Wikidata’s lexemes sparked this librarian’s interest

Brandon Katzir
Brandon Katzir

Digital Services Librarian Brandon Katzir wanted to learn how to edit Wikidata and build queries using SPARQL — so he signed up for Wiki Education’s Wikidata Institute class.

“The class gave me a foundation in things like Wikidata data structures, and it also taught me how to query and use different kinds of tools in Wikidata,” he says. “Most importantly, the class points you to a lot of great resources and projects to get involved with or learn from even after the class is over.”

Brandon, who works at Oklahoma State University, added some information on Oklahoma government to Wikidata. His research interests including Jewish studies in literary studies, so he also edited some items related to Yiddish authors and their books. Even though the course has wrapped up, Brandon has continued to edit more in these topic areas.

“Editing Wikidata is really a pretty enjoyable process, and there’s a great community of editors on the site if you get stuck,” he says.

His favorite part of Wikidata is (unsurprisingly for a librarian) adding solid references to things he cares about. He also enjoys using Recoin, which was introduced in the Wikidata Institute curriculum, to fill in missing information. Recently, he’s been doing more SPARQL queries to find answers to interesting questions.

Brandon encourages other library professionals to learn more about Wikidata, and says the Wikidata Institute was a great first step for him.

“Wikidata challenges me to think about connecting library collections to Wikidata and the (ideally) reciprocal relationships between libraries and Wikidata,” he says. “Other professionals should engage because Wikidata is a massive dataset, but it’s still only as good as the contributions made. The more contributions, the better, more representative, and more precise Wikidata can be.”

The class taught him what he wanted to know — and also sparked an interest in Wikidata’s lexemes. While much of Wikidata is focused on documenting concepts, Wikidata also contains a structured database of words, their parts, and phrases — lexicographical data. (Want to see one in action? Click on the Random Lexeme link in the left column of Wikidata.)

“I have a longstanding interest in dictionaries and lexicography,” Brandon says. “I think there’s a very human impulse to try and catalog and describe the entirety of a language. A century ago, people were doing this with massive, multi-volume books. It makes sense that today we’d try and do this with datasets that can, ideally, aid with translation, AI, natural language processing, etc. It’s a huge task, obviously, but I’m very interested in seeing how it develops and the applications that arise from lexemes.”

Overall, the course exceeded Brandon’s expectations, and left him encouraging more people to take it.

“The class was great, I highly recommend it, you’ll learn a lot about Wikidata and get valuable resources to continue your knowledge after the class,” he says.

To sign up for the Wikidata institute, visit

Image credit: Brandon Katzir, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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