Introduction to Wikipedia for Librarians: 24th July 2019

Last month the Scotland Programme Coordinator for Wikimedia UK, Dr Sara Thomas, came along to the MacKenzie Building in Edinburgh to talk to members of the SLLG about Wikimedia. Most of us had no idea about the breadth and depth of their portfolio – for example did you know that Wikipedia is only one of fifteen different chapters of the Wikimedia Foundation? Sara briefly introduced us to all of them, including WikiBooks, WikiSource and even WikiSpecies, explaining the aims and features of each. She talked broadly about the aim of the foundation – empowering and engaging people around the world to develop educational content which is open and freely available to anyone with an internet connection – and talked enthusiastically about the huge benefits to open source information, specifically about the wonder of shared knowledge and hundreds of thousands of people contributing to help each other learn and record information collaboratively.

The session was based around convincing us that librarians could and should be contributing to Wikipedia to help make it as reliable and accurate as possible. As professional information finders, we are brilliantly placed to add citations and edit articles for accuracy in line with Wikipedia’s standards:

  • It’s an encyclopedia
  • It has a neutral point of view
  • The content is free for anyone to use, edit and distribute
  • Respect and civility are key
  • There are no firm rules

As librarians we’re pretty keen on signposting reliable information, and many of us confessed that we didn’t think Wikipedia was that reliable particularly because of editable nature. Sara quoted some very interesting stats about how quickly erroneous information gets weeded out, and in fact the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2010, found Wikipedia as accurate as Physician Data Query – a professionally edited database maintained by the National Cancer Institute. She also mentioned the politicization of articles – often opinions get added from left-leaning viewpoints, then they get changed to right-leaning, then eventually they even out right down the middle. Articles rise in popularity in line with current affairs (for example, Boris Johnston is right up there at the moment.) Wrestling is inexplicably always in the top results, and unfortunately Wikipedia found that searches for articles relating to the EU Referendum spiked right after the referendum took place!

Sara highlighted that really, this model of information provision shouldn’t work. The very fact that it is editable by anyone suggests that vandalism will happen, and that inaccuracies will creep in and problems will arise. However community moderation is a powerful tool. Vandalism of pages is obvious and there are editors across the world (normal internet users who care about sharing information) who volunteer their time to correct pages which feature deliberate misinformation. For example, Boris Johnston’s page was edited to include a comment on his personal character but it reverted to the original copy within a minute of changes being made.

So far, so impressive. So how can we, as librarians or lovers of information, help further the open education cause? All you need is a user account and a little bit of tuition which can either be found using guides hosted on Wikipedia itself or by going along to an in-person event. Wikipedia edit-a-thons happen often around the country where groups of volunteers get together and get editing, often focusing on one topic at a time, finding reliable sources and citations, correcting grammar, editing tone and all-round making the internet a better and more informative place to be.

Did you know the University of Edinburgh hosts a full-time, permanent Wikipedian-in-Residence post? Ewan McAndrew was named the UK Wikimedian of the Year in 2017, and the University won the award for UK Partnership of the Year 2018 as the institution which stood out as ‘the most effective Wikimedia and Open Knowledge Advocate’. As part of this work they hold regular edit-a-thons and are involved in many other projects; one of which is the Women in Red group. This initiative started when it was recognised that only about 15% of the English Wikipedia’s biographies were about women. Founded in July 2015, WiR strives to improve the figure, which has reached 17.93% as of 12 August 2019. Obviously there is a lot more work to do, so you can find out more about them on the WikiProject page and also their twitter feed (@WikiWomenInRed).

If that has whet your appetite for a wee wander into the world of Wikipedia you might also want to have a look at #1lib1ref, an event which runs annually to encourage librarians to get into adding references to articles by just making one change and seeing how easy it is! It currently runs twice a year and you can visit 1lib1ref.org for more information, or check out the hashtag #1lib1ref.

The session flew by and we left enthused, better educated and encouraged to get editing, with plans afoot for more SLLG events around Wikipedia. Watch this space for an edit-a-thon near you soon! We’d like to extend our thanks to Sara for coming to talk to us, to Katharine Calder for organising, and to the Faculty of Advocates for allowing us to use the MacKenzie Building for the event.

SarahLouise McDonald

SLLG Committee

Tour of University of Edinburgh Law School: 6th June 2019

Many thanks to SLLG member Sara Berry for her guest post on our recent visit to the newly refurbished School of Law Library at the University of Edinburgh:

The group met near the grassy quad outside the new library on a wonderfully sunny day. The Librarian, Liz Stevenson, gave us a brief introduction to the library and how the modern architects have tried to honour the spirit of the original design. The Old College was founded in 1789 and the initial Robert Adam design was started but not completed after Adam’s death a couple of years later, and the Napoleonic wars halted progress.   William Playfair took over as architect in 1817 and kept to Adams’ designs to the most part except for creating one large quadrangle instead of two

The decision was taken a few years ago to move the library space from its original 4th floor main location over what is now the entrance to the Law School, to the next entrance and two floors down.   There was some uncertainty over the temporary location of the library while works were underway, and how much needed to go into storage. The library eventually moved to the David Hume tower for the duration of the works and moved back into its new home in January 2019.  The Law School Library has had to make some decisions about stock as overall the shelving capacity has gone down by about a 1,000 feet. They moved the Europa collection to the main University Library and make use of storage in different areas both on site and off.

