Happy National Library Week! The Wikipedia Library is approaching the midpoint of its second grant round. We're making headway in lots of areas and excited about new directions both in and outside of the library. Read on to find out more:
Three Visiting Scholar positions are open - editors can get full and free access to a top university's entire online and physical library resources to improve Wikipedia articles, as affiliated 'visiting scholars' on staff at the institution. Please sign up by May 1st if you are a good match, or spread the word to colleagues who might be good candidates. Applications should include:
A standard résumé or curriculum vitae that also includes:
A link to your Wikipedia profile
At least three links to Wikipedia articles on topics in the specialty area to which you have contributed.
A cover letter with:
A description of your background, including why you contribute to Wikipedia
What level of specialty area expertise and interest you have in which fields, regions, or periods
A summary of what access you currently have (or don’t have) to research materials such as databases and scholarly journals
An explanation of why you want to become a Wikipedia Affiliate at the University.
A brief outline of the specialty topic(s) and/or specific Wikipedia articles you would focus on during your affiliate year.
Four schools are participating the OCLC Full Text tool pilot. Rutgers, Montana State, George Washington University, and University California Riverside will be testing out a tool which links from references to full text sources, and be giving us feedback on its effectiveness.
TWL is opening its first non-English library branch on Arabic Wikipedia. The pilot is accompanied by a new initiative funded by the WMF's grants program. The idea of providing Arabic editors with "microgrants" to purchase book items started with Siko Bouterse, the WMF's Head of Individual Engagement Grants. You can read more about the pilot on the Meta project page. The Arabic Branch of TWL is being coordinated by two ar.wikipedia editors, Mohamed Ouda and Abbad Diraneyya. The pilot begins this month.
To spur the creation of more TWL branches on other Wikipedia projects, TWL has put together a "kit" of resources, templates, and instructions. Any editor wishing to start a branch in their language is free to use the kit to get started. TWL asks that editors contact the coordinators when starting a new branch; some elements, like signups for journal access, need to be centrally organised.
New look - TWL is working on a new logo, which can be seen at the top of this issue. Feel free to leave us your thoughts on the new design.
As part of the IEG program, TWL has completed its midpoint review for the second round of its WMF grant. See the full review for a detailed account of TWL activities over the last three months.
Harvard's Houghton Library is hiring a Wikipedian-in-Residence for the summer of 2014. This paid position is open to applicants with an undergraduate degree and Wikipedia editing experience. The posting closes April 30th. See here for details on how to apply.
Natalie Binder, a wikipedian and librarian in Florida, has covered the intersection of Wikipedia and the library world, among other things, in her blog,N.V. Binder. Last month, she posted a piece outlining the personal and professional benefits that librarians can achieve through editing the online encyclopedia. Her seven reasons are below (contents licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License):
It’s where reference lives on the Internet. Reference isn’t dead! But most people, and especially students, begin (and often finish) their research on Wikipedia. Many teachers are worried about Wikipedia’s lack of credibility. You might have trouble taking Wikipedia seriously yourself. But it’s the Internet’s reference book. Often if searchers can’t find the answer there, they don’t call the library–they simply give up. Instead of despairing about the popularity of Wikipedia, consider this: what if you could build a stronger connection between Wikipedia and libraries’ credible resources? This is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. As a librarian, you can bring a neutral point of view and strong, credible references to an article. This is triply true if you have training as a reference librarian. People are coming to Wikipedia because they want to know something. You have the opportunity to literally put the right reference work in their hands, the moment they look for it. You can help make Wikipedia a good starting place for research.
It needs to be organized. Lack of organization and coherence is a problem for many Wikipedia articles. If you’re a cataloger like me, it can drive you up the wall. If you have good information organization or information architecture skills, you can help restructure articles so that they’re more readable. As a librarian, you can probably see when information needs to be pulled together or split up. It’s really quick and easy to change article headings and hierarchies (and for me, kind of fun). Even if you only have a minute or two, you can put the article in an appropriate category so it’s easier to find.
iSchool students need guidance. Creating and editing Wikipedia articles is a common assignment for library and information science grad students. I think that’s great–no joke. But in order for their assignment to be useful–to them and to Wikipedia–they need to collaborate with experienced librarians and academics. A lot of them are still learning about the subjects they’re writing about. Even if you’ve never taught an MLIS class, you can mentor the next generation of librarians in a way that boosts everyone’s skills. And that’s really important because…
You can use Wikipedia help improve global information literacy. A lot of articles on libraries, information science, the media and scholarly communication have been neglected or used primarily as iSchool projects. They’re not very helpful to ordinary people who are trying to find out about these topics. This is a huge issue, and it’s why I decided to get more involved with Wikipedia. The lack of quality articles on these topics makes the profession look disorganized and out of touch. A lot of people’s first (only?) encounter with a topic like metadata or discoverability is a Wikipedia article. So the next time you find an article about libraries or info sci that doesn’t meet your standards, don’t just roll your eyes. Roll up your sleeves. Show people how helpful and useful librarians can be. Please. I’m lonely.
It boosts your writing skills. If you’re not a publishing academic, you may not be called upon to do much long-form writing in relation to your job. Writing Wikipedia articles is a great way to build and maintain your professional writing and composition skills. Wikipedia’s style teaches you to summarize, back everything up with credible references, and write with general audiences in mind. Your writing also instantly becomes useful. Every month, thousands of people read articles that I have contributed to–at least as a collaborator, and sometimes as a primary author. That’s more readers than a lot of published authors get. You may be worried that someone will delete or change your hard work. That sometimes happens. But if you make a substantive contribution, it will probably be accessible for a long, long time. And it will always be part of an article’s edit history.
It can teach you coding basics. Coding is a big deal for librarians. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and I definitely empathize with people who find Wikicode, Wikipedia’s formatting language, a bit difficult. Wikipedia is trying to deal with this problem by simplifying the editing process. But I think learning Wikicode is a great entry into coding for librarians. I like it because it’s a simple code that helps organize and deliver information. It’s very logical and gets instant results. For me, Wikicode was easier to learn than HTML and CSS, and since you can also use a little HTML in articles, it leads naturally to more challenging coding and web design tasks.
There’s a job for everyone. Wikipedia is like a huge city with all kinds of jobs that that are big and small. For example, there are thousands of Wikipedia articles that need copy editing. Fixing an error just takes a second, and it’s very unlikely to be controversial. It’s a great job for grammar geeks. If your gift is in training and HR, then you’ll be a great guru for new editors. Are you a legal eagle or good negotiator? Wikipedia’s way of building consensus and resolving disputes is absolutely fascinating. And one of the best things is, you can be involved as much or as little as you want. You can just contribute a few minutes of copy editing once a month, or you can become deeply engaged with the Wikipedia community. You can work mostly alone if that’s your style, or you can collaborate with others on a large, controversial topic. And you don’t have to confine yourself to library and information science topics. Your librarian skills could boost the quality of any article. If you love astronomy, for example, or Sherlock Holmes, or tea, then there is probably an article you can help improve. And if there isn’t, you can create one!