OCLC Wikipedia + Libraries Course Concludes with Plans for Action

Monika Sengul-Jones /

The Wikipedia + Libraries nine-week online training program was the first of its kind: a free, accessible, WebJunction course designed specifically for US public library staff to learn about the inner workings of Wikipedia.

The primary goal of the course, which is a part of OCLC’s Wikipedia + Libraries: Better Together project, was to bring together libraries and Wikipedia to expand access to authoritative information. The final session for the course was held on November 15, 2017, but based on feedback from the participants, the journeys of library staff with Wikipedia have only just begun.

Why a Wikipedia + Libraries online training course?

English Wikipedia is the fifth most-visited website on the internet. Research on the habits of information seekers indicates that the convenience and accessibility of the online encyclopedia make it a natural place to start research. While there are more than five million articles in English Wikipedia, many are incomplete or lacking a diverse representation of voices, which presents a tremendous and important opportunity.

Library staff are information professionals, but many are unfamiliar with how the online encyclopedia works. Librarians are also custodians of authoritative references that can strengthen Wikipedia articles. The nine-week course introduced library staff to Wikipedia to bridge these gaps and expand both the reach of libraries and the depth of the online encyclopedia.

The training program also covered and illuminated the vast inner workings and complicated online culture of Wikipedia, a 17-year-old online platform. Through six live online sessions, readings, tutorials, discussions and Wikipedia-related assignments, library staff from 45 states and seven countries gained an understanding of Wikipedia and got to know the human community of volunteers who edit it. Indeed, integral to the course were 15 volunteer Wikipedians who served as Wikipedia guides to host discussions, answer questions and share their experiences as members of the community.

Ten guest speakers, library practitioners who also edit Wikipedia, gave presentations during the online sessions, connecting their experience as information professionals with Wikipedia editing, programming and outreach.

In the final session, four course participants shared their plans and accomplishments. Their stories are profiled in this Librarians Who Wikipedia article.

What did the course accomplish?

When the course began, more than 70% of participants had never edited Wikipedia. The first three weeks focused on gaining an understanding of the history and culture of the online community. When participants began to edit, they did so with insights and an appreciation for the nuances of how the community works.

Participants have reported that they gained knowledge that has transformed their thinking about Wikipedia. One commented during a live session that the course was “answering questions I didn’t know to ask about Wikipedia.” While another described this experience as a surprising “catalyst for change” in their perceptions about and use of Wikipedia.

By the course’s conclusion, most participants had edited at least two Wikipedia articles. Their combined contributions surpassed 5,000 edits, and they improved nearly 600 article pages. "I got a notification that I have made my 100th edit," shared one. "Truly, this has been a wonderful experience."

Many course participants have already shared plans of action for their libraries which include staff training sessions on Wikipedia’s inner workings, inclusion of Wikipedia in research tutorials and programs, and Wikipedia editing events.

What’s next?

To carry this excitement and interest forward, WebJunction is hosting the webinar, Citations Needed: Build Your Wikipedia Skills While Building the World’s Encyclopedia, on January 10, 2018 at 3:00 pm EST, and is open to all library staff curious about engaging with Wikipedia.

The webinar will take place on the eve of the global #1lib1ref campaign (which stands for “One Librarian, One Reference”). This campaign was launched in honor of Wikipedia’s birthday on January 15 and invites library staff to add one reference to Wikipedia from January 15 through February 3, 2018, to improve the online encyclopedia. Read more about the webinar and register today.

As participants in the course implement their action plans in the coming months with research workshops, information literacy sessions, editing events and tutorials, look to WebJunction for stories about their successes and lessons learned.

Wikipedia + Libraries: Better Together is an OCLC project made possible by support from the Knight Foundation and the Wikimedia Foundation. For more information, see the project updates archive.