This case study covers the collaboration of a whole network of Catalan public libraries with Wikipedia & Wikimedia projects. This documentation focues on the motivations for their collaboration, the activities engaging the libraries and the influence and impact of that initiative on ideas around open access and the Wikimedia community within the libraries sector.
The program builds on a few important values: in a world of lots of information, librarians are references heroes; they have research expertise; Wikimedia projects need expertise. Moreover, many libraries want to have connection to local users who are eager for knowledge. We explained Wikipedia as one more way to engage those knowledge seekers:social media is about to start talking with engaged learners; Wikipedia is a great way to start collaborating with them.
- Official name & URL of the project ca:Viquiprojecte:Bibliowikis
- Case study written by: Carme Fenoll & Àlex Hinojo
Mission and focus
We approached the project with the following mission: If Wikipedia is a virtual (online) door to knowledge and libraries are a real door (offline), we should work together to provide new levels of access to information.
To meet this mission, we focused on the following strategies:
- Providing information to librarians on how to integrate Wikipedia into the daily work of a library
- Sharing the movement’s wiki philosophy with librarians (i.e. collaborative work, knowledge sharing and open access to the results of this work)
- Contributing alongside networks of libraries or cultural institutions encourages participation in the creation of open data and promotion of open access
- Promoting digital literacy of citizens (Library users)
- Promoting spread of local contents related to the region and to library’s specific knowledge (for theme libraries).
- Training librarians and society on copyright terms and Creative Commons licensing
GLAM-Wiki projects in Catalonia started in 2010 with an initial focus on Museums. These were mostly internationally recognized institutions, such as Barcelona’s Picasso Museum or Joan Miró Foundation joined the project; with their support, we were able to engage many others national, art & history museums.
During 2011 David Parreño, a volunteer Wikimedian, became Wikimedian in Residence in a small beach town called Palafrugell. He visited all the cultural institutions in town explaining the benefits of collaborating with Wikipedia (5 pillars, wikimarkup, etc.). During this residency, he was based at the local library, where the librarian discovered the potential of these kind of collaborations. After some months, this particular Palafrugell librarian was named head of Catalan libraries. We were so lucky: It was a shortcut from a pilot project to a national level scale.
Kick off: Let’s do some training
We had then some meetings with the brand new head of Catalan Public Libraries service. There we established both assumptions and expectations and set a very basic first goal: assuming the fact that Wikipedia is now the basic source of information for citizens and librarians’ mission is to facilitate access to information; Catalan Librarians should — at least — know how Wikipedia works.
During summer 2012 Catalan government agreed to support a series of 5 regional trainings to librarians all around Catalonia (one workshop in each major city of the area). Each training consisted in a 4 hours workshop explaining what is Wikipedia, what is GLAM-Wiki, what is free knowledge and why librarians should join the projects. 150 librarians from all around the country where trained in total. With this workshop we got a basic level of understanding what is Wikipedia. The Librarians sector finally understood Wikipedia and the Wikimedia community as friends and not as an mysterious unknown enemy. One of the key succeed factor was that the workshops where not tech oriented on “how” to edit Wikipedia but on the “why”.
First results: Asymmetrical answers from the early birds
Most of the librarians where enthusiastic with the idea of collaborating with Wikipedia, but they didn’t like the media-wiki markup that much. It was 2012 and Visual editor didn’t exist yet. But we had a small group of early adopting librarians (10-20 from the workshop) who started editing Wikipedia and spreading the project among their professional colleagues and library users. In some cases, the braver librarians already conducted public wiki-training activities with library users.
We realized wiki markup was a challenge, so after a couple of meetings the Department of Culture of the Government of Catalonia agreed to fund and print 1,500 copies of the Catalan Version of the Welcome to Wikipedia PDF guide, so both librarians and library users have some quick documentation on learning how to edit.
For the first time, not a single institution but a network of libraries was allied with Wikipedia to collaborate and promoting open access and digital literacy among citizens. Initial results from the workshops and flyers were lower than expected: as a not-yet-official thematic org we didn’t know how to best manage and follow up this momentum.
