AALL (American Association of Law Libraries) logo with the text (deep dive) and the Wikidata logo

Wikidata – a New Tool to Enhance Access to Law Library Collections

This was a fascinating program explaining Wikidata to those who weren’t sure why they should use it. Then the speakers discussed projects they were working on or had recently worked on, summarized below.

Although the program title said “Law Library Catalog” collections, they also discussed IR projects.

Speakers included:

  • Joe Cera, Digital Initiatives and Scholarly Communications Librarian from UC Berkeley Law Library
  • Jake Kubrin, Acquisition and Metadata Librarian from Robert Crown Law Library, Stanford Law School
  • Chris Long, Professor and Faculty Director, Resource Description Team from the University of Colorado Boulder University Libraries
  • Karen Selden (M), Temporary Metadata Librarian from the University of Colorado Law Library.

Introducing Wikidata

Chris Long described what Wikidata is and how it related to WorldCat Entity view (which can be edited outside of OCLC) and how entries are structured, defined and tagged for searching. An interesting point is that Wikidata entries need to have references attached to verify the entry. Wikikdata does not validate the reliability of the references though.

Chris used a single query in  Wikidata to identify all the works by faculty authors in their IF and checked their CVs to find new titles to add to Wikidata and identifiers. Records were edited using Quick Statement in batch to add information to various entries. Editing can also be done manually.

Example Project

One project he did was to create the series on Women Poet of the Romantic Period. Digital files on these authors had been part of a NACO project, searching VIAF. This project shifted to be a Wikidata project because not all the poets names were included in VIAF.


  1. Search NACO for records
  2. if located add ISNI and VIAF to the records
  3. Create or edit Wikidata items.
  4. Gender identifiers were added because none of the authors were living and because it was a focused, historical collection.

This project resulted in increased visibility of the contents.

Value for Libraries

Joe Cerra explained how using Wikidata is good for libraries because does not involve coding or special permissions to use and is easy to learn. It allows librarians a chance to “use their metadata powers” to update information. The Library of Congress Authority files scan Wikidata to locate linking numbers for their data, which makes data more dynamic and collaborative.

As an IR manager, Joe wanted a single ID number for each faculty member but had no budget for the project. Wikidata is free so he was able to use it. He used Open Refine to create a spreadsheet of  all names already in the IR, and also identify which ones had ID numbers and which ones didn’t. He used Schema to update the records in batch.

Cataloging Concerns

Jake Kubrin showed how catalog links to Wikidata allows the catalog to link to the entries that include information other sources don’t, such as a picture of an author when their works are displayed to the patron. One concern for metadata librarians is that Wikidata is not stable and can change and the library may be unaware of this. Libraries can set alerts for these changes though.

Project Example: Faculty Profiles

Since there was no funding for this project, he used Wikidata. Using information pulled from WIkidata that was then imported into OpenRefine, he was able to quickly identify faculty members lacking IDs, and also capture all the variations of the faculty members’ names.

Faculty CVs were used to create new Wikidata entries, identifying  publications and then, using forms, exporting them to Wikidata. Since Wikidata forms do not need to be completely filled out when creating a new entry, the process can easily be automated.

Linked Data Example: Alumni Profiles

Jay began working on the LD4P and Wikidata Pilot Project to explore linked open data. Learning from that pilot project he went on to work on an ID project for his own alumni (for the IR?). This project also had no budget. He was able to identify alumni of his university’s law school in Wikidata and used this data to to establish the alums and add more information and references.

A later project that enlarged on this one used SPARQL to identify common external identifies to identify alumni of the law school. Creating a csv files and Open Refine he was able to create a schema toad data to the Wikidata record

This was a rather technical presentation and I dis not do it justice in this short write-up. I recommend watching the video on the AALL website for the complete experience:

I went away from this session thinking about how we could clean up our IR data at our law school and how we could link more works to their authors in Wikidata.