Wikipedia:The Wikipedia Library/Wikipedia Visiting Scholars

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Wikipedia Visiting Scholars
Gain full university library access as affiliated staff to improve Wikipedia articles


Sign up to be a Wikipedia Visiting Scholar!

Wikipedia Visiting Scholars is a pilot program to help active, engaged Wikipedia editors partner with an established university library to gain access to its research resources. Visiting Scholars would gain full and free access to the library's online catalogue in order to improve articles on the Encyclopedia. The partnerships would be unpaid and remote. The mutual benefit of this approach is that our best editors would gain access to the best available sources, while libraries help serve their mission of sharing knowledge while learning how to harness the power of Wikipedia. The aim is to build and strengthen connections between universities, the source of creating new knowledge, and Wikipedia, the broadest platform for disseminating it—to generate goodwill between librarians (our research heroes) and Wikipedia editors (our public knowledge superstars).


Wikipedia and universities are natural allies. Universities create knowledge and Wikipedia helps to freely disseminate that knowledge to the public. We need strong relationships with educational and cultural institutions. We need to make our collaborative platform bigger, better, and more useful. Here are some of the programs that have helped inform the Wikipedia Visiting Scholars idea.

Wikipedian in Residence[edit]

Wikimedians who dedicate time to working in-house at an organization have helped our movement build connections with like-minded institutions. While Wikipedians in Residence are usually financially compensated, Wikipedia Visiting Scholars would be volunteers. There are important differences between Wikipedians in Residence and Wikipedia Visiting Scholars: like Wikipedians in Residence, Wikipedia visiting scholars may serve as a liaison between the organization and the Wikimedia community to promote a mutually beneficial cooperation and promote understanding of Wikimedia among staff at the organization. However, other activities are less likely, including working with staff to digitize, compile, and organize resources that can be shared with the Wikipedia community; coordinating events, such as Edit-a-Thons that bring Wikipedians on-site to work with staff on content creation and improvement. At its essence, the visiting scholar program permits editors to freely conduct their own research for Wikipedia using the universities resources. Visiting Scholars could choose to coordinate with the institution to permit closer cooperation with staff, but that is not an expectation of either party. A visiting scholar lays the foundation for a lasting partnership between the Wikipedia community and the institution.

Research affiliates[edit]

Universities have regularly offered untenured, unpaid positions to affiliated scholars who gain access to the university's library content and resources in order to conduct research. Wikipedia Visiting Scholars would emulate this model, operating remotely in informal, unpaid partnerships. However, rather than conducting primary research for publication in academic journals, the scholars would be contributing to Wikipedia with the goal of disseminating research to the public through the encyclopedia.

The purpose of the visiting scholars programs is generally to bring to the school or educational institution in question an exceptional senior scholar who can contribute to and enrich the community's intellectual and research endeavors and international projection. While traditional visiting scholars are often expected to actively participate in a number of productive institutional activities, such as lectures, papers, and teaching, Wikipedia visiting scholars would conduct their research projection on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia Loves Libraries[edit]

The mission of Wikimedia is to empower and engage people around the world to collaboratively collect and develop open educational content, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. Libraries are our natural partners in this endeavor. Collaboratively, we have been promoting scholarly and cultural knowledge, information literacy, and open access by working together with institutions and research professionals.


Wikipedia editors have been collaborating with OCLC, the world's largest library cooperative. OCLC provides services to its member libraries and offered Wikipedia access to both its search API and resource location (fulfillment) API. As a hub for libraries, OCLC is ideally situated to help us coordinate outreach to research institutions. OCLC members who are signed up for syndication of their holdings would have integrated access to the full text fulfillment service via the OCLC WorldCat knowledge base API.

The Wikipedia Library[edit]

The Wikipedia Library aims to coordinate these various outreach initiatives. Wikipedia Visiting Scholars would be organized and assisted by the research experts affiliated with The Wikipedia Library.

Mission alignment and mutual benefit[edit]

Wikipedia is the world's most popular reference source. Many users begin their research on Wikipedia. Increasingly, it is used by those seeking information directly; Wikipedia’s highly ranked pages come up at the top of general web searches. Libraries working with Wikipedia not only help build the largest encyclopedia in human history by adding high quality references, but they bring readers back into the library to explore their collections. For Wikipedia, access to high quality published sources enhances the encyclopedia's mission, improves our reliability, and improves the impact of vital tertiary scholarship. Libraries working with a Wikipedian as a Wikipedia Visiting Scholar, granting full, remote access to its collections, reference support and in-library access to collections, will benefit in the following ways:

