Editing Wikipedia While In Library School

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.

One does not simply cite Wikipedia

Meme by Michael Rodriguez

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

We Can Edit!! Public domain image, modified by Tom Morris, via Wikimedia Commons

We Can Edit! Public domain image, modified by Tom Morris, via Wikimedia Commons

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?

Getting started

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.

Creating a Wikipedia Account

Create Account, screenshot by Michael Rodriguez

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!

Resources

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.

Cheap Skate or Pioneering Information Professional?

21/03/2014 § 2 Comments

I’m not going to say that my graduate student budget forced me into the world of open source software, but it certainly didn’t hurt.  There was a time when “open source” was synonymous with “free of charge”, but with the proliferation of mobile technologies and free apps, the lines between for-profit and not-for-profit software are now blurred.  Therefore the distinction must be made that open source software contains a license, which allows the user to modify the code and to freely distribute the software to anyone, for any purpose.  As a result, this software is often community developed, and widely distributed.

So why should you invest your precious time in learning how to use these free alternatives?  Let me consult a recognizable mantra.  Some of the triumphs of open source software come right out of ALA’s mission statement: “Equitable Access to Information, Intellectual Freedom, Education and Lifelong Learning”.  There can be obstacles to early adoption, primarily the learning curve, but grad school is the ideal time to conquer these technological challenges.  Here are some open source software examples I have adopted in my pursuit of information literacy.

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What It’s Like to Work Full Time in Library School

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!

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Producing and Performing Skype Interviews

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.

Costuming

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Top 8 Reasons to go to an International Library Conference

10/02/2014 § 8 Comments

I recently traveled to Barcelona, Spain for BOBCATSSS, a library conference organized by European library science students. Upon returning I realized that many of my peers were unaware of the variety of international library conference opportunities that students can take advantage of. As LIS students, we are frequently encouraged to attend conferences, create posters, and present papers. So why not do so in another country? It may seem scary, but attending an international conference can be a great way to open yourself up to new things, make new connections, and meet new people!

Conferencing!

Conferencing!

Here are some observations, gleaned from my BOBCATSSS experiences, on why you should consider international conferencing: 

  1. Language doesn’t have to be an issue.
    If you’re like me you studied a foreign language in high school, maybe some in college, but you don’t necessarily feel comfortable going to an academic conference and presenting in another language. This is fine! Many international library conference are in English and others offer translation services for the larger sessions and programs. This is, of course, something to look into before submitting a proposal; but it is rarely a true barrier to your conference attendance. International conferences want people from a variety of countries to attend, so they find ways to bridge language gaps.
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