'Ask a librarian'—connecting Wikimedians with the National Library of Australia: Editors of Australian-related topics on the English Wikipedia may have noticed an odd addition if they viewed the article's talk pages. For example, on Talk:Darwin, Northern Territory, they might be drawn in by the question mark, nested within what is often a sea of WikiProject templates: "Need help improving this article? Ask a librarian at the National Library of Australia, or the Northern Territory Library." Just what is this?
Editors of Australian-related topics on the English Wikipedia may have noticed an odd addition if they viewed the article's talk pages. For example, on Talk:Darwin, Northern Territory, they might be drawn in by the question mark, nested within what is often a sea of WikiProject templates: "Need help improving this article? Ask a librarian at the National Library of Australia, or the Northern Territory Library."
Just what is this?
It's the newest development in GLAM-Wiki. The National Library of Australia (NLA), the largest reference library in the country, is collaborating with WikiProject Australia on the English Wikipedia to "make authoritative information about Australia available to the world". The initiative has been led by Wikimedian Liam Wyatt—the Library's social media coordinator—and Renee Wilson, one of the institution's reference librarians, who now coordinates the ask a librarian service. Liam has brought his experience of WMF sites to the NLA, and has been responsible for marketing and communication surrounding the program.
Wyatt said "it's a great precedent for the library community here (and also internationally) to see Wikimedians as a potential usergroup of their services that they really want to engage with. After all—answering a reference enquiry from one person helps that person, but answering a Wikipedian helps thousands!"
The partnership will give Wikipedia editors of any nationality the chance to use the library's research services on articles related to Australia; the arrangement is that a research librarian can spend up to one hour on the questions asked of them. While many GLAM-Wiki efforts have focused on uploading new content and editing articles related to the institutions involved, this project will break new ground by connecting Wikimedians with the NLA's research librarians. Instead of new content, Wikimedians will be provided with verifiable information backed up with reliable sources from the library's holdings.
We asked Wyatt about the library's intentions. He stressed the centrality of search and verification to the professional motivation of librarians: "if there’s anyone who loves a well-structured footnote better than Wikipedians it’s reference librarians, so ... we wanted to find a way to work together that was mutually beneficial and in accordance with our respective missions."
He said the library has collaborated with the Wikimedia movement before, most recently in uploading a scan of a letter by Jane Austen to memorialise one of the recently deceasedAdrianne Wadewitz's favorite subjects. Their Trove collection of digitised newspapers can give fully formatted Wikipedia citations; librarians from the State Library of New South Wales have been creating Wikipedia articles on the newspapers in the archive.
How did it come about? "We were very careful to allow the Australian Wikipedians' noticeboard to come to its own consensus about this project, recognising that large proportions of external links are often seen as spam. We also spent a lot of time internally to the organisation thinking about what kind of information Wikimedians might ask for, building contingency plans in case we get too many questions, and informing our partner libraries across the country—whose equivalent Ask a librarian service is also linked (when applicable to the subject of the article)—so they knew what was happening."
Could other institutions from other countries replicate this model? "Having a reference desk—and the ability to ask questions by computer—is a standard and very important free service that every reference library offers. It's possible that other libraries might also wish to work with their local community to be involved in a similar way. One of the big questions for us was to have an appropriate scope—therefore these links only appear on articles that have the Wikiproject Australia template in the English Wikipedia. Perhaps in language editions where the country border and the language community have a strong overlap it would make sense for links to appear on all articles, or for a dedicated reference desk to be set up on-wiki, but not on the English Wikipedia."
Editors interested in participating should be aware of the library's privacy statement and policy, which do not allow the editor's name or article being worked on to be released by the library (unless they are asked in a public forum; public inquiries on their Facebook page, for instance, are responded to via the same medium). In short, Wyatt stated that "we won't publish information about an individual or their question that could enable the person to be identified, without seeking permission."
Wyatt will soon take leave from the National Library to take up a role in Bologna, Italy, as the GLAM-Wiki coordinator for Europeana; this internet platform—a "meta-GLAM", in Wyatt's words—gives users access to "millions of books, paintings, films, museum objects and archival records that have been digitised throughout Europe", according to its Wikipedia article. Wyatt told us that it has a long history of working with GLAM projects across Europe—including, to take just two small examples, the uploading of images of the Mona Lisa and recordings of Mozart's music. His primary task will be to support the development, integration, and usage of the GLAMwiki toolset project on Commons.
Cracking Wikipedia: As we reported last week, an ad agency released a video that detailed their supposed efforts to promote Pirelli, a tire manufacturing company, on Wikipedia. While the Signpost could find no evidence that they had actually done so on the English, Spanish, or Portuguese Wikipedias, and it may have been just a proposal or mockup, the video's privacy settings were altered shortly after we published to make it unavailable to public viewing. In anticipation of such a move, the Signpost stored a copy of the video, and you may view it online at vidd.me. We invite readers to comment on it below.
Wikimedia Foundation and movement affiliates
Foundation marches on Internet surveillance: The WMF has announced that it will be signing onto the Necessary and Proportionate Principles on the application of human rights to surveillance. The move comes after a short consulation period on the advocacy advisors mailing list (subject line "Coalitions on mass surveillance"), something that has been challenged ("Use of this list as evidence of consultation") on the same list.
New effort to get anon users to register: The WMF's Growth team is going to trial interface screens that will ask anonymous users to register. The first window will appear when the user clicks 'edit', while the second will appear after the edit is saved. Steven Walling, the product manager for the growth team, stated that currently "the only time that unregistered users are told they may want to log in is mid-edit, forcing them to abandon their work." This move is presumably part of the WMF's long-standing efforts to reverse the steady decline in the total number of active users of Wikimedia projects, and it does have the potential for impact: on the English Wikipedia, about a third of all contributions coming in each month are made from anonymous IP addresses.
Historians approaching Wikipedia: A new blog post ("Improving Wikipedia: Notes from an Informed Skeptic") on the American Historical Association's website highlights Stephen Campbell's editing experience on Panic of 1837 in the winter of 2012. He found that as a historian, writing on Wikipedia could be antithetical to everything he had been previously taught; historians are trained to analyze and make inferences from the facts, something that Wikipedia does not allow unless it is backed by reliable sources. He continued: "With the recognition that some of these issues will never go away entirely, I call on historians to dedicate their precious few hours of spare time to improving Wikipedia ... One of the long-standing criticisms of monographs is that they suit only a narrow, specialized audience, gathering dust on quiet library shelves. Perhaps Wikipedia is the ideal venue for broadcasting our own research expertise to a larger public, which, theoretically, should improve public discourse and historical thinking. Many in the hard sciences already take electronic publications into account, and as others have suggested, we risk being marginalized as a discipline if we do not join in."
German Wikipedia writing contest hits ten-year anniversary: The twice annual writing contest on the German Wikipedia is now ten years old, according to a blog post by Dirk Franke. Somewhat analogous to the English Wikipedia's Core Contest but without the emphasis on important articles, the winners of the Schreibwettbewerb is selected at an in-person meeting by a jury of German-language Wikipedians (with expenses paid by Wikimedia Germany). Prizes are, according to Franke, typically small but "unpredictable, often creative, and frequently surprising": they have included "tickets to the opera with a post-performance talk and drinks, wild game shot by the donor, Bulgarian egg-carrying bags, bicycle tours of Hamburg’s harbor, [and] hand-knotted Wikipedia bookmarks".