Our talk today went really well! Considering who we were up against (Yochai Benkler!!!), I was surprised and pleased that we had a pretty decent crowd at the talk.
Update: Audio from our talk can be found here in the Wikimania archives. I had no idea we were being recorded.
I was so thrilled to organize this panel of really talented librarians who are doing such interesting and different things with wikis. The panel included me, Mary Chimato (of Stonybrook’s Health Science Library), Ellyssa Kroski (of Columbia’s Butler Library), and Maureen Clements (of NPR). The wikis discussed were designed for differnent uses. One was designed for the benefit of the profession at large, one designed to facilitate information sharing at a health sciences library, one designed to collaboratively answer reference questions, and one to better provide background information to patrons in a newsroom.
Mary talked about the internal wiki at her health science library — how they came to the decision that they needed a wiki, how they chose and built the wiki, and how they got people using it. For more on Mary’s wiki, you can see my notes from the wiki panel at CIL ’06.
Ellyssa talked about her library’s reference wiki, which is designed to help answer difficult reference questions. It was really neat how each question had a page with a list of resources that could be used to answer that question. Considering that most librarians have specific areas of subject expertise, but that people are often alone at the reference desk and have to answer a wide variety of questions, it’s crazy not to share this subject expertise on a wiki. Why keep this information locked up in your head so that it doesn’t help your colleagues to provide more effective reference assistance. I implemented a reference wiki at my library and it’s been used very little, but our brand new head of public services is really gung-ho about using it to share information. Any wiki project like this can be built from the bottom up, but it really does need support from above to be integrated into our daily work. It sounds like Ellyssa’s wiki is young, but thus far has been fairly successful. It’s always hard to convince the really change-resistant librarians that this newfangled technology is the best way to share information.
Maureen talked about the wiki that she and her colleagues use to provide information for the NPR newsroom. It was fascinating to hear about the sort of work that they do at NPR and how that work was really facilitated by the wiki. They have such things as guides to specific hot-button issues, the contact information of staff members and important sources, a whole section on elections, and they are even working on a pronunciation guide using MP3s. I was really excited to hear about this wiki and to see how beneficial it’s been for her patrons (people at the news desks). Maureen is a really fun and enthusiastic speaker and I can’t wait to hear about the progress she will have made by the time Internet Librarian comes around.