Wikipedia:Forward to Libraries

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Forward to Libraries
Wikimedia Cloud Services logo.svg
Wikimedia Labs logo
Owner Wikimedia Foundation
Created by John Mark Ockerbloom and the Wikimedia community
Website toollabs:/ftl/cgi-bin/ftl
Commercial No
Registration none
Launched May 15, 2013; 5 years ago (2013-05-15)
Content license
Free license

Forward to Libraries (FTL) is a service provided to Wikipedia readers to find books on an article's subject. The service links an article's subject to a search of books at that reader's local library in their city. It is configured by the reader using cookies and can be set to any library in the FTL database. Forward to Libraries runs on Wikimedia Labs and complies with the Wikimedia Foundation's privacy policy.


A screenshot of the template display

The first time a reader clicks on a "resources in your library" FTL link from a Wikipedia article, the reader is taken to a landing page on Wikimedia Labs which has automatically formatted links to search various libraries for the article's subject. On the landing page, the reader can choose a preferred library to search. (Usually this would be the reader's local library, but they can choose another if they wish.) If they do not wish their preferred library to be remembered, there is also a link provided to choose a library only for the reader's current query.

When the reader chooses a library, they will be sent to a search for the Wikipedia article's subject in that library's catalog, discovery search, or website. If remembered, the preferred library is recorded in a cookie in the readers' web browser. The next time the reader clicks a "resources in your library" link in a Wikipedia article, they will be taken directly to a search in their preferred library, and see what books and other resources the library has on the subject of the article.

Readers can also search in any other library known to the system, by choosing "resources in other libraries" links instead of "resources in your library" links. Readers can also change their preferred library at any time, by clicking on a "resources in other libraries" link and then choosing the "set a different preferred library for future searches" link from the landing page. Users can suggest additional libraries to be added to the system, or request an update of an existing library's configuration, via a request form.

The FTL searches can also search by author, so when a reader is viewing the article about the author Dean Koontz, they can search for books about Dean Koontz or search for books written by Dean Koontz.

In addition to finding books at a reader's local library, the service can also find free-licensed books online about a subject by using data from the Online Books Page.

Adding libraries[edit]

Libraries are regularly added to the FTL database. Users can request a specific library be added by using the request form at


The software was developed by Dr. John Mark Ockerbloom, a digital library architect at the University of Pennsylvania. The original service was run on servers at the University of Pennsylvania, but in May 2013, Dr. Ockerbloom modified the software to run on Wikimedia Labs, released it under a public license and ensured it complied with the Wikimedia Foundation's privacy policy per mw:Wikimedia Labs/Terms of use.


Forward to Libraries uses the online public access catalog of multiple libraries to find books on a subject. To determine the article's subject, the software makes use of Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) data from the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), Authorities and Vocabularies datasets from the Library of Congress Subject Headings, metadata from the Online Books Page and metadata from Wikipedia's database. When the software can't determine the article's subject using the above methods, it will search using the article's title.

The software is available on GitHub at


The service is currently used on Wikipedia through the following templates.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ockerbloom, John Mark (4 March 2013). "From Wikipedia to our libraries". Everybodiy's Libraries. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
    Developer's public announcement.
  • ----- (5 November 2013). "Forward to Libraries: Experiences connecting digital libraries, local libraries, and Wikipedia" (PDF). Retrieved 11 September 2015.
    Quick graphic overview, with screenshots of various templates at work. From Ockerbloom's talk at Digital Library Federation forum in Austin, TX.
  • Doctorow, Cory (5 March 2013). "Wikipedia and libraries: a match made in heaven". Boing Boing. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
    Influential writer's early response to announcement.
  • The Interior (18 March 2013). "Meeting in the middle: Wikipedia and libraries". The Signpost. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
    Interview with developer.

See also[edit]