How Libraries Can Use Open Access Wikimedia Platforms [Detailed Guide]

Goodness Abasili
August 9, 2023
Digital Library, Open Access

This article discusses how open access platforms like Wikimedia can be used by librarians to organize and share knowledge, while embracing a more digital approach. It is a collaboration between GR Tech and Goodness Abasili, a librarian, and co-founder of IG Wiki Librarians Hub.

Overview of Wikimedia and its potential for libraries

Libraries are embracing the digital landscape to remain relevant and enhance their services. One prominent trend in the digital era is the rise of open access sites, courses, and resources, which play a significant role in empowering individuals with knowledge. 

Among these open access platforms, Wikimedia stands out as a notable example. It warmly welcomes librarians and others to actively participate in editing and contributing to their various Wiki projects, including Wikipedia, Wikidata, Wikiquotes, WikiCommons, etc. These platforms boast substantial viewership and visibility, making them powerful tools for disseminating information to a wider audience.

Wikimedia and libraries both seek to make information accessible to everyone free of charge. This shared commitment to being custodians of knowledge and promoting knowledge sharing serves as a common ground between them.

Role of libraries in the age of digital and AI

Libraries and librarians are of utmost importance in the digital age due to their vital roles in acquiring, organizing, and providing free access to a vast array of print and digital information resources. These resources are made readily available to their numerous patrons, facilitating easy retrieval. Let’s take a look at how libraries are stay important in this digital age:

  • Libraries empower limitless creativity and learning: Libraries serve as champions of intellectual freedom, promoting the open and uninhibited exchange of ideas. They create a space that stimulates curiosity and fuels imagination, granting individuals the liberty to explore and embrace the ideas and thoughts that resonate most deeply with their interest. 1 
  • Digital/e-resources lending: In the pre-digital era, libraries utilized inter-library lending services to exchange resources. Today, even in the digital age, libraries continue to share their digital or e-resources through digital platforms.
  • Free internet access: Libraries now offer free internet connectivity to their countless patrons, streamlining users' ability to search and browse the web for information effortlessly.1, 2, 3

Wikimedia and Libraries: A Natural Partnership

In the world of knowledge and information, where exploration knows no bounds, Wikimedia and libraries can form a natural partnership to promote free access to a wealth of collective wisdom. But how does this partnership work? What kind of Wikimedia projects can librarians use? How reliable is information on Wikimedia platforms?

These are some of the most widely asked questions librarians have when it comes to using Wikimedia platforms. Let's explore them one-by-one.

Understanding Wikimedia projects (Wikipedia, Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons)

Wikimedia is operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization registered in the United States of America. It hosts a collection of websites known as Wikimedia projects or Wiki projects, inviting everyone to contribute and edit. These projects promote a collaborative environment within the Wikimedia movement where individuals from diverse backgrounds can come together to share knowledge and information on a wide range of subjects. 

A list of WIkimedia projects

Collaboration benefits for libraries and Wikimedia: Enhancing access to library resources through Wikimedia

Wikimedia and libraries are mutually important, as libraries bring in their vast knowledge of information retrieval, organization, and dissemination. At the same time, Wikimedia projects provide the tools and platforms for easy contribution and showcasing information globally. 

Due to their shared goals, libraries can collaborate with Wikimedia by sharing and uploading resources to Wikimedia projects, enhancing ease of use and accessibility for diverse users. In this way, Wikimedia becomes a powerful tool for sharing information with the global community.

Librarians have several projects at their disposal to showcase their resources, including Wikidata, Wikipedia, Wikisource, Wikicommons, and more. 4 They can enrich these projects by adding bibliographic details of library resources, and in some cases, providing links to access the information on Wikidata by creating relevant items. 

This process can be carried out manually or by using batch uploading tools for efficiency. On Wikipedia, librarians can create synopses of books, while media related to the resources can be uploaded manually or in batches to Wikimedia Commons for wider reach and reuse.

Addressing issues of reliability and credibility on Wikipedia

To address concerns regarding reliability and credibility on Wikipedia, the 1 Librarian 1 Reference (1Lib1Ref) campaign was initiated. This campaign takes place biannually, running from January 15th to February 5th and from May 15th to June 5th. 

The campaign is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation and receives support from the Wikipedia Library Team, Wikimedia Affiliates, international and local library networks. Its primary aim is to encourage librarians from around the world to contribute to Wikipedia by adding at least one reliable reference to articles using the citation hunt tool. 5

As of the 2023 campaign, the statistics show impressive results. With the participation of 548 editors across 30 programs, librarians and other participants have collectively added 6,077 references, created 2,017 new articles, and edited existing articles, resulting in a total of 22.7 million views (as at 07/27/2023, views still updating) for the improved content through their collaborative efforts. These contributions play a crucial role in enhancing the quality and verifiability of information available on Wikipedia. 6

The Role of Librarians in Wikimedia

Wikimedia and libraries share a mutual goal which is to grant unrestricted public access to resources. Librarians can conduct workshops, training sessions, and edit-a-thons (discussed below in detail) to educate people about how to edit on Wikimedia platforms. Librarians also preserve, enhance visibility, bridge knowledge gaps, and enhance the reliability of articles by adding reliable sources on Wiki projects.

