Attention Missoulians: You are all invited to become “Wikipedians.”
On Friday, the Missoula County Public Library is hosting a workshop for people who are interested in becoming volunteer editors – called “Wikipedians” – for the Montana Wikipedia pages found on the free web-based encyclopedia site.
Kristin Anderson with Wikimedia DC, a nonprofit organization that helps provide editing support to Wikipedia, will teach people how to upload information to and edit information on the Montana pages.
Anderson, who is also a cataloger at the Library of Congress and has Montana roots, contacted the library to offer her services while on vacation in the area, said Mary Drew Powers, spokesperson for the Missoula County Public Library.
“She called and offered to do this just a few days ago while she is vacationing,” Power said. “The idea is to try and get more people from Missoula to help edit the things happening in Montana – and in Missoula.
“If you look at some of the Montana items, they are just stubs – there’s nothing there.”
The workshop is part of a Wikipedia effort called “Wiki Loves Libraries 2013,” which is an initiative for improved Wikimedia engagement with libraries and archives.
“As I understand it, this whole thing is about trying to work with libraries to gain more credibility, and it’s an interesting shift that Wikipedia and librarians are working together,” Powers said.
According to Wikipedia’s own definition of itself, information on its sites “is written collaboratively by largely anonymous Internet volunteers who write without pay. Anyone with Internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles, except in limited cases where editing is restricted to prevent disruption or vandalism. Users can contribute anonymously, under a pseudonym, or, if they choose to, with their real identity.“
Educators and librarians are wary of Wikipedia, Powers said, because it does not have “known experts,” and because of this statement made by the site:
“Unlike printed encyclopedias, Wikipedia is continually created and updated, with articles on historic events appearing within minutes, rather than months or years. Older articles tend to grow more comprehensive and balanced; newer articles may contain misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism.“
No matter what people may think about Wikipedia, or how it is used, Powers said that one thing is for certain.
“This is a good opportunity for people in Montana to define Montana to the rest of the world,” she said. “We are writing what we want people to see instead of having the rest of the world write about us.”
The workshop offer came out of the blue, and as far as she knows, Missoula is the only city that has been asked to create Wikipedians.
There’s no telling how many interested people will show up, but those who do are encouraged to bring smart phones, iPads and other tablets so that can learn how to use that technology to bolster the Montana pages with photographs and other imagery.
The focus of edited content will be Montana’s heritage, such as buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, mountain and lake names, state parks and Carnegie Libraries, among other subjects.
Powers is curious about how the whole event will unfold and what will come of it.
The library, she said, is the appropriate place for such a workshop.
“We are about opportunity and collaborations, and a library is a neutral place,” Powers said. “We are for people to discover things and make their own opinions.
“We are the information place and Wikipedia is information.”