Program/Wikimedia and libraries

Wikimania 2008 Alexandria :: Change the shape of wisdom

A starter page for the Wikimedia and Libraries panel.


The Bibliotheca Alexandrina provides an amazing and inspirational setting to talk about how the world's largest encyclopedia-building and free-knowledge project to date fits in with libraries and knowledge-gathering efforts throughout history. The traditional concerns of libraries and of the Wikimedia projects are similar: to preserve information and knowledge, to catalog and arrange it, and to distribute it as widely as possible. As the Wikimedia projects mature, questions of how the projects can work best with libraries to achieve the goal of disseminating free knowledge -- and how libraries can work best with Wikimedia -- become increasingly important. What can Wikimedia learn from libraries? And what can libraries learn from the Wikimedia projects?

The panelists are library professionals from different countries, working in very different settings. Other invited panelists will bring further perspectives on other digital library and preservation projects from around the world. The format will be discussion, with Q&A from the audience (possibly gathered ahead of time online). The exact topics of discussion may shift depending on the ultimate makeup of the panel.

Related talks

Possible ideas for discussion

  • Quality in Wikipedia: how to collaborate with libraries/librarians to improve the quality of information in the encyclopedia?
  • How to improve citations within Wikipedia; how to develop quality bibliographies through the wiki process (could we develop a catalog of metadata about works with a wiki? Will something like the Open Library ever work?)
  • How to link to freely available archival resources on a large scale from Wikipedia (and vice versa); best practices for making library collections accessible through Wikipedia
  • The role of Wikipedia in the knowledge environment of libraries and schools
  • The kinds of projects that Wikimedia and (worldwide) libraries could collaborate on
  • The roles of libraries in preserving and distributing free knowledge, versus the role of Wikipedia
    • And conversely: the role of individual librarians in building the strength of Wikipedia. Not just collaboration (mentioned above), but the places of librarians as editors and admins.
  • Is it a good role for librarians to work on building open bibliographies/collections of resources to enhance Wikipedia article? -- Phoebe
  • Can we ever trust the information that is produced by an open, anonymous wiki process? Would we ever want to?
    • Can we ever trust the information choices of a closed, largely vendor-driven bureaucracy? Would we ever want to? LibraryThingTim
    • Do wiki- and library-proponents often caricature each others' efforts. Is this a fruitful or a destructive tension? LibraryThingTim
  • The role of Wikipedia/WM projects in an international context -- how can we help isolated or very poor libraries? How can librarians help with smaller-language Wikipedias?
  • Who can reliably preserve documents? Who preserves wikis? some [historically] interesting versions are already deleted, the wiki syntax is not stable etc.
  • How do library and wikimedia communities differ? Who is the community?


Please add your questions and ideas for discussion here!

  • Why is Open Bibliographic Data needed? In which way and how the data of libraries can be reused?
    • Subdivide question into WM projects, other web projects, libraries themselves. LibraryThingTim
  • First, I quibble. The historical mission of libraries has been to collect information and disseminate it to people whom librarians have judged worthy or been tasked to allow access. This whole "information for all" thing is not universal throughout time and space. So, here are a few possible things...
  • Is WM simply a logical outgrowth of the free library movement of the 19th century?
  • How can WM most effectively serve all countries, when they have such differing intellectual property laws and customs?
  • Should WM concern itself with laws or government policies? Does it have a higher calling in line with the kind of philosophical stance taken by many libraries vis a vis freedom of information?
  • If the impending [U.S.] recession actually does hit -- or if the economies of the world should simply suffer a permanent reduction -- how does this impact WM? If libraries should begin to disappear because states can no longer support them (or support them as well), what role can WM play in their lives?
  • Given librarians' historical fetish for authority, does working with WM consist of aiding and abetting the enemy? If not, do librarians have a moral/disciplinal obligation to try to bring more order and authority to WM?
  • Many librarians hate and distrust Wikipedia in all its forms. What can WM do to alleviate this disregard from people who could do a great job as advocates for it.
  • Should WM represent the interests of all of humanity when libraries, Alexandria included, have historically served elites?
  • How much trust should essentially conservative libraries place in a resource that they don't control? What if the librarians burn all the books (!!!) because with WM we don't need books... and then WM dies, or is taken over by a hostile interest?
  • burning all the books because of Wikipedia seems unlikely!!! But what if all [or some] of the books are burned because of an outside circumstance; what role would Wikipedia play? -- Phoebe 15:13, 8 July 2008 (UTC)[reply]
  • I think the more interesting question is whether the Web (with Wikipedia and what it represents being a significant part) is chipping at the foundations of intellectual culture. After all, despite the story, the books in the library of Alexandria always recovered from fires; it was a large-scale changes in the quality and quantity of physical and intellectual life that doomed, say, most of the poems of Sappho and all but seven plays by Sophocles. Personally I think this isn't happening, but some—eg., Andrew Keen do—and changes of this sort tend to "sneak up" on us. LibraryThingTim
  • I'd be curious about how Wikipedia/Wikimedia has helped globalize libraries or bridge borders around the world. How do librarians around the world view the work of the Foundation and its resources? Do librarians in areas without as much information to resources as we have in America view it with the same kind of skepticism? Has the Foundation inspired more cooperation among librarians? Do librarians network via the various projects?
  • Given that Wikipedia is at heart a (sort of) encyclopedia, what will happen with "The Rest of the Library"? What other genres is Wikipedia-style production good for—and do we now know? Should WM move in this direction? Is it holding off because of its founder's Wikia project? Will moves in this direction please librarians or alarm them more than Wikipedia does now? Should they? LibraryThingTim