Librarians have a lot of different opportunities to support: here is a handout which shares some of the easiest opportunities for contributing!
5th most visited website
500 million monthly visitors
8000 views per second
Top-6 referrer to scholarly articles online (see the for DOIs for example)
Largest curated bibliography in existence
Wikipedia is a ubiquitous starting point for research. Students, librarians, even doctors check Wikipedia to begin their research, get an overview of a field, find relevant sources, and engage with popular conceptions and summaries of a subject. This usage of Wikipedia reflects its heavy reliance on sourcing, which has led Wikipedia to become the largest curated bibliography in human history.
In the information age, search no longer begins at the library. It begins with a Google search, and typically with the top-linked Wikipedia article. There's a saying in the library world that discovery happens elsewhere (meaning not at the library itself). What is less often mentioned is that "elsewhere" is Wikipedia.
Anyone who deals in information science, public access to information, open knowledge, or specialized disciplines must grasp Wikipedia's role as a powerful cultural resource. Wikipedia's outsized importance has increased with its staggering usage, but essential to cultivated digital literacy is understanding how Wikipedia works, why Wikipedia works, when it doesn't work, and how to evaluate its credibility as a sophisticated consumer of information (for more information about these basic literacies, see WP:Research help).
Universities and university libraries are in a unique position to train their students and faculty in appropriate use of Wikipedia. They are also in the privileged position of being able to improve Wikipedia. There are a variety of mutually beneficially ways to do that, and this page will outline them so you can find and adapt programs that fit your institution best.
The Wikipedia Library, along with many other members of the Wikimedia, Open Educational Resources, and Open GLAM communities, are here to help!
Why Wikipedia belongs in University and Research Libraries
Libraries, especially in a university setting, have a significant investment in improving the state of research and literacy on their campus and in their communities. Engaging with Wikipedia offers opportunities to educate different organizational audiences. Students can be engaged in information literacy through Wikipedia programs; faculty can be engaged in developing best practices for teaching research and information literacy; and the public can be engaged through creating access routes to library resources. Edit-a-thons, lectures, Wikipedia education assignments, and Wikipedia specialists are all resources for libraries to lead public discussions about the state of information, knowledge, and access to knowledge.
We know researchers are starting their searches on the open web, and even on Wikipedia directly. Working directly with the Wikipedia community allows libraries and librarians to engage directly with issues around how to expose their collections in Wikipedia and continue the conversation about how to get researchers from sources on the web, back to the library, where they can access those resources directly and discover even more to help them with their information needs.
One of the greatest weaknesses of the public's use of Wikipedia in its research and information seeking interest, is that they often don't understand how Wikipedia is made, how to use it within a research process, and other key critical thinking and digital research skills. Moreover, much of Wikipedia's content is connected to reference materials that can be hard to find: you could use Wikipedia research skills as a window into other research practices. These skills can be applied to both Wikipedia, and the broad range of other digital research environments: Wikipedia offers both the strengths and weaknesses of Web 2.0 and many of the characteristics of more traditional reference materials. Check out Wikipedia's WP:Research help page or the more extensive guide at File:Evaluating Wikipedia brochure.pdf for some tips about evaluating Wikipedia content.
The Wikimedia community has been developing, over the last half decade, specific roles which affiliate libraries and cultural institutions can use to recruit people than can help facilitate sharing their vast storage of knowledge using Wikipedia and the sister projects supported by the wider Wikimedia community. Here is an outline of the roles available to libraries, ordered from least to greatest resource investment:
Wikipedia Visiting Scholar
The least cost/investment opportunity for libraries to get a Wikipedia specialist is a Wikipedia Visiting Scholar position. Like in traditional affiliate researcher role, Wikipedia Visiting Scholars allows engaged Wikipedia editors to partner with an established university library to gain access to its research resources. Visiting Scholars gain full and free access to a library's online catalogue in order to improve articles on the encyclopedia. The partnerships are unpaid and remote. Editors gain access to the best available sources, while libraries help serve their mission of sharing knowledge while learning how to harness the power of Wikipedia. The aim is to build and strengthen connections between universities, the source of creating new knowledge, and Wikipedia, the broadest platform for disseminating it—to generate goodwill between librarians (research heroes) and Wikipedia editors (public knowledge superstars). Visit here for more information about the program and here to learn more about hosting a Visiting Scholar.
