Most of us have hosted student interns – it’s a great opportunity to get some special task accomplished while teaching some skills to an eager individual fresh to the trade. And it’s always invigorating to see our world through fresh eyes. But what do you do when you need to freshen up your own perspective and outlook? Or when your whole organization needs to be infused with a new way of thinking?
It’s not news that researchers do not start their research on library websites – they are much more likely to start their searches on the open web (84% do, according to the 2010 Perceptions report). So making sure that library resources are “in the flow” (to quote my colleague Lorcan) is of critical importance. Libraries have of course been working to be sure that their collections are exposed on the open web (for a great example of this, check out the work done by Kenning Arlitsch and Patrick S. O’Brien which they talked about in this webinar.)
But it’s not enough to ensure that our websites are crawler friendly – I think libraries (and other organizations) need to think about making sure links to their collections and services are embedded in places where users will find them. And Wikipedia is definitely such a place – we know that more people are starting their searches on Wikipedia. And how many times have you done a web search and found that the first link takes you to Wikipedia? So following in the footsteps of such institutions as the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and the National Archives and Records Administration, OCLC Research will host a Wikipedian in Residence starting in May or June 2012.
What is a Wikipedian in Residence? For the answer, you need look no further than Wikipedia, which defines a WIR as a “Wikipedia editor [who] accepts a placement with an institution to facilitate Wikipedia entries related to that institution.” The WIR positions are linked to Wikipedia’s GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) initiative, which is a group that focused on improving Wikipedia’s coverage of topics related to the cultural sector. (As a side note, I was delighted to find that Wikipedia had an initiative that is so closely linked to the mission of libraries and cultural heritage institutions everywhere!)
I like to think of this sort of person as not just a Wikipedian, in residence at a particular institution, but as someone who is (in the parlance of my colleague Lynn Connaway) a “resident” Wikipedian – that is, someone who dwells in that environment (on the web, I’m a resident, but in Wikipedia, I’m a visitor, as I suspect many of you reading this are.)
Ideally, the Wikipedian in Residence will work as a community coordinator and strengthen the relationship between OCLC, library stakeholders, and the Wikipedia community through a range of activities, including working with OCLC staff and libraries more broadly to help foster a broader understanding of Wikiepedia’s practices. The WIR may also help to promote new or existing Wiki projects related to increasing access to library collections and services, or may help organize special events, such as editing challenge days, for the Wikipedian community. I think there are many opportunities, and we’ll be talking about what happens with this position here on HangingTogether.
While individual libraries and other cultural heritage institutions will continue to host Wikipedians in Residence, I think this is an opportunity for many of us to learn together. I’d like for our Wikipedian in Residence to be YOUR Wikipedian in Residence. I look forward to hearing from you about what you would like to see happen! And if you are a resident Wikipedian who is interested in a paid position and shares our passion for libraries, I look forward to hearing from you.