Libraries that use wikis are not really wack, but actually pretty smart.
In fact, I’ve drawn on wikis as a rich source of information for this blog, using lists made by librarians on various topics in Library 2.0 including wikis listing libraries using blogs, libraries using Twitter, libraries using MySpace, and yes, even libraries that wiki. By compiling resources on a single topic into a central place that can be edited by other librarians and information professionals, others can do a focused search, without re-inventing the wheel. Check out the links to the right for library wikis that I’ve used in my research for this project.
According to Tom Stafford and Matt Web in their article What is a Wiki (and How to Use One in your Projects), a wiki is
“a website where users can add, remove, and edit every page using a web browser. It’s so terrifically easy for people to jump in and revise pages that wikis are becoming known as the tool of choice for large, multiple-participant projects”.
This short video by Ramit, available on YouTube and also via Creative Commons, provides a nice summary by various people who are using wikis:
So while wikis can be useful for collecting and finding data, they are ultimately a collaboration tool. LibraryWikis lists four ways that libraries are collaborating using wikis:
1. Collaboration between Libraries (45.7 percent);
2. Collaboration between Library staff (31.4 percent);
3. Collaboration between Library Staff and Patrons (14.3 percent);
4. Collaboration between Patrons (8.6 percent).
Let’s look at some examples of how real libraries are collaborating this way.
The most common type of wiki used in libraries, are wikis used for collaboration between libraries. Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki, a “collaboration between libraries” wiki, allows collaborators from libraries all over the world to share their successes with the library community, for the benefit of all. The wiki is arranged into various library practice subjects, some small (with just a definition of the term) and some larger (with definitions, links and blog posts from information professionals). For example, on the topic of “radical reference”, there is a link to the Radical Reference website, as well as blogs on the topic, and links to journal articles on the topic. Another “between libraries” wiki example is the Yukon Library Association wiki, where members share information about courses, workshops, legislation and social events.
The second most common way wikis are being used in libraries is between staff of the same institution. The University of Minnesota Libraries Staff Website is a wiki where library staff of that institution can share links to information on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), upcoming events, Human Resources FAQs and links to emergency procedures.
Less common are wikis for the purpose of libraries collaborating with patrons. This wiki from the Doucette Library at the University of Calgary contains lists of popular web pages on various subjects. Other than that, there is not much going on with this site. It’s very bare bones, and looks like it is either just getting started or it has been abandoned. This lovely page from Loudon Public Libraries offers many possibilities for patrons to collaborate with library staff. I noticed that most of the posts were from one person; I’m assuming that person is the librarian. Still, this is a nice example of a clear and easy-to navigate wiki that is managed by a library for the purpose of collaborating with patrons.
Least popular are wikis that are created for patrons to collaborate with each other. There are very few examples on LibraryWiki’s page on patron-to-patron library wikis, and most of them are defunct. One that is not defunct is Biz Wiki, managed by Chad Boeninger, Reference & Instruction Technology Coordinator at Ohio University’s Alden Library, and also the Subject Librarian for the College of Business. While this site is great, and has the potential of being a collaborative space between patrons, it really functions as a reference and subject wiki for students, that is maintained by the Librarian.
All in all, I think wikis are a great tool for collaborating and managing projects collectively. They are free and relatively easy to learn how to use. There are a few wiki software programs to choose from, so once again, do your research to see if and how this can be applied in your library.