OpenRefine and Wikidata are delicious. So why won’t you try it?

No one remembers the social book marking site And that’s fine.

But I think it’s good not to forget Joshua Porter’s The Lesson:

Personal value precedes network value.

The one major idea behind the Lesson is that personal value precedes network value. What this means is that if we are to build networks of value, then each person on the network needs to find value for themselves before they can contribute value to the network. In the case of, people find value saving their personal bookmarks first and foremost. All other usage is secondary.

I will occasionally forget this in my own advocacy work. For example, last year at the CALL 2023 Conference, I gave a presentation entitled, “What is Wikidata and Why You Should Do Data Entry for the Greater Good“, CALL ACBD 2023, Hamilton, ON, May 31 2023.

The problem is right in the title: for the Greater Good. That’s cringey.

What about good old fashion selfish reasons to use Wikidata?

Here’s an example. What if you wanted a list of titles of Canadian legal review journals, their ISSNs and their official websites, for some larger purpose. You, or a library staff member, could go off searching and collecting this data, bit by bit. It would be boring work and it would take longer than you think.

Or you could use OpenRefine and Wikidata to do this work for you in seconds. Here’s how.

First, copy a list of journals from your source of choice (I’m using this list from CanLII) into a spreadsheet, and then import that spreadsheet into OpenRefine.

Then from Title column, select Reconcile and then Start reconciling

screen capture of OpenRefine screen with rows of journal titles and an open menu item

At this point, my copy of OpenRefine is going check each of the 59 journal titles against Wikidata to there are any matches against items that are considered a law review.

Seconds later, OpenRefine reports that there are 24 matches.

I will select the 24 matches using the facet in the left-hand menu.

I will then go to the Title column again and this time, select Add columns from reconciled values… from Edit column:

Then I select ISSN from the suggested list of properties.

And then I search for official website as another property I’m in interested in.

OK! And a moment later, I have a table of journal titles, ISSNs and the URL of the official websites for most of these journals. I can now export this info.

Yes yes yes, there are gaps in the table above and there are still 35 journals that require manual labour in collecting ISSNs and official websites.

But maybe – just maybe – now as you collect this data, you will create and update the Wikidata entries for these journals for your potential future self.

Or perhaps also for your colleagues? Or for future scholars? Or to provide greater Access to Justice? There are so many good reasons for library staff to work together and share our work using Wikidata and we just… don’t.


There are many items in Wikidata representing scholarly articles. However, these items have been created mostly by volunteer Wikidata editors and not systematically by journal publishers or editors, which can lead to gaps and inconsistencies in the datasets. This article presents findings from a survey investigating practices of library and information studies (LIS) journals in Wikidata item creation. Believing that a significant number of LIS journal editors would be aware of Wikidata and some would be creating Wikidata items for their publications, the authors sent a survey asking 138 English-language LIS journal editors if they created Wikidata items for materials published in their journal and follow-up questions. With a response rate of 41 percent, respondents overwhelmingly indicated that they did not create Wikidata items for materials published in their journal and were completely unaware of or only somewhat familiar with Wikidata. Respondents indicated that more familiarity with Wikidata and its benefits for scholarly journals as well as institutional support for the creation of Wikidata items could lead to greater participation; however, a campaign of education about Wikidata, documentation of benefits, and support for creation would be a necessary first step. The article presents and discusses the results of the survey, but the conclusions that can be drawn are minimal; therefore, the authors also discuss the benefits of creating Wikidata items for LIS journals as a first step in this educational campaign for editors and publishers.

Willey, Eric, and Susan Radovsky. 2024. “LIS Journals’ Lack of Participation in Wikidata Item Creation”. KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies 7 (1):1-12.

Last year, around this time, there were only 6 Wikidata items with CanLII identifiers.

Today, when I run the same query, there are 11668 items returned.

You see, I have a selfish reason to create a public linked open data collection of Supreme Court of Canada cases and so I did the work to bulk import 10K SCC records into Wikidata for my future self… and for everyone else.

I’m now patiently waiting for my proposal for Wikidata to add a Supreme Court Case/Docket property option, so I can add these next to Wikidata next.

If you are interested in working with me to create an official Wikidata Project dedicated to Canadian Law, please let me know. And if you would to get in contact for help if you get stuck if you decide to try OpenRefine and/or Wikidata, you can do that too.

Because this should all be about the person before it is about the network.

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