Grants:IEG/The Wikipedia Library

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The Wikipedia Library

idea creator:


project contact:





Expansion and improved management of research database donations allowing active Wikipedia editors to seamlessly utilize high quality sources for free.

engagement target:


strategic priority:

Improving Quality

total amount requested:

7,500 USD

2013 round 1

Project idea


The Wikipedia Library is an ongoing project designed to give active, experienced Wikipedia editors free access to the vital reliable sources that they need to do their work. The motivation for the project is simple: Wikipedia editors largely donate their time to create a resource that benefits the entire world. As such, they should not have to beg, borrow, travel, trade, steal or go to large personal expense to find reliable sources. Many reliable sources are hidden behind expensive paywalls, only accessible through select schools, universities, or employers. The Wikipedia Library would be an organized program to change that.

There are isolated precedents for this type of community–corporation relationship. Programs have already been started with Credo Reference, HighBeam, and JSTOR to give approved editors access to proprietary content. So far nearly 2000 accounts have been donated, services which if purchased individually would cost many tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. These programs are a great start, but they are handicapped by the fact that they are separate and limited. Editors have to apply and sign in to each one individually, and the account approval and management needs to be overseen for every program in a time-consuming process of organization, dissemination, and maintenance.

These programs are like having 10 different keys to 10 different buildings with 10 different property managers. The idea of The Wikipedia Library is to create a central access point, with a single gate, behind which editors would be free to roam in and out of multiple paywalled sites. Before that is achievable, this phase would focus be attracting the top research publications/databases in the world to participate. Also, a goal of this phase is to specify the technical implementation of The Wikipedia Library, to prepare for its construction in Phase 2.

For ongoing project management, please see EN:WP:TWL.

Note, this project was proposed for a Fellowship in 2012 and received significant community support (~30 endorsements): archived here

Project goals


Progress on the project will center around three key areas. One, contacting reference sites and building relationships with those providers to ask and persuade them to donate resources now, and also separately to express intent to join The Wikipedia Library in its future form. Two, improving the management of existing and future donations so that it can scale better. Three, researching the technical infrastructure of the project and relevant technologies and partners for understanding potential development.

This grant would facilitate outreach to upwards of 100 more potential library partners, expanding and streamlining outreach efforts to bring them on board as donors and TWL members-to-be.

Open questions

  • How to decide which criteria or count (1000-5000 editors) can have access and update that list to keep it relevant for only active users?
  • Should source access ever be paid for by the WMF or through a grant, or should it remain a donation-only model?
  • Could some editors be given access to only subsets of the donations relevant to their expertise, or is it one-to-all?

Project plan




Scope and activities


Developing the Wikipedia Library could interface with the WMF's work updating the oAuth code infrastructure, a project which the tech department is beginning this March. However, this grant will not be for the technical integration of TWL; rather, phase 1 of The Wikipedia Library is independently for expanding on prior work and laying the groundwork for continued expansion of the project by building relationships. Preparing for technical challenges of phase 2 are secondary but would involve the components of actually building the SSL architecture. Moreover, this project is platform agnostic: We'll seek to move forward with the WMF or alongside them but separately; it's important that the Wikipedia Library not be dependent on a single technical resource, even the WMF.

  • Review the current partnerships with the 4 existing TWL members - scope, effectiveness, satisfaction
  • Develop a priority list of new targets
  • Craft polished email/wikipages/documents that can be scaled to approach new targets
  • Approach 50-100 high quality research providers and potential TWL partners
  • Arrange 5-10 new account donations
  • Obtain letters of interest for future phases of the Library process
  • Refine account access criteria, community organizing, and account management process
  • Identify an experienced mediawiki/oAuth/SAML/SSO expert to write a spec plan for the buildout of phase 2

Tools, technologies, and techniques

  • Database queries for references counts. Previously provided by volunteers, which could likely continue without cost or tech support
  • Outreach to research databases and publishers
  • Outreach to the Libraries.Wikimedia email list
  • Surveys of existing TWL members to gauge usage and satisfaction, desires for expansion



Total amount requested


The total amount requested is $7,500.

Budget breakdown

  • Developing promotional materials (pamphlets, promotional literature, mailing costs, on wiki landing page) for The Wikipedia Library $1000
  • Hire an technical expert to complete a specification report on the the single sign-on architecture $500
  • Project management, primarily for acquisition of new donors $5000
  • Travel to meet with research databases/publishers (primarily in the northeast/midatlantic U.S.) $1000

Intended impact:


Target audience


The target audience of The Wikipedia Library is experienced, active, established content writers and content editors. These are the longstanding members of our community whom we want to keep flush with the tools necessary to be effective contributors.

Fit with strategy


TWL targets quality and editor retention. Access to the best available academic, scholarly, and subject-resources improves not only the detail and scope of coverage in articles but also the reliability and verifiability of that content by providing proper references.

By giving active, experienced editors free and full access to these sources, we improve their efficiency and productiveness but also their satisfaction and sense of being valued and appreciated. This should help retain some of our most important and longstanding members of the community.

The impact of The Wikipedia Library initially serves only the 1000 or so editors who would have free access to the library. However, 1000 dedicated Wikipedians might make hundreds of thousands of edits. Improving articles with high quality sources is a foundational exercise and could vastly improve articles that are read by millions of people a year. There is also the opportunity to bridge a gap between Wikipedia and the for-profit research community. Simply, those organizations can be a tremendous ally in fulfilling our core mission. They are good people to know and even better people to have as friends and partners.



