Welcome to the Third series Of Women in the Wikimedia movement. We are here today to talk about women in Wikimedia programs. If you like to read or Previous Series please click here for series one and click here for series two. Wonderful lead-up to the course and to the court, and right now we are watching and learning from what participants are doing with the tools and resources that we aimed to put in their hands so that they could figure out where they want to go on their terms. And first of all, I just would like to say that they really Rock in terms of the editing that they did do.

Library Staff Enrolled

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gowikimedia Women-in-Wikimedia-Programs-III

So, by the numbers we did have about two hundred and ninety-nine library staff enrolled in the course, and 236 of those parts of ten became active editors, and I will say they were from 47 states in the United States as well as seven countries. They total made over five thousand nine hundred edits and this is as of February 13th, so these numbers you keep going up. They uploaded to Commons, some of them figuring out how to do this on their own, because this wasn’t something that we foregrounded in the course, but we showed them where to go to find out how to learn how to do things that we didn’t explicitly assign them to do and all told, they improved almost 800 articles, and a couple were bold and created new articles.

And since the start of the course there’s been a lot of views the improved articles, and the library staff was really proud of their accomplishment and communicated a lot together about what this meant for how they understood Wikimedia, and the benefits of Wikimedia for themselves and for their libraries and communities. And, I just want to share with you a couple of the profiles of the directions that library staff went–and I’ll do so by telling the personal stories of a couple of our course participants.

West Hempstead Public Library

Gowikimedia West Hempstead public library
Gowikimedia West Hempstead public library

This is Jean King, she’s a reference librarian at West Hempstead public library, and she really took to editing during the course and found herself editing on topics that were relevant to her community. So, gardens, monuments, and historical places in her community. She would find references that are available in her library, make photocopies of them, take notes, and then add citations during lulls at the reference desk. As she says,”I like that I can add sources that are credible and I am able to find information using my databases that others don’t have immediate access to.”For her, editing is a way to reach out to people who are searching on the Internet.

People often start their research on their own personal devices or home computers. They are not coming to the reference desk. But for Jean, she says editing Wikimedia is helpful because “I can bits and pieces together at the library, edit and share that out. We also have many library staff,as Merilee mentioned, who do information literacy work with their patrons and communities. And here I’d like to share out the story of Denise Davis and Tom Boucher from the Morton James Public Library in Nebraska City, Nebraska.

Both of these library staff entered the course a little bit skeptical about the value of Wikimedia. They would “poo-poo it” says Denise and they certainly weren’t recommending that students or patrons use Wikimedia as a starting point for their research. After taking-actually during the course Denise found her self tailoring the materials that we assigned them to do when we were having theme valuate articles, and using that to redesign her Information Literacy and Research course for high school students.

Level of Development

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Rather than telling students not to go to Wikimedia to start their research, she had all of them start their research with Wikimedia and compare the articles’ level of development between each other,and then use those as jumping-off points to start research within the library. For her, she says, “I am pushing its value to help students be critical consumers of information.”Like Denise and Tom, Leila Andrews at Austin public library found herself also really keen and interested in using Wikimedia, both for its richness and for its weaknesses to help her patrons and communities be critical.

She was very upfront and critical during our course about the limitations of Wikimedia, she says, “Wikimedia has biases” and she appreciated that we named them. But, Leila, like many other library staff found herself in a position where she could help others understand those biases and do something about them. So, she says “People need librarians to help them gain skills to navigate the digital environment they’re going to every day.”

This was really pushing back against a long kind of longer history of library staff, as well as educators in their community to work telling students and patrons not to use Wikimedia at all. Many of our library staff knew programs for their communities, and including developing community partnerships.

Kansas City Public Library

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gowikimedia Women-in-Wikimedia-Programs-III-4

Kim Giles from Kansas City Public Library is one such institutional connector Kansas City has a rich jazz history, it is really a heartland for jazz over time, and Kim immediately saw that there were many areas that needed further development on Wikimedia to cover Kansas City’s rich history. She got to work right away developing partnerships with the American jazz museum in Kansas City as well as the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, which is a really active community of musicians in Kansas City, who are both interested in their own history, and in playing jazz music.

Just last Monday she held a really amazing event at the American jazz museum that included live jazz jamming, Wikimedia education and tutorials, and then learning how to improve articles. Specifically, biographies of jazz musicians connected to Kansas City. For Kim, Wikimedia became this tremendous opportunity she said, to bring together institutions to develop out and be sharing out what’s relevant to their communities, and making it a robust resource for everyone. “I dare you not to get excited”, she says.

Rural Libraries

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gowikimedia Women-in-Wikimedia-Programs-III-5

Many of our library staff were also from small and rural libraries, so eighty percent actually of US public libraries are small or rural. And Karen is one such library staff, her library in Eagle Mountain City Public Library in Utah has about 12 full-time or part-time staff members. But Karen took from the course just this drive to share what she was learning with all of her staff members, and starting small by having them do their own tutorials and learning about Wikimedia, so that they could be better informed between each other and when they were helping their patrons. “Learning what I learned in the course is important for all of our staff. We’re a small rural library. We all do a little of everything. Wikimedia fits into all of our work.”

All of these stories I think are showcasing what our project accomplished, but I’d like to step back and highlight again at a high level some of what Marilee was saying about our course design, and really explicitly name how though our project was not specifically about women, what we did do was take what I would call a feminist approach to Wikimedia training. And I just want to name what that means.

So first of all, taking a feminist approach means respecting that the participant and 80% of our participants in the in the course training self-identified as women, but we really respected that these are unique individuals; they have a diversity of perspective, they have situated knowledge’s and they’re not necessarily all the same.

Wikimedia’s Limits

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unsplash-logoRobert Bye

What we did do was aim to facilitate these humans to human connections between newcomers and more seasoned Wikimedian’s. So that they could find alignments and similarities. We wanted to build a supportive empathetic community. We did not shy away at all from naming Wikimedia’s limits, biases, and gaps. So, what we did do was give people a way out from dwelling in the negativity and instead identifying these as opportunities to affect meaningful change. Throughout, we featured and championed the existing activist networks that are doing important work to address limit gaps and biases.

As a feminist approach we aimed to lift each other up and support each other. And then, we really sought to educate the participants so that they could confidently decide for themselves how they would like to engage. Importantly also, we recognized that Wikimedia is a form of labor, and we aimed to enable the library staff to meaningfully incorporate Wikimedia into their paid work. We also just threw out thought to stay positive and be kind to each other. We really accomplished a lot in the last 12 months and there’s so much that we could say here, but what I’d like to do is draw your attention to our final report. Where you can see more of our learning and more stories from the libraries themselves.



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