Dear Australian Wikimedians, cultural partners list,
(also cc'ing Ed, in case the Signpost might like to mention this).

*TL;DR - The National Library is actively requesting Wikipedians ask
reference questions and links to the service are now on all Wikiproject
Australia templates on WP article talkpages. Blogpost:
Direct link to the free service:
<> *

Over the last year working here at the National Library of Australia, I've
been trying and find ways to bring the National Library's reference team
closer to the Wikimedia community - for mutual benefit. They provide a free
service to help the public (not necessarily only Australians or people with
[free] library cards) to find and learn how to access reference materials.
It is particularly useful when they can point people to the unique
resources of the NLA collection but that's not a limiting factor!

So, having got the team to talk to Jake Ocassi (from 'the wikipedia
library') a while ago, and the debating how to do this in a
mutually-acceptable way (both WP and NLA have strict privacy policies for
example) we came up with this:

To link directly to the Ask a Librarian service from the Wikiproject
Australia template on talkpages and, when applicable to the article, to the
equivalent service in the relevant State Library. Managing the actual
coding and design was spearheaded by user:99of9.

We investigated having even greater integration (e.g. having the librarians
be able to receive and respond to questions on-wiki or for the 'email this
user' function to be used to create a ticket in the Ask a Librarian system
[called ref-tracker, similar to OTRS]), but this would have required too
great a change to workflows - at least for never-before-tried concept.

So, having sought and received consensus both among the Library staff, as
well as on the Australian Wikipedians Noticeboard, the system was enabled!
See, for example the last line of the wikiproject Australia template for
[[Darwin, Northern Territory]],_Northern_Territory As you can
see this is directed at Wikipedia *editors *not readers. Ultimately we're
just talking about a series of external links, but the significance in my
opinion is that Wikipedia has accepted the usefulness (and philosophical
compatibility) of this service enough to allow thousands of external links
to be auto-created - something that would normally be forbidden. Equally,
it is a great precedent for the library community here (and
internationally?) to see Wikipedians as a potential usergroup of their
services that they *really *want to engage with. After all - answering a
reference enquiry from one person helps that person, but answering a
wikipedian helps thousands!

The service has been in place for a few weeks now and has been used several
times successfully by Wikipedians. We can't say who, or what article they
improved because the Library privacy policy forbids publishing identifiable
information about customers. However, today I pressed publish on the
Library's blogpost on the topic, written by the biggest champion of the
idea within the reference team - Renee Wilson (also cc'd):

It talks about other forms of getting in contact via social media but the
real meat from WP's perspective is near the end:

Wikipedia editors know the importance of using reliable sources to improve
> articles, and that the most authoritative sources aren't always available
> online. Our Ask a Librarian team can help you uncover verifiable
> information, so you can have confidence in the references that underpin
> your article. Trying to track down some particularly elusive source
> material? We can help you add dimension and detail to your article by
> shining a light on Australia's cultural record in our unique collection
> items.
> By making the Ask a Librarian service more accessible to Wikipedia
> editors, we are helping to make authoritative information about Australia
> available to the world. You can read more information about the project on
> the WikiProject Australia/Ask a Librarian documentation 
> page<>.
> We've already received some great questions from Wikipedians - the kind
> that really let us apply our trademark librarian rigor. We look forward to
> receiving many more, and seeing your articles flourish!

So, I'd really appreciate if, the next time you're looking for a reference
or stuck trying to improve an article - go here and submit an enquiry Tell them you're a wikipedian and which
article you're trying to improve. (equally, feel free to tell others e.g.
retweet this )

Peace, love & metadata
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