The newest role in the community, the Interns model allows for untrained students or staff to experiment with Wikipedia editing around the specialized holdings at the particular institution. Wikipedia Library Interns are interns hired by partner libraries to contribute new Wikipedia content which improves Wikipedia, improves the profile of library digital resources, and gives the students an educational introduction to Wikipedia and best practice within librarian use of social media. These interns edit specific content of interest to the library, while learning more about contributing to Wikipedia through the model developed by the Wikipedia Education Program (see below). These internships offer a lower risk investment of time and energy than a Wikipedian in Residence but allows a much more focused effort on exposing the organizations holdings. Interns are especially well placed in Special collections with extensive secondary sources available.
Wikipedians in Residence require the most investment of energy and resources from a library, but also can have some of the greatest reward in creating exposure for the library through Wikipedia. Wikipedians in Residence are (usually paid) members of the Wikimedia community who are hired for an extended period of time to facilitate collaboration between the Wikimedia community and the institution. Wikipedians in Residence spend considerable energy ensuring the institution has sufficient knowledge and capacity to collaborate with Wikipedia, running events, coordinating donations, and training staff and affiliated volunteers or scholars in running various other activities (editathons, education program classes, etc.). Though high investment, these roles frequently have very high return: press related to Wikipedians in Residence is often strong and positive; Wikipedians-in-Residence can strategically explore an organizations' resources to identify which collaboration models would work best; and the Wikipedian-in-Residence will have the connections and tools to find and support volunteer contributors in the digital Wikipedia community.
Students come to libraries to create research projects every semester, but more often than not that work gets thrown away at the end of the semester, seen by only a few sets of eyes. The Wikipedia Education Program seeks to redirect this lost research, by empowering students to share it on Wikipedia. The Wikipedia Education Program provides faculty and support staff the tools to design assignments that improve students skills in reading, writing, researching, critical thinking, translation and collaboration; gain information and media literacy; and deepen their understanding of copyright, plagiarism, citation, and digital citizenship.
In most settings, students write Wikipedia articles as substitute for a traditional research paper, taking the pedagogical position of literature reviews. These assignments engage students in writing for a global audience with real-world purpose: giving the public access to new information. Facilitating education program assignments allows libraries to intervene in faculty teaching practices related to research, teach students information literacy, and require students to engage with the wide selection of secondary sources available to them through the research library's holdings.
Wikipedians love to talk about Wikipedia; scholars who contribute to Wikipedia love to talk about their theory and intentions behind their contributions; scholars investigate Wikipedia as a subject of research. Talks or workshops from all of these individuals could create opportunities to encourage greater conversations on your campus about not only Wikipedia, but the larger state of information literacy and knowledge dissemination. The community even holds an annual "Wikipedia:Wikipedia Loves Libraries" event, which highlight the importance of such events (we would like to encourage you to organize one during Open Access week). When thinking about talks related to Wikipedia, most come in one of the following variants:
With less of an intention of actively engaging volunteers in Wikipedia, lectures might focus on a dynamic topic of interest to the scholars and students on your campus. Usually Wikipedia related lectures engage a broader topic of interest on campus, through the lens of Wikipedia. In the last several years, growing interest in certain topics has grown the number of Wikipedia related-speakers available on topics for example, like: representation of Women and other minorities in the community and topics typically focused on by those groups, such as ethnic studies, women studies or broader topics dominated by these groups in research such as the humanities; Medical knowledge, Wikipedia and its effect on public health; research on information literacy, open access or copyright and the web; and cultural institutions, Wikipedia and open models of collaboration. Lectures are usually intended to incite conversation.
Frequently faculty, staff or other professional communities on campus might be interested in Wikipedia. Informative events allow the opportunity to disseminate information about Wikipedia on campus: whether by communicating the Wikipedia Education Program, providing guidance on how to interpret Wikipedia articles for research purposes, or explaining how Wikipedia provides examples of other information literacy concerns. For example, West Virginia University Libraries hosted a panel on Women and Wikipedia with both scholars, Wikipedia Volunteers, and Wiki Education Foundation staff.
