Wikipedia:The Wikipedia Library/Cultural Professionals

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Best practices for Librarians, Archivists and Cultural Professionals who want to link to collections on Wikipedia.

The case for collaborationEdit

Wikipedia's importanceEdit

  • 5th most visited website on the entire internet
  • 500 million monthly visitors
  • 8000 views per second
  • Top ten web referrer to scholarly articles

Wikipedia is a ubiquitous starting point for research. Students, librarians, even doctors check Wikipedia to begin their research, get an overview of a field, find relevant sources, and engage with the popular conception and summary of a subject.

In the modern information age, search no longer begins at the library or the archives. It begins with a web search and typically goes next to the top-linked Wikipedia article. There's a saying in the library world that discovery happens elsewhere[1], away from the library. What is less often mentioned is that these days, "elsewhere" IS Wikipedia.

We know researchers are starting their searches on the open web, and even on Wikipedia directly. Working directly with the Wikipedia community allows archives and special collections to engage directly with issues around how to expose their collections in Wikipedia and continue the conversation about how to get researchers from sources on the web, back to the library or archives, where they can access those resources directly and discover even more to help them with their information needs.

Principles for linking to your collectionsEdit

Here are some basic principles to take into account when adding links:

  • Prioritize links to the most relevant, specific, and useful materials on the web as well as the best offline sources. The principal goal of Wikipedia is to facilitate access to the "sum of all human knowledge" (see Wikipedia:Prime objective); when adding links on Wikipedia make sure you are pointing towards digital records in your collections or holdings that provide substantive contextual information about the topic of the article, whether that is in the holdings themselves, collection description, or description of items within the collection. The community greatly prefers not to include links indiscriminately and in very large quantities.
  • The more you do, the more it helps Wikipedia's readers and community: contributing links to your holdings is useful; contributing links to other holdings alongside is helpful; reorganizing a further reading section while adding links to your sources, and citations for all of the major scholarship on the topic is superlative. The community appreciates editors who work with the intentions of readers and the community in mind. Collecting and organizing information about relevant scholarship is a powerful tool for future researchers; even if you don't expand the article, expanding the collection of citations allows you to better meet our goals and make a positive impression on the community.

Before you start: Conflict of interest?Edit

You're welcome hereEdit

You may have heard that you're not allowed to edit Wikipedia if you're a cultural professional (or librarian or teacher...) Let's dismiss this misinterpretation of community policy right away. The site Terms of Use requires disclosure for 'paid editors'. Here's what the TOU says about your position (hint: you're welcome here)...

How does this provision affect teachers, professors, and employees of galleries, libraries, archives, and museums ("GLAM")
These requirements shouldn't keep teachers, professors, or people working at galleries, libraries, archives, and museums ("GLAM") institutions from making contributions in good faith! If you fall into one of those categories, you are only required to comply with the disclosure provision when you are compensated by your employer or by a client specifically for edits and uploads to a Wikimedia project...If [you are] simply paid a salary for teaching and conducting research, and [you are] only encouraged by [your] university to contribute generally without more specific instruction, that professor does not need to disclose their affiliation with the university. The same is true with GLAM employees. Disclosure is only necessary where compensation has been promised or received in exchange for a particular contribution. A museum employee who is contributing to projects generally without more specific instruction from the museum need not disclose her affiliation with the museum.

When to use more careEdit

Here's what the Terms of Use says:

...If a professor at University X is paid directly by University X to write about that university on Wikipedia, the professor needs to disclose that the contribution is compensated. There is a direct quid pro quo exchange: money for edits...A Wikipedian in Residence who is specifically compensated to edit the article about the archive at which they are employed should make a simple disclosure that he is a paid Wikipedian in Residence with the archive. This would be sufficient disclosure for purposes of requirement.

The basic advice for you is to:

  • REGISTER: Create an account, for you individually – not your organization; e.g. User:Jmaloney or User:JmaloneyNYU, but not User:NYUArchives (see the account naming policy for more information)
  • DISCLOSE: Mention and explain your institutional affiliation on your userpage and explain how you are here to help
  • HIGHLIGHT: Link to your substantial collections that are most relevant to articles.
  • INCLUDE: Add relevant collections from other archives that you know have substantial holdings
  • ENGAGE: Respond thoughtfully to any community concerns raised in discussion
  • COMMUNICATE: Speak in a friendly, clear, and specific manner while you are seeking consensus

This plain and simple conflict of interest guide can walk you through the best practices. Do not fear: as a knowledge gatekeeper of an archives or other holding you have an alignment of interest with the community because you are interested in disseminating that knowledge to the public!

A handy mnemonic: Wikipedia content should be enRICHED by you. enRICHED: Register, Include, Communicate, Highlight, Engage, Disclose!

