Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Introducing the new Wikipedia Widget option in WISCAT

Guest post written by Ted Koppel, Auto-Graphics, Inc., [vendor of SHAREit system used for WISCAT searching and interlibrary loan]

Wikipedia calls itself “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” As such, it has grown to be a huge, although imperfect, reference source on almost every person, location, issue, historical event, and scientific discovery that has ever occurred. A person can search on Wikipedia and find something on almost any subject imaginable.

Library users – especially those doing subject searches – often want to know more about the topic or person they’re looking for. In order to enhance the idea of “one stop shopping” – getting as much information as possible from a single information source — Auto-Graphics, Inc. has developed a Wikipedia widget – a tool that takes the search entered by a patron and simultaneously searches Wikipedia to bring back brief results.

In this way, the Wikipedia widget is similar to federated reference database searching that has been available in Auto-Graphics systems for years. Without ever leaving the SHAREit library environment, the system brings back relevant information from sources not controlled by the library.

Wikipedia Widget – How it works:

The library can choose to display the Wikipedia Widget in the left column of the search results screen. When a search is made, SHAREit checks in Wikipedia to see if there is a Wikipedia heading that matches. If so, it displays. In the screen shot below, my search was Grover Cleveland. Results from library collections are displayed to the right (as always), and the Wikipedia widget appears in the left panel. A patron can click on the widget title (Grover Cleveland) and view the full Wikipedia page.

Wikipedia widget results display Grover Cleveland photo and info link
Wikipedia widget displays results in left panel in SHAREit 

In the case where the results are ambiguous — (in the screen below, GARFIELD could be either the cartoon cat or the US president), the Wikipedia widget returns the most relevant term it can find, but then offers a link to let the user choose which Garfield he/she was looking for. 

Wikipedia widget result for Garfield comic strip with link to search for different Garfield
Link to other Garfield results in Wikipedia 

When I selected the "Did you mean a different Garfield?" link, the screen displayed the standard Wikipedia disambiguation page (see below). Wikipedia offered me the following 'Garfield' options:
Shows Wikipedia disambiguation page with links to different Garfield info
Disambiguation page of links to all other Wikipedia results for Garfield

Configuring the Wikipedia Widget for the Library

Wikipedia widget is an option and can be turned on and off by the library as desired. We recommend that you try it for a couple of weeks, see if it is popular among your patrons, and then make the decision on whether to keep it on permanently or turn it off.

In Staff Menu — UX Admin –System Settings–Results Options, see the new tab entitled Result Screen Extras. Currently, the only choice is ‘Enable Wikipedia Widget’; we expect to be adding new controls there in the months ahead. 

Shows new tab for Result Screen Extras
Result Screen Extras screen in SHAREit
Click the Checkbox to turn it on, and then SAVE the configuration. Log out of your SHAREit session; the next new session will see these changes take effect.

Things to Consider

As with any reference source or service offered to your patrons, there are several management considerations.
  • Wikipedia is, of course, an external source of information. Some libraries have ‘locked down’ public OPAC terminals so that they cannot go to external sites. If your library has done so, then you will not want to enable the Wikipedia widget.

  • The English language has many words that have more than one meaning. Wikipedia doesn’t know if a search for ‘Chicago’ is looking for the city, the musical group, or the university. Be aware that the Wikipedia results, like SHAREit results, will be better with a more specific search. Note, too, that the information provided in Wikipedia is generally written for an adult audience and the images in Wikipedia articles have not been aimed at a school-age audience. [Of course, in that respect, this is no different than any web search that a patron could do from a library terminal.]
[Questions?  Contact WISCAT staff at or 888-542-5543 ext 1, then press 1] 

Written by:
Ted Koppel, Auto-Graphics, Inc.