WikiProject Children's Literature
This week we chatted with WikiProject Children's literature, which includes literature written for children and young adults. The project has 22 FAs, 41 GAs, and maintain a Portal. The project's members are working on reducing the number of unreferenced BLPs. We asked Plad2, Strdst grl, Rock drum, Awadewit and Sillybillypiggy about the inner workings of this project which covers over 11,000 articles.
The Original illustration (1865) by John Tenniel, of the novel by Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Awadewit joined WikiProject Children's literature in 2007, while Plad2 and Strdst grl joined in 2008; Sillybillypiggy and Rock drum joined this year. Rock drum noted that the main challenge that the project has met was a lack of active members. Plad2 mentioned a career in book publishing as the motivation for contributing, and Strdst grl stumbled upon the project while working on Daughter of the Lioness, finding that she "often prefers to make project[-related] edits, like [working at] the Assessment Department." Rock drum added "most of my contributions had been to do with Children's literature-related topics", and even starting a task force. Awadewit, a graduate student writing a dissertation on 18th-century British children's literature, reveals that Children's literature-related topics are the area of her expertise.
The Signpost asked the project about their most pressing needs: Rock drum told us about the large backlog of unassessed articles, and the need for stub-expansion. Plad2 added that a larger group of active editors would be helpful, and reminded potential members to introduce themselves and focus on a topic, whether a category (Awadewit suggests working on articles about book illustrators) or a specific author. We also queried the project on their short and long-term goals, and Strdst grl would like to see a more active membership and the completion of the assessment backlog over the next few months." In addition, Strdst grl pointed out, "A recent proposal for a job centre to formalise and expand the project tasks is still under discussion, and I think it could lead to some interesting developments."
WikiProject Children's literature covers about 12,000 articles. Out of those, the project has 21 FA-class articles, 2 FL-class articles, 1 A-class article, and 42 GA-class articles. Awadewit has written 8 of the FAs, 4 of the GAs, and has helped with many of the others, stating "For me, writing FAs or GAs is almost second-nature, since I am an academic (see this interview about featured article writing); I am lucky that my "real job" overlaps so much with what is required for an FA/GA." Awadewit also commented on how "wonderfully collaborative" children's literature editors on Wikipedia are, adding "I recently created an article on an obscure 18th-century publisher of children's literature, John Marshall. No substantive information was easily available about him on the internet and I wanted to rectify this by creating his Wikipedia entry. So, I created this start-class article. A few days later, the article was already greatly expanded to its present, much-improved state by Das48. Now, there is a fully-referenced, well-written article on this publisher freely available to the world."
The project has about 1,000 unassessed articles, and we wondered whether the project had any plans to clear the backlog. Strdst grl put this in perspective: "the backlog originated from a one-off bot tagging in early March. After the tagging, there were nearly 4000 unassessed articles in the backlog. Three months later, the backlog is less than half that – 1700 as I write this, and decreasing every day. Patience and hard work is all it takes." Plad2 adds that there's "a steady (though small) number added every week by AlexNewArtBot" but "generally the backlog is dropping." Awadewit decided "to play devil's advocate", stating "I do not feel that assessing articles is important. The bulk of Wikipedia users do not understand our assessment system, so it is really for ourselves. If we think of an assessment system that is for ourselves rather than for the public, I think something simpler and automated could be devised, a system that simply differentiated first between stubs and everything else and then between referenced and unreferenced articles and then, finally, between reviewed and unreviewed. These are the most important things we want to know about an article."
Frontispiece from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1st ed., 1876)
The new rules on unreferenced BLPs have sent some projects into "a state of nervous excitement or confusion", so we asked the project about their efforts. Plad2 gave a "similar answer" to Strdst's on the backlog of unassessed articles, pointing out that "[we] just plugged away at the list of UBLPs until they were done. The principles are straightforward and reasonable. We have a regular report which currently lists only 4 UBLPs." Plad2 added, "I dismayed by the mass deletions at the beginning of the year, especially when I spotted a couple of totally non-controversial classic children's author biographies on the lists."
Conclusively, Awadewit think[s] "that articles on children's literature provide a wonderful opportunity for teaching with Wikipedia. Our articles could use a lot of improvement and many students, at all levels, could use lessons in how to write clear prose and do careful research. I never tire of telling English professors how excited Wikipedians of all ages were to read literary criticism about Harry Potter." Strdst grl finished the interview with "children's literature is really a topic which everyone has some basis in, and we are always looking for more people to help out."
Join us next week when we'll "keep the doctor away" with style. Until then, feel free to touch on some of our previous interviews in the archive.