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Digital doorway: Gaining library users through Wikipedia

Andrew Spencer, Brendan Krige and Dr Sham Nair, Macquarie University Library

Thursday 18 September 2014 – Concurrent session 21, 11am to 11:25am

Abstract

Wikipedia is heavily used as an information source by students, however it is not usually recommended as a scholarly source of information suitable for use in assessment tasks. Its value is in providing students with a starting point on their search for information. Utilising a library resources template designed by a librarian from the University of Pennsylvania, librarians at Macquarie University Library are working with the convenor of a first year biology unit to introduce a way of directing students to relevant library resources from Wikipedia. 

The library resources template was added to 72 Wikipedia articles. These articles were identified by library staff as being relevant to the assessment task topics that the students had to choose from. A search was conducted in the library catalogue for each of the topics, and the corresponding subject heading was identified. These headings were added to the Wikipedia library resources template to be used as the search terms. The students were shown how to use the template during one of the scheduled lectures in the first week of semester.

The use of the template was evaluated both quantitatively and qualitatively. Data was obtained from Wikipedia on the number of times that the Macquarie University Library link was clicked on. The majority of hits occurred in August, which was the time of year when the template was demonstrated to the students. The students and teaching staff of the unit were surveyed to gather their opinions on the usefulness of the template. These survey results are currently being analysed, and will be discussed in the conference paper.


We feel that this initiative is another way of providing students with easy access to library resources, even if they begin their search elsewhere. It can be a time-consuming task to implement the template, and students need to be given guidance in how to use it. However, we believe the benefits outweigh any drawbacks. The findings from the student survey will inform our decision whether or not to promote this feature to academics in other subject areas.

Students increasingly expect that all the information they need for their assessment tasks can be found easily using commonly available search engines such as Google or Bing, and that library resources should be as easy to access as freely available sources such as Wikipedia. Convenience is a criterion which is used by students to decide if they will use a particular information source, so it is important for libraries to make their scholarly resources as easy to access as possible. By providing a simple link from Wikipedia articles to library resources, this project has helped to place library resources within the research workflow of students, and satisfied their expectation of simple access to information resources. It has also allowed them to explore a greater diversity of published resources.

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