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Wikimedia Fellowships/Project Ideas/The Wikipedia Library

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The Wikipedia Library is a project idea designed to give active, experienced Wikipedia editors free access to the vital reliable sources that they need to do their work. The motivation for the project is simple: Wikipedia editors largely donate their time to create a resource that benefits the entire world. As such, they should not have to beg, borrow, travel, trade, steal or go to large personal expense to find reliable sources. Many reliable sources are hidden behind expensive paywalls, only accessible through select schools, universities, or employers. The Wikipedia Library would be an organized program to change that.

There are isolated precedents for this type of community–corporation relationship. Programs have already been started with Credo Reference, HighBeam, and JSTOR to give approved editors access to proprietary content. These programs are a great start, but they are handicapped by the fact that they are separate and limited. Editors have to apply and sign in to each one individually, and the account approval and management needs to be overseen for every program in a time-consuming process of organization, dissemination, and maintenance.

These programs are like having 10 different keys to 10 different buildings with 10 different property managers. The idea of The Wikipedia Library is to create a central access point, with a single gate, behind which editors would be free to roam in and out of multiple paywalled sites. The technical implementation of this would center around a firewalled internet space, the technical details of which will be specified as the program develops.

Progress on the project will center around two key areas. One, contacting reference sites and building relationships with those providers to ask and persuade them to join The Wikipedia Library. Two, building the technical infrastructure of the project. Once these are completed, the next step is to roll out the application process and get editors the sources they need.

For questions, comments, or other ideas, please add to the talk page at EN:WP:TWL. At the moment project organization is being spearheaded by User:Ocaasi, who can be reached at wikiocaasi(_AT_)yahoo.com or at his English Wikipedia talk page EN:User_talk:Ocaasi.


One of my passions of mine has been getting Wikipedians the assets they need to write densely-researched, informative articles. As part of that quest, I built a relationship with HighBeam research, resulting in the donation of 1000 free 1-year accounts for select Wikipedia editors--a $200,000 value to the community. That is only the tip of the iceberg of where I'd like to go. The dream of the Wikipedia Library is to create a single point of access for our best and most dedicated members to have access to any and all of the highest quality research resources in the world. I think we need to reward our community leaders, and one way to do that is to simply get full entry to the best databases available at absolutely no cost to them.

That is the spirit of my whole approach: to facilitate people's experience as members of this community and make the difficult effortless and the complicated enlightening.

This is not merely a way to 'get free stuff'. Retention of our most active editors is a serious concern, and providing them (rewarding them) with access to propriety research databases is one way to keep them happy, active, and content.

The concrete, deliverable outcomes of this project are as follows:

  • Implement a single sign-on protocol that is compatible with most of the research databases we will be seeking partnerships with
  • Turn the existing three relationships we have with content providers into our first three members of The Wikipedia Library
  • Fully execute the integration of their systems with our single sign-on protocol
  • Form new relationships with other content providers and offer them the assistance they need to participate in the library.

My role in this project is primarily on the relationship-building side. I have generously received the help of Ryan Lane with Wikimedia Labs, and a bevy of great advice from the wikitech-l mailing list. But my coding skills are limited, and I need talented people who can actually construct the building where our partnerships will reside. I will gladly be a pitchman for this concept, emailing, speaking with, or even visiting the heads of major research databases to explain the concept to them, help them understand how it works, become comfortable with the project's approach, and ultimately get buy-in for their participation. One of the assets I have is good mutual relationships with two content providers already, and the necessary contacts to a third. The people I am in touch with know their industry inside and out and can be a huge driver of adoption throughout the research community.

The impact of The Wikipedia Library initially serves only the 1000 or so editors who would have free access to the library. However, 1000 dedicated Wikipedians might make hundreds of thousands of edits. Improving articles with high quality sources is a foundational exercise and could vastly improve articles that are read by millions of people a year. There is also the opportunity to bridge a gap between Wikipedia and the for-profit research community. Simply, those organizations can be a tremendous ally in fulfilling our core mission. They are good people to know and even better people to have as friends and partners.

Provided the technical implementation of single sign-on is successful, The Wikipedia Library can and should grow over time. There is no limit to the number of organizations or institutions who could participate. Indeed, we might one day face the problem of how to curate the available resources so that editors can find the best resource they need out of the multitude of available sources. In other words, The Wikipedia Library may one day need an actual librarian!

Although the current relationships we have are with English-language sources, there is no limit to integrating non-English resources into the library. Also, a good number of editors across the globe can benefit from English language sources, which although not ideal for their community, are often some of the highest quality reference works that exist.

Demonstrating impact of this project is partly a matter of counting the number of resource providers who sign on. It is also a matter of analyzing the number of references that are added to Wikipedia over time. By comparing periods of time prior to the existence of the library with periods afterwards, and by normalizing the addition of references with respect to the growth of edits and editors, we could potentially conduct a sophisticated multivariate analysis to demonstrate that there is a quantifiable increase in the number of references added to Wikipedia beyond what one would expect from natural growth. A far simpler approach would just be to survey Wikipedia Library users and ask them how often they use it and how many references they have added because of it.

Idea submitted by[edit]

Ocaasi (talk) 19:33, 25 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Prospective fellows[edit]

Would you like to be considered for a fellowship to work on this project?

If you'd like to take an active role in this project, either alone or in a team of fellows with complementary skills, please add your name below. Note that in order to be considered for a fellowship, you must also submit an application to the program.

  1. I'm Ocaasi, and I would love to be considered for a Fellowship to advance this project. I have been editing Wikipedia for 3 years and contributed over 20,000 edits. I have worked extensively with new users in the irc-help channel, improved draft at Articles for Creation on English Wikipedia, written help guides for new users (The Plain and Simple guide) and for COI editors (The Plain and Simple COI guide). I am an OTRS member, often advising people on the basic mechanics of Wikipedia use, policy, and procedure. I am also an active article writer in the areas of alternative medicine and Egyptian politics. I have written for the Signpost (see the series, Does Wikipedia pay?). And, I participated in my *first* ever, and fantastic Wikimania in 2012 in Washington D.C. You can read all about my Wikipedia experience at EN:User:Ocaasi/About. Ocaasi (talk) 19:33, 25 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Your name here!


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