17/04/2014 § 3 Comments
Are you a Wikibrarian? I recently became one—a librarian who edits Wikipedia (“the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit”)—and I have found the experience rewarding in the extreme. I have even stumbled into a role as an embedded consultant, helping faculty teach undergrads how to write Wikipedia articles on gender history, on which improvements are urgently needed. So what are the benefits to becoming a Wikibrarian while in library school?
Wikipedia is legit
My role as a Wikibrarian is possible because Wikipedia has become increasingly “legit” among the more open-minded educators and information professionals. Wikipedia’s rigor and quality have come a long way from Steve Carell’s classic deadpan in The Office a few years ago. Now Harvard University’s rare books library is recruiting a Wikipedian in Residence! Best uses of Wikipedia are to find background information, bibliographies, topic ideas, quick facts, and keywords. Selective editing, conflict of interest, copied and pasted text, and other problems do persist, but even the Encyclopedia Britannica has been known to error.
Rather than proscribe or ignore the world’s most popular resource, librarians such as Hack Library School’s Anna-Sophia are opting to teach information literacy skills that learners are able to apply to Wikipedia—precisely as they should to any resource.
Wikipedia influences people
Wikipedia is the sixth most frequently visited website globally and is among the first information stops for tens of millions of people, including half of US physicians. Wikipedia has 500 million unique visitors in more than 250 languages annually! Adding, expanding, or correcting Wikipedia content is therefore a public service—one intimately linked to librarians’ mission to connect people with information.
Wikipedia builds community
To become a Wikibrarian is to join an amazing community of editors with diverse interests and knowledge, all dedicated to disseminating and democratizing information. Endless opportunities for dialogue and collaboration (not to mention heated discussion) exist. Did you know that the Wikimedia Foundation is bringing together hundreds of Wikipedians at a fee-less WikiConference USA convention in New York this summer? You bet I sent in a proposal!
Wikipedia teaches skills
A lot of skills. Even if you just add citations or links, you have to pick up some Wikicode. This provides a simple, intuitive introduction to coding and a helpful segue into HTML. If you contribute substantive content, then you develop experience with what amounts to technical writing, marked by clear, precise, and detached phrasing. Encyclopedia entries thus contrast dramatically with research papers, op-eds, and book reviews, which is all the writing experience we generally get in graduate school. Wikipedians must conform to rules governing verifiability, neutrality, creditability, and no original research. Finally and most importantly, when you upload images to Wikimedia Commons, you’ll have to learn access and copyright regulations and Creative Commons licensing—vital skills in this dawning age of digital librarianship.
Wikipedia demonstrates ability
Building quality Wikipedia pages demonstrates that you have both technical skills and initiative. You’re volunteering time and expertise to a global community initiative; you’re coding text and writing copyright licenses; and you’re dedicated to open access and information sharing. You can upload or link your pages to your e-portfolio for future employers to admire. And you’re doing all this “work” for fun! Clearly you’ve got mad skills and oodles of initiative!
Wikipedia is fun to edit
Each Wikipedia article allows you to see the number of page views—a bar graph revealing how many people have discovered and learned from your content. There is no better way to reach a mass audience than Wikipedia. You can take your pick of pages on which to work, and then get to boast that you built, say, the Public Library Association wiki. Getting published as a student is challenging, whereas Wikipedia editing is a simple way to build or diversify your portfolio and impress peers, professors, and future employers. And did I mention that it’s fun?
Go for it! Feel free to start making edits immediately. Be bold, but not reckless. Correct typos, add headings, cite sources, write content—it’s up to you.
To create an account, simply click on “Create an account” at the top right corner of any Wikipedia page, input a username and password, make 10 edits, and wait four days to be autoconfirmed as a Wikipedian. Now you can create new pages!
Are you a Wikibrarian? Would you consider becoming one? Share your thoughts in the comments!
“7 reasons librarians should edit Wikipedia” by Natalie Binder, March 22, 2014.
Wikipedia Loves Libraries builds connections between Wikipedia and librarians.
The Five Pillars are the fundamental principles that govern Wikipedia.
The Wikipedia Adventure is a fun interactive tutorial for new editors.
Wikipedia:Tutorial is another useful tutorial for new editors. It is text-heavy.
Wikipedia’s content policies document the encyclopedia’s guidelines.
