ARL convened the task force and wrote this white paper to inform its membership about GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) activity in Wikidata and highlight opportunities for research library involvement, particularly in community-based collections, communityowned infrastructure, and collective collections. The task force included colleagues who do not work in ARL member institutions, and the white paper covers activity well outside ARL libraries, including smaller libraries, museums, and scholarly communities. Many in the international research community, including in libraries, are focused on community-owned infrastructure and robust metadata to facilitate open scholarship practices, and this paper takes a close look at Wikidata and Wikibase through that lens—as a public good worthy of examination and support. The task force, the public comments, and the structures upon which the white paper is built are all volunteerbased. ARL is grateful to the volunteer effort that is the Wikimedia community.
ARL and the Wikimedia Foundation have been in conversation about collaboration and mission alignment since 2015. Representatives from the two organizations held a summit at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) conference in 2016 in Columbus, Ohio, and subsequently contributed to several white papers exploring additional opportunities to work together. The IFLA summit surfaced the following principal areas of interest:
- Using linked open data (LOD) to describe and connect resources, to mutually enrich Wikimedia and library discovery sources
- Establishing learning communities for Wikimedians in libraries, cultural heritage, and research institutions
- Librarians addressing the gaps in content and the cultural barriers inherent in Wikipedia, and conversely, using Wikimedia projects to help address cultural barriers in traditional library and archival practice
ARL charged a Task Force on Wikimedia and Linked Open Data in mid-2018 to focus on areas 1 and 3: linked open data and diversity & inclusion. In practice, this meant (1) focusing on Wikidata as a potential repository for libraries’ linked open data, and (2) that a significant use case driving the formation of the task force was a mutual interest between libraries and the Wikimedia community in creating culturally competent descriptive metadata in collaboration with communities whose lives, collections, and relationships are being described. When the task force was convened, it became clear that Wikibase (the infrastructure) and Wikidata (the community and the knowledge base) should also be explored explicitly in the context of ARL’s stated commitment to equitable and barrier-free scholarly communication.
Contributors to this paper during the public comment period raised serious concerns about library participation (both individual and organizational) in a community with no formal governance or leadership, where systemic social power dynamics can reign and where sustainability and persistence are at risk. These concerns, acknowledged and addressed to the extent practicable, might provide a fruitful research agenda for further conversation. Tangibly, one reviewer asked whether we can advise on the best way to proceed with Wikidata involvement, which we look forward to exploring with more data.
In the meantime, this paper’s recommendations are based upon use cases in cultural heritage documentation, open scholarly communication, archival and bibliographic discovery—in particular through collaborative description with communities represented in our collections.