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.

« Read the rest of this entry »

The Highs and Lows of Teen Tech Week

04/03/2014 § 9 Comments

If you work in teen services you are probably already elbow deep in programming, but for the rest here is a reminder: it is almost Teen Tech Week! Next week, March 9-15, libraries across the country will be celebrating YALSA’s “DIY @ your library” theme by providing programs on coding, knitting, music recording and everything in between. Unfortunately I do not (yet) work in a teen services department, but that does not mean I (or you) cannot join in on the celebration.

3Dprinter_faces

Miniature human face models made through 3D printer via S zillayali, Wikimedia Commons CC

As a young LIS professional it is easy to get absorbed in the biggest and shiniest trends: 3D printing! Tablets! Computer programming! It is even easier as a teen librarian-in-training to get overwhelmed by feeling the need to be an expert in all-the-things to land a job. Another common factor may be a limited budget and time; making programs like TTW seem out of reach.

In a previous post I shared resources on how technology can be used effectively in the classroom, but here I want to discuss how you do not need high-tech gear and excess funds to explore emerging technology trends.

First we need to step back and ask, “What is technology?”

When defining technology I initially think of computers, smart phones and gaming consoles — devices popular in the here and now. But what about cars, televisions, typewriters, pens… are these not classified as technology as well? By definition technology is “the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems.” Breaking down TTW would mean YALSA is then taking a week to promote teens’ creativity and problem solving skills in a public service environment — and isn’t that what libraries should be about anyway?

From brainstorming with fellow colleagues in the real and virtual world, here are possible low and high-tech activities for TTW — or for your own personal creative downtime:

  1. DIY Crafts: Do not let the term “technology” scare you into thinking you need to dump out your wallet for a brand new 3D printer. Host a crochet-your-own phone cozy party or make jewelry from miscellaneous computer parts.
  2. Media literacy: Underneath all this talk about media and technology lies a very real issue needing to be discussed, most teens do not understand how mass media works or how to use technology wisely. TTW is a great time to facilitate a conversation by creating interactive media literacy lessons like analyzing photographs, creating media or watching a documentary.
  3. Gaming: If you already have a gaming system and videogames, plug it in and you are good to go. Otherwise, ask teens to bring in their favorite games to swap and play. For a more guided program see how you can use Minecraft as an educational tool.
  4. Learn to code: All you need is a computer, internet access and a program like Codecadmey, Code Year or Squeakland depending on the audience’s age and skill level.
  5. Visit a makerspace: Don’t have the tools to solder a portable USB charger kit? I bet your local makerspace does! These community centers invite people in to use their tools to the best of their imagination. Now plan a field trip to the nearest makerspace and create!

These are only a few options of how you can get involved in Teen Tech Week, but you can find more resources at TTW’s website in the forum discussions, event toolkits and free webinars.

 

How is your library celebrating Teen Tech Week? What low-tech/low-cost programs have you facilitated for patrons of any age?

12 New Reasons Not to Do Your Homework

20/12/2013 § 5 Comments

You’re already reading Hack Library School, and you’ve undoubtedly heard about the magic being done at INALJ. Therefore, it can be deduced that you are indeed a savvy library student. But don’t you ever feel the need to branch out? Don’t you ever want to diversify your list of go-to blogs and websites for the latest in library news? Don’t you want to be able to watch your classmates turn green with envy when your presentations are so great they practically leap from the computer screen and shake people by the shoulders? Of course you do!

So here is an unofficial, unsolicited list of some of my favorite library-related sites. Proceed with caution, as some of these sites may cause you to spend hours upon hours neglecting your studies.

Creative Commons US: This site compiles photos, music, and videos that have been licensed for public sharing. As future librarians, information policy should always be on our minds when we’re publishing online, and this site provides legal access to a ton of free media. Just be sure to cite your sources!

Prezi: This one is the cool kids’ PowerPoint. It’s been around for a bit, but there are still enough people who don’t know about it that they’ll be impressed by it. There are various templates for creating timelines, resumes, and digital stories, but its most notable feature is that it allows you to zoom in and out of the slides and create an almost interactive, panoramic view within the presentation. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Liberal Arts Major’s Guide to Coding

25/11/2013 § 8 Comments

As programmer and tech journalist Ciara Byrne noted in her op-ed “No–You Don’t Need to Learn To Code”, learning to code is not always fun, easy, or even useful for every career path. Nonetheless, programming can develop several soft skills that translate across a broad range of professions. In addition to increasing your digital literacy, learning to code teaches you to solve problems, to seek out collaborative solutions when you are stuck, and (in my experience) to endure lots of frustration for the sake of future rewards.

The benefits of learning to code are especially tangible for information science students. Programming knowledge equips you to customize content management systems, create sophisticated reports in an integrated library system, develop mobile apps, manage databases, implement open source software, navigate user experience design, customize or create a web presence for your institution, and collaborate more effectively with IT professionals.

You may be thinking, “But Sam, I am not a programmer. It just doesn’t come naturally for me.” Well, join the club. My undergraduate degrees are in history and political science! Although I grew up in a very tech-friendly home, I never had any ambition to be a programmer. After I started working in libraries, however, I found that some kind of coding knowledge is necessary for many of the jobs I want to pursue. It hasn’t always been fun and it has rarely been easy, but I have made it a priority to learn these skills. Over time, I have actually learned to enjoy coding.

Here are some guidelines that have helped me endure the tough times:
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