Wikipedia + Public Libraries: Better Together: Background and Timeline
OCLC’s Wikipedia + Libraries project, a winner of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's 2016 News Challenge, strengthened ties between US public libraries and English-language Wikipedia. The project ran from December 2016 through May 2018.
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 equipped public library staff with the necessary tools and community support to become confident in using, and editing, Wikipedia.
Connecting Libraries and Wikipedia
This project reinforced libraries as stewards of quality information, standard bearers for information literacy and curators of authoritative collections. The project equipped 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 was to help make library resources more visible to Wikipedians, most of whom rely on free online sources for building Wikipedia content, and help library staff be more effective Wikipedia guides for community members.
This project demonstrated to libraries how working with Wikipedia can advance libraries locally and nationally. By connecting library staff with Wikipedians in their respective communities, libraries are able to engage local users who are both eager for knowledge and interested in making knowledge more accessible. Library staff also learned 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
- Consolidate and curate curriculum and training materials, which are hosted on WebJunction under CC BY-SA 4.0