Monday, October 15, 2012

Wiki Applications for libraries

tag=blogpost week 8

Reading through the chapter on wikis in  Meredith Farkas' Social Software in Libraries, I was struck by her initial suggestion for how to use a wiki in a library.  She discussed setting up a wiki with information about the local community -- where to get your car worked on, where to catch local sporting events, etc.  I thought, "Gee, that sounds like the Davis Wiki."  I flipped the page, and there was a screen shot from the Davis wiki and then a description of it.  Having lived in Davis for the past decade, I wouldn't have even thought of hosting such a wiki on a library page or having librarians involved in its launch because I took for granted that it ought to already exist.  But libraries do seem like ideal sources to help spark such information, whether they ultimately only launch it or whether they monitor and maintain it.  It makes sense for libraries to make such connections because they are often already collaborating with many local organizations -- schools, local government, social services, police departments, businesses, etc.  Such a wiki also shows that the library is interested in and integral part of the community.

Farkas also suggests using a wiki to provide more information about library holdings.  I like the idea very much and want to call it The Illuminated Catalog.  Patrons could provide information about the books or dvds they check out including the edition, the readability, the utility of the information, the wear and tear on the item, etc.  Furthermore, such a wiki could aid the library in determining book orders, programming, or services as it would create another portal for patron feedback.  Librarians could see what was being read (at least by the web savvy, wiki editing crowd) and address complaints or provide further service.

Farkas mentioned that some libraries use a wiki as their main web presence.  I think this is also a great use for a wiki.  The ease of use of wikis can allow the library's webpage to shift and grow quickly as all members of staff can easily update or change the site.  It's a wonderful solution for a library that wants to reflect the ever shifting nature of library services on their webpage.  And the library can look more engaged if its webpage is always up to date.  Some consistency will of course aid the patrons in their navigation of such a site.

Another great wiki use suggsted by Farkas is to create a fount of collective reference knowledge.  This is especially useful in libraries where reference professionals have different areas of expertise, but can be generally useful to.  This kind of wiki includes resources for particular reference questions.  The clear upshot of this is that patrons don't necessarily have to be directed to a particular librarian.

In "Refresh for Success," Sally Jones discusses a wiki based training program for the Moonee Valley libraries in Victoria, Australia.  While she doesn't go into full detail about the nature of the wiki, it seems that the site covers the library's online resources.  She suggests that the use of the wiki -- which allowed employees to complete the training anywhere and anytime at their own pace -- was quite successful.  I'd want to know more specific information about the training itself before endorsing this kind of wiki use, but more importantly, a wiki that describes library resources for library staff could be quite beneficial.  It might have a slightly different focus than a wiki designed to inform patrons of library resources.

All of these uses can have great impact on library services, but they also require a collaborative environment.  The wiki itself isn't enough; you have to have the community and sense of community to edit the pages.


Farkas, M. (2007). Social software in libraries. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

Jones, S. (2011). Refresh for success: Moonee valley libraries online database training wiki. APLIS, 24(2), 91-93.


  1. Nathan - Just a heads up, this topic is for Blog post 8. Post 7 was about internal collaboration. ;-)