The Wiki Project III: It’s Alive!

A year and a half ago, at my former place of work, a coworker and I came up with the idea of ripping off the St. Joseph County Public Library‘s subject guides wiki to replace the HTML pages we had that provided web links to users of our web site. I was appointed head of a “wiki task force,” presented a proposal to the Web Committee and library supervisors, got everything approved, recruited reference staff, and started the ball rolling.

Unfortunately, I completely underestimated how much work it would take, how much I would need to get everyone else on board, how much training and advice staff would need–basically, I underestimated everything, and the project stalled and slowed down before I left to come to my current job.

But I’m very happy to say the project didn’t die, and the Olathe Public Library Subject Guides wiki has officially gone live! It’s in the basic, starter stage right now, but I expect it will grow at a nice pace now that it’s up and running for the public. Check out the wiki and let them know what you think in the comments on their blog.

The Definition of Success

I’m quite the fan of Wikipedia. I know, I know, it’s an unreliable source of information because anyone can edit it, filling entries with all kinds of misinformation and outright vandalism. (Except, of course, that while anyone can edit entries, no one can easily skate by Wikipedia’s editors for very long.) Wikipedia isn’t written by accredited, degreed experts, so you can’t use it as a real source like you can the World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica.


I’ve spent many hours wandering through entries in the Britannica and in Wikipedia. Given the choice between Britannica and Wikipedia, I’ll generally go with Wikipedia. Why? Let’s go to chapter two of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

Here’s what the Encyclopedia Galactica has to say about alcohol. It says that alcohol is a colourless volatile liquid formed by the fermentation of sugars and also notes its intoxicating effect on certain carbon-based life forms. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy also mentions alcohol. It says that the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. It says that the effect of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick. The Guide also tells you on which planets the best Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters are mixed, how much you can expect to pay for one and what voluntary organizations exist to help you rehabilitate afterwards. The Guide even tells you how you can mix one yourself. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sells rather better than the Encyclopedia Galactica.

Substitute Encyclopedia Britannica for “Encyclopedia Galactica” and Wikipedia for “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and you’ve got my answer. (Wikipedia actually has an entry for “Pan Galactice Gargle Blaster.” Does the Britannica?)

Stumbling Towards Growth

The wiki taskforce we assembled to get our subject guide wiki up and running is made up of Library Assistants and Associates with little or no knowledge of HTML, wiki syntax or web design (except for one LA who is currently taking a class on web design). So, this has been a learning process for all of us.

One of the LAs has been enthusiastic and relentless in teaching herself wiki syntax and design, and she’s come up with some great stuff. While I was in sunny California, she was fine-tuning some tables on a page and coming up a color scheme for the wiki’s border. It all looks great! I loved being at the conference, but boy, am I happy to be back at work!

Prelude to Big Thoughts

Last night, I went to a “Wikipedia meetup” organized by Brenda Hough and attended by Erica Reynolds, Dave King and a bunch of other smart library types. So many good questions were asked, so many good points were raised, it’s going to take me some time to talk about everything I want to talk about here. But I’ll do my goshdarndest to get it all out. Eventually.

I should at least note, though, that Free State in Lawrence makes a bloody good stout. I’d forgotten just how good their oatmeal stout is, but it went down dark and smooth and really hit the spot. Yum.

The Wiki Project II and a half: Help From the Wiki Queen

Last week, I sent an email to everyone on MPOW’s Administration Advisory Committee, giving them the link to Meredith FarkasSirsiDynix talk on wikis. I suggested that they watch it, especially the Adult Services selectors who will be selecting and maintaining the resources on our proposed wiki.

My coworkers said they really liked Meredith’s talk. When I started my presentation at the meeting by asking if everyone knew what a wiki was, one Children’s librarian who had previously known absolute zilch about wikis stated proudly, “I do now!”

So, kudos and mad props to Meredith! And also thanks, because not only did you educate some librarians, you made my presentation and proposal much easier.

The Wiki Project II: Step by Step

I made my presentation for a subject guide wiki to the Administration Advisory Committee today. Due to recent experiences with some petty politics at MPOW (which I won’t go into here), I walked into the meeting expecting some resistance to my proposal. Much to my surprise and delight, however, I got none. At all. One coworker started asking questions with what I took to be apprehension or suspicion (her face looked all serious and her tone was somewhat guarded), but she quickly expressed truckloads of enthusiasm for the project, excited about what the wiki promised for our website, even the way we catalog our resources. She even asked if the wiki’s front page could become the main page of our website, fer cryin’ out loud! I was so relieved and happy, I could’ve danced a jig.

Now, let’s see if we can get this thing up and running by December 31st of this year! Damn the torpedoes, Driver 8! We can reach our destination!