Working Well With Wikipedia

Phoebe Ayers

Phoebe Ayers is a reference librarian at the University of California, Davis, and she is the first librarian to be elected to the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation. Wikimedia’s vision is to create a world in which every human being can freely share in the sum of all human knowledge.

Wikipedia is available in 207 languages, 96 of which have over 10,000 articles.  All articles are written in each language; they are not simply translated.  With 15 million articles, Wikipedia has become the most used reference and information site on the Web, by far.  All those articles are written by readers and are freely available under a Creative Commons license.  There is no top-down editorial control; everyone is free to contribute.  Articles must be free, written from a neutral point of view, not original research, verifiable, and on a notable, encyclopedic topic.

Librarians can help to improve Wikipedia by:

  • Adding references,
  • Improving articles (acting on “citations needed”, cleanup tags, etc.),
  • Look at the category of  “all pages needing cleanup” and making some of the corrections identified there,
  • Add links to unique collections in libraries, or
  • Join a project (see the pages for WikiProject libraries).

Several libraries have donated large collections of content and have formed partnerships with Wikipedia.  For example, the German Federal Archives (Bundesarkiv) donated thousands of articles.

Librarians are encouraged to participate in a survey, available here.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

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