17/04/2014 § 2 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.
24/03/2014 § 3 Comments
This post came about as a result of combining in my mind the following four things:
- A conversation about possible directions of big legal research sites (Lexis and Westlaw, specifically but hypothetically)*, now that there are so many reliable alternatives for finding primary law (statutes, court opinions) at significantly lower cost;
- The worn-out trope of the “death of libraries” (to which I’m not linking any items–do we really need to give it any more press?);
- Musings on the term “Chief Information Officer” and how it generally has nothing to do with information and everything to do with technology; and
- An announcement of a conference of the Association of Independent Information Professionals.
The sum of these parts is brownies. (Yum.)
No, the sum of these parts is the role of the librarian outside the four walls of the library. (And brownies.)
Many of us are going to get our degrees, find a job in a public, academic, or special library of our choice, and live happily ever after. But some of us may not want that. Did you know that you don’t have to want that?
05/03/2014 § 7 Comments
In today’s post, several Hackers discuss what they have learned about the challenges and benefits of working full time while in library school. Whether you are wondering if full time work is right for you or struggling to balance your obligations between work and classes, it can help to know that you are not alone. Rebecca Katz, Kara Mackeil, Lesley Looper, and Samantha Winn share their experiences, coping mechanism, and productivity tips after the break. Do you have a story about working full time while in school? Join us in the comments!
03/02/2014 § 1 Comment
I used to love the first day of school! One of the things I remember about those “first days” was going over the class rules. As my classmates and I got older, and then headed off the college, the wording of the rules changed, but the message stayed pretty much the same: respect others, come to class, do the work (and make sure it’s your own work!).
Now we have guidelines on how to interact at ALA conferences and meetings. A few weeks before last month’s ALA Midwinter Meeting ‘14 in Philadelphia, the American Library Association presented a Statement of Appropriate Conduct at ALA Conferences. This Statement, from the ALA website, is below:
The American Library Association holds professional conferences and meetings to enable its members to receive continuing education, build professional networks, and discover new products and services for professional use. To provide all participants – members and other attendees, speakers, exhibitors, staff and volunteers – the opportunity to benefit from the event, the American Library Association is committed to providing a harassment-free environment for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, physical appearance, ethnicity, religion or other group identity.
As an association, ALA is strongly committed to diversity, equity and the free expression of ideas. These values have been repeatedly delineated in ALA policy (for instance: Policy A.1.4 – Core Organizational Values; Policy B.1.1 – Core Values of Librarianship; Policy B.1.2 – Code of Professional Ethics). Taken cumulatively, the values and beliefs delineated within ALA policy describe conduct based on a firm belief in the value of civil discourse and the free exploration of competing ideas and concepts – with a fundamental respect for the rights, dignity and value of all persons.
Within the context of ALA policy and the professional practices of librarianship, critical examination of beliefs and viewpoints does not, by itself, constitute hostile conduct or harassment. Similarly, use of sexual imagery or language in the context of a professional discussion might not constitute hostile conduct or harassment.
ALA seeks to provide a conference environment in which diverse participants may learn, network and enjoy the company of colleagues in an environment of mutual human respect. We recognize a shared
responsibility to create and hold that environment for the benefit of all. Some behaviors are, therefore, specifically prohibited:
- Harassment or intimidation based on race, religion, language, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, appearance, or other group status.
- Sexual harassment or intimidation, including unwelcome sexual attention, stalking (physical or virtual), or unsolicited physical contact.
- Yelling at or threatening speakers (verbally or physically).
Speakers are asked to frame discussions as openly and inclusively as possible and to be aware of how language or images may be perceived by others. Participants may – and do – exercise their option to leave a session or a conversation. Exhibitors must follow all ALA Exhibits rules and regulations and ALA policies.
All participants are expected to observe these rules and behaviors in all conference venues, including online venues, and conference social events. Participants asked to stop a hostile or harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. Conference participants seek to learn, network and have fun. Please do so responsibly and with respect for the right of others to do likewise.
Please contact Conference Services staff in the ALA Office at conference if you believe you have been harassed or that a harassment problem exists. All such reports will be directed immediately to the Director of Conference Services, who will determine and carry out the appropriate course of action, and who may consult with and engage other ALA staff, leaders and legal counsel as appropriate. Event security and/or local law enforcement may be involved, as appropriate based on the specific circumstances. A follow-up report will be made to individuals who report being harassed.
My first introduction to the Statement of Appropriate Conduct was through Andromeda Yelton’s post, “Why ALA Needs a Code of Conduct,” on Library Journal’s website. My first thought when I read the title was, “Hmmm, we still need rules?” I read on, though, and was surprised, sad, and embarrassed to learn that although I hadn’t been a victim, or knew of anyone who had been the recipient of unsavory behavior at ALA conferences, it had happened to others.
Not everyone has embraced the Code of Conduct with open arms, though. Dissenters have brought up issues like freedom of speech, intellectual freedom, and Big Brother. To learn more about the discussion, check out Lisa Rabey’s “roundup of responses to ALA’s code of conduct.” A sampling of blog posts on her list is below. To catch the active discussion on Twitter, search “ALA Code of Conduct,” or the hashtag #ALACoC.
So, what do you think? Is the ALA Code of Conduct a necessary thing, or is it unneeded or flawed?