In Phase 0, which has already happened, the community built four partnerships with research donors. In phase 1, which this grant would scope, we would seek to triple that number and create a platform for technically integrating the donations. In phase 2, which would come after this grant, we would build the infrastructure of the online single sign-on portal. Continued community management of the library would be required, likely by semi-formally appointing community 'librarians' to oversee account sign-ups, outreach to new members, and rotation of accounts. Over time, if successful, the number of partnerships would continue to grow and the Wikipedia Library could continue to expand into more areas. It might eventually need to be spun-off as a Thematic Organization, but that is considerably down the road, more like in phase 4 or 5.

Provided the technical implementation of single sign-on is successful, The Wikipedia Library can and should grow over time. There is no limit to the number of organizations or institutions who could participate. Indeed, we might one day face the problem of how to curate the available resources so that editors can find the best resource they need out of the multitude of available sources. In other words, The Wikipedia Library may one day need an actual librarian!

Measures of success

  • Partners contacted (50-100)
  • Number of partnerships formed (5-10)
  • Dollar value of donations, (individual replacement costs): aiming for $100,000)
  • Number of editors given access: aiming for 1,000
  • Increases in number of references links to donated source sites
  • Qualitative survey research of TWL participants to determine impact on activity and satisfaction


  • Ocaasi - I'm an English Wikipedia administrator with 25,000 edits to the project. In 2011 I took over management of the Credo References account and then in 2011-2012 arranged two new partnerships through HighBeam Research and Questia Online Library. Individual replacement value of those two donations would have been approximately $300,000. I have also initiated a partnership with Cochrane Collaborations (a medical review journal).



Community Notification:


Please paste a link to where the relevant communities have been notified of this proposal, and to any other relevant community discussions, here.



Do you think this project should be selected for an Individual Engagement Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project in the list below. Other feedback, questions or concerns from community members are also highly valued, but please post them on the talk page of this proposal.

  • Endorse. Some focused attention on getting more reference account donations is definitely a worthwhile project.--Ragesoss (talk) 14:12, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Strongly endorse. The HighBeam, Credo and JSTOR projects show that early forms of this model already work; this is the next logical step. Increasing access to academic sources raises Wikipedia's credibility, improves its content, and motivates its contributors. There are few if any proposals more deserving of a grant. 13:52, 19 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Endorse. The Wikpedia Library is a brilliant idea, and the unified login would make it even more desirable to editors. I agree that the Library needs to reach out to more database providers. This proposal can offer progress on several key issues for the movement, namely editor retention and content quality. The Interior (talk) 05:47, 20 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Endorse. I have been very fortunate to have had reliable access to journals and subscription databases through the university that I currently attend. It is hard to imagine writing content without that access. If TWL can provide university-level access to usable sources for all active editors, I believe that the quality of our articles and the rate at which they are produced will increase dramatically. --Cryptic C62 (talk) 15:15, 21 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Strongly endorse. This proposal would significantly enhance the ability of experienced editors to improve Wikipedia. It would have the added bonus of helping Wikipedia gain respect in the outside world. If there is any way that I can help with this project, let me know on my English Wikipedia talk page. Andrewman327 (talk) 16:05, 21 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Endorse Our return on this will be much greater than the investment.Ryan Vesey (talk) 00:47, 22 February 2013 (UTC)
  • This is key We need to support our long term contributors with what they need, high quality literature. This project dose so and is headed by a contributor with a long track record of success. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 01:37, 23 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Endorse but some of these resources are available to anyone working at home or anywhere in the area served by a major public library who will go to the trouble of getting a library card. This includes particularly Credo, and may include increasingly JStor. A number of relevant Gale Databases are also very widely available, including Literature Resource Center, which includes critical and biographic information on essentially any recent English language author. This project needs to complement the Online Books project [1] as discussed at the WP"Libraries mailing list. DGG (talk) 01:31, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
  • Endorse. For me, the point is that a new broad resource integrated into my normal research "cycle" opens up new vistas for what I might write to a satisfying quality. It also may prompt me to follow up simple namechecks. I'm at this stage now with JSTOR. And this is how things should be, in the best of all possible Wikipedian worlds. Charles Matthews (talk) 15:17, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
  • Endorse I've been fortunate to receive through Wikipedia access to Highbeam and JStor. Both have helped me a lot in researching scientific journals to add content to the articles I write. If only these free subscriptions could become permanent... JoJan (talk) 07:58, 18 April 2013 (UTC)
  • Endorse I access Jstor for my work on wikipedia - Rees's Cyclopaedia and other topics. As a UK resident I can use my public library card top access online resources such as Times Newspaper and the ODNB. It would be good to also get historical scientific resources such as the Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers as well as Poole's Index which I understand are in the Gale series Apwoolrich2 (talk) 19:16, 24 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Community member: add your name and rationale here.
  • Endorse. this will take wp in a new era of creditbility--Kalogeropoulos (talk) 15:00, 3 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Endorse Here's an idea: If the paid editing is enabled on some future date, the pay rates can be probably cut in half, if editors are given access to such library. If pay rates really can be cut (editors accept a lower pay if they get the access/editors do not require a higher pay rate because of the access), a considerable investment could be made to make contracts with database owners, and the investment would be paid back following this logic. --Hartz (talk) 14:00, 6 March 2014 (UTC)