A month as Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland
The National Library of Scotland

This post was written by Ally Crockford, Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Scotland

My first introduction to Wikipedia was inspired by a job prospect. A contract as editor for an external wiki aimed at entrepreneurs called ‘Entrepedia.org’ was announced on the University of Edinburgh careers website. I was in the first year of an English Literature PhD programme at the University at that time, an international student (I’m originally from Canada) rather in need of rent money. I was also, at least as I considered myself, reasonably articulate and not a complete technological dunce, so I thought it was a good fit, and as I was offered the job it seems someone agreed. To learn more about the potential offered by a Wiki, I joined Wikipedia. I was not bold: I was most decidedly timid.

I only made a few minor edits, though I scrolled through article source code with great fascination. Once the contract ended and the demands of a full-time research and part-time teaching schedule took hold, my contributions stopped altogether, and my username was lost from both e-mail archives and memory. Five and a half years (and one PhD) later, I returned to Wikipedia, once again inspired by a job description, this time for the position of Wikimedian-in-Residence at the National Library of  Scotland. I was alerted this time by an innocuous Facebook post, and as an Open Knowledge advocate and frequent presence in the NLS Reading Rooms I leapt at the opportunity, and I cannot believe how fortunate I was to be offered the job. I have been amazed to see some of the incredible changes and developments that have taken place in the Wikimedia world since last I looked behind the scenes. It is a more expansive and mature resource and community than I remember, though I feel that is more likely because of my own maturing interests and opinions. In any case I am so grateful to have been given that little push back into contributing.

Perhaps you were unaware the position of Wikimedian-in-Residence had been filled, let alone that the residency was already over a month old. You’re probably not alone, and for good reason;  I’ve been keeping rather quiet for the first month, focusing on orientating myself within the Library,  introducing myself to staff and attending induction meetings for as many of the different teams that would have me. It was, and is, important to me to clearly identify the ideas and concerns that each team had to offer. So, although I’ve been in the position for a month, I have waited to speak up officially until I knew which ideas were feasible, and how the curators and cataloguers whose knowledge I will be relying on felt about them.

While it’s still early days yet, some of the projects currently in the pipeline have me positively buzzing. Public outreach projects in the form of ‘The Wikimedian is IN’ drop-in info sessions for staff and Library readers are in development, as are monthly Wiki-and-Biccy meetups designed to provide a clearly defined time and space – liberally supported with tea and biscuits, of course – for newly trained contributors to connect, practice, and work on their contributions. An autumn edit-athon is in the works which would attempt to improve some rather impoverished articles on eminent Scots using NLS digital and print resources alike, while a very exciting flagship edit-a-thon (or edit-athons!?) focusing on Scottish Women in Science to be held in March 2014 – Women’s History Month – will mark the completion not only the Wikimedian-in-Residence programme here at the NLS, but also of a planned series of #WISWIKI events to be held across Edinburgh in 2013-2014. There are also tentative plans to organise a Backstage Pass event in late 2013 or early 2014.

This month I begin training different teams within the Library, turning ideas into exciting reality, and meeting concerns and questions with – hopefully – strong solutions. I encourage anyone, from anywhere, with any level of interest or experience, to get in touch with me if they have thoughts or ideas or questions themselves, or even if they just want to know more! You can reach me at either (wp:en:)User:ACrockford or a.crockford@nls.uk