Wikipedia + Public Libraries: Better Together: Background and Timeline
OCLC was selected as a winner of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's 2016 News Challenge for its proposed answer to their question, "How might libraries serve 21st-century information needs?" OCLC's project, Improve access to knowledge and empower citizens: Amplify libraries and communities through Wikipedia was designed to deliver a national training program via WebJunction for U.S. public library staff to build their Wikipedia skills, implement Wikipedia programming and amplify the role of libraries as information literacy leaders in their communities.
The project is being run by WebJunction program staff and OCLC Research program officer Merrilee Proffitt. Monika Sengul-Jones joined the team in February 2017 as the OCLC Wikipedian-in-Residence, supported in part by a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation. Sengul-Jones is raising awareness about Wikipedia between public libraries and the Wikipedia community, working with the WebJunction team to develop learning objectives and curriculum that are aligned with Wikipedia community norms, and providing guidance and connections to public library staff who will organize Wikipedia programs in their community.
Why Wikipedia and US public libraries?
Leading up to and through the 20th century, the public went to the library as a reliable source of information and knowledge. Today, users search Wikipedia and Google and find a great deal of content, but with less assurance about the quality and veracity of that information.
Wikipedia provides a framework to assess whether Wikipedia articles are supported by quality sources and have been verified as accurate, neutral and complete. In the English language, only a relative handful fully meet these standards. Libraries have the authoritative materials and library staff have the reference expertise to help close this gap.
Public libraries are natural partners to extend free and open access to information and engage diverse communities in collecting and creating educational content through Wikipedia. While anyone can contribute to Wikipedia and its growing base of knowledge, knowing how to edit Wikipedia remains a mystery to most people, even to information professionals. If information professionals feel disconnected from Wikipedia, it's safe to assume that other community members do as well, and will remain disconnected without guidance from a trusted source.
The project will equip public library staff with the necessary tools and community support to become confident in using, and editing, Wikipedia. Specifically, the online training course will provide strategies for public library staff to engage their community members to join them and other Wikipedians in collecting and extending access to information.
Connecting Libraries and Wikipedia
This project will reinforce libraries as stewards of quality information, standard bearers for information literacy and curators of authoritative collections. The project will equip library staff to become Wikipedia editors and to engage community members to join them and other local Wikipedians in collecting and extending access to knowledge.
Another key element of the project is to help make library resources more visible to Wikipedians, most of whom currently rely on free online sources for building Wikipedia content, and help library staff be more effective Wikipedia guides for community members.
This project will illustrate to libraries how working with Wikipedia can advance libraries locally and nationally. By connecting library staff with Wikipedians in their respective communities, libraries will engage local users who are both eager for knowledge and interested in making knowledge more accessible. Library staff will also learn how to involve Wikipedians and community members in increasing the volume of library content and community resources cited on Wikipedia.
December 2016 – August 2017
- Research public library connections to Wikipedia
- Build awareness
- Design curriculum and online course space
- Recruit US public library staff
September – November 2017
- Deliver online training program for 300 US public library staff comprising online sessions, readings, Wikipedia activities, and group discussion within an online course space
December 2017 – May 2018
- Guide and observe as libraries put their learning into action
- Revise curriculum based on learner feedback, evaluation activities, and project staff observations
- Collect and publish case studies and share learnings
- Curriculum and training materials will be consolidated, curated and hosted on WebJunction under CC BY-SA 4.0 in spring 2018
This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License