Books & Bytes
Issue 4, February 2014
by The Interior (talk · contribs), Ocaasi (talk · contribs)
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Hello and welcome to Books & Bytes! The first two months of The Wikipedia's Library's second round of Individual Engagement Grant has been a whirlwind of activity, outreach, pilot programs, conferences, presentations, new positions, and new opportunities. Here's what's been going on this winter...
- Donations Drive: The Wikipedia Library (TWL) coordinators continue to discuss partnership options with publishers and database providers to get editors access to high quality reliable sources. We conducted a call blitz in late January, contacting the most requested resources from our December survey. We had a high level conversation with 8 Lexis Nexis department heads. Unfortunately LexisNexis felt they were unable to enter into a partnership at this time due to licensing difficulties with their publishing clients. We appreciate the serious interest they took in the program and look forward to trying with them again down the road. Happily, progress was made with IEEE (Xplore Digital Library). Also promising, representatives of the Oxford University Press have expressed strong interest in partnering with the library. Oxford has been thinking of such a partnership for a few years and are ready to dig more deeply into the possibility this time around. After phenomenal demand from the TWL editor survey, talks are continuing with large providers ProQuest and EBSCO. And discussions with JSTOR about potential extension or expansion of their donation are scheduled for early March. We are working hard to get you more sources!
- Free Accounts are still open: HighBeam Research, Questia Online Library, and Cochrane Online Library. Please spread the word to editors you know who might benefit from access to these resources and sign up.
- WIR: TWL's promising positions as Wikipedia Visiting Scholars (unpaid, remote research staff) and Wikipedians in Residence are going forward with Cochrane Collaboration and George Mason University Library. Both are reviewing their application shortlists, and should announce their recipients soon. Another position will soon be available with University of California at Riverside. Many more university libraries are exploring positions with their administration and we'll continue to hold rolling signups at the signup page.
- Deep press in the library community: TWL was profiled by Library Journal's leading online Digital Shift blog: Librarypedia: The Future of Libraries and Wikipedia
- Royal Society Journal Access: Announced by their new Wikipedian-in-Residence, Wiki at Royal Society John, the UK's Royal Society has offered up-to-date online access to two of its journal archives, Notes and Records: the Royal Society journal of the history of science and Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society for two days only. They will be open March 4th and 5th. See John's post for more details.
- ALA Midwinter Conference: TWL attended the American Library Association's Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia, PA. Through the sprawling exhibitor booths at the conference, we were able to approach and connect with many resource providers, including Duke University Press, NY Times, Oxford University Press, Wiley, Newsbank, Ovid, MIT University Press, Cengage, InfoTrac, Science (AAAS), ArtSTOR, Geo Science World, De Gruyter, and Cambridge University Press. We're following up with everyone and trying to take the next steps with donations.
- OCLC Partnership kick-off: 20 university libraries attend ALA's midwinter presentation on the Wikipedia Visiting Scholar positions and the coming OCLC Full-text access script which will link Wikipedia article references to university collections. A followup webinar brought together 25 more schools interested in hearing about the two pilot opportunities. (Watch the webinar).
- Exhibiting with OCLC: In the main exhibition hall at ALA, OCLC gave away Wikipedia merchandise and pamphlets to many curious and enthusiastic attendees, highlighting the pilot partnerships. Coming off the heels of the new Trademark Policy rollout, this was a great way to use the Wikipedia logo for a mission-aligned event with a mission-aligned organization. (Thanks Yana and the rest of the WMF legal team for making that possible).
- TWL attends LibHack at ALA, and wins! Ocaasi and talented coder/librarian Eric Phetteplace (Phette23) built FindDPLA, a tool to surface Digital Public Library of America content for relevant Wikipedia articles. You can install and try it out with just a click.
- TWL meets DPLA: Also at ALA, we had the chance to talk with with DPLA head Dan Cohen and tech lead Mark Matienzo, as well as their great collaborators Frankie and Kenny. We discussed what it would mean if Wikipedia was a DPLA 'hub' or 'community representative', how to expand FindDPLA to include more national collections, and how to showcase the FindDPLAapp on the DPLA website. Tweeting about the tool, Dan Cohen coined it WikipeDPLA, which we quite like too.
