Wikipedia and Academic Libraries: A Global Project/Introduction

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INTRODUCTION

The publication of this book—in 2021—will coincide with Wikipedia’s twentieth birthday. Much has been written about Wikipedia’s beginning and evolution over the past twenty years, and we won’t go into detail here, but you can read about the history in other publications such as The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World’s Greatest Encyclopedia by Andrew Lih (2009) or Wikipedia @ 20: Stories of an Incomplete Revolution edited by Joseph Reagle and Jackie Koerner (2020). What has remained constant since its inception in 2001 is Wikipedia’s radically open model. As a result, Wikipedia was initially derided in higher education because this model allowed anyone to edit its content. However, what was initially seen as a flaw in many education circles has now become Wikipedia’s strength, when compared with other social media platforms (Cooke, 2020). Although opinion has slowly started to shift over the past decade, Wikipedia is still often considered a “forbidden space” for educators and students in the classroom (Lockett, 2020, p. 208).

In 2019, when we began this project, we set out to create a book that would represent different perspectives from around the globe. Wikipedia and Academic Libraries: A Global Project contains nineteen chapters by fifty-two authors from Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Scotland, Spain, and the United States. In keeping with the Wikipedia commitment and spirit to open access, each chapter has a CC BY 4.0 license, which means that anyone is free to copy and redistribute the chapters in any material or format, making sure to give the authors credit for their work.

The chapters in this book are authored by both new and longtime members of the Wikimedia community, representing a range of experiences. Obuezie and Horsfall (chapter 8), for example, joined the Wikimedia movement when they participated in the #1Lib1Ref campaign organized by the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions; while Dengra i Grau (chapter 11) first edited Catalan Wikipedia at age fourteen, in 2009, when he created an article about mashed potatoes: Puré de patates; Miller (chapter 7) first engaged with Francophone Wikipedia in 2017 to create an article about Mado Lamotte, a celebrated drag queen in Canada; and Peschanski (chapter 17) first edited Wikipedia in 2011, as part of a call to action by his graduate advisor, renowned sociologist Erik Olin Wright, at the University of Wisconsin.

We want to thank all of our contributors who proposed, wrote, and completed their chapters during the COVID-19 crisis. The crisis reminded us, once again, of the importance of open-access information—not just as a source of educational content but also health information. Our contributors are librarians, library staff, disciplinary faculty, and Wikimedia volunteers—acting as intermediaries between Wikimedia projects, faculty, and students. As more librarians engage with Wikipedia in the coming years, we hope this publication will act as a launching pad for future international collaborations, projects, and publications.


References

Cooke, R. (2020, February 17). Wikipedia is the last best place on the internet. Wired. Retrieved January 24, 2021, from www.wired.com/story/ wikipedia-online-encyclopedia-best-place-internet/.
Lih, A. (2009). The Wikipedia revolution: How a bunch of nobodies created the world’s greatest encyclopedia. Aurum.
Lockett, A. (2020). Why do I have authority to edit the page? The politics of user agency and participation on Wikipedia. In J. M. Reagle & J. Koerner. J. (Eds.), Wikipedia @ 20: Stories of an incomplete revolution. MIT Press.
Reagle, J. M., & Koerner, J. L. (Eds.). (2020). Wikipedia @ 20: Stories of an incomplete revolution. The MIT Press.