Making claims about your own institution or holdingsEdit

That said, Wikipedia does get a lot of genuine spam, and archivists sometimes get caught in the anti-spam net, especially when they're making edits to or about their own collections. To be clear, cultural professionals are not prohibited to link to their own collections, but it takes care to get it right and have a positive experience interacting with other editors.

Be particularly careful when making or citing claims about your holdings themselves—such as to the importance of that holding or collection. When doing so, include citations to sources not published by your own organization, such as an outside scholar, talking about the importance of that holding. Rather than making a claim about the importance of your holding yourself, demonstrate how this is a commonly accepted opinion. For example, when discussing the juvenalia of the Bronte's held at the British Museum, the editors of Gondal (fictional country) included references from other works highlighting the importance of that holding.

The template just for archives and archivistsEdit

Below are several examples of scenarios and methods of citing an archive. One you should definitely know about is the citation template we made just for archives.

Template:Cite_archive has many fields directly related to common archival holding specifications.

Potential fieldsEdit

{{cite archive |first= |last= |item = |item-url = |type = |item-id = |date = May 8, 1924|page= |pages= |fonds = |series = |file = |box= |collection = |collection-url = |repository = |institution = |location = |oclc= |accession= |ref=}}


{{cite archive |first= Booth|last= Tarkington|item = Booth Tarkington letter to George Ade |type =Textual record |date = May 8, 1924 |series = Correspondence, ca. 1882-1947|file =Correspondence, Sto-U, ca. 1894-1943 |box= Tarkington, Booth, ca. 1905-1943|collection = George Ade Papers, 1878-2007 |repository =Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center |institution =Purdue University |location =West Lafayette, IN}}

Displays asEdit

Tarkington, Booth. "Booth Tarkington letter to George Ade" (May 8, 1924) [Textual record]. George Ade Papers, 1878-2007, Series: Correspondence, ca. 1882-1947, Box: Tarkington, Booth, ca. 1905-1943, File: Correspondence, Sto-U, ca. 1894-1943. West Lafayette, IN: Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University.

You can use this template any time you want to include these fields, especially those that aren't present in the more commonly used Cite web template.

As "Further reading" or "Other sources"Edit

If your digital holdings include unique or otherwise hard to obtain information about a topic, but cannot be included as a reference because that information is principally in primary sources, adding a "Research collections" and/or "Archival holdings" section to an article's "Further reading" section can highlight where to find that further information. In adding to these sections, make sure to do due diligence as a research facilitator, and include any other relevant archival or digital holdings from both your institution and others. Typically "Further Reading" sections will point to narrow scope resources using a full citation; for example a section of a digital book or a particular article in a magazine only available through your library would be appropriate for Further reading sections. Sometimes, your archival materials or the materials aren't "readings": it might be appropriate to change the "Further reading" section into another title such as "Other sources", as is used at Gordon Parks#Other sources.

Examples of further reading linksEdit

Further reading section on History of London

Displays as:

Further reading

Formatted with:

==Further reading==
*{{cite archive |last=Donnelly |first=Judy |collection=The archive of Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited |date=1992 |institution=[[McMaster University]] Library |location=Hamilton, Ontario |collection-url=}}

As "Bibliographies" or "Works" sectionsEdit

Frequently articles about authors will have Works "sections", and longer articles will have a "Bibliography of" or "List of works about" section, or secondary articles that includes a comprehensive list of resources, works or other materials related to the topic. Like "Further reading" sections, these are very rich places for placing links to your collection: this is where, typically, including a link within the list to distinctive or rare examples of a works in library holdings will be useful. Make sure to annotate the link, so that both readers and other Wikipedians understand how that link or item is important to the research being discussed.

Examples in bibliographiesEdit

Listing of primary source archives on the Cold War bibliography

Displays as:

Document Collections

  • "Cold War Archival Material". United States Army Center of Military History. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  • "Digital Archive". Cold War International History Project. Retrieved April 29, 2013.

Formatted with:

==Document Collections==
*{{cite web |publisher=[[United States Army Center of Military History]] |title=Cold War Archival Material |url= |accessdate=June 10, 2010}}
*{{cite web |publisher=[[Cold War International History Project]] |title=Digital Archive |url= |accessdate=April 29, 2013}}

As ReferencesEdit

References support the verification of the information contained within an article or record. Citations from external sources give readers the opportunity to click through and check where the information came from and if it is a valid source for the claim. On Wikipedia, we generally do not use primary sources to verify claims; instead, we prefer secondary or tertiary sources. That said, if you have a finding aid with rich scholarly supplemental material or metadata about the subject, then that can be considered a secondary source about the item and used to verify content. In general, the community most prefers links to external resources added as references to verify article content.

Adding references

Adding a reference using the "Cite" reference toolbar"

To add a reference do the following steps:

  • Click "Edit" or "Edit source".
  • Summarize the source material that you plan to reference.
  • Place your cursor at the end of the sentence which your reference will verify.
  • Click the "Cite" menu at the top of the editing Window, choose the "Cite web" option and fill out the form with the citation information (metadata) describing your site.
  • Click Save
  • Your citation should appear in the text within <ref>{{Cite web| ...}}</ref>: modifying the reference can be done within the citation template, "cite web" in this case.