The Wikipedia has the most documentation on how to run training events related to editing Wikipedia. Frequently taking the form of editathons (see below), workshops might include other forms of information dissemination as well: do your librarians want to learn how to add sources to Wikipedia articles? Do faculty want to learn how to teach with Wikipedia?
Have a community of scholars on campus who want to contribute to Wikipedia? Why not try a Wikipedia editathon? Editathons are where a group of new and experienced contributors come together for an extended editing. These have some great benefits: they create devoted time and space for volunteers to contribute to the institutions relationship to Wikipedia; and in research by the Wikimedia community, we have found that new users, especially new contributors that are demographic minorities within the Wikimedia community like women and the senior citizens, feel more comfortable learning how to make their impact on Wikipedia in these personal settings. Frequently, these events are organized around topics of importance to the hosting organization, engages volunteers, and fill gaps on Wikipedia, for example Wikipedia:Meetup/ArtAndFeminism editathons or the Black Lives Matter editathon in 2015. The Systemic bias workshop kit describes the process when thinking about diversity focused editathons.
Though edithons are powerful tools for contributing content to Wikipedia in the short term, these events may not always create sustainable positive impacts: university editathons don't usually draw very many participants, unless a research group or class requires attendance; non-Wikipedian volunteers that do show up for events are unlikely to continue contributing on their own accord after the event (though they often have much greater information literacy and understanding about Wikipedia); and organizing events can require a number of volunteer and staff hours ahead of time. When planning for editathons, plan for followup opportunities, such as subsequent editathons, volunteer drives, check in opportunities, and/or educational support opportunities. Editathons are also a good way to culminate a series of events (following a talk, for example).
In many contexts, both librarians and their patrons are trying to engage with each other via social media. Engaging with libraries, publishers or research support communities (like Open Access advocates, for example) strengthens the overall impact of Wikipedia outreach in your local context.
Annually, the Wikipedia Library hosts the #1Lib1Ref campaign in January to encourage libraries to engage with Wikipedia, and become more comfortable with Wikipedia as part of the research ecosystem. For full information about what we learned from the campaign, see our 2016 report. Other social campaigns are regularly hosted by the Wikimedia community, such as Wiki Loves Monuments, Wiki Loves Earth, and ArtAndFeminism. Librarians are great social networkers, and libraries are also excellent hosts for in-person components related to these kinds of distributed, global, viral, micro-contribution campaigns.
Library holdings, special collections and archives
Special collections holdings include both primary sources (in the case of archival materials) and also valuable secondary source materials (in the case of rare books, historic serial collections, and deep collections that may contain less widely held published materials). As the preference in Wikipedia is to cite secondary sources, it's best to not focus on primary source materials. For materials that would be considered primary sources, the Wikipedia community has developed a number of strategies for Gallery, Libraries, Archives and Museums to support integration of primary materials into the Wikimedia community. The most successful projects, include transcription projects on WikiSource and donations of freely licensed media on Wikimedia Commons. For more information about different models for archival and special collections, see our GLAM case studies and best practices.
Are your holdings unique? Do you have control of the copyright for those holdings? Are they out of copyright? If so, the Wikipedia community is a great way to make your digital images, video and sound files available for public access and dissemination.
Linking to archival collections and finding aids
While primary source materials are not appropriate sources for Wikipedia, including references to archival collections in an article can be an excellent way to lead interested researchers to rich collections as further resources. However, care should be used when linking to archival collection descriptions or finding aids—if the editor is affiliated with the holding institution they should only include links to collections which would provide the best information about a topic. The editor should take care to include links to other important collections located at other institutions. Links to archival collections can be included in the "External links" section of an article, and if there are enough links to archival collections, it might be appropriate to call attention to this group of links by adding a subsection titled "Links to archival collections".
Many Wikipedia articles concern topics that are represented in many library collections. For those topics, one can add special templates that link to searches in the online catalog or discovery service of a reader's preferred library. (The reader will be asked for their preferred library the first time they follow the links; after that, searches will normally be directed there automatically until they clear their cookies.) Placing these templates in the External Links or Further Reading section of an article allows many libraries to be linked to without requiring a separate link for each library. Examples of such templates can be found in articles on Louisa May Alcott and Bipolar disorder.
For information on how to add and use these templates, and on getting template links working to your library if they're not already available, see Wikipedia:Forward to Libraries.
