This guest post is from Alex Stinson, project manager with The Wikipedia Library. Find him on Wikipedia at User:Sadads and on Twitter @sadads. DLF blog posts are always CC BY-NC— this particular blog post is released under CC0— “no rights reserved”.
January 15 is Wikipedia’s 15th birthday; and after 15 years, Wikipedia has over 35 million articles in 280 languages, many of which have references and external links that guide researchers to authoritative sources about each article’s topic. For this reason, Wikipedia has become one of the most important research discovery platforms in the world: it’s the largest hand-curated annotated bibliography ever, and is one of the biggest referrers to scholarly publications and one of the biggest sources for readers of medical information.
However, Wikipedia’s strengths sometimes hide its systematic gaps and failings: there are many pieces of information on Wikipedia that can’t be verified by a source, or are missing because of our community’s systemic biases. For example, no matter how you look at it, Wikipedia’s gender imbalance is extreme: only 10% to 20% of contributors are women.[pullquote1 align=”right”]Wikipedia’s strengths sometimes hide its systematic gaps and failings.[/pullquote1] Moreover, Wikipedia has a deeply Western-focused systematic bias despite over 280 language editions of Wikipedia. These inequalities prevent Wikipedia from fully fulfilling its mission.
One of the most successful diversity-focused projects has been Art+Feminism, a collaboration between feminist art advocates and Wikipedia editors. Headquartered at MOMA, the one-day editathon, largely hosted at art galleries and libraries, involved 78 distinct global institutions, improved or created 900 articles about women artists, and engaged 1500 participants, many of them women (see more about the outcomes).Similarly, cultural heritage organizations have targeted missing diversity around other key coverage gaps; examples include Asian American focused editathons and African American editathons.
Libraries are in a particularly good position to advocate for changes to Wikipedia that make available the best research materials about minority groups. Historically, librarians both have sought to preserve free speech and validate the reliability of minority source materials, and with the rise of Digital Research tools and Digital Humanities projects, libraries have become the homes for new kinds of digital resources that expose these missing histories of underrepresented lives and less-dominant world cultures. Wikipedia can be the discovery portal to these sources: a citation on Wikipedia becomes a powerful window exposing the “casual” researcher to these topics. (See here for some strategies for resource linking on Wikipedia).
At the Wikipedia Library, we are trying to expose the range of projects and activities that libraries the world over have taken to better voice the knowledge they curate. There are some amazing examples of librarian engagement with Wikipedia: over 150 libraries are working on Wikipedia as part of the the Catalan Network of Public Libraries; the State Library of New South Wales created a comprehensive cross institutional discovery aid for Australian WWI diarists; and[pullquote1 align=”right”]We know the DLF community values diversity and inclusivity in the digital library technologies we develop and maintain, and we are excited about this collaboration toward our shared commitment.[/pullquote1]the National Library of Israel operates a reference desk on Hebrew Wikipedia. This impressive work, which our community calls a GLAM-Wiki (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) collaboration, requires a lot of energy and commitment, but these activities set the tone for the Wikimedia movement, thus shaping the global landscape of human knowledge and research.
For Wikipedia’s 15th birthday, we are calling on librarians to make a small gift to the Wikimedia community: add one more reference to Wikipedia during the week of January 15-23. This campaign, which we are calling #1Lib1Ref, is a global micro-contribution drive to celebrate one of the most valuable skills that librarians have: helping their patrons answer reference questions. By adding one more reference to Wikipedia, each librarian shares that skill with with a global audience, helping the public find the best research when they need it most. We know the DLF community values diversity and inclusivity in the digital library technologies we develop and maintain, and we are excited about this collaboration toward our shared commitment.