Column Description: Libraries and librarians are adapting, always in motion particularly as the 21st century has extended the mammoth reach of technology and digital communication. Then, this year, we said thank you for the ability to stay home and still be able to communicate with our colleagues. As many librarians wondered how new responsibilities would play out when ‘normality’ returned, it was a daily challenge to prioritize decisions. Technology helped, but the goal remained how to meet user needs and anticipate patron requests. This fall, as libraries slowly reopen, we move into a hybrid world. Administrators and librarians have worked overtime and collaborated fiercely to match estimated demand with physical distancing and health-related constraints. 

What are some of their stories and how do we understand future changes?  Libraries have always held the key for knowledge query. Whether for the scholar, the schoolchild, life-long learner, jobseeker or browser, libraries and librarians have adapted to keep their doors open and their users and patrons satisfied. How do individual librarians go about their roles and what suggestions do they have moving forward? What has helped?

This column will consider several library environments (public, private, corporate, academic, online and special) and using a combination of interviews, historic perspective, anecdotes and a sprinkling of stats, examine the commonalities and differences. A fun exploration of how libraries remain relevant and beloved.

Wikipedia is not a PR or marketing tool, but it can be another tool of community engagement for your library. You can examine its contents as a veritable litmus of what’s going on today in the world and by analyzing the flow of online knowledge.

Library spaces, pre-and post-pandemic lockdown, are still some of the best places to hold edit-a-thons. Our libraries hold the keys to community engagement. By hosting Wikipedia events we can expand our role as informationists, helping our patrons build data literacy and critical thinking skills. 

  1. Edit-a-thon: a thematic meeting of participants to increase content on Wikipedia and stimulate knowledge about a specific subject
  2. Shortpitch for Wikibrarians: Wikipedia and libraries share the ability to locate, house, intake, and deliver information.  Librarians as potential Wikipedians (and vice versa) make sense because the core value is similar: gain knowledge via openly accessible information.
  3. #1lib1ref: a yearly campaign in the US and worldwide encouraging librarians to add one citation to Wikipedia; led to the creation of Citation Hunt, a tool for finding “snippets of Wikipedia articles that lack citations.”
  4. Always looking to translate: Today, Wikipedia articles are written in more than 300 languages. As English Wikipedia, launched in 2001, moves into its third decade, translating articles has gained traction. This need to reflect global communication styles respects diversity and has been catapulted by the proliferation of online meetings; meetings that crisscross geographic locations and inspire resource sharing.
  5. Translatathon: an edit-a-thon dedicated to translating Wikipedia articles into additional languages

According to Wikistats, by the end-of-year 2020, there were more than six million articles in English Wikipedia and 56 million articles worldwide.  That includes almost three billion edits overall, combining the edits of both dabblers as well as dedicated article creators. Wikipedia tracks every instance of change, which can be verified by accessing the history tab of any article in Wikipedia. You can see a list of every edit since the moment of inception.

On each page of Wikipedia, on the left side under the iconic logo, you will find lists of projects, tools, and languages available. Clicking a language will take you to the corresponding welcome page. Wikipedia includes categories, projects, affiliations, and volunteer communities. There is literally a full spectrum of information to review, update and contribute. Copy edits are welcome. Generating content for, by, and about underrepresented cultures is also crucial.

In 2021, there is ample room for everyone. The spark to continue learning and growing Wikipedia begins with an informational hook.  Who better to help ignite that spark than librarians engaged in the work they love.

Rajene Hardeman, MSLIS, is a committed community and library advocate with experience serving community groups throughout metropolitan NYC and the Hudson Valley. A graduate of Pratt Institute School of Information, Rajene currently works as an independent archivist while continuing to develop programs and raise awareness regarding the need for balance between digital and non-digital activities. She is a trained mediator for Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. Rajene has partnered with the Mozilla Foundation and Tactical Technology Collective to bring workshops and supportive dialogue around the issues of online privacy and security, and, as a current trustee for the Mid-Hudson Library System, Rajene enthusiastically supports engagement and sustainability for all libraries and their patrons. She is a Metropolitan Museum of Art Library volunteer.  Rajene serves on the board of Wikimedia New York City and as a member of the Wikimedia and Libraries User Group steering committee. In a non-pandemic world, she coaches in-person Wikipedia edit-a-thons.