On one hand, institutions are storehouses of knowledge about their own history and programs and that history should be recorded in places like Wikipedia. On the other hand, Wikipedia takes care to be a neutral encyclopedia and avoid promotion which can slip in through authors with a conflict of interest. University employees are not prohibited to write about their own institutions, but it takes an abundance of care to get it right and have a successful experience. The basic advice for you is to a) gather independent research; b) create an account (for you, not your organization) and disclose your institutional affiliation on your userpage; c) write a neutral draft; d) have other editors review it; e) engage thoughtfully with any community concerns raised in discussion.
Moreover, working to bring the expertise of the library and information professionals into Wikipedia offers a number of opportunities. For example, The Wikipedia community is using the Dissemin project to automatically updates links to paywalled articles with urls for Open Access Repositories using a bot (see OABOT) and the Wikipedia community developed a default citation template for Archival metadata which could be more thoroughly integrated into conversations about Archival Metadata, like SNAC.
Wikipedia is increasingly default discovery point for researchers: what if libraries took advantage of this, and integrated Wikipedia more into the libraries ecosystem?
If you have an idea for a tech project, reach out to the Wikipedia Library team at wikipedialibrarywikimedia.org
Linked and Structured data: beyond Wikipedia
One of the most vibrant opportunities for the libraries community, is the growing importance of structured and linked data in the Wikimedia community, through the sister project Wikidata. Wikidata provides a platform for language-independent, structured and linked data, that is being used to extract the data that has been collected by Wikipedia's volunteers.
One of the clear applications for this data, has been the synchronization of Authority control records across different databases and repositories. For years, Wikipedia has been collecting the authority controls providing by libraries, standardization communities, and the other database providers (see WP:Authority Control). With Wikidata, the global volunteer community of Wikimedia and the professional communities which curate these authority controls, can work together to create a single repository that connects a number of different materials. These authority controls can be integrated into Wikidata by hand (see this page for a guide), through robots, or through semi-automated tools, that help volunteers match the data (for example, see Mix'n'match).
Once topics are integrated into Wikidata, that data can be reused for a variety of purposes relevant to research libraries. For instance, the Yle, the national public broadcaster of Finland, has started using this wide network of Wikidata concepts to tag their broadcasts in their digital archive. By connecting, their productions with Wikidata they not only tag their works, making them easier for search, but they connect them to the vast, multilingual body of knowledge created in Wikipedia and Wikidata. By integrating Wikidata tags, more and more authority controls can be called on to connect the digital archive.
Creating a Wikipedia Strategy for your Library or Consortium
The long list of activities above are often pursued by individuals or small teams of people within organizations. Having one or two advocates pursuing these works well, but often doesn't scale or allow enough institutional capacity for all of the activities. Sometimes these activities are best gathered under a single strategy, to ensure that organizational resources are effectively used.
One strategy for encouraging engagement in your GLAM is to provide guidelines for staff contributions. For example, the National Archive of the United States provides its staff guidelines on how to engage with Wikimedia projects (see the guidelines here). The State Library of New South Wales has taken the guidelines further, both enacting a similar set of guidelines, but also creating an internal mandate, that when work responsibilities permit, staff should surface any organizational research or resources of public interest on Wikimedia projects. This has lead to a number of successful strategies for improving discovery at the State Library of New South Wales, including their work on the List of Australian_diarists of World War I, which has been documented in this blog post.
Sometimes, establishing organizational strategies is sometimes best pursued in peer organizations as an alliance or consortium of like-minded organizations: coalitions of organizations can explore a wider range of experiments, to figure out what activities best support the goals of the libraries community. The best documented example of a network adapting GLAM-Wiki strategies like those described above for library or library networks is the outreach by Amical Wikimedia with the Catalonia Network of Public Libraries. Using the support and infrastructure of this network, they were able to support over 100 libraries after 3 years of activities, doing a wide variety of outreach activities. Similarly, METRO used a Wikipedian in residence to expand the New York City area network and community of practice: Wikipedia:GLAM/METRO.
"The Future of Libraries and Wikipedia" Wikimania 2014 talk in London recorded in July. An updated overview of the program and its work bridging publishers, libraries, reference experts, digital information specialists, and open access advocates.
