Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Librarians Should Edit Wikipedia

In May, I attended WikiConference USA. Billed as "the first national Wikimedia conference of its kind in the United States," it took place over a weekend at New York Law School, located in the downtown Manhattan neighborhood of TriBeCa. WikiConference, or "WikiCon," was free to attend, and its packed schedule included panels that specifically addressed Wikipedia's connection to librarians.
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One topic that arose over and over again during post-panel discussions was librarians taking an active role in editing Wikipedia entries. Among the many great comments that arose during these discussions were Leah Castaldi's "As librarians, our job is not just to promote access to information but to ensure our communities' ability to use it" and Rachel Wexelbaum's "What if every library had one Wikipedian on staff to access the collections and build the encyclopedia?"

Indeed, a librarian who helps build or edit Wikipedia entries - or a "Wikibrarian - is precisely what Michael Rodriguez is advocating for in his article for Hack Library School. Titled "Editing Wikipedia While in Library School," the article explains why librarians (and library school students) should edit the popular online encyclopedia. "Wikipedia is the sixth most frequently visited website globally and is among the first information stops for millions of people," Rodriguez says in the article. "Wikipedia has 500 million unique visitors in more than 250 languages annually!" The popularity of Wikipedia is, in fact, why librarians should become actively involved in editing its content, according to Rodriguez. He says, "Adding, expanding, or correcting Wikipedia content is therefore a public service — one intimately linked to librarians' mission to connect people to information."

Other reasons that Rodriguez gives for librarians to become Wikibrarians include:

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."

Wikipedia teaches skills: "Even if you just add citations or links, you pick up some Wikicode. This provides a simple, intuitive introduction to coding and a helpful segue in HTML. If you contribute substantive content, then you develop experience with what amounts to technical writing."

Wikipedia demonstrates ability: "Building quality Wikipedia pages demonstrates that you have both technical skills and initiative. You're coding text and writing copyright licenses. You can upload or link your pages to your e-portfolio for future employers to admire."

Most of all, he says, "Wikipedia is fun to edit." He concludes his article for Hack Library School by telling how to get started as a Wikibrarian, including helpful links (some leading to tutorials) under "Resources." Rodriguez is a Wikipedian and has "found the experience rewarding in the extreme." For more on "Editing Wikipedia While in Library School," see Michael Rodriguez's article at THIS LINK.

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