#LIB1REF - Even Wikipedia needs librarians too!

Woman using a laptop looking at the Public Library Services blog

A guest post by Louise Dolle

In late December 2015 just as we were winding down for the Christmas break Auburn City Library, and I’m sure many other public libraries and information institutions, received an email forwarded from Wikipedia. It started; 

 Hello from Jake and Alex at The Wikipedia Library!

Wikipedia is celebrating its 15th birthday this January 15th.  We want to invite you to help us make it a big splash with a week-long, global campaign to engage our peers in the research, library, and cultural sectors all over the world in the week following the birthday.

We’re calling it #1Lib1Ref, and it’s a global “micro-contributions drive” with a simple but awesome goal: 

For every librarian in the world to add one reference to any Wikipedia article.

 Like us, you might have felt that same indignant annoyance at the thought of helping out an organisation that has been the source of much scepticism and doubt over their credibility within our industry and, such an easy rival to our own dependable institutions. Our Reference Librarian and myself as the Social Media Officer were racking our brains on how we could justify our involvement in this cause when we’ve spent so much time telling our community the negative side of Wikipedia. Second to this was the reflex in only wanting to encourage the use of our own range of databases that we invest in so that our community can have access to a wide range of reliable information. We both took a few days to mull it over and I’m so glad we did because on one of those nights I got to thinking about the collaborative nature of this request and what Wikipedia was really saying when it sent this email through. Ultimately their request meant one thing;

Even Wikipedia needs Librarians too!

What a statement that is to make. That this great, collaborative online resource is in need of some help from the very information professionals their website had the potential to threaten. It was this idea that started getting us excited to be a part of this project and see the potential opportunity to raise awareness of our own databases as excellent resources of information at the same time.

The first step was to take a look at our own Wikipedia entry for “Auburn NSW”. The results were pretty underwhelming and straight away we felt we had a lot to add. With the wonderful skills of our Reference Librarian the page has been updated with reliable sources. The next step was to advertise and communicate. So, with the help of our burgeoning Social Media and using the Wikipedia hashtag for this endeavour #1LIB1REF we told our members what this project was all about. On top of spreading the word of what we were doing we then encouraged all our members and staff to take on the challenge in the wider effort of what Wikipedia was aiming for and use our library resources to add references to the Wikipedia pages they were browsing. This had the twofold effect of highlighting how easy it is to change a Wikipedia entry and reinforcing the quality of our databases to the community.

I’m not sure what difference we made, this type of campaign can only be effective with small contributions from many but I’d like to think we played our small part and spread the word about the importance of reliable sources at the same time. It occurred to me that Wikipedia used its 15th anniversary to launch this campaign and that alone speaks volumes. The biggest collaborative, worldwide wiki is going strong with no signs of slowing down and to ignore this organisation’s influence on how individuals search and retrieve information would ultimately be ineffective. What we can do is think about how we can use this resource to promote our own databases and to inform individuals about alternate, effective avenues for information seeking. After all, even an organisation as big as Wikipedia asked us for some help which just goes to show; Everyone needs Librarians!