Increased source usage
  • Ensures that library resources are appropriately embedded in Wikipedia, which will give those important resources more visibility.
  • Wikipedia Visiting Scholars lead readers from Wikipedia to the best available resources, and back to their own library for further research, increasing usage of library's materials.
  • Librarians will be able to more effectively leverage the scholarship they do now in creating LibGuides and other lists and bibliographies by working with the visiting editor to ensure important, core resources are appropriately represented in Wikipedia.
  • Library users will be able to see their library’s resources in use — to support cited articles, and, in the case of E-switch, to provide full-text access to articles cited on Wikipedia.
Demonstrated impact
  • Wikipedia Visiting Scholars will note the number of articles they enhance with access to library resources, and the number of new citations they are able to correct or add, with help of the library collections. Libraries can cite those figures to prove that they are helping researchers use a popular source to gain access to authoritative information.
  • Eswitch should be able to tell libraries how many times their articles are being accessed via the API, another indication of usage and value to the library, to the publishers of those articles, and to the users.
Public promotion
  • Wikipedia Visiting Scholars partnerships will be promoted within the Wikipedia community and shared with the library's institution, and shared public media.
  • Wikipedia Visiting Scholars will blog and otherwise share their experiences, and can highlight participating libraries role in providing a valuable contribution to Wikipedia’s mission and purpose.
  • Libraries can point to their participation and contributions and talk about how this heightened exposure and visibility is helping them to be more relevant to an online audience

Will library use statistics go up as a result? Will library users think about their library differently? This experiment will give us an opportunity to explore some of these important questions.


  • Applications: The Wikipedia Library would promote, organize, and manage a broad and open application process. Minimum standards for experience, activity, and good conduct will lead to a list of qualified applicants. This list will be presented to partnering universities or institutions, and a candidate selection process will be collaboratively handled with Wikipedia Library volunteers.
  • Publicity: Partnerships with universities and institutions would be promoted widely both within and outside of the community. Posts to community pages, social media, blog posts, press releases, and mainstream news, can all be explored as ways to share details about these collaborations with the public.
  • Outreach: TWL will reach out to other libraries who are not yet affiliated and discuss how these partnerships work and can be mutually beneficial.
  • Find partners. Libraries will host a Wikipedia editor and give them full access to library collections for a period of time—ideally 6 months to one year. Partners participate in a pilot where the visiting Editor/Scholar is creating but also potentially adding to other articles on a Wikipedia page—with links that point back to resources in the library collection or in other open source collections in the library community.
  • Integrate with OCLC if possible. Participating in the pilot means the library is a full cataloging member that subscribes to First Search. If the library does those two things, it can “register “ its ecollections in the OCLC Knowledge Base, via service config ( Libraries who use SerialsSolutions will soon be able to have their holdings shared with OCLC as a result of a recently signed agreement between the two organizations.
  • Demo E-switch API. In order to have articles show links to full text, a user will have to download a script when using Wikipedia. Libraries will need to help us integrate this feature and tell their user community about it. We also might be able to use some help—if the library has any technical resources—to help write the script.
  • Article exposure and metrics. To allow a library to see the articles an editor has enhanced by using the library, and in order for the library to understand what contribution the editor is making using that libraries resources, some form of tagging the articles has been discussed.

Next steps[edit]

  • Address each of the above concerns fully
  • Select potential partners who share our values and have already worked with Wikipedia and/or OCLC.
  • Advertise applications
  • Conduct a selection process
  • Promote the partnerships
  • Review the program's effectiveness, and consolidate and write about learnings and challenges.
  • Partner with larger library organizations (e.g. the American Library Association) to expand the programs to more institutions


Is the Wikipedia Visiting Scholar position an in person residency?

Wikipedia Visiting Scholars are designed to be remote and unpaid positions, although a preference for a local/regional Wikipedian could be explored and paid travel could be arranged on a per-institution basis.

Will a Visiting Scholar only use licensed resources, or could they also use free resources?

Visiting Scholars would use whatever resources the University/Library had access to, free or licensed. Wikipedia has no official preference for free/non-free sources. Visiting Scholars may be in a position to also help non-free resources to be more discoverable by Wikipedia editors and readers.

Can there be more than one Visiting Scholar?

There's no limit to the number of Visiting Scholars an individual institution could host (provided it's consistent with their administrative and legal/licensing policies), nor how many can be hosted total among all participating institutions (only capped by how many active, experienced Wikipedia editors would qualify, which is likey in the several thousands at least).

Why is OCLC involved?

OCLC is the world's largest library cooperative. OCLC's connections with member libraries gives it great insight into the challenges they face as well as deep connections within the library community. OCLC is helping Wikipedia editors connect to libraries. OCLC also advances library research and has developed two APIs that may help Wikipedia editors conduct research through Wikipedia for Wikipedia. OCLC wants to encourage libraries to realize the potential of the outreach, aka syndication that OCLC can offer its library members, and this partnership with Wikipedia is part of it. OCLC can represent the collective capacity of all libraries to a big entity like Wikipedia that has an interest in libraries and their resources and who shares a user base with OCLC. Both of our organizations care about delivering information to users who need it—at the point of need.

How can libraries integrate with OCLC?

Libraries can participate by making sure they register their ecollections in the OCLC KnowledgeBase by going to If a library catalogs with OCLC and subscribes to FirstSearch, it can take full advantage of seeing its collections shown to users at point of need via the eSwitch (electronic fulfillment service). But…every library, whether an OCLC member or not, has the chance to be syndicated by registering with the Spotlight program and telling OCLC about its open URL gateway resolvers, which can also be used to drive users to a library’s door from a popular consumer website.

What is eSwitch?

eSwitch is a fulfillment service, an API which helps connect a web-user to a full text source just by affiliating their IP address with a university/library's proxy resolver.

People involved[edit]