27/03/2014 § 13 Comments
My mentor recently forwarded me a thrilling job ad for a solo librarian at the Charles Darwin Research Station, located in Ecuador’s beautiful Galápagos Islands. As the only professional librarian present, the successful candidate would get to do digital curation, cataloging, collection development, reference, budget planning, staff management, and ILS and building maintenance. You would be the librarian! This job ad got me thinking about solo librarianship: both the challenges and the amazing opportunities this work presents.
Where would I work?
Solo librarians work in diverse settings, but always alone or with a few student or paraprofessional assistants. In academia, solo librarians may work in small private colleges, satellite campuses, community colleges, or special libraries that get little foot traffic or receive Lilliputian budgets. For many of these institutions of higher education (particularly private for-profit colleges), the library may exist primarily for accreditation purposes, so administration’s low expectations can afford the librarian a lot of flexibility and time for research and professional development. In public libraries, a solo librarian generally manages either a library branch or the only library in a small township or rural district, requiring a lot of responsibility and hard work but conferring an amazing degree of self-direction and autonomy. Volunteers notwithstanding, school media specialists commonly work solo too.
What would I do?
You would get to do everything! Solo librarians might check out and shelve materials, develop and weed the collection, catalog and digitize materials, provide reference and reader’s advisory services, teach information literacy classes, write budgets and grants, hire and supervise staff, negotiate with vendors and administrators, collaborate across departments and institutions, and lead their libraries into the future. The self-direction and flexibility you would enjoy, coupled with the well-rounded skill sets you would develop, could be so worth the hard work and steep learning curve often involved in solo librarianship.
27/02/2014 § 5 Comments
Skype interviews are my favorite! Lo and behold my supplement to Brianna Marshall’s exceptional Phone Interview Strategies. The genesis of this post is when I presented a paper via Skype at the Graduate History Forum at UNC Charlotte in April 2013. It was a great experience! I’ve been Skyping ever since.
Talking on the phone can disorient me because I like to see people’s nonverbal cues and adjust my own communication accordingly. On the other hand, in-person interviews are strenuous situations in which your every move and word will be scrutinized and your ability to navigate unfamiliar physical and social spaces will be tested. But as fewer employers can afford to fly candidates around, Skype is displacing F2F interviews at all stages of candidacy. (So no pressure!)
With Skyping, you need not worry about traffic, handshakes, hard chairs, or what to order for lunch. Skype interviews place you in control of your environment and performance to a significant degree—and this is pressure of the productive sort.
My advice for acing your Skype interviews? Approach the entire process as if you were producing and performing a pivotal scene from a play or film.
29/01/2014 § 7 Comments
Hello, hackers! Do you have a digital PLN?
If not, this post will explain the concept and share some tips for success. I discovered the concept of the digital PLN (a web-based personal or professional learning network) through an information literacy instruction class I took in Fall 2013. One of the major class projects was to select and curate digital resources to facilitate our lifelong learning as librarians, according to our career goals.
What is a PLN?
A traditional PLN consists of actual people with whom you have collaborated or shared ideas. A digital PLN is more open-ended. Digital PLNs are collections of web-based human, technological, and other resources selected judiciously, classified, and accessed using curation tools of your choice. Whereas e-portfolios showcase your own aptitudes, e-PLNs curate resources from other people that have helped you—or will help you—to enrich your LIS skills. You can organize resources into categories, create RSS feeds to monitor changing content, and demonstrate your professional engagement by sharing your PLN publically or collaborating with other librarians to build one. Teacher-librarians are likely to have PLNs because schools encourage them to do so, but anyone can create one.
Why should I have a PLN?
20/11/2013 § 10 Comments
Why so serious?
For aspiring librarians, attitude is all-important. Many of us eat up our days doing internships and day jobs, writing papers, presenting at conferences, and networking our hearts out on Twitter. This kind of workload makes us run the risk of stress, frustration, disillusionment—even burnout, especially if we work in high-pressure public service jobs, fret over the dicey job market, or struggle with personal issues. How do we stay in love with the career we chose?
First, try not to agonize. The fate of the world does not rest on your shoulders. You need to work hard and do things you may not always enjoy doing, but you need not keel over from exhaustion every night to succeed professionally.
What do I myself do to hack my library school and job? Answer: I do not take myself seriously. I’m a perfectionist, so I take my work very seriously, but I see no reason to stifle my joie de vivre. And so I sip tea from a Shakespearean insults mug while manning the reference desk. Gotta enjoy the little things.