Welcome to the second series Of Women in the Wikimedia movement. We are here today to talk about women in Wikimedia programs. The real star of our project which is aimed at strengthening ties between Wikimedia and libraries by raising awareness, running online training, and supporting library staff engagement. Our project is funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation which funds the core of the project. We were also awarded a supplementary grant from the Wikimedia Foundation to help bring support for our wonderful Wikimedian. It’s really important to note that this project isn’t explicitly about women however the project focused on training a professional group that is primarily made up of white women in the United States.
The reflections about what’s helpful to these women are not necessarily generalizable to what might be helpful to all women. Rather, our focus was on meeting the needs of a particular professional group. I’ve been editing Wikimedia since 2005 and I was first really very strongly drawn to Wikipedia because I saw a potential for harnessing its power to help advance the cause of libraries. But the further I went on my journey as a Wikimedian the more I realized that the power was not really in the platform, it was in the community behind it and that’s really all of you who power that. But I want to underscore that from my outsider perspective as a librarian this was not at all obvious. So, part of our project has been to bring, to really foreground that community of Wikimedian.
So before joining as our Wikimedian in residence Monica had previous experience with Wikimedia outreach, including running a gap finding project in collaboration with Wiki Ed Foundation and hosting a critical feminist edit-a-thon as well as working with the University of Washington libraries to run weekly training sessions with undergraduates. In addition to those awesome Wikimedia credentials Monica is just an incredibly thoughtful and curious person and her passion for learning and sharing has been really an advantage to our project.
So, for this project Monica was very much embedded in the larger Web Junction team. Since 2003 Web Junction has been the learning place for libraries and has served as a virtual gathering place where library staff build skills and find support. Web Junction delivers online professional training to public staff–public library staff to help enhance their professional capacities, and here you see our full team with Monica and I as Wikimedian embedded within it so this is our great group. So, the timeline for our project first of all we wanted to simultaneously build awareness for the course, to recruit people for the course but also to identify needs and take time to really build a thoughtful and responsive curriculum.
So, you’ll note here this this took much longer than delivering the course which was a nine week online training program. We’re now in that final evaluation phase and also preparing to publish our course materials which will be online before the conclusion of the project in May. So, our approach learning the Web Junction way is based on years of meeting the needs of adult learners specifically U.S. public library staff. People who are already in the workplace and who are seeking to sharpen or develop their skills really have limited time and they need for those new skills to fit within their current work or their current workplace.
Building and Constructing
We really put the why before the how in this building and constructing this class. So, we’ve looked really at identifying the needs of public library staff and didn’t start by presuming we knew what would be the most meaningful approaches to training library staff. So instead we did surveys and interviews and here’s what we found. First and foremost, information literacy is really critical to public library staff as well as improving access to a third of authoritative information and these were kind of primary drivers for course participants as well as to support research and critical thinking skills. Librarians are also of course interested in raising the visibility of libraries and the communities that they’re situated within. And libraries do a lot of public programming so looking at Wikimedia is an opportunity to enrich their public programming.
Of note, 70% of the participants were had never edited Wikimedia but were really curious about the possibilities. As we did the research and interviews with librarians that were already engaging with Wikimedia, we sought to raise awareness by elevating the voices of those that we had interviewed. We
really situated librarians who were who are already working in Wikipedia first and foremost. We invited library staff to show up to sign up for our program and then showed them the benefits that the training would bring to their professional lives. We were very careful in our messaging to feature the voices and stories of public library staff in their own words. Also, we published a series of interviews on the Web Junction website and made presentations at library conferences, did a preview webinar with library staff involved and really tried to foreground the voices of those librarians. And using those interviews and findings from the survey to inform what we would cover in our training program informed by what matters to librarians, not what matters to Wikimedian who care about libraries.
Communicating and Course Using WebJunchtion
But what librarians actually care about. During the course we really tried to make our participants comfortable. We did all the communicating and course instruction using Web Junction’s existing online professional development and educational platform. We aim to create human to human connections between our new library Wikimedia and existing Wikimedia’s so we invited fifteen Wikimedia Plus library guides, many of whom were cultural heritage professionals already, to participate in the program as our guides.
They introduce themselves, answer technical questions, shared feedback and ideas and made friendly connections with our participants. During the online trading program, we had six online 90-minute webinar sessions. Each featured a practitioner who is able to speak about their experience with the topic in in the–you know–in the librar. Some but not all of our presenters also participated as guides so kind of further cementing that relationship between existing Wikimedian’s. The guest presenters were really a high point for everyone who participated in our course and again it adds that human connection and exposes Wikimedia as a community and not as a technical platform.
So, in our curriculum we did not shy away from Wikimedia’s weaknesses–we identified these as areas of opportunity rather for library staff featuring projects and programs that have taken place at libraries, and that aim to redress Wikimedia’s biases including Afro CROWD, queer Wikimedia editing, feminist and women’s history edit-a-thons so this wasn’t the focus of our course but we made sure to foreground these efforts.
Our Six Online Classes
Following each of our six online classes students would take Wikimedia Foundation tutorials and do assigned activities on Wikimedia, then return to write and reflect with their community of peers and the guides in a private course space. Because information literacy is really a cornerstone to librarians, we really use this as a hook to draw librarians into the programs. Some example of activities were to observe and report on the tea house to evaluate a selection of articles, to help them see recentism understand and evaluate concepts of notability, identify missing voices, write a conflict-of interest statement on their user page, identify a page to edit and add citations, work in a sandbox, activate a red link on a talk page and send wiki love messages–it’s just a sample of things that we ask them to do.
Suggested Five Pathways
Our students also developed a plan of action and we suggested five pathways but we did not specify outcomes for them to take in their journey with Wikimedia. We did not want to assume that we knew what they wanted to get out of Wikimedia but instead put tools and resources into their hands so that they could make the best decisions for themselves and the communities that they serve.
Since the course has finished, we continue to support them with online office hours, contacts for guides. With-the one thing that we really steered them away from was creating any new articles, we wanted them to get build confidence and yeah and just really be strong in those basics. So, through our program we sought continually to affirm library staff and the alignment of their professional values with the mission and visibility of Wikimedia. We want them to be able to connect the dots between Wikimedia and library work by seeing themselves in Wikimedia and to feel valued and motivated to participate. We were extremely positive while not straying away from hard topics.
Please read our Previous Topic on Women in Wikimedia Programs I to understand more about it. Also read our next series article on Women in Wikimedia Programs III. QnA on Women In Wikimedia Program IV Thank you.