Nevertheless the project not only meant that librarians were actively involved in editing Wikipedia, but also and above all that librarians were convinced about the importance of creating and disseminating open knowledge, empowering users themselves to also create articles, and encouraging more people to get involved. Libraries can, and should, play an increasingly active role on it, because librarians constitute the link between information, data, and users, just like Wikipedia.
Scale: From 10 to 100 libraries
Some of the early-adopting librarians organized edit-a-thons, wiki-takes events, and other Wikimedia activities (see list below). These model events showed colleagues that collaborating with Wikipedia was relatively easy and offered a cool way of engaging with local communities. To reward libraries that self-organized programs, we sent some stickers which could be placed in public places . This strategy of awarding planning the project in a way that libraries was self sustainable at mid term. In fact, these stickers acted as a “recognition” or a “badge” for librarians. More and more librarians wanted to organize wiki projects just because they neighbour library had a sticker and they also wanted one. This helped to move the project and little by little we increased the number of actives libraries from 10 to 30-50.
We then created a Library-specific portal (Wikiproject Libraries) in order to share the experiences of librarians and to offer a “menu of activities” so librarians could follow the projects lead by other members of their profession. This empowered librarians to opt into the Wikimedia program: the models of other colleagues made using the program much more acceptable, and reinforced their ability to get approval from colleagues and supervisors. Moreover, rather than be limited to a particular type of activity, the librarians could choose the kind of activity they felt comfortable with (editing Wikipedia, organizing a workshop or an edit-a-thon, improving WikiCommons related material, releasing Public Domain content…).
Finally we organised a contest where Libraries had their Head Writer (decapçalera): A living local writer agreed to have a favourite library and among other things, the library had to write a proper Wikipedia article about said local writer. This simple project acted as an icebreaker for the less innovative librarians, because improving this Wikipedia article was somehow a mandatory task, but it acted as an icebreaker for them. Finally, they felt editing Wikipedia wasn’t that hard.
One of the key success of this scale period was offering activities & projects for different types of libraries and personas. If you where an innovative librarian, a socializer, a shy one, a task-lover…you could do different kinds of wiki activities related to your interests and level of comfort.
- Workshops for librarians
- Workshops for librarians
- Bibliowiki stickers at the entry door of a library
- More stickers
- Local editathon organized by librarians
- More than 200 libraries, are active in the project. Not only from Catalonia but from Catalan speaking areas
- #Bibliowikis has become a self sustainable project. Public libraries self-organize editathons, wiki takes, and other
- They feel #1lib1ref as THEIR yearly global project. They do outreach about it in their own professional communication channels (newsletters, mailings…) > Catalan, 2nd language more active after English.
- We tried to copy to archives but we failed.
Conclusions and outlook
The project has grown unstoppably and continues to expand itself, improving the Amical Wikimedia community. This exponential growth implies a difficulty in calculating the metrics/impact of participation of libraries numerically, since content can be created or expanded, and both options are equally good. Besides, professionals librarians can edit themselves or teach citizens to edit. It is then difficult to estimate the real impact on the number of items of such a large group of Wikipedians. It is impossible to know how many new Wikipedians have created an account because they attended a workshop wiki editing a library.
As the partnership progressed, it became clear that there is also a mutual interest between Amical Wikimedia and the librarians community: the number of female editors in Wikipedia is much lower than the male. The group of professionals of public libraries, by contrast, is made up of more than 80% women. This helps to close the gender gap on Wikipedia.
From this project, it has been revealed that the organization of Wiki activities is the perfect occasion for collaboration with other cultural institutions in a municipality framework. In some cases, local archives and local libraries which had common interests had never collaborated until Amical Wikimedia started collaborating with them, helping them create a synergy. Wikipedia behaves as a neutral playground area where no logos are needed and no fights, no bureaucracy, no board written permission: it’s a free platform that helps small institutions collaborate in an informal way. This is important for us as a result and we promote the idea: GLAM professionals feel Wikipedia is HELPING them to interact with other GLAM professionals) –>
Another intangible valuation is the win-win relationship that is generated from this project: first, the library community incorporates an open and powerful group of volunteer who help them spend their funds in an attractive way. Secondly, Wikipedia benefits from the prestige of being prescribed and promoted from the information professionals of library centers, as guarantors of neutrality and the proper use of information resources. Moroeover, we have started to share our story with other librarians networks (Land of València, Andorra, Basque Country, Italy, Spain…) Some of them have already started to copy our model, creating new communities within their respective regions. Both Amical Wikimedia, Wikimedia projects and the larger library professional network, have had an opportunity to grow. Welcoming the librarians liasons among Wikipedia volunteers, encourages sharing of best practices from both communities, increased transparency in all processes, and positive, impactful work.
