John Mark Ockerbloom has outlined an exciting concept and system for dynamically incorporating a user’s local library resources into Wikipedia articles.
Originally posted on Everybody's Libraries:
I’ve heard the lament in more than one library discussion over the years. “People aren’t coming to our library like they should,” librarians have told me. “We’ve got a rich collection, and we’ve expended lots of resources on an online presence, but lots of our patrons just go to Google and Wikipedia without checking to see what we have.” The pattern of quick online information-finding using search engines and Wikipedia is well-known enough that it has its own acronym: GWR, for Google -> Wikipedia -> References. (David White gives a good description of that pattern in the linked article.)
Some people I’ve talked to think we should break this pattern. With the right search tool or marketing plan, some say, we can get patrons to start with us first, instead of Google or Wikipedia. This idea seems to me both futile and beside the point. Between them, Google and Wikipedia cover a vast array of online information, more than librarians could hope to replicate or index ourselves in that medium. Also, if we truly have better resources available in our libraries than can be found on the open Web, it’s less important that our researchers start from our libraries’ websites than that they end up finding the knowledge resources our libraries make available to them.
Looked at the right way, Wikipedia can be a big help in making online readers aware of their library’s offerings. One of the things we spend a lot of time on in libraries is organizing information into distinct, conceptual categories. That’s what Wikipedia does too: so far, their English edition has over 4 million concepts identified, described, and often populated with reference links. And Wikipedia has encouraged people to add links to relevant digital library collections on various topics, through programs like Wikipedia Loves Libraries and Wikipedian in Residence programs. But while these programs help bring some library resources online, and direct people to those selected resources, there’s still a lot of other relevant library material that users can’t get to via Wikipedia, but can via the libraries that are near them.