Creating and editing libraries in Wikidata

Posted on Mon 19 February 2018 in Linked Open Data

Updated 2018-03-04: Added quantifiable properties per Philipp Zumstein

I originally created this guide to support the Wikimedia edit-a-thon at OLA Superconference 2018 that Stacy Allison-Cassin, Monica Fazekas, and I led (see also our Meetup page in Wikipedia). It seemed like teaching librarians how to describe libraries in Wikidata might be a good idea, as the subject would be intimately familiar, and there were only 85 Canadian libraries listed in Wikidata at the time according to this query.

In the course of my explorations, I found that libraries are described in many different ways in Wikidata, and decided to put forward a prescriptive approach that would help newcomers from going down too many ratholes. I'm hoping this will be helpful to the library community in general.

Start at and search for your library by name in the top-right search box.

If you don't find a match in the results, you must create a new Wikidata item to represent the library: see Adding a library to Wikidata.

If you find a match in the results, jump ahead to Editing a library in Wikidata.

Adding a library to Wikidata

If the library does not exist, you need to create a new Wikidata item.

  1. Select Create a new item from the left-hand menu.
  2. Enter the name of the library in the Label field; for example, "J.N. Desmarais Library". There can be multiple items with the same label in Wikidata; descriptions disambiguate the labels.
  3. Enter a brief description of the library in the Description field; for example, "main library for Laurentian University". Descriptions should:
    • Be between two to twelve words
    • Be in lower case (except for proper nouns)
    • Should not begin with an article (a, an, the)
  4. Enter any other labels by which the library might be known in the Aliases field; for example, "Jean Noel Desmarais Library", "Laurentian University Library".
  5. Click CREATE to create the item.

Once you create the item, you can add labels, descriptions, and aliases in other languages by clicking Edit. Click Publish once you have made the necessary changes.

Editing a library in Wikidata

Add statements about the library. Click the + add statement link and a new row will be added to the item, with autocomplete for the property and value.

instance ofpublic library, academic library, college library, research library, library
official websiteURL for the general website for the library--not the catalogue
inceptionDate the library was founded

Adding a reference

When you add a statement, you should provide a reference for the claim. Click + add reference for the statement, and fill in the following properties:

stated inLink to the Wikidata item for the journal, newspaper, or other media source.
titleTitle of the article
reference URLIf the article is online, provide the complete URL
publication dateDate the article was published
retrievedDate that you retrieved the article

Hint: If you plan to use the same reference to support multiple statements, this gets laborious quickly. Enable Preferences ➡ Gadgets ➡ DuplicateReferences so that you can copy an existing reference in an item and insert it into other statements.

More library properties

Now that you know how to add a reference for a statement, you can continue adding properties to enrich the description of the library.

Location properties

coordinate locationYou can enter coordinates in a variety of latitude/longitude forms.

If you do not know the coordinates of the library, try finding it in OpenStreetMap:

  1. Open and search for the name of the library
  2. Select the library from the results
  3. Right-click the library on the map and select Show address. The coordinates will be displayed.
  4. Copy and paste the coordinates into the Wikidata values field.

You can also try finding the coordinates via Google Maps through

located at street addressFull street address, including postal code
located in the administrative territorial entityCity or town
phone numberFormat: +1-416-555-5555

Quantifiable properties

Update 2018-03-04: Thanks to Philipp Zumstein for suggesting these properties!

collection or exhibition size# of items in the collection
visitors per year# of people that come through the gates

Linking properties

catalogLink to the Wikidata item (instance of "online public access catalog") that describes the library catalogue
imageLink to an image in Wikimedia Commons
named afterLink to the Wikidata item for the library's namesake (if applicable)
parent organizationIf this library is one branch of a library network, link it to the Wikidata item for the parent system
member ofLink the library to any organizations of which it is a member

Identifier properties

International Standard Identifier for LibrariesThe ISIL code for Canadian libraries is "CA-" followed by the LAC library symbol; for example, "CA-OSUL" IDNumeric identifier found in the directory; for example, 1144
VIAF IDThe library might be included as a Corporate Name
Twitter usernameIf the library has a Twitter account...
FacebookIf the library has a Facebook account...
PinterestIf the library has a Pinterest account...
Cage Match tag team IDIf your library is really into wrestling… Wait, what?

Adding a catalogue

Some instances of library items in Wikidata use "described at URL" with a qualifier of "instance of: catalog" to link to their catalogues. However, this prevents the catalogue itself from being fully described, and prevents multiple libraries from linking to the same catalogue. Instead, create a new item for the catalogue, and link to it from your library item.

Create a new item with the label, description, and aliases for the library's catalogue.

instance ofonline public access catalog
official websiteURL for the catalogue
software engineIdentifies the software on which the catalogue runs
operatorLink to the Wikidata item for the library