Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wikipedia as a learning experience

I have recently attended a few Wikipedia editing sessions and become interested in contributing more to Wikipedia. There is much editing to be done on pages relating to libraries and librarians; some of those pages are quite inadequate, and many have been marked as such using the Wikipedia coded messages that point out problems. The page for the LCCN is a stub, for example. Search on Sears Subject headings and what you get is a pretty poor page for Minnie Earl Sears with some information about the subject headings. Lately I've been updating the page on the Dewey Decimal Classification, which had little background information and did not have appropriate citations. I hope to move from there to the rather strange page that "compares" DDC and the LC Classification.

I estimate that I spent between 20 and 40 hours doing the research for my updates to the DDC page. The reason for that is that the Wikipedia standard requires that all facts be sourced. Add to that the requirement for a neutral point of view (called NPOV in wiki-speak), and a good Wikipedia page is a set of sourced facts, with some clear writing connecting them. (And, yes, there are a lot of not-good Wikipedia pages.)

It occurred to me that if I were a teacher I could use Wikipedia as a learning experience. Wanting your favorite topic to be well-represented in Wikipedia is a great motivator. Having to source all of your facts (and being pretty much limited to facts) means having to do research. Doing research becomes a good activity for discussing how to find sources and how to evaluate them.

Then I thought: wouldn't it be great to run a Wikipedia editing session in a library? What better place to have access to the sources? An editing session in a library with reference librarians on hand sounds like a Wikipedian's dream, and it could be used to teach people how to use the library.

Have you done this? I'd like to know.


denials said...

I haven't, but it looks like a number of libraries have:

* Shapiro Science Library at the University of Michigan

Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford

ACRL at the IUPUI University Library

... all of which appear to be part of the Wikipedia Loves Libraries outreach campaign

Karen Coyle said...

Thank you for the links!

Anonymous said...

In Italy we're planning a number of events like this, also in the wake of Wiki Loves Libraries. The first one will be the Bibliohackathon in Florence, next October 26. But there are others to come.

Unknown said...

Yes, Wikipedians regularly host "editathons" at libraries, including the most prestigious ones.

e.g. http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/GLAM/Case_studies/British_Library


More generally, Wikipedia's engagement with memory institutions is described in the "GLAM" page, here:

Unknown said...


i agree with you. i think that libraries / librarians are a great partner and user base for Wikipedia and would really add to much of the organization and completeness of information in Wikipedia.

are you aware of this project?

List of GLAM projects:

from news about the nytimes article referenced here (http://dhpoco.org/rewriting-wikipedia/the-global-women-wikipedia-write-in/)
this year i participated in a few of these:

i'm really glad i (a) taught myself Wikipedia editing (good skill to have) and (b) i am now going to commit some time to improving entries under-represented and/or incomplete in areas like LIS, Archives, etc. that i care about.

didn't mean to ramble and over-link, but i enjoy your blog and wanted to share the info.

all the best,


Anonymous said...

At Brooklyn Public Library, we've hosted one Wikipedia editing workshop so far (photo), but it was led by members of Wikimedia NYC, not librarians.

Sara Roberts said...

Hi Karen,
Thanks for the interesting post. I am a law librarian at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch New Zealand. For the last 2 years, I have been lucky enough to be part of a faculty/library collaboration using Wikipedia as a learning tool for students. The motivation behind this for the Law academic was to see her subject area better represented on Wikipedia (human rights law), and my involvement enabled me to sneak in some information literacy/evaluation in the guise of teaching the students about the conventions and protocols required when writing for Wikipedia. The NPOV was particularly challenging for our students who are usually encouraged to "take a stance" when writing law essays. The students responded really well - they loved the fact that they were doing something 'real' and many continue to monitor their pages to see if they have been edited subsequently. I would be happy to discuss further, if anyone is interested.
Sara Roberts

Emily Jaycox said...

The June 2013 RBMS conference had the following panel with useful comments on this topic:

Wikipedia and Libraries
Moderator: Hjordis Halvorson, Vice President for Library Services, Newberry Library

Wikipedia and Libraries: a Special Relationship
Wikipedia can be a highly influential source of information, and if libraries (and their unique holdings) were a part of Wikipedia, they would receive increased attention. Less publicized is Wikimedia's GLAM-Wiki initiative. GLAM (an acronym for Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) is comprised of people whose purpose is to share their organizations' cultural resources with the world through high-impact collaborations with experienced Wikipedia editors. A panel of four speakers who have engaged with Wikipedia or GLAM-Wiki will offer different viewpoints on how a variety of libraries, archives and similar organizations can collaborate with Wikipedia.

Speakers: Bob Kosovsky, New York Public Library; Ryan Cartwright, MNopedia Associate Project Editor, Minnesota Historical Society; János McGhie, St. Paul Public Library; Merrilee Proffit, OCLC Research