Submissions:2023/Parallel Play: What Do Librarians Learn from Editing Wikipedia?

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This submission has been accepted for WikiConference North America 2023.


Parallel Play: What Do Librarians Learn from Editing Wikipedia?



Type of session:

Lightning talk


In the early years of Wikipedia, academic librarians and professors collaborated to try to stop students from using the encyclopedia. This approach was not only a lost cause, it was a missed opportunity and counterproductive. More recently, going in the entirely opposite direction, librarians around the world have invested much time and effort into improving Wikipedia via edit-a-thons and projects like #1Lib1Ref. These endeavors have demonstrated that librarians have unique abilities and opportunities to both contribute to and make use of Wikipedia.

Having previously led numerous edit-a-thons, Carter and Libson have anecdotally noted that library employees’ enthusiasm for editing Wikipedia frequently exceeds that of the target audience for edit-a-thons (often students or the general public). Consequently, they decided that rather than continuing to struggle to generate enthusiasm among the target audience, to switch the target audience to their colleagues and create a collaborative “meetup” environment that might attract more participation. They also wanted to evaluate the reasons for employees’ participation and the benefits they take away from these Wikipedia “meetups” in order to share their experiences with the wider professional community.

This paper stems from research relating to the impact of intermittent Wikipedia co-working sessions on library employee growth. Carter and Libson have begun interviewing attendees of the sessions to gauge their motivation for participation, understand the nature of their learning, and learn about their level of inspiration for future learning. The analysis of the interviews has begun to explain whether and how Wikipedia can be a tool for library employees to use the skills of their profession to grow as employees and to better understand what form that growth takes. A significant body of research has already looked into how librarians can make the best use of Wikipedia. Another body of research has examined library employee engagement. These two research areas, though, have rarely, if ever, intersected. This project seeks data to make that intersection possible.

Author name:

Scott Libson, Sarah Carter

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:

Scott.libson, saccarte

Affiliated organization(s):

Yale University, Indiana University

Estimated time:

10-15 minutes

Special requests:


Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:


Okay to livestream?

Livestreaming is okay

If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)