from raqkat's photostream)


  1. Pretty cool, Jon Udell has something similar but browser based:

    I have not tried it with Wikipedia but it works great on Amazon. And it is CC licensed!

  2. This is a wonderful, fascinating idea, and while I think it’s fantastic that Ockerbloom is taking the initiative and creating versions of how this might work I’d like to see more librarians participating in making this happen. After all Wikipedia was created and is maintained and added to by group effort. And librarians have a vested interest in a project like this.

    I could see librarians adding Wikipedia links to their own catalogs which could in turn be used by Wikipedia to create a link back to the library catalog.

    I don’t know how likely it will be that private companies would get on board, but the companies that create library catalogs (such as SirsiDynix) or that provide link resolver services to libraries (such as ExLibris) could also assist with this. 

  3. This is a good idea, but also, what about integrating public libraries and Google. Have google recommend books for the users from the public library catalog based on searches? 

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