Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Wikis in Libraries

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Wikis in Libraries

Article excerpt

Wikis have recently been adopted to support a variety of collaborative activities within libraries. This article and its companion wiki, LibraryWikis (http://librarywikis.pbwiki.com/), seek to document the phenomenon of wikis in libraries. This subject is considered within the framework of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW). The author identified thirty-three library wikis and developed a classification schema with four categories: (1) collaboration among libraries (45.7 percent); (2) collaboration among library staff (31.4 percent); (3) collaboration among library staff and patrons (14.3 percent); and (4) collaboration among patrons (8.6 percent). Examples of library wikis are presented within the article, as is a discussion for why wikis are primarily utilized within categories I and II and not within categories III and IV. It is clear that wikis have great utility within libraries, and the author urges further application of wikis in libraries.

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In recent years, the popularity of wikis has skyrocketed. Wikis were invented in the mid-1990s to help facilitate the exchange of ideas between computer programmers. The use of wikis has gone far beyond the domain of computer programming, and now it seems as if every Google search contains a Wikipedia entry. Wikis have entered into the public consciousness. So, too, have wikis entered into the domain of professional library practice. The purpose of this research is to document how wikis are used in libraries. In conjunction with this article, the author has created LibraryWikis (http://librarywikis.pbwiki.com/), a wiki to which readers can submit additional examples of wikis used in libraries. The article will proceed in three sections. The first section is a literature review that defines wikis and introduces computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) as a context for understanding wikis. The second section documents the author's research and presents a schema for classifying wikis used in libraries. The third section considers the implications of the research results.

Literature review

What's a wiki?

Wikipedia (2007a) defines a wiki as:

   a type of Web site that allows the visitors to add, remove, edit,
   and change some content, typically without the need for
   registration. It also allows for linking among any number of pages.
   This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective
   tool for mass collaborative authoring.

Wikis have been around since the mid-1990s, though it is only recently that they have become ubiquitous. In 1995, Ward Cunningham launched the first wiki, WikiWikiWeb (http://c2.com/cgi/wiki), which is still active today, to facilitate the exchange of ideas among computer programmers (Wikipedia 2007b). The launch of WikiWikiWeb was a departure from the existing model of Web communication where there was a clear divide between authors and readers. WikiWikiWeb elevated the status of readers, if they so chose, to that of content writers and editors. This model proved popular, and the wiki technology used on WikiWikiWeb was soon ported to other online communities, the most famous example being Wikipedia.

On January 15, 2001, Wikipedia was launched by Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales as a complementary project for the now-detract Nupedia encyclopedia. Nupedia was a free, online encyclopedia with articles written by experts and reviewed by editors. Wikipedia was designed as a feeder project to solicit new articles for Nupedia that were not submitted by experts. The two services coexisted for some time, but in 2003 the Nupedia servers were shut down. Since its launch, Wikipedia has undergone rapid growth. At the close of 2001, Wikipedia's first year of operation, there were 20,000 articles in eighteen language editions. As of this writing, there are approximately seven million articles in 251 languages, fourteen of which have more than 100,000 articles each. …

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