"Wikipedia and Libraries: Increasing Your Library's Visibility": OCLC Webinar recorded December 2014. Updates on the Wikipedia Library project, overview of the project from the university library perspective. Includes commentary and work in progress from two University institutions who were early participants: Rutgers University and Montana State University.
OCLC Webinar on "The Wikipedia Library Project—what is it, and how can you be involved?": OCLC Webinar recorded February 2014. Overview of the project at that time from the view of university library participation. Learn about hosting a Wikipedia editor in order to enhance the article citation process on Wikipedia. Find out about making e-collections available online via the WorldCat knowledge base, so that students and others on campus can see links in Wikipedia to full-text articles that the library makes available.
OCLC Webinar: "Improving Wikipedia Show and Tell": OCLC Webinar recorded December 2014. Librarians and archivists share their processes for adding links to collections and other content to Wikipedia. Presentations include both lessons learned and successes. Several of the presenters “share desktops” to show how they edit Wikipedia articles to include library and archival resources.
OCLC Webinar "Wikipedia and Libraries: What's the Connection?": OCLC webinar recorded July 2012. OCLC Research Wikipedian in Residence Max Klein discussed what's happened between Wikipedia and libraries in the past and what it means for the future. Discussed the variety of Wikipedia in Residence positions and the opportunities for libraries working with Wikipedia, as well as described how OCLC Research is working to integrate Authority Control into Wikipedia. He also presented "Behind the Secret Door: Tips and Tricks for Librarians using Wikipedia."
"Wikipedia is increasingly becoming the go-to reference resource for the newest generation of students...Librarians and faculty should help remove the stigma associated with Wikipedia by embracing this Website and its imperfections as a way to make information literacy instruction valuable for the twenty-first-century student."
"Our conclusion is that whilst Wikipedia is now unofficially integrated into universities, it is not ‘the' information resource as feared by many and that an enlightened minority of academics have attempted to assimilate it into their teaching."
This study supports the knowledge value of Wikipedia, despite students' cautious attitudes toward Wikipedia. The study suggests that educators and librarians need to provide better guidelines for using Wikipedia, rather than prohibiting Wikipedia use altogether."
"Spurred by an OCLC report that only two percent of college and university students began research by consulting library resources, University of Houston Digital Services staff sought to add content from the University of Houston Digital Library to Wikipedia in order to insert primary source digital materials into the research workflow of students and faculty. As a result, referrals from Wikipedia to the University of Houston Digital Library have increased significantly and the pilot project is now the basis for an ongoing University of Houston Digital Services program."
"We find that, controlling for field and impact factor, the odds that an open access journal is referenced on the English Wikipedia are 47% higher compared to closed access journals. Moreover, in most of the world's Wikipedias, a journal's high status (impact factor) and accessibility (open access policy) both greatly increase the probability of referencing. Among the implications of this study is that the chief effect of open access policies may be to significantly amplify the diffusion of science, through an intermediary like Wikipedia, to a broad public audience."
"By taking advantage of a virtual community, educators can literally bring a whole thriving community into their classrooms. The acculturation of the educational group into the culture of a hosting virtual community, through collaborative actions, conflicts and disturbances, results to the formation of a collective zone of proximal development: what the students' group manages to perform today with the aid of the community's members will be performed independently tomorrow. The formation of a virtual learning community through the procedural and structural coupling of two discrete activity systems opens a new space for participatory learning."
"The main finding suggests that students favor Wikipedia because the site provides them with what they need, being fast, flexible, and easy to use. At the same time, students are aware of credibility issues associated with Wikipedia. A discrepancy between students' positive attitudes to including Wikipedia in their school-related literacy practices and their teachers' lack of approval of this knowledge source is discussed."
"When asked to contribute to a wiki—a space that's highly public and where the audience can respond by deleting or changing your words—college students snapped to attention, carefully checking sources and including more of them to back up their work... their audience—the Wikipedia community—was quite gimlet-eyed and critical. They were harder "graders" than [the teacher] herself.... One unexpected benefit was that by teaching them to use Wikipedia, they became much better users of the tool. Instead of blindly consuming the content, they understand where the research comes from and how it gets there. In the past, we've told them not to use Wikipedia. That's insane. Rather than saying, 'It doesn't have a place in the academy,' let's explain to students how it can be used as a tertiary resource. It's not the end-all and be-all of research, but it's incredibly useful."
