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

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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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NMS Library tour and Rip It Up, 13 September 2018

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As a librarian friend observed, collectively, if we info groups (CILIPS, EDINA, SLLG, SWOP) haven’t visited every library in Scotland, we’ve made a darned good attempt in our race to dwell among the untrodden alcoves.

Building on the success of last year’s trip to the Moving Image Archive in Glasgow, the SLLG Committee suggested a group outing to a very popular exhibition, Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop, running 22 June to 25 November 2018 at the National Museum of Scotland (NMS). There followed the magic words, ‘Maybe they have a library we can visit.’ Why, yes they do.

Research Library

You know you’re going off the beaten track when the meeting point is the staff entrance. Ines and Morven, our hosts for the afternoon, guided us expertly through the maze that is the NMS.

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Our tour began in the basement which houses the museum archives acquired at various points in its fairly complicated history (see Wikipedia). As with many libraries, across the sectors, the NMS Research Library has been charged with a significant number of items (many from the founding Society of Antiquaries’ collection) which require surveying, describing and preserving. While time and expertise to do so are at a premium, natural museum curios are not: see signs for GIANT OCTOPUS or that well-known cutie, the BLACK RAT SNAKE, with its ‘reputation for being a bad-tempered creature’.

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This basement area also contains the rare book collection used by staff including the museum curators. We noticed several classification schemes on the go along with familiar-to-some carbon copy borrowing slips and several volumes of Acts of the Old Scottish Parliament!

The Library’s main reading room is on level 3 accessed from the Royal Museum side of the building, with study spaces, wifi, periodicals and around 10% of the total book collection on open shelves. This selection aims to assist visitors to further understand the Museum’s objects and activities, and is open to the public so I’d encourage you to seek it out.

(Scottish) life isn’t rubbish

A real gem of the Library is the Scottish Life Archive finding facility. In a world of OPACs and LMSs, this wall of binders brought real cheer to the group with its unceremonious subject headings. Under T alone you’ll find Tartan, Turnips and Turra Coos. You can read more about the Archive here.

So from ‘Popular Disturbances (See under Law etc – 117C)’ to popular music and the next stop on our magical history tour…

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Rip it up and start again

This Stopfordian has loved Scottish indie music since hearing Tigermilk as a teenager. Our visit to Rip It Up, though, demonstrated just how we have our own unique memories of gigs, bands and record stores. Our more ‘mature’ members recognised the bright red carrier bags claiming ‘I found it at Bruce’s’. Others came to life on seeing the stage outfits of Alex Harvey or Shirley Manson, or the huge mixing desk used by Chemikal Underground. We can’t keep living in the past so it was also good to see a nod to recent SAY Award winners such as Sacred Paws and Young Fathers (the latter having a connection to law libraries, I’m told).

Clearly, a huge amount of work went into researching the history and sourcing material, both for the exhibition and the accompanying BBC series which comprised archive footage and stills, and contemporary interviews, not to mention music! So engrossing were the exhibits, our group has to be ushered out as closing time fast approached.

Hip ship

After a tipple at Greyfriars Bobby, we made our way to Checkpoint which, according to the Times, is one of the ‘25 coolest restaurants in Britain’ which proved fairly accurate – we were seated in a shipping container. I ate a whole roast cauliflower followed by avocado dessert (both delicious). Now there’s an entry for the Scottish Life Archive.

Moving Image Archive tour and social, 21 August 2017

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12-screen video wall, Steenbeck flatbed editor and SLLG members browsing film memorabilia

Last week, a group of SLLG members dandered along to Kelvin Hall, home of the National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive since September 2016.

Following a £35 million refurbishment, Kelvin Hall reopened last year as one of the UK’s biggest museums and research centres, a project in joint partnership between Glasgow University, the Hunterian, Glasgow Museums, the National Library of Scotland and Glasgow City Council.

As well as hosting the Moving Image Archive, this interactive space allows visitors to access the National Library’s digital licensed collections including films, maps, books and manuscripts in electronic format.

Moving Image Archive

For those who are unfamiliar, the Archive, previously a department of the one-time Scottish Screen, has been part of the National Library of Scotland since 2007. Its main purpose is to collect, preserve and promote access to films capturing Scottish culture and history, from the early days of film-making to the present day. In addition, the Archive includes a wide range of manuscript, printed material and memorabilia (check out the Steenbeck) relating to the development of cinema exhibition and film production in Scotland since 1896.

Learning and outreach

Moving from the outskirts of Glasgow last year to this more prominent position in the West End, public engagement is high on the agenda with opportunities for further learning provided through screenings, workshops, projects and online resources such as Scotland on Screen.

The National Library at Kelvin Hall is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday, with Mondays and Wednesday mornings reserved for appointment-only visits by school classes and special-interest groups such as ours!

Learning and Outreach Officer, Sheena MacDougall, was our very knowledgeable guide for the afternoon. As a filmmaker herself, Sheena’s passion for the collections was clear and she deftly handled group members’ many and varied questions relating to acquisition, preservation and cataloguing of items, while providing us with opportunities to explore the interactive screens and exhibits.

Using footage

Of course, “us law librarians” were interested to learn about copyright policies and trends. Like other formats, much will depend on method of acquisition, whether they be home movies donated by family members or cellulose nitrate reels (saved from a closing picture house) awaiting spontaneous combustion in someone’s attic! For items in copyright, the Library doesn’t give permission directly but can, where possible, provide copyright holder contact details on a case-by-case basis.

Professional filmmakers may receive public investment on the proviso that content is made accessible by the Archive, either onsite only or remotely via the website. The Moving Image Archive catalogue includes copyright information, as well as filters such as “Video availability” allowing you to select content based on permissions. More information on using footage can be found on the Archive website, including how to obtain copies of films.

A sense of place

Other catalogue filters include year, place, subject and many more, providing a hook for people of all ages and backgrounds. SLLG members got stuck in browsing by familiar towns (Largs, Melrose…) and were transported to different places and times with folk doing the same old things: singing, chasing after balls and sailing doon the watter.

It’s easy to envisage public libraries, schools and community groups finding great uses for this national resource, especially considering that screen media is the dominant form of cultural communication in this country. Again, the Scotland on Screen website contains further information on moving image education (MIE), including tutorials on discussing and analysing films, as well as creating a moving image essay.

West End delights

I could go on and on about this treasure trove of film and video but we must move on, as we did down Argyle Street to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, BrewDog and finally Mother India restaurant (“Not the café!”) on Westminster Terrace.

It may be a cliché but Mother India is a Glasgow, and now Edinburgh, institution. What a treat to dine on delicious food and catch up with long-standing, new and returning members before dashing for the train back east.

Many thanks to all who helped to make the afternoon and evening a success.