For more information about adding references to Wikipedia pages, see Help:Referencing for beginners

Example of references to archivesEdit

References on Artwork by John Steuart Curry

Displays as:

Curry, however, argued that the idea to be expressed was a correct assumption of how life was in rural America.[. 1]


  1. ^ Lewenthal, Reeves. "Object 3: Personal letter" [letter]. John Steuart Curry and Curry family papers, Box: 1, File: 41. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Formatted with:

Curry, however, argued that the idea to be expressed was a correct assumption of how life was in rural America.<ref>{{cite archive |last=Lewenthal |first=Reeves |box=1|file=41item=Object 3: Personal letter |collection=John Steuart Curry and Curry family papers |repository=Archives of American Art |institution=Smithsonian Institution |item-url=|type=letter}}}</ref>


As "External Links"Edit

External links sections at the ends of articles typically should be reserved for only the most useful or definitive digital resources on the web. Adding a link to your collection in the external links section of an article should only happen if you have exhausted the other options. Generally, External links sections get the most scrutiny from editors, because they should only be pointing to the several most relevant external places for finding additional information about a topic.

If you find that multiple archives, digital collections, or similar academic sources are listed, it might be useful to break the external links into subsections at the beginning of a list of like external links, in this case links to archives ( i.e. add "'''Archival collections'''" to the beginning of a list).

Example of external linksEdit

External link on William Blake

Displays as:

External links

Formatted as:

==External links==
*[ The William Blake Archive] – A Comprehensive Academic Archive of Blake's works with scans from multiple collections

Other examples include:



  • Educator training: 1-hour instructional tutorial overview of how to integrate educational models into standard university curriculum
  • The Wikipedia Adventure: 1-hour interactive game about learning to edit


  • OCLC Webinar: "Improving Wikipedia Show and Tell": OCLC Webinar recorded December 2014. Librarians and archivists share their processes for adding links to collections and other content to Wikipedia. Presentations include both lessons learned and successes. Several of the presenters "share desktops" to show how they edit Wikipedia articles to include library and archival resources.

Case studiesEdit

Academic studiesEdit

This list includes case studies that highlight the use of interns or other library staff to improve the relationship between digital library resources and Wikipedia.

  • Belden, D. (2008). "Harnessing social networks to connect with audiences: If you build it, will they come 2.0?". Internet Reference Services Quarterly. 13 (1): 99–111. doi:10.1300/J136v13n01_06.
  • Carleton, Amy; Musselman, Cecelia A.; Rust, Amanda; Kuriger Suiter, Greta; Thorndike-Breeze, Rebecca (2017). "Working Wikipedia: A Year of Meaningful Collaboration". Double Helix. 5. eISSN 2372-7497. open access
  • Combs, M (2011). "Wikipedia as an access point for manuscript collections". In K. Theimer (ed.). A Different kind of web: New connections between archives and our users. Society of American Archivists. pp. 139–147.
  • Elder, Danielle (2012). "Wikipedia Lover, Not a Hater: Harnessing Wikipedia to Increase the Discoverability of Library Resources". Journal of Web Librarianship. 6 (1): 32–44. doi:10.1080/19322909.2012.641808.
  • Galloway, Ed; DellaCorte, Cassandra (2014). "Increasing the Discoverability of Digital Collections Using Wikipedia: The Pitt Experience". Pennsylvania Libraries: Practice and research. 2 (1). doi:10.5195/palrap.2014.60. open access
  • Lally, A. M.; Dunford, C. E. (2007). "Using Wikipedia to extend digital collections". D-Lib Magazine. 13 (5/6). doi:10.1045/may2007-lally. open access
  • Lally, A. (May 18, 2009). Using Wikipedia to highlight digital collections at the University of Washington. The Interactive archivist: Case studies in utilizing web 2.0 to improve the archival experience. open access
  • Pressley, L; McCallum, C. J. (2008). "Putting the library in Wikipedia". Info Today. 32 (5). open access
  • Szajewski, M. (2013). "Using Wikipedia to enhance the visibility of digitized archival assets". D-Lib Magazine. 19 (3/4). doi:10.1045/march2013-szajewski. open access
  • Zentall, Lena; Cloutier, Camille (2008). "The Calisphere Wikipedia Project: Lessons Learned". CSLA Journal. 32 (1): 27–29.

People to contactEdit

  • Jake Orlowitz,, Head of The Wikipedia Library
  • Merrilee Proffit,, Senior Program Officer at OCLC Research


  1. ^ Dempsey, Lorcan. "Discovery happens elsewhere". Lorcan Dempsey's Weblog. Retrieved 21 January 2015.