I don’t know what’s going on… but I like it.

I know, I said a while back that 2005 was going to be the year of the wiki, but I really underestimated the time it takes for people to see the real practical benefits of a social tool. I think by the end of this year, wikis will have approached a tipping point in the library profession. While wikis may have been the hot new thing in 2005, people (other than me) are really starting to get some practical mileage out of wikis in 2006.

Take a look at some of the wikis highlighted in Eastwikkers’ 33 Wikis project. They run the gamut from wikis for subject enthusiasts (sports, games, etc.), to guides (to travel, doing taxes, etc.), to educational resources (in k-12 schools, universities, etc.), to wikis for certain professions/communities (ICANN, librarianship, progressives, etc.), to grassroots knowledge repositories (for community info, bird flu info, autism info, etc.), and more that defy categorization. The wikis highlighted there are the best of breed, and I’m thrilled that the Library Success Wiki was highlighted there as wiki #15 last week. A wiki is only as good as its contributors, so I thank you all for your efforts in making it a success.

What is really exciting me is how people are starting to see the practical use of wikis for smaller-scale projects. Amanda Etches-Johnson has been providing the library blogosphere with an amazing resource for years: a list of blogging libraries. While this probably was a manageable project in the past, the number of libraries that blog has grown ridiculously large and the number of libraries that start and quickly abandon blogs is even larger. It’s not something any one person can maintain unless it is their only job (and as far as I know, Amanda is a busy gal). So instead of abandoning the project, Amanda wikified this resource. Now anyone whose library has a blog or whose blog has changed URLs, met an untimely demise, etc. can add or update the information in the wiki. The burden is not 100% on Amanda, but is distributed throughout the blogosphere. And that’s what’s so beautiful about wikis — what one person could never do, the entire community can accomplish easily with a wiki.

Another great wiki that just came out is the LISauthor wiki. This wiki was developed by Fiona Bradley with the goal of collecting information about eScholarship, writing, publishing, research, speaking, etc. And while it really needs a logo, I think it could be a terrific resource for those of us interested in contributing to the profession in various ways. Fiona writes:

What has been most clear to me recently is that librarians want to write – they want to tell their stories and lessons learnt. They don’t have to be on a tenure track or in any particular kind of library, or even any library to have the motivation to do so. On the other side, librarians also want to help others to write, and be publishers in their own right whether by running a conference and publishing the papers, or starting a newsletter or journal, or promoting deposit in repositories. Lastly, practitioners want to stay in touch with the most relevant research – and these days that could include tools like OPML Reading Lists, database alerts, Journal TOC feeds as well as more traditional browsing and serendipitous methods. With LISauthor I aim to look at all of these issues and think of ways to bridge the divides that sometimes form.

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t get an e-mail from someone asking me for advice on starting a wiki or telling me about a cool wiki they’ve created at their library. While sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by the questions, it is so thrilling to see how people are using (or are thinking of using) wikis to provide better services to their patrons, to collect knowledge behind the scenes, and to capitalize on the collective intelligence of their patrons and/or their colleagues.

Wikimania is coming up in August and is taking place at Harvard University. The conference organizers are very interested in having librarians participate in the conference and I’ve gotten a few e-mails this week on the subject. The Call for Papers is here and the deadline for presentations has been extended to April 30. I am really interested in doing a panel presentation on using wikis as knowledge repositories (in the corporate world, academic institutions, communities, etc.). If you have any interest in participating in Wikimania, let me know and we can toss around some ideas.

One thing I’d like to suggest: if you have a great idea for a wiki that collects best practices on a library-related subject, do consider just making it a part of the Best Practices Wiki. I totally understand the desire to have a separate wiki, but when the goal is to collect best practices, it’s great to have them in one centralized repository. I love how Jenny Levine encouraged people to add their copious knowledge about gaming in libraries to the wiki rather than reinventing the wheel and creating a new one. And how Miranda Doyle of the amazing site Teen Librarian realized that it was far more expedient to add her knowledge about teen readers’ advisory to the Library Success Wiki than to go through the hassle of maintaining her own wiki. Better for us all to pool our resources and energies into one wiki. Wikis take time to create and time to maintain (especially in dealing with spam). We’re stronger together than we are alone. And I’m happy to do anything I can to make a well-organized space for large collections of information.

No matter how we do it, we need to collect this knowledge to benefit us all. What a waste to have information useful to the profession just live and die trapped inside of us.