- TWL goes global with 3 pilots: TWL is in the planning stages of expanding its successful library model to several other language Wikipedia communities. We hope to initiate projects on the Spanish, German, and Arabic Wikipedias in the near future, and create a "starter kit" for other languages to follow. We are looking for coordinators and liaisons fluent in these languages. Please contact us at The TWL talk page if you are interested in helping with these new branches. We also would like feedback on which databases in those languages would be most useful.
- Chatting with LITA: TWL approached the leadership of the Library Information Technology Association, an ALA division that focuses on the technology side of library administration. We had a fruitful meeting about potential collaborations with the LITA Vice-President about Wikipedia and library-related coding projects. We're looking into an annual LITA membership that would allow us to create a Wikipedia interest group or other library and tech folks to join.
The Wikipedia Library Strives for Open Access
Our editors are desperate for knowledge. They crave sources to use to build Wikipedia, to share with millions of readers around the globe. Many of the most authoritative sources, however, are locked behind paywalls.
Birth of a partial solution
We started The Wikipedia Library to address this. In 2010 research database Credo Reference donated 500 free accounts to our top editors; the lines of editors requesting these accounts piled over. Through 2011 and 2012 we added partnerships from HighBeam Research, Questia Online Library, The Cochrane Library, and JSTOR. Over 3700 accounts have been donated so far.
One Wikipedia Library subscriber reflected on the situation: "Having done the grad school thing (twice!), I'm used to having the resources of a research university library. I still have this, but now need to drive 90 minutes to do my research on campus. Given the comparatively modest resources available at Wikipedia versus a 90 minute drive for comprehensive resources, I find that I'd rather make the drive. There will come a point where The Wikipedia Library's coverage will be sufficient that the drive is no longer worthwhile and instead I spend those 180 minutes editing. We'll get there; but that point is a ways away."
Another wrote, "I'm fortunate to work at an institution that pays for access to a great deal of engineering literature as well as giving me access to the UC library system. If I were to go into private industry, I would lose all of that, even if I was willing to pay a subscription fee (per-article pricing is a non-starter). I'd like Wikipedia to be in a position to make access to this material independent of my current employment."
We've been honored to make a small step towards that goal. In many ways it's been a great success.
A mirror for deeper problems
However, in other ways, the very need for The Wikipedia Library's donation program only underscores the deep structural problems in our society's knowledge infrastructure. Who benefits from our practice of accepting these generous donations?. Our editors are spared the frustration of being locked out of a critical source they need to write an article. Our readers can then consume the summarized, encyclopedic content on Wikipedia. But what if they want to check it for themselves, to follow the spirit of our core verifiability policy, and verify it? That's what we teach people to do--to use Wikipedia as a starting point--which students and even some teachers seem to increasingly accept and practice. Some may luck out with a college library nearby, but the general public is left to rely on Wikipedia as the final word.
"Getting donated accounts is nice, but ultimately, the long term goal needs to be moving toward open publishing models," said a recently surveyed Wikipedia Library donation recipient. "There is no excuse in this day and age to lock up academic knowledge behind paywalls. A chosen few with access to the resources is far from ideal. Without the widespread ability to verify the claim to a source, paywalled sourcing is almost the same as no citation at all."
Another lamented, "I am a Wikipedian with 100+ million pageviews. On articles I write, I want my references to be verifiable by others, so it does not help me much whether I can find a source that others can't check. I got a free subscription to Highbeam a while ago, but my Highbeam references are uncheckable by others, so I tend not to use it much."
Promoting open access
We don't want to topple the research and publishing ecosystem that creates the sources we depend on. We do want to nudge that system to improve its accessibility for the public. That's why among The Wikipedia Library's 5 goals is to "Promote broader open access in publishing and research." In this context, our partnerships with research databases and journals are only an interim fix in a much longer process of reform, one which will allow us to create and share encyclopedic content that is truly accessible and verifiable.
