Meet the Libraries’ Innovation Grants Winners

This post is the second in a series featuring the innovative projects/programs that our colleagues are implementing with the help of internal grants offered by the Emory University Libraries. The two internal grants are the Innovation Grant and the Mini-Grant. These are available to support innovation or the purchase of tools or training that will enrich existing library services, programs, and workflows. This second post is written by Jenn Young (Educational Analyst, Teaching & Learning Technologies). She and other members of the Emory Libraries Wikipedia Group  (Courtney Baron, Kim Collins, Jennifer Elder, and Katie Rawson) received the Libraries Innovation Grant for their proposal, “A Wikipedian-in-Residence: Empowering Emory to Engage with the World’s Most Popular Reference Work.”


The Emory Libraries Wikipedia Group (led by Kim Collins, Jennifer Elder, Katie Rawson, Courtney Baron, and myself) formed in 2016 to serve as a guide for the Emory community on how we, as an academic institution, can best use and contribute to the world’s most popular online reference work. I have learned that there are many advantages to engaging with Wikipedia, such as developing public writing and digital literacy skills in students and improving the accuracy and availability of information on the web. With students who are hungry for knowledge, world-class faculty and staff who are experts in their fields and the unique special collections in our Libraries, Emory has much to add to this growing body of information.

Our grant proposal builds on the work we have already done as a group and takes what we have learned to the next level. Each year since the group’s founding, we have hosted the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, an event that takes place across sites around the globe and is dedicated to improving coverage of women artists on Wikipedia. By most estimates, less than 10 percent of editors on Wikipedia are women, and coverage of women in general on Wikipedia is low. This is an opportunity to help close that gender gap (though members of all genders are welcome) and develop editing skills. The grant funded our event this year on both Atlanta and Oxford campuses, which drew in 27 faculty, staff, and students combined and resulted in 27 improved articles. We intend to host an additional edit-a-thon in the fall, to be announced.

I have worked with several faculty over the past couple of years on assignments for their students involving Wikipedia. Such assignments make excellent alternatives to a traditional final paper or project, and involve deep research and learning of the topic that students choose to edit. The Wikipedia Education Foundation provides support for instructors who want to have their students edit Wikipedia, and we want faculty to be aware of this as an option and give them the resources to succeed in it. The grant will fund a Wikipedia mini-conference for faculty to learn from a Wikipedia representative about teaching and learning through the platform. Faculty will also have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of their peers.

One of the biggest pieces of our grant is the creation of a graduate student position titled Wikipedian in Residence, a role that I learned about when attending the annual Wikipedia conference, Wikimania, last year in Montreal. Many other institutions, like the British Museum (who piloted the role), the National Archives and Harvard, have hired a Wikipedian in Residence to empower their institution to contribute to Wikipedia and draw attention to the unique materials in their collections that can be used for creating and improving articles. At Emory, the Wikipedian in Residence will work with the special collections teams at Rose Library, Pitts Theology Library, Carlos Museum, Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library, and Oxford College Library in Fall 2018. This role is precedented by others at dozens of universities around the globe. Our goal is to have as much content created as possible as well as build the capacity to add to their work in the future.

We are privileged to have the support of our special collections partners as well as the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship and the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence. Through these initiatives, the Emory Libraries Wikipedia Group aims to bring awareness to the Emory community of the various ways that academia and Wikipedia are intertwined and how we can be partners in learning and information-sharing. Faculty will learn new pedagogical approaches, students will have opportunities to exercise their research and writing skills, and Emory Libraries will make its special collections contents more accessible.

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