In the past decade, Wikipedia’s reach has expanded. It’s the fifth most-visited platform globally. And the quality has stabilized. A 2012 Oxford University study comparing Encyclopedia Britannica to Wikipedia found no significant difference in quality or reliability between the articles they compared. However, research suggests that asymmetries in the demographic profile of the existing pool of editors, which are 80–90% white males, has led to biases and underdeveloped content areas.
To improve the encyclopedia and address these gaps, volunteers and Wikimedia Foundation staff have collaborated to host outreach programs and editing events. These have seen successes, but there’s still room for improvement. Only some of these programs have focused on galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM, in Wikimedia terminology), and none of the outreach has been specifically geared to public libraries and their important role as champions of information access and mainstays in serving their local communities.
The time has come for an effective, focused training program that brings Wikipedia to US public libraries.
WebJunction will be filling this gap by spearheading an online training program for up to 500 US public library staff to learn Wikipedia from September to November 2017. The program addresses the need for training tools that are specific to the learning needs of public library staff, which is what WebJunction does best. This training program will bring public libraries into the Wikipedia community so that library staff can dovetail their service goals and skills with the Wikipedia vision of building a comprehensive information reference source that’s freely and widely accessible on the open web.
And with US public library staff learning Wikipedia, information seekers everywhere are bound to be better informed, more digitally literate and able to access more library services and materials.
A bridge to Wikipedia for public libraries
In 2016, OCLC launched the Wikipedia + Libraries: Better Together project, funded by a Knight Foundation News Challenge grant and the Wikimedia Foundation. The project’s purpose? To build bridges between public librarians and Wikipedians.
Wikipedia + Libraries is different from other Wikipedia editing tutorials; it’s specific to the service goals and professional development needs of 21st-century US public libraries.
Starting 13 September 2017, WebJunction will host a ten-week online training program covering Wikipedia editing literacies and programming best practices. The course will champion, and build upon, the range of ways that librarians are already engaging Wikipedia—you can read about some of these activities in WebJunction’s Librarians Who Wikipedia interview series.
There will be a preview webinar about the program on 19 July from 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm. US EDT.
How WebJunction fits in and how YOU can fit in
WebJunction brings the best of adult learning and online education to public libraries. It makes sense for library staff to learn deliberately and actively, in ways that benefit their community members.
Participants in the online training program will learn how to edit in a supportive cohort of peers familiar with the demands of public library work. Course materials will include sessions and activities that are fresh and relevant to their work as information professionals serving the public.
Please spread the word to public library staff about the Wikipedia + Libraries: Better Together project:
- Registration for up to 500 public library staff to enroll in the free, ten-week online training program Wikipedia + Libraries: Better Together will open on 19 July; there will be six live online sessions during the ten-week course that will last 13 Sept. – 15 Nov. 2017.
- To learn more about the Wikipedia + Libraries training program, attend the preview webinar Wikipedia For Libraries: Preview the Possibilities, Discover the Opportunities on 19 July; enrollment is currently open for this free webinar.
Learning to Wikipedia isn’t only about boldly editing. It’s a way for public librarians—you!—to contribute to a dynamic community in practical ways, among your library contemporaries with WebJunction.
By the end of the Wikipedia + Libraries online training program, public librarians will have learned how to bring best practices in public librarianship to the open web, and have added a few pages to the Wikipedia instructional playbook in doing so.
 Hill and Shaw, “The Wikipedia Gender Gap Revisited”; Ross, “Wikipedia’s Gender Gap”; “2011 Editor’s Survey.”
“2011 Editor’s Survey.” Wikimedia Foundation, 2011. https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Editor_Survey_2011/Women_Editors.
Hill, Benjamin Mako, and Aaron Shaw. “The Wikipedia Gender Gap Revisited: Characterizing Survey Response Bias with Propensity Score Estimation.” Edited by Angel Sánchez. PLoS ONE 8, no. 6 (June 26, 2013): e65782. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065782.
Ross, Sage. “Wikipedia’s Gender Gap.” Wikimedia Blog, February 1, 2011. http://blog.wikimedia.org/2011/02/01/wikipedias-gender-gap/.
Wagner, Claudia, Eduardo Graells-Garrido, David Garcia, and Filippo Menczer. “Women through the Glass Ceiling: Gender Asymmetries in Wikipedia.” EPJ Data Science 5, no. 1 (December 2016). doi:10.1140/epjds/s13688-016-0066-4.