Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Wiki as a Research Guide by Chad Boeninger

You would think that I would have heard enough about wikis already at Internet Librarian 2006. I attended the preconference presented by Meredith Farkas, which was quite good. I was trying some other tracks this morning, and found myself wanting to hear more about wikis instead. So, I snuck in to Wikis for Libraries in time to hear Chad Boeninger give the final presentation.

Chad's title was A Wiki as a Research Guide. He told about how he turned three subject guides that he uses with business students at Ohio University into wikis. He used to update them annually and the students would lose their copies, often before they left the classroom. Now they are wikis, which he can update easily, are readily available anywhere there is a web connection, and link to many of the tools cited.

His wiki does not fit the stereotype. He is basically the only person adding to it, but that is okay with him. It works because his students and his fellow librarians can turn to it, saving him many questions. It is also searchable.

I was struck by the idea of a wiki working where other software has failed. We used to have rolodexes at the reference desk. When we got rid of them in the 1990s, I started a simple database of stray information for ready reference in Microsoft Works. It worked pretty well. When we replaced our computers with Works with computers that had Office, I tried to move the data to the Access database software. It did not work. I started a new Access database, but I found it more trouble than I liked. The ready reference database faded away.

I still find bits of information that I wish I could just put in an easy database. I have stuck some tidbits in blog posts, both on my own blog and on the staff intranet, but I have handed the information inconsistently.

Voila! Chad said the wiki was easily searchable. A wiki might make a nice place to build a new ready reference database. I have to try it!

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