- Sharing our model with Basque Librarians
- Sharing our model at GLAM-Wiki NL 2015
- Catalan wikis AGM Viquitrobada took place in a Public library
This project is an open and adaptive initiative, where every library has its own unique characteristics that are taken into account: environment, staff, users, etc. We design a menu of recommended activities (edit-a-thons, trainings, wikitakes…); and among all possible collaborations, each library choose the one that best suits to their reality and environment. From the simplest to organize, such as a small training workshop, to the most complex, such as photographing and cataloging the monuments of the town. Everyone does what they want/can depending on their availability/desire and related communities. To create a sense of commitment in the group, we occasionally organize a joint project for all the active libraries (famous librarians, Wiki Loves…). These are some of the most notable activities/projects done:
- Basic Wikipedia Workshop: Normally run by a local volunteer. In some cases run by librarian itself. Amical staff acts as B plan when last minute cancels of volunteers or when the workshop is in a library with no volunteers on the area. Library organises the public call to its communities and Amical tries to find a volunteer. Volunteer public transport expenses (if needed) are supported by Amical. It is a good way for starting a small community of editors. Usually 1 workshop per semester or trimester.
- Printing Wikipedia brochure We co-printed around 3K copies of the “Welcome to Wikipedia guide” so every library got some leaflets to give to interested users. We stopped doing it when Visual editor was implemented by default on our wiki.
- Bibliowiki sticker at doors: We designed a sticker so wikilibraries can show their users that they promote free knowledge and they are ok with answering wiki-related questions. Libraries could ask for one of these stickers only when they have self-organised a wiki activity.
- How to use your library: Librarians include “how to use Wikipedia” in their basic educational group visit to the library. When a school visits the library, they teach how to look for information on their computers, and on Wikipedia.
- Local edit-a-thons: Public libraries are the best at promoting local content and engaging with local specific communities. When organizing an edit-a-thon, Amical commits to send a volunteer trainer, and the library looks for the rest of the attendees: this way we don’t burn experienced users and we welcome newbies.
- Wiki takes your town: Using the Wikilovesmonuments existing heritage lists to organize an “out of the library” activity, where small teams take a photo scavenger hunt of heritage buildings around the community. Afterwards an Amical volunteer helps with the upload procedure on Wiki Commons.
- Wiki reading clubs: Most of public libraries have reading clubs. An innovative layer is asking to one of the readers to improve the page concerning the writer or the novel on Wikipedia and to introduce the writer or the novel to the rest of the group of readers on their next meeting.
- QRpedia: Some libraries in collaboration with the local tourism board organized contests or events to better document and translate local heritage buildings on Wikipedia and later on printed QRpedia codes around the town.
- Yearly Bibliowikis meeting: To give a sense of community, we organise a once a year a morning meeting with all active wikilibrarians so they can share experiences, fears, and challenges. Lunch is funded by Amical.
- Librarian trains a Librarian: We encourage expert wikilibrarians to teach and train their colleagues so we can reach more librarians. We treat wikilibrarians as a regular Wikipedia editor, asking them to volunteer.
- Fav writer: A Public Library chooses a favorite local living writer and works with volunteers to bring their article up to Good Article status. The writers then engage with the library in other activities.
- Leading a local Wikiproject: Some librarians have gone further and started a Wikiproject:their town. Starting to write about history, people, economy of their town
How to reproduce it in your own city/area
Note: Section based on  Model projects design by the Wikipedia Library
Wikimedia workshop oriented to librarians
When talking to a librarian you need to adapt a general Wikimedia workshop to an information professional.