Librarians as contributors and editors on Wiki projects

Librarians hailing from diverse regions actively contribute to Wiki projects and enthusiastically participate in various international, regional, or local activities. Some  example of ways librarians contribute to Wiki projects can be seen through these initiatives; Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museum (GLAM),   Wikipedia + Libraries: Better Together, Ig Wiki Librarians Hub, Wikidata Affinity Group, Wikimedia and Libraries User Group, etc

Engaging communities: Organizing edit-a-thons and workshops in libraries

Librarians encourage editing or working sessions through in-person or online sessions where participants can improve their editing skills, learn about reliable sourcing, and collectively enrich the available knowledge on projects. These events serve as a platform for libraries to extend their services beyond traditional roles, connecting with the public in innovative and engaging ways. 

Some Wikimedia projects/events organised by librarians in their community are listed below but not limited to this list:

Empowering Community Engagement

To foster community engagement, the Wikimedia Foundation, its affiliates, and other partners provide essential support through grants that align with the vision of community involvement. The broader Wikimedia Movement extends its backing by offering various tools, experienced wikimedians, advisors, collaborative opportunities, and valuable resources. Together, these efforts aim to empower and encourage active participation in shaping knowledge available on Wikimedia projects.

Case studies of successful collaborations between libraries and Wikimedia

Numerous research studies are conducted on the collaborative efforts between libraries and Wikimedia, with many of these valuable findings documented on Wikisource, Wikimedia Diff Blog, and other spaces. 

As a prominent project within the Wikimedia ecosystem, Wikisource serves as a free and accessible library of resources on a diverse array of topics and languages, open for editing by anyone.

Below, is a highlight of some of the research and documentations that exemplify the collaborations between Wikimedia and libraries. These works stand as testaments to the power of collective knowledge-building and the mutual benefits derived from the synergy between these two realms.

Increasing visibility of library collection through Wikimedia Projects

Libraries often face the challenge of effectively showcasing their vast collection of authors and their writings. However, with the help of Wikidata, a collaborative knowledge base, libraries can significantly improve discoverability and provide extensive information about authors and their books to their users.

Wikidata acts as a comprehensive repository that consolidates data from reliable sources, empowering librarians to create authoritative profiles for both authors and books. This integration goes beyond conventional cataloging systems, offering a more dynamic and interconnected experience to library patrons.

Moreover, connecting books to Wikidata opens up exciting opportunities for libraries to enhance the browsing experience. Patrons can effortlessly access comprehensive details about a book, such as its publication information, translations, adaptations, and related works. This interconnected approach allows readers to delve deeper into an author's body of work and discover new books that align with their interests.

Some of the Wiki projects that can be used to increase visibility of library collections are Wikidata, WikiCommons, Wikipedia, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikibooks, etc Wikimedia has made it easier for users to contribute to these projects with the help of tools, which makes contribution easier. Some of these tools are:

1. Wikidata query service:SPARQL
2. OpenRefine
3. QuickStatements
4. SourceMD
5. XTool
6. Wikimedia Dashboard

The role of Wikimedia in promoting diverse voices and perspectives

Wikimedia’s model as an open access, contributor-driven platform is great for sharing diverse voices. One could say that Wikimedia is diverse and inclusive by design. Wikimedia helps to bridge gaps in representation, ensuring that historically marginalised communities and lesser-known subjects find a place in the digital landscape without facing any bias.

Challenges and Solutions of Using Wikimedia

Availability of librarians

Librarians play a crucial role in managing library resources, assisting patrons, and curating collections. As a result, they often have limited time and resources to allocate to external activities like contributing to Wikimedia. One of the ways to address this issue is to provide resources like slides, videos, and instructional materials so that librarians can access them during their free time.

Hindrance towards participation

1. Lack of awareness: Many librarians may not be fully aware of the opportunities and benefits of contributing to Wikimedia projects. To address this, more outreach activities should be undertaken, both online and in-person, to educate librarians about the value of their contributions and how they can get involved.

2. Connectivity challenges: In underdeveloped or developing communities, internet connectivity issues can pose a significant barrier to librarian participation in online Wikimedia projects. Efforts should be made to improve internet infrastructure and accessibility in such areas, enabling librarians to engage more effectively.

3. Wikimedia technicalities: Some librarians may lack the necessary technical skills or familiarity with Wikimedia platforms, which can deter them from contributing. Providing comprehensive training and ongoing support in this area is essential to boost their confidence and willingness to participate. The presence of a Wikimedian in Residence can also offer specialized guidance and assistance.

