Librarians Who Wikipedia: Tiffany Bailey, Dallas Public Library
Wikipedia + Libraries: Better Together is an OCLC project that is building bridges between public libraries and Wikipedia; featuring an online training program for US public library staff hosted by WebJunction in the fall of 2017. Librarians Who Wikipedia is a series of interviews with library staff who engage with Wikipedia. Article was originally published on May 11, 2017.
In December 2016, three novice Wikipedia editors partnered to organize an Art+Feminism event at the Dallas Public Library. Over the next three months, Tiffany Bailey, manager of the Fine Arts Division at Dallas Public Library, Consuelo Gutierrez of The Cedars Union, an incubator for the arts, and Kate Aoki of The Dallas Architecture Forum taught themselves to edit Wikipedia. They hosted the all-day event in March 2017, which included editing workshops, food and children’s activities. We spoke with Bailey about how it went and why she is now passionate about Wikipedia.
Why did you decide to organize a Wikipedia event?
We all just fell in love with the idea of an Art+Feminism Wikipedia editing event. Our public library had never hosted a Wikipedia program before, nor had we focused so pointedly on women, the arts and feminism. In this political climate, we felt Wikipedia editing on this topic was timely and important. It was a great fit: we endeavor to teach new skills and promote literacy—to empower people to do things with technology.
How did it go?
It was so great! Beyond what we expected—especially since we planned for only three months prior to the event. Partnering was a great move. We had about 20 attendees who ranged in age from their early 20s to their late 50s. Five or six participants brought their children. We offered editing training all day and free children’s activities, including storytimes and arts programming—made possible by volunteers and our children’s library staff. Women often shoulder the burden of caregiving, and we wanted to make their participation possible.
What surprised you about the event?
We held the event on a Saturday; most stayed all day! I got to know patrons on a first-name basis. The fact that [participants] were so engaged was a sign that there is a need for this kind of programming. Sometimes we struggle to get people to show up. People told me that they were excited to see this event at the library.
What did participants edit?
We started small; many contributed to existing articles. We introduced material about local women in the arts in Dallas, and we brought out library materials. Our mission is to be a bridge between resources and our community, to empower our community members to ask questions and learn to do something new. This project promoted literacy on multiple levels, developed our technology skills and a DIY spirit.
What’s the perception of Wikipedia among your colleagues?
We all turn to Wikipedia for a quick answer. When you learn how to contribute, it’s awesome to add to the wealth of knowledge online. Editing empowers you. You think, “I added to that, I helped make that page.” Especially among my staff, who use it on the job, it’s important to edit. There’s fake news circulating online and we have the references to verify, or debunk, claims.
What message would you want to share with public libraries?
Wikipedia is good for your curiosity and good for your community. We [as library staff] are committed to providing quality services, empowering members of our community and enhancing the information available on the internet. Doing outreach with Wikipedia brought all of that together for us. The event was a big success. It can come together for you too.
You can incorporate Wikipedia into your public library’s programming. Get access to ideas and materials in our article on Extending the Reach of Public Libraries.