#1Lib1Ref: An Easy Gateway to Wikipedia Editing

If you haven’t heard yet, the latest round of #1Lib1Ref is currently underway. This initiative, running from January 15 to February 5 this round, encourages librarians to add one missing citation to a Wikipedia article. Much has been written before about Wikipedia, its uses in libraries, and how librarians can help to improve Wikipedia. Check out Siân Evans’s post from a few years ago to read a bit more about that.

In the case of #1Lib1Ref, the idea is simple: as librarians, we’re good at finding resources, so even if writing a whole Wikipedia article seems daunting (which it certainly did for me!), we can bring those resource-finding skills to bear by editing articles that have already been written but aren’t up to Wikipedia’s citation standards.

I’ve been interested in learning to edit Wikipedia, but haven’t managed to get to an edit-a-thon yet, so hadn’t done any editing at all until I learned of #1Lib1Ref. When I did, it sounded like the perfect opportunity to get started. I was especially drawn to the idea of adding citations. Lately, I’ve been thinking about librarians (like me) with specialized subject knowledge, and how we can make use of that knowledge in our work. Yes, I have a degree in Southeast Asian studies, but I don’t know everything about Southeast Asia, nor can I know everything. That said, I do know enough to edit some Wikipedia articles, so spurred on by #1Lib1Ref, I set out to do just that.

There’s a lot of ways to get started with editing. I decided to start with finding an article to edit. Citation Hunt is a fun tool that scans through articles and shows you the snippets tagged with “citation needed.” If you think you can add the citation, it will take you that page for you to edit it. I found, though, that this cast too wide of a net, so I instead turned to the WikiProject Cleanup Listings. This page has articles grouped by topic, which made it much easier for me to drill down to a topic I felt I knew something about. Clicking on “by cat” takes you to a list of articles that need various sorts of attention: the neutrality has been called into question, or the article has been flagged for redundancy and possible merger with another article. On this page, I paid particular attention to articles under “Cites no sources,” “Cites unreliable sources,” and “Unsourced passages need footnotes {{citation needed}}.” This gave me enough options to find an article on a topic I knew something about that also needed a citation or two.

Which meant it was time for editing. The #1Lib1Ref page has a quick guide to editing Wikipedia articles, and Eric Phetteplace has also made a short video documenting his edit for #1Lib1Ref.

Beyond the technical aspects, though, I had questions about sources. What kinds of sources does Wikipedia favor? What’s this about valuing secondary sources over primary sources? There’s extensive documentation available to learn more about sources on Wikipedia, as well as a helpful guide addressed specifically to librarians and other cultural professionals. One major takeaway is that Wikipedia favors open access sources, which makes sense: people using Wikipedia might not have the access necessary to view the full text of books or articles cited, which means that the citation doesn’t allow them to read more. That said, Wikipedia also recognizes that sources will not always be open access, and there is no open access requirement. Again, though, this is where librarians can help: can we find alternate sources that are open access?

With all that reading under my belt, I finally felt ready to start editing, and began by combing through some of my favorite sources on Javanese gamelan and dance. Look for me poking around through related articles for the rest of #1Lib1Ref!


Are you participating in #1Lib1Ref, or do you run other sorts of Wikipedia-related events in your library? Let me know in the comments!

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