All entries for Monday 01 October 2007

October 01, 2007

Wiki reading lists

Writing about web page https://my.pbwiki.com/

We have been considering the use of wiki functionality for building reading lists between academics and librarians.

Something like PBwiki would do the job. I wonder which other wiki applications, ideally hosted and free, might be out there which could do the job as well.

Both the academic and the librarian should receive and instant email alert of any edits made by either of them, and the email alert should quote the text that has been added or deleted. The wiki should also allow switching of access permissions between public-view and editors-only.

A wiki page for each module can be used to which both the academic and the library have access permissions. The academic can paste references on this page as and when he or she identifies them, potentially throughout the year but perhaps most likely in the summer. Every such change generates an email alert containing the addition to the wiki page. The library can check these as and when posted. Once checked the library edits the wiki page to add either a link to an existent subscription or library holdings catalogue record, or to a digital scan, or to a free web version, or to a catalogue record for the order, or a note to advise it is out of print, or any other relevant comment. Updates on student numbers for the module could also be posted on the wiki page.

A reading list is primarily a printable document intended for students. There is no need to use it as an order form for library resources. The bottle-neck workflow by which academics finish their reading list documents by a date and forward them to the library for checking and ordering is a document centric approach presenting known problems.

It would be much preferable if reading lists could be built up in a tentative way as an iterative, incremental dialogue between each academic and the library. The communication process between academics and the library could be improved by using wiki functionality:
- Treating references singly as opposed to bundled in lists.
- Dealing with them as and when identified by academics without having to wait for a definitive list.
- Feeding back to the academic timely information about availability and alternatives.
- Giving academics the lead time to make a choice informed with the librarians’ knowledge of information resourcing.

Although wiki functionality seems most efficient, alternative technologies could also serve the same purpose, e.g. a common closed web page with notification. Unfortunately Google Docs does not appear to notify of edits, otherwise it would have been enough.

Nevertheless, there are various practical considerations to take into account for a scaleable implementation beyond a small pilot. Ideally the technology should make things easier for both the academics and the library, but in practice making it too easy to submit references may overwhelm the library with submissions.

We would probably have to try on a small scale and fine-tune the process first. It would be nice to hear about any reading list wikis elsewhere.


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