Surfing the biblioblogosphere just now, I came across this post on Panlibus, about Wikicat.

In simple terms the Wikicat project is attempting to assemble a bibliographic database [yes another one] of all the bibliographic works cited in Wikimedia pages.

I can’t decide if I think this is a good idea or a dumb idea. I mean, another bibliographic database, that will in all likelihood replicate content that is available elsewhere? Contributes to information overload: dumb idea. And given current copyright law, Wikicat probably won’t be able to contain the full text of many, if not most items. So in an era of full-text databases, it will be a throwback to the bad old days of citation-only databases: dumb idea.

On the other hand, if Wikicat could (ignore copyright law? and) grab the full text of items, then that would be truly useful. Particularly for, as the Wikicat page says, “works that are obscure, hard to obtain, or in a language different from the user’s native one.” Also the functionality to annotate records in a bibliographic database: good idea. Also, the functionality to automatically compile a database from pre-existing text: seems like a good idea, though I have a hard time thinking of applications for it other than this one. Perhaps that’s a failure of imagination on my part.

Good idea or dumb idea? Time will tell, I suppose. But it seems to me that once again we, that is librarians, have gotten scooped. Compiling a bibliographic database of materials cited in Wikimedia projects should have been an idea conceived by librarians. Perhaps even by members of the WikiProject for Librarians? Yes, I know I’m one of those members… I’m as guilty as the rest. But anyway, once again we’ve gotten scooped on an idea that is squarely in our domain. I’m getting tired of seeing instances of this.