"Most law school assignments are produced and consumed in a dyadic relationship of student-writer and instructor-reader. But consider a different scenario, one in which the fate of the work is presumptive publication to the world; in which feedback from any interested reader is potentially instantaneous; in which the instructor's role is that of coach or mentor through the writing and publishing process as well as assessor of the work; and in which the student's work, in turn, contributes to providing worldwide access to free legal information."
"College students use Wikipedia frequently, despite educators' highly divided opinions about it, and so it is important to understand how and why they are using it... This study found that first-year students are uncertain about the variety of ways to use information sources like Wikipedia, and that a direct and balanced approach to this area from instructors may lead to better outcomes than strict prohibition or silence."
"Unwarranted stigma is attached to the use of Wikipedia in higher education due to fears that students will not pursue rigorous research practices because of the easy access to information that Wikipedia facilitates. In studies referred to in this paper, undergraduate writing students are taught about the need to interrogate any information they find on Wikipedia just as they would other online source material. They are inducted into fact checking, editing and creating Wikipedia articles as a means to analyse source material critically and to advance their research, writing and digital literacy... These courses experiment with new approaches to formative and summative assessment; promote group research, collaborative and participatory writing, writing across networks and negotiating discourse communities; and challenge students’ perceptions about peer review and the legitimacy of Wikipedia."
"Writing for a non-teacher audience is motivating.. creating a public information resource is associated with a sense of responsibility that promotes critical engagement with information... This sense of responsibility provides an ideal context for practicing information literacy skills like identifying information needs, searching for, and assessing information sources. Providing a resource for others, in other words, addresses the challenge raised by Metzger (2007) of motivating information assessment in the first place...Media creation represents a powerful context for learning, but it also signals a gap in the literature. Information literacy has been primarily defined as a set of skills related to finding, evaluating, and using information. Less attention has been paid to the role of information literacy skills in collaboratively creating information resources for others or how to guide young people in becoming adept contributors to knowledge building that happens in the wilds of the participatory web...The studies presented in this paper suggest that producing information for others in online environments can give young people a starting point for reflecting on where information comes from; such experiences support second-order information literacy skills, which require students to reflect on the nature of information production. To help engender this kind of reflection, information literacy standards should explicitly include producing information for others... If we want to develop a more local, shared sense of responsibility, continuing efforts to incorporate public information production in classrooms should include opportunities for students to support and challenge one another in justifying and critiquing claims, as is done by co-authors on Wikipedia."
"Sara Marks, instruction and outreach librarian at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, has advocated for this partnership for years. She’s spoken at numerous library conferences, as well as WikiCon, about Wikipedia’s impact in libraries. 'We need to see Wikipedia as a makerspace in its own right.' she said. 'Instead of creating a physical item, we have an intellectual makerspace. We need to encourage the activity by teaching editors the value of some information sources over others, how to write for an encyclopedia and how to deal with conflict in virtual environments.'”
"There is great potential for diffusing content and promoting discoverability, but archivists are also becoming aware that their expertise can be used to ensure content is available and accurate, for the advancement of a greater good. Over time, as more GLAM institutions (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) have embraced Wikipedia as part of their processes, the focus has shifted from a desire to use Wikipedia purely as an access tool, to helping to improve Wikipedia in general for the advancement of knowledge for the benefit of all users... There was also concern that Wikipedia is not a scholarly source, and therefore a library or archives should not be involved with something that is non-academic. However, this is precisely why libraries and archives should be involved with it, as they can bring expert knowledge and supporting sources. Wikipedia is designed as a tool for discovery and the advancement of knowledge. From this perspective, contributing to Wikipedia is completely in keeping with the mandate of libraries and archives."
"As the largest encyclopedia in the world, it is not surprising that Wikipedia reflects the state of scientific knowledge. However, Wikipedia is also one of the most accessed websites in the world, including by scientists, which suggests that it also has the potential to shape science. This paper shows that it does. Incorporating ideas into a Wikipedia article leads to those ideas being used more in the scientific literature. This paper documents this in two ways: correlationally across thousands of articles in Wikipedia and causally through a randomized control trial where we add new scientific content to Wikipedia. We find that fully a third of the correlational relationship is causal, implying that Wikipedia has a strong effect in shaping science."