We celebrated the passing of our wiki’s first anniversary by making it available to all Halifax Public Library staff. We call the “public” side of our wiki, CataWiki.
This has been a work in progress for over 8 months. It began to take shape in my mind when our department continually received the same questions about the catalogue. So, I began soliciting questions for a FAQ for our catalogue and our department. For example, what constitutes a 3 day v. 7 day loan for feature DVDs? Why is there no item information in the public display of the catalogue but the staff side has the item information? What items get what stickers? What do I do if I accidently delete an item from the catalogue? and so on. Rather than preparing a static document that would become outdated within weeks, I wanted a live document that could continue be used as a resource and always be in a constant state of improvement and growth. And, as Oprah would say, that was my “Ahah” moment. Why not put this FAQ on the wiki, where staff can bookmark it and refer to it. They can even subscribe to an RSS feed on the wiki (this feature is forthcoming).
Of course, my immediate concern was security. I have experience with a wiki on a public domain which was spammed beyond repair. My concerns in that regard were put to rest at the inception of our wiki – which is housed on our local server and only available through the library’s intranet. But what about keeping department information private and inaccessible to branch staff? What about editing privileges?
So began my collaboration with our IT manager. Brainstorming, we came up with the idea of two wikis – linked by providing a URL on each wiki. The wiki with our department information, which includes minutes to meetings, project proposals and in-depth information on cataloguing practices, procedures and decisions was protected by a login page. The login page prevents access to anyone who doesn’t have an approved account. As the system operator of the wiki, I have final approval of the users and am able to block unwanted users or accounts from being created. As a result, no one outside of our department can view or edit our department information.
Once that security was in place and URLS were provided on each wiki for easy navigation between the two (for ease in editing for our department), I began protecting the “public” side of our wiki. Again, while I wanted to make this information accessible to the branch staff, I didn’t want them to have editing privileges. At this point, some of you may groan and say I’ve missed the point of the wiki. Not at all. I understanding the concept of collaborating and user-generated information. But there are specific purposes for everything and in this case, our wiki is, in a way, a marketing tool to help us come out of the backroom. It is a window into the cataloguing department which, I hope, will remove some of the mystique and negative attitudes often directed our way.
Allowing all of the library staff access to our latest fiction genre headings, changes in subject heading usages and FAQ will provide staff with a glimpse into what cataloguers do. It will also assist in providing staff with the knowledge to better use our catalogue, and as a result, better serve our patrons. We’re also including access to lists that may be “hidden” in the catalogue when off season or if they’ve been popular in the past. For instance, Best of lists, holiday lists or topical lists that we just don’t have room to feature on our catalogue will shortly become available for staff to view. This will become an incredible resource for patrons because staff will be aware of lists that are generally forgotten about. Each list will have a link directly into the catalogue so that staff can work directly with patrons to help them find items to borrow.
Given that this launch only occured this past Monday, I’ll have more to report down the road. However, the initial feedback has been incredibly positive. I know there is still a long road (and perhaps a steep hill or two) to travel before this idea really takes off and the wiki is used to its full potential but, we have to start somewhere.