Libraries Week – how librarians can help improve Wikipedia

Wikipedia’s greatest strength is the sheer number of people who contribute information to it. Every month the collective effort of … Continue reading “Libraries Week – how librarians can help improve Wikipedia”

  • John Lubbock
  • October 13, 2017
Librarian at the card files in a Minnesota High School (1974) – image by Environmental Protection Agency

Wikipedia’s greatest strength is the sheer number of people who contribute information to it. Every month the collective effort of some 70,000 writers keeps the world’s most popular encyclopedia up-to-date, and make sure that its content is verifiable. That accountability is central to Wikipedia’s reliability and usefulness. At the foot of any article should be details of where the information originally came from.

Wikipedia is a globally important website, and Wikimedia UK are playing an active part in helping people based at research organisations to engage with Wikipedia. In 2016 we took part in #1Lib1Ref for the first time, an initiative to get librarians editing. Next year 1Lib1Ref will be returning bigger than before in the last two weeks of January, this time in partnership with CILIP, the library and information association.

The idea is to encourage every librarian in the world to add one reference to Wikipedia, and make libraries and books even more accessible. Citing books in relevant Wikipedia pages in turn drives more people to do further reading about a subject they are exploring on Wikipedia.

There are around 3,850 public libraries in the UK, and it is more important to support them now than ever as public funding is falling. Our aim is to show that librarians should be using Wikipedia and that it can help to engage new audience to do physical research in libraries as well as online. Libraries don’t have to remain places dedicated to analogue technologies, but can keep their relevance to the needs of contemporary users by hosting events like code clubs and Wikipedia workshops and providing 3D printers and other IT services. Scottish libraries are already making great advances in these areas and the Scottish Libraries and Information Council (SLIC)  recently appointed their first Wikimedian in Residence, in partnership with Wikimedia UK.

Sara Thomas ([[user:lirazelf]]) is working with SLIC until February 2019 to advance open knowledge objectives in Scotland’s public libraries. Drawing on Scotland’s rich library collections, the overarching aim is to support Scotland’s public library staff and users to engage with Wikimedia projects. The project itself draws on Sara’s experience working with the museums sector during her residency with Museums Galleries Scotland, and takes inspiration from the work done in Catalonia’s public libraries.

The first editathon of the project took place on Friday 6 October, as a co-production between Dig It! 2017 and SLIC.  Part of Scotland’s year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, the Hidden Gems event took as its starting point Scotland’s best loved “hidden gems”, a group of lesser-known history, heritage and archaeology sites across the country. SLIC drew together representatives from different Scottish Library services to provide good quality secondary sources from their local history collections, which were used to improve and create articles, whilst also giving those library services an insight into how their collections could be used within Wikipedia.

Phase one of the project runs until #1Lib1Ref, with initial partners undertaking to nominate staff for training, explore the possibilities for working with Wikimedia in their service, and staging at least one editathon event before the end of January.  Phase two will review phase one, and seek to roll out a wider programme across the country.

Project page:

Wikimedia UK’s work with SLIC is the latest partnership with a group of libraries, and builds on the success of our current partnerships with Bodleian Libraries Oxford, the Wellcome Library, the National Library of Wales and the National Library of Scotland. These partnerships have helped to release a lot of content on Open Licenses and help people across the world find out about the libraries’ collections.

Meanwhile, in the USA, the Wikimedia Foundation has funded the OCLC Webjunction Wikipedia + Libraries course; a free, nine-week online training program for 300 US public library staff to learn to confidently engage with Wikipedia. As a result of the work that Wikimedia has done with libraries around the world, the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) has released the Opportunity papers to highlight how libraries are working with Wikipedia to verify information and encourage librarians worldwide to engage more with Wikipedia.

So if you’re a librarian, please let us know if you would like to be involved with 1Lib1Ref by emailing Communications Coordinator John ( and following us on social media for more updates.



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