- Local library or regional library makes the open call to sector professionals.
- Make sure attendees create a Wikipedia account in advance (so you avoid the top 5 limitation)
- Focus speech on benefits and mission of Wikipedia as a way of facilitating information to society. Align speech with libraries mission.
- Talk about Wikimedia projects. Some focused librarians don’t like Wikipedia but love WIkidata, Wikiquote, Wikisource…offer the menu and let them choose
- Talk about Wikimedia activities: edit-a-thon, workshops, online contests…
- Skills: Public speaking
- People: We use the technique of a online coordinator and an on site coordinator. This way we can scale our activities
- Time: 4 hours recommended
Wiki takes your town
- Check out if there is a list of monuments of your town in your home language Wikipedia. Here you can check some lists in English
- Contact the existing amateur photo groups of your city or look at some social media local tags on Instagram or Twitter and contact these communities
- Print some your list of local monuments. If you live in a big city, you can suggest routes or divide the list by areas.
- Offer some beverages at the end of the event to make sure people come back to the library once the route is finished
- While scheduling the event make sure you have 1 hour or so at the end so participants can upload content on Wikimedia Commons once back at the library.
- Skills: local Copyright legislation on monuments
- People: 1 librarian and one Wikimedia Commons volunteer
- Time: 4 hours recommended
Wiki Reading clubs
- Before reading the book, ask a group member if they want to improve/translate the Wikipedia article about the author or about the book’s topic
- The club member must edit the Wikipedia article while reading the book
- At the next meeting, they will present the article and comment it to the group
- Skills: Wikipedia editing
- People: 1 librarian leading the activity
- Time: 1 hour for writing emails and follow up and some minutes the day of the event
Other general Quick Tips
- Scaling: We planned the project in a way that is self substainable on mid term
- Cost: The economic issue is thus another undeniable attraction: libraries do not need to have extra economic resources to contribute to Wikipedia, and to create more of a digital presence for their local knowledge. Moreover, the central printing of the editing Wikipedia guides helped alleviate the cost to individual organizations.
- One for all it doesn’t work: Some librarians are not that used to “start their own projects”
- Once you edit, you are a Wikipedian: we tried to avoid the “them and us” terminology. We are all wikipedians. Librarians ARE wikipedians, don’t help Wikipedians -> we tried to welcome everybody into the wiki community.
- Governance: The project is managed by library staff and volunteers of Amical Wikimedia. Amical’s project coordinator spend 20% of their FTJ coordinating the whole project, in a decreasing way.
- Who is active: Open list of active libraries: We have an open list of active wiki libraries so they all can compare with each other, ask and share experiences.
- Giving voice to librarians on outreach activities: We gave voice to librarians when being interviewed about Wikipedia. Instead of answering why we work with librarians, we asked media to talk directly with them. And we invited active wikilibrarians or the head of service when presenting the project at GLAM conferences, so other professionals hear the story from a librarian professional, not only from an enthusiastic volunteer.
Similar projects in other contexts
- Wikipedia in de Openbare Bibliotheek (Dutch)– A collaboration between Wikimedia Netherlands and the Sectorinstituut Openbare Bibliotheken — a library association.
- BiblioWikiAsturias (Spanish) – a project in Asturias Spain, which follows much the same model as the Catalan Library Network.
- #1lib1ref – Campaign that engaged Global Libraries, to add “one more reference to Wikipedia”. The concept also uses
- METRO Library Consortium WIR – a project with the Metropolitan New York Library Council.
- Allué, V. (2013). Biblioteques UAB i Viquipèdia, per què no? (Catalan)
- Bayer, Tilman, A whole network of public libraries begins Wikipedia collaboration in Catalonia, Wikimedia Blog, 2012
- Bueno de la Fuente, Gema (2012). Abrir y enlazar datos: la reutilización de información de, por y para las bibliotecas (Spanish).
- Fenoll, Carme. (2012). El sistema bibliotecari català i la Wikipedia: work in progress. (Catalan)
- Lerga, Maura. (2013). Les biblioteques públiques catalanes en xarxa amb Viquipèdia (Catalan)
Text originally published here