Tag Archives: information literacy

Wikipedia and Academic Libraries: Gathering best practices of professionals

IFLA welcomes Laurie Bridges (Oregon State University), Raymond Pun (Alder Graduate School of Education) and Roberto Arteaga (Pacific Lutheran University), three library professionals to talk about their book project to link Wikipedia and academic libraries.


Could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Laurie Bridges (she/her/hers), I am an Instruction and Outreach Librarian at Oregon State University and Associate Professor. I am currently teaching a 2-credit Honors class about Wikipedia and social justice, this is my second time teaching the class. I developed the curriculum and taught it for the first time in the Spring of 2019. I have co-hosted two Wikipedia editathons at my university. I work with a couple of faculty on my campus to help facilitate successful Wikipedia editing assignments (a history course and a writing course). I co-authored two articles in the Journal of Academic Librarianship:

I’m Raymond Pun (he/him/his), a librarian in the Alder Graduate School of Education in California, USA. I’ve organized and participated in Wikipedia-edit-ahons before. I’ve collaborated with teaching faculty in the sciences, women’s studies, and ethnic studies to create opportunities for students to learn about online sources, and the need to engage with online reference materials more critically.

I’m Roberto Arteaga (he/him). I’m an assistant professor and instruction and reference librarian at Pacific Lutheran University. I joined this project after having conversations with Laurie about Wikipedia in relation to library instruction and for-credit courses. I’m just beginning my Wikipedia journey, and I’m particularly interested in developing more pedagogical approaches to teaching with Wikipedia, both in library contexts and beyond.

Librarians collaborated with Wikipedians old and new to improve articles related to Multnomah County, Oregon.
Pdx.leecat – CC BY-SA 3.0

You are developing an open access book project on Wikimedia projects and academic libraries, how did this project get started? 

Laurie: As I was doing research for my courses and articles I used Merrilee Proffitt’s book, “Leveraging Wikipedia,” which is a great introduction for all libraries and librarians. However, it was missing what I really wanted, an in-depth look into academic libraries and librarians and how they’re using Wikipedia. I started chatting with Ray Pun about this, and from here the idea grew.

Ray: Yes, I agree with Laurie! For the events that I’ve organized with faculty, it was important to have students from underrepresented groups contribute to Wikipedia using library resources. Less than 15% of contributors to Wikipedia were women, based on a survey in 2015. In addition, there is under-representation of content on Wikipedia about women and other minority groups and their perspectives and experiences so that’s where I collaborated with academics to address these issues. Wikipedia is one of the most visited websites and it is very important to add and improve its content.

Laurie: And, around the time I was chatting with Ray about this, Roberto reached out to me, he was considering doing a Wikipedia project in one of his classes and wanted to chat. After our video conversation, in which Roberto asked thoughtful and thought-provoking questions, I started thinking he might be the perfect third to a possible editing team. I talked with Ray and we decided to invite Roberto to join us. I really enjoy working in groups of three.

Wikipedia training session in the framework of 1Lib1Ref with 9 librarians and information science professionals in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Jacquitoz – CC BY-SA 4.0


Could you tell us more about the subjects that will be addressed in this book and why?

Ray: Roberto and Laurie created a website covering the subjects in the book that would be of interest to many people. We hope the book covers case studies coming from theoretical and pedagogical approaches. We are looking for academic library workers to share how they utilize Wikipedia content to promote information literacy, collaboration or research.

Laurie: I have several librarian contacts in Spain, and I was aware that some interesting things were being done with Wikipedia in the Catalonia region. Then, serendipitously I received a grant to attend the Wikimedia + Education conference in San Sebastian, the Basque region in Spain. It was during the conference that I learned librarians in the Basque region are also doing some unique activities. And, during the conference, I really began to think about how librarians around the world are probably doing fascinating things with Wikipedia that are not shared widely, beyond the local region or country. I thought an open access online book might be the best way to collaborate and share information across borders and around the world.


Wikipedia workshop at the Faculty of Medicine on the Leios-Biscay campus in the Basque Country. Theklan – CC