Wikis in the University Library

By Michael Stephens | Chad Boeninger is a Reference & Instruction Librarian at the Alden Library of Ohio University. He works as a bibliographer with faculty in the College of Business and the Department of Economics to develop the library's collections and is also available to help students and faculty members with their research needs in person, via IM, and via a resource he created: The Biz Wiki.

Chad Boeninger created The Biz Wiki.The About Page for the Biz Wiki states:
    The purpose of this Wiki is to experiment with an alternative form delivery of library information. Traditionally, recommended library resources are listed in subject guides or pathfinders. I have three subject guides that cover business information resources: one for General Business, one for International Business, and one for Marketing. While these Research Guides contain good information, they are difficult to update, as they are three separate html pages. In addition, they are not the most interesting things to read, are not searchable, and contain duplicated information. As a result, it can often take some time to find the best resource to use when consulting these traditional research guides for help. This wiki might be a good alternative to the traditional research guide format, and could perhaps compliment the Business Blog quite nicely.
One of the most interesting parts of the project is that Chad allows students to get a login and edit the wiki as well. "That's right, this is a library resource that students, faculty, staff, and other librarians can contribute to," he states on the About page.

As I was writing my forthcoming issue of Library Technology Reports, I spoke with Chad a couple of times. Here's a bit of our conversation.

MS: What has been the best thing about the wikis you've implemented?

CB: The ability to add content to the wiki is incredible. I never imagined that I would be updating and adding content as much as I have been. Whenever I find a new source, or discover how to use an old source in a different way, I can add that information to The Biz Wiki. I've been in the middle of class, IM transactions, and reference interviews, and I've been able to add content that would help the current Biz Wiki user(s) and future users as well.

The search feature of The Biz Wiki and the category organization also enhance findability of resources and information. Rather than having a long page of resources (like most traditional research guides), The Biz Wiki breaks them down into easy-to-find categories. Likewise, the ability to search across all of the resources at once is a very powerful feature.

Finally, the Popular Pages feature is an excellent way to measure what resources are being used. This can help me to add more useful content, and purchase more useful content as well.

MS: What a great way to keep an eye on resource use and plan for more! I was pleased to see you've allowed faculty and students to edit the wiki. How has that played out?

CB: I initially thought faculty and students would be more willing to add content to The Biz Wiki, but this has not been the case. I've come to realize that they just do not have the time, or the interest, to add content. However, should the time come when they want to contribute, the option is available for them to do so.

MS: Finally, Chad, for those folks reading who may want to explore wikis to build their own resources, what have you learned?

CB: I've learned that to be innovative, you have to take risks. I had a great deal of time invested in The Biz Wiki, and if it failed, then I'd be back to the drawing board. However, I took a risk, experimented with something new, and luckily, The Biz Wiki has been a huge success.
Editor's Notes: Check out The Biz Wiki at Michael's issue of LTR, "Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software," will be available mid-July 2006 from ALA TechSource.
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