The Wikipedia Library is an open research hub, a place for active Wikipedia editors to gain access to the vital reliable sources that they need to do their work and to be supported in using those resources to improve the encyclopedia. We aim to make access and use of sources free, easy, collaborative and efficient.
The Wikipedia Library is run by Jake Orlowitz, Nikkimaria, Sam Walton, Aaron Vasanth, and Felix Nartey, with an amazing team of Coordinators and funded by the Wikimedia Foundation. It began in 2013 as an Individual Engagement Grant. We operate on a community-organized satellite model: we administer the global project but work with local coordinators in local Wikipedia projects to help each community set up their own branch of the library. Contact us if you want a Wikipedia Library in your language or want to help out!
Our motivation is addressing the biggest challenges facing information professionals today: discovery and access. For libraries and publishers, the challenge today is having their resources found and used when many students and the public start their research on Wikipedia. This puts us in a unique position where collaboration just makes sense. There's a saying in the reference world that discovery happens elsewhere. What is less often specified is that, these days, elsewhere is Wikipedia.
For our readers who often do not have free, direct, or easy access to major paywalled journals or niche archives, Wikipedia has become a ubiquitous gateway for access. Not all information is free, but most information can (and hopefully will soon be) at least summarized and cited on Wikipedia. For libraries and publishers, Wikipedia’s wealth of eyeballs means that it is an unparalleled opportunity for exposure and dissemination of content.
The question we then ask is how to get the highest quality information on Wikipedia and to get our readers to dig deeply into it. After all, our goal is to make Wikipedia not an end point for research but a starting point for deeper learning.
We want Wikipedia to be a major component of a circle of research and dissemination: where librarians, academics, and publishers contribute their sources and expertise—and where Wikipedia leads its massive 500 million monthly readership back to information professionals, scholarly resources, and full texts.
What we do
We are working together towards 5 big goals that create an open hub for conducting research:
- Connect editors with their local library and freely accessible resources
- Partner to provide free access to paywalled publications, databases, universities, and libraries
- Build relationships among our community of editors, libraries, and librarians
- Facilitate research for Wikipedians, helping editors to find and use sources
- Promote broader open access in publishing and research
The Wikipedia Library supports editors to find existing sources that are accessible already, while arranging partnerships which provide access to paywalled sources. Here's how we do this:
- Donation of accounts by individual publishers. We approach research databases and simply ask for donation. We have free accounts from over 60 partners including HighBeam, EBSCO, Elsevier, JSTOR, and Cochrane, among others. This provides direct access, which would individually cost millions of dollars.
- Wikipedia Visiting Scholars. Suggested by Peter Suber at the Harvard Open Access project, we will approach university libraries or academic units within institutions and invite them to designate select Wikipedia editors as remote, unpaid visiting scholars, research affiliates or fellows with full library access. This builds our relationships with university libraries in lightweight ways. Why shouldn't every university library in the world have one Wikipedia visiting scholar on staff?
- University partnerships. We'll target whole institutions and connect The Wikipedia Library with their library resources directly; for example we explored partnering with MIT. This is a way to scale source access, although it is more challenging technically and legally.
- Library catalogue integration. Connecting to the multitude of existing source indexes and databases streamlines the research process for editors. We're exploring a partnership with OCLC, the world's largest library cooperative, to facilitate easier searching for and access to both open and closed access books, journals, and digital collections.
- Leverage our Wikipedia researchers. Through the Reference Desk, Resource Exchange, and Wikiproject Libraries, we have an army of talented information specialists. Let's connect with and support those research experts to use their skills for the benefit of the community by piloting a Research desk, Query service or Enquiry workflow. Why shouldn't every library professional spend one hour per week helping Wikipedia editors expand the encyclopedia through better research?
- Build tools which support research. Developing technology to connect directly with available sources, library search interfaces, citation indexes, and authorized websites makes all this easier.
- Make open access obvious. Piloting programs that signal when sources are freely accessible, and streamline pathways to collections of open repositories and publications encourages the cycle of open access.
- Connect with Libraries: Through programs like Wikipedia Loves Libraries and other GLAM initiatives, let's help institutions put on events and editathons that connect editors to institutions, their staff, and their collections.
You're invited to join in this open project! Help Wikipedians collaborate and do amazing research. There are numerous ways to get involved--project management, institutional outreach, research assistance, community organizing, library help, technology and tool-building, graphic design--we'll find a path that best uses your strengths. Get involved.
Sign up for free access
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Become a Wikipedia Visiting Scholar
Want free access to an entire university's research catalogue? For free? Sign up.
Become a Library Coordinator
TWL works because of the amazing volunteer resources in our community. You can help with managing and expanding this project:
- Sign up to handle library, account, partner, research, metrics, university, or technical coordination
The Wikipedia Library's People
I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
Was dukedom large enough.
The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.
People can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.
You build a thousand castles, a thousand sanctuaries, you are nothing; you build a library, you are everything!