4. Lack of interest: With a plethora of projects on Wikimedia, librarians may feel overwhelmed or unsure about which projects to contribute to. Encouraging librarians to select projects that align with their interests or expertise can foster a sense of purpose and motivation in their contributions.

Impact and Future Prospects

Measuring the impact of Wikimedia collaborations on libraries and librarians

Using the collaboration between Wikimedia and African Library & Information Associations & Institutions (AfLIA) as an example, more African libraries and librarians were reached. They actively participated and became involved in various Wiki projects. As a result, greater awareness was created, and valuable skills were transferred to the librarians. These trained librarians then went on to share their knowledge with their colleagues in their respective libraries, leading to a cascading effect that reached even more people across Africa. 8

The collaboration between Wikimedia and AfLIA has proven to be a successful initiative in expanding access to information and promoting the use of Wikimedia projects in the region. By involving African libraries and librarians, this partnership has not only increased the visibility of African content on Wikimedia platforms but has also empowered local communities to take ownership of their knowledge and cultural heritage.

Through workshops, training sessions, and capacity-building programs, librarians were equipped with the necessary skills to contribute to Wikimedia projects, such as creating and editing articles, adding references,  uploading media files, etc

How to grow and expand future partnerships between Wikimedia and libraries

1. Understanding Wikimedia policies and guidelines: Before embarking on any collaboration, libraries should familiarize themselves with Wikimedia's policies and guidelines. This ensures that their contributions align with the platform's principles

2. Identifying library needs: Libraries have unique collections and information needs. By understanding these specific requirements, Wikimedia initiatives can be tailored to meet the needs of the library and its community effectively.

3. Selecting suitable projects for librarians: Libraries can explore the diverse range of Wikimedia projects and identify the ones that align with the interests and expertise of their librarians. This selection process will encourage active participation and engagement from library staff.

4. Creating awareness and sensitization: Conducting outreach programs and using sensitization tools can help raise awareness among librarians and library users about the benefits of collaborating with Wikimedia. This will encourage more individuals to actively participate and contribute to Wikimedia projects.

5. Scheduling training programs and follow-ups: Organizing training sessions led by experienced Wikimedians will equip library staff with the necessary skills to edit, contribute, and curate content on Wikimedia platforms. Follow-up sessions can reinforce learning and provide support as librarians get involved in the projects.

6. Employing a Wikimedian in Residence: Hiring a Wikimedian in Residence can be a valuable investment for libraries seeking to establish a long-term collaboration with Wikimedia. This expert can facilitate the integration of Wikimedia projects within the library, provide continuous support, and foster a culture of collaboration.

7. Monitoring Success and Impact: Regularly evaluating the collaboration's success rate is crucial for identifying strengths and areas for improvement. Tracking metrics such as the number of contributions, content quality, and community engagement will help gauge the impact of the collaboration.

8. Ensuring Sustainability: Plan for the long-term sustainability of the collaboration. Develop strategies to keep the momentum going even after the initial phase, such as incorporating Wikimedia participation into the library's ongoing programs and services.

Parting thoughts

In conclusion, it is essential for librarians to embrace Wikimedia as an open-access platform to enhance the visibility of their collections. Librarians play a significant role in shaping the future of knowledge sharing, and their active participation in the Wikimedia movement can have a profound impact. By joining this collaborative endeavour, libraries can extend their reach to diverse regions and communities, contributing to a more inclusive and diverse representation of knowledge on Wikimedia platforms.

Through this partnership, libraries can empower individuals, promote digital literacy, preserve cultural heritage, and foster a global community of knowledge contributors. Embracing Wikimedia is not only an opportunity for librarians edit or showcase their resources but also a commitment to advancing free knowledge for the benefit of all.


1 Five reasons we need librarians in a digital age

2 Nigeria to Receive Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite Broadband Access in Public Libraries

3 The Importance Of Libraries In The Digital Age

4 Wikidata query of 500 scholarly articles showing their title, author, DOI

5 1Lib1Ref Campaign

6 1Lib1Ref Campaign statistics

7 Catalani, L. (2017). Libraries and Wikimedia: common strategies for open access to knowledge and collaborative construction of free knowledge. JLIS.It, 8(3), 100–114.

8 Wikipedia in African Libraries  Course

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About the Author

This article is part of a collaborative series between GR Techand industry leaders, aimed at bringing new ideas andinsights to our readers.

Goodness Abasili

project manager

Goodness Abasili (CLN, BLS, MLIS) is a librarian from Nigeria. She's also the founder of Digital Library Forum, and Co-founder, Ig Wiki Librarians Hub. Goodness actively works as a Wikimedia volunteer, and uses various open access Wikimedia platforms to connect people with authentic information from around the world.