UH promotes digital library via Wikipedia

If your library has digital archives, you might want to copy the University of Houston’s methods in using Wikipedia to promote them. From Inside Higher Ed:

Reilly and her colleagues explained that libraries can also galvanize use of their collections of important paintings, photographs, and historical documents by uploading digital copies of those artifacts to Wikipedia’s media library. Known as the Wikimedia Commons, the site’s media library is the main source of the images embedded in Wikipedia articles. If libraries put their digital artifacts in the Commons, they are more likely to be used by people writing entries and approved by Wikipedia’s volunteer editors, who try to be vigilant about keeping copyrighted images off the site, said R. Niccole Westbrook, the digital photograph technician for the University of Houston libraries.

And since anyone can edit a Wikipedia page, libraries can themselves add different images to existing articles, exposing them to anybody who lands on those pages. For example, Elder added to Hakeem Olajuwon’s Wikipedia page a photo from its archive taken the day the basketball great signed with the hometown Houston Rockets in 1984. According to site records, that page has been viewed more than 50,000 times in the last 30 days.

Contributions need not be limited to photos of pop culture icons, either. Westbrook showed another image, taken in 1920s or ’30s Texas by the photographer Harry Walker, of a woman holding a baby. Elder had cropped the image to focus on the woman’s headgear, a phenomenon of early 20th-century haberdashery called the cloche hat. She then added the image to an existing page for the cloche hat — which, while less popular than Olajuwon, has been viewed more than 5,000 times in the last 30 days.


Libraries can also leverage Wikipedia’s massive audience by adding links to their online collections to the “external links” section of various pages, Westbrook said. This strategy might not expose library holdings to Wikipedia users upfront, but it can create thru-traffic to the libraries’ websites.


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Sandra Fernandez is a social media and public relations consultant, tech enthusiast, book lover, and blogger. You can find her main blog at and more of her writing at

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