The light oak wood shelves make a strong impression as you enter the library itself, as does the bespoke shape of the shelving units not all of which are linear, but form an oval and winding pattern throughout the library. There are two floors with seating for 251 students, each desk having its own sockets and discreet lighting. The library is open to all students at Edinburgh and has also proved popular with those studying non-law disciplines due to its location, space and general air of quiet. This does at times cause some competition for prime areas.

The library classification is Library of Congress and books are bought according to a number of factors including if they are a core text on a course (though some lecturers can change the core text at the first lecture!), if titles are covered in online resources (Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomsbury etc), or if they have the previous edition for example. Increasingly though students are using online resources for much of their research.

Our tour ended at William Burke’s passage, where the architects have glassed in and preserved part of the underground route by which Burke’s body was brought to Old College for dissection. Due to riots in the streets they couldn’t get it there any other way!

Many thanks are due to Liz for kindly giving up her time and giving us all a fascinating glimpse into this wonderful library. Thanks also to Kirstie Hustler for organising this and the lovely tea after.

Sara Berry
Advocates Library

SLLG AGM May 2019

Several years ago it was the intention of the committee to have AGMs alternate between Edinburgh and Glasgow, but as our convenor dutifully pointed out the last time this guidance was followed was in 2014! In the years that followed our annual meeting has been regularly hosted in Edinburgh so it was lovely to return the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow.

We arrived mid-afternoon and were welcomed warmly by John Mackenzie, Chief Executive of the RFPG, who showed us the conference room and allowed the early birds a sneak peek of the main library upstairs. After a quick tea and coffee, a few blethers and a play with our secretary’s selfie stick, the meeting began at 4.30pm.

AGM

The business was short and sweet. With 17 members in attendance, apologies given, previous minutes ratified and no matters arising, it was swiftly on to the reports.

Faye spoke warmly in her convenor’s report, commenting on the camaraderie in the group and the importance of supporting each other through tumultuous times with Brexit and Indyref2 looming. We held six successful events this year including a walking tour, several SSNaPs and our beloved winter social, and Faye also mentioned several personal achievements with births, awards and marriages for members of the group in 2018/19.

The Treasurer’s report was presented by Debra and Lorna provided a Twitter analysis on behalf of our excellent social media team. Then committee member and office bearer nominations were proposed and accepted as follows:

Rona accepted the invitation to become treasurer from Debra who is stepping down from the committee after several years of holding a variety of roles.

Kayleigh McGarry and Julie McGregor joined the committee as ordinary members this year on a job-share basis, as did Katharine Calder and Kirstie Hustler, all of whom were confirmed by the attendees of the meeting.

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Current Awareness SSNaP – The Sequel, 21 November 2018

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Back by popular demand, the SSNaP session on current awareness was kindly hosted again by Lorna Robertson at Shepherd and Wedderburn last week and co-hosted by Heather McIntosh from Clyde & Co. This session gave attendees a valuable insight into some of the commercial current awareness platforms being used in law firms.

The two main platforms demonstrated were Linex (due to be superseded by Vable) and Manzama. It was great to see both these systems in action without having to sign up for demos with the companies and face endless pestering sales calls. It was also useful to have unbiased feedback from librarians who have used these platforms on a day-to-day basis for a number of years.

As a non-user of current awareness aggregators (over and above Westlaw alerts), this SSNaP session let me see behind the aesthetically pleasing façade of current awareness emails produced by aggregators to all the mastery behind the scenes of RSS feeds, database alerts and website trackers. While the library professionals have had to do all the hard work in selecting the correct sources to follow for their alerts, once up and running it seems to save copious amounts of time compared to having to retrieve these materials manually. The commercial platforms also have lots of pre-set current awareness feeds which can be used, and feeds set by other users can also be utilised, meaning if you use either Linex or Manzama Lorna and Heather have done a lot of the hard work for you!

While most of the current awareness aggregator platforms offer similar basic functionality of collating news sources and publishing alerts in a professionally branded email, a few differences were highlighted which may impact on the provider you choose such as:

  • Pricing structure – the subscription costs may be based on number of users, number of alerts or size of firm.
  • Uploading own materials – LINEX allowed documents to be uploaded to the platform and linked from alerts but not all platforms do this.
  • End user control – some platforms allow end users to tailor and set up their own current awareness alerts allowing optimum flexibility (for users willing to login for themselves).
  • Integration with other subscription databases – there can be issues with some of the platforms pulling materials from behind subscription databases, especially if they don’t allow you to set up alerts to be emailed directly to the platform.
  • Social media streams – there still seems to be a lot of issues with current awareness platforms pulling feeds straight from Twitter due to the conversational nature of many Twitter accounts and this may be something some are better than others at filtering.

Other current awareness platforms mentioned included Thomson Reuters Bulletin Pro and LexisNexis Newsdesk.

If you are intrigued to find out more about what current awareness technology could offer you, then Vable have a number of interesting articles and webinars on the topic which were recommended at the SSNaP session: http://www.vable.com/white-papers-ebooks-videos-upcoming-events. And, who knows, maybe there will be a SSNaP Current Awareness Part III – Return of the Aggregator.