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.

Service Learning: Friend or Foe?

06/12/2013 § 1 Comment

One of my courses this semester (Community Informatics) required a sizable amount of “service learning” (for those who don’t know, service learning is basically community service/volunteering activities that are incorporated into a course). When I mentioned the extensive, unpaid time commitment that the service learning represented to a friend of mine, he balked: “So they’re basically making you volunteer? That’s crazy. Plus it can’t really be considered volunteering if they make you do it…” This got me thinking about the various pro’s and con’s of service learning, a course component that seems to be more and more prevalent these days. For those who have a service learning component in an upcoming course or who are interested in designing their own service learning experience, here are some pros and cons (as I see it) of service learning:

  • Con: Service learning is time-consuming. This semester I had to commit to 4 hours a week of volunteering at a library or computer lab. While this doesn’t seem like much, I also work 20 hours a week, take classes full time, am an officer for a student group, and contribute to this blog (love you guys!). Not to mention I live in the same town as my family, and am thus often committed outside of school/work. Therefore, I do not often initially relish seeing a service learning requirement on a syllabus. A service learning component can also require an initial time commitment to scout out a site, go through an orientation, and set up training (depending on what you’re doing). There’s also the transportation time, field notes time (as you often can’t jot down info until after your shift), and reflection time (as service learning usually involves reflection writing assignments).
  • Con/Pro: Service learning is hard work. Whether it’s explaining to a senior citizen how to log in to a computer, open a browser, and log in to their email for the 100th time (ok, so it hasn’t happened 100 times, but sometimes it feels like it) or building custom-made wooden computer stations in your professor’s workshop (see below), service learning will challenge you in a variety of ways.

    Ah the Saturdays spent in safety goggles. So fun!

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Working, Volunteering, or Interning Before Library School

23/09/2013 § 6 Comments

If you’re considering library school, if you’ve been accepted, and especially if you’re already there, I would strongly recommend getting hands-on experience as soon as possible. An internship or even just a bit of volunteering will help you to build a foundation of knowledge and skills as you pursue your degree. Other hackers have written on finding opportunities and making the most of them, but I’d like to address some key benefits of getting pre-library school experience in the first place:

Identifying Interests and Goals

Before starting library school I had never been paid to work in a library. However, I had spent considerable time interning and volunteering in them and had been an enthusiastic patron for as long as I could remember. During college, I spent two summers in a small academic library and one semester in my college archives, building an understanding of various kinds of library work. In addition to providing me with a basic ’how things work’ familiarity with many areas of academic libraries, my internships helped me to identify some of my interests and strengths, and to identify areas of librarianship I wanted to explore further. For example, after spending a lot of time by myself with boxes and files of papers in one internship, I decided that it would be important for me to pursue positions with more collaboration and patron interaction in the future. Figuring out what you don’t enjoy can be just as useful as discovering what you do.

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Emerging Leaders and Professional Involvement

24/07/2012 § 4 Comments

Sign Up

“G536 Zoom in, Sign up” by Brad Smith via Flickr under CC license

Editor’s Note: This is a Guest Post by Anita R. Dryden

This past year I had the pleasure of participating in the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders program, which is designed to help new librarians get involved in ALA. Throughout the course of the program you attend leadership training, meet many of the current leaders in ALA, and are assigned to a small group to complete a project for a Division or Round Table. The EL program was a wonderful experience – I loved getting to know a group of really engaged, passionate young professionals while working on an exciting and beneficial project that helped me learn more about how the beast that is ALA works.

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Should more LIS programs have a service-learning component?

06/04/2012 § 17 Comments

Though the trademarks of the library profession like bridging the digital divide for children and adults, protecting freedom of information and promoting literacy, connect directly to service-learning, many LIS programs do not have a service-learning component.  Service-learning programs connect LIS students with schools, libraries and other social service agencies to provide volunteer services to the community. In addition to providing volunteer services, students are able to reflect on and evaluate their experiences and create personal best practices for future employment.  Students are usually able to earn school credit through service-learning projects, or can use it as a component of a LIS class. Here is another great explanation of service-learning. Service-learning was an important part of my undergraduate education and in many ways was something that gave me the experience to know I wanted to be a school librarian. Is service-learning something that should be a part of more Library and Information Science program curricula?
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