This process has been going on for years before the library was formed. WikiProject Resource exchange is a place where editors can meet to request and deliver paywalled sources to each other, for the sole purpose of improving encyclopedia articles. WP:RX, as we like to call it, bustles with activity and the spirit of sharing. I view this as a 'fair use', a clearly non-commercial, limited, internal, public-interest exchange of academic content for educational purposes. This solution is piecemeal, but it doesn't scale well, and it too doesn't address the core problem.
In the library's future, we'd like to help with identifying and locating open access resources. The number and variety of open access publications is rapidly expanding, yet it's not always easy to find, filter, and search open journals or to locate free copies of open articles in repositories. At the least, we should help and empower our editors with this task.
We also want to begin a discussion about the usage of closed vs. open access sources on Wikipedia. For many years we have followed our community policy on the matter. Wikipedia:PAYWALL is clear that we are 'access neutral'--we neither exclude nor prefer sources that are not available online (or those that are), those that charge to be viewed (or those that are free), nor those that prohibit reuse (or those that permit it). We do this because verifiability emphasizes the '-ability' piece over the actual verifying. No one said verification had to be easy. This liberal approach ensures that print sources will not be overlooked or kept on the margins, and that we emphasize the Wikipedia article text itself above other concerns. Still, I wonder if we as a community want to consider adding one caveat to our approach: all else being equal, where an equally reliable, freely-available, open access source exists directly alongside a closed-access, paywalled source... do we not want to nudge our editors into taking ease of verification into account?
I recently heard about two UK students, David Carroll and Joseph McArthur, who built an Open Access Button. OA Button is a browser extension that alerts the world when a reader or researcher hits a paywall. It's both a desperate plea for access, and a clarion call that the free flow of information will not be stopped. As the Wikipedia Library grows, we want to heed that call. We want to make sure our editors are not only flush with high quality sources, but also that they are living in a world agilely moving towards truly fuller and freer knowledge.
Bytes in Brief
- Opening access
- US federal agencies with research budgets over $100 million per year must now provide free read-access within 12 months of publication: 
- Google Image Search improved its license filtering to find CC content: 
- There's a new Reddit forum for trading access, kind of like a global WP:RX: 
- University of Massachusetts researchers created a scholarly torrent site for authors to share papers and data: 
- PLOS is implementing an open data policy:  
- Wiley will now allow authors to archive accepted manuscripts in repositories: 
- Data dump
15,000 Persian documents and images released by the British Library
- MIT Open Courseware shares free, full textbooks: 
- OpenCulture.com shared a collection of free art images and books from museums: 
- Iran Heritage Foundation and the British Library released 15,000 images of Persian manuscripts: 
- Wellcome trust released 100,000 high resolution images under a CC-BY license: 
- UK public libraries will gain access to 8,000 journals in the Access to Research initiative through the Publishers Licensing Society: 
- In a big move against subscription bundling, University of Montreal cancelled 76% of their subscriptions in Wiley Online Library: 
- Around the stacks (worth reading)
- Creative Commons Blog: Read-only access is not enough: 
- Wikipedia Signpost: Licensed for reuse? Citing open-access sources in Wikipedia articles: 
- Times of India: Creativity Goes Common: 
- Metro.org: New York METRO Wikipedian-in-Residence Dorothy Howard (User:OR drohowa) interviews Watson Library's William Blueher: 
- OCLC Research: Does Every Research Library Need a Digital Humanities Center? 
- Now open
- Directory of Open Access Journals looking for assistant editors: 
- Wikimedia UK hiring for an Open Coalition Project Co-Coordinator: 
- Neatness upcoming
- National Information Standards Organization is hosting a 2-part webinar on the state of open access in libraries and publishing: 
- PediaPress is crowdfunding effort to create 1000 volume print Wikipedia as travelling digital artifact:  
- An interesting proposal makes it's way to Jimmy's talk page: Should WMF join the American Library Association? 
- Open source OA Sandbox a new open-source visual format for presenting research paper data and metrics with its Lens website: 
- There's a neat Library Advocacy MOOC through edX: 
There's lots of great digital library information online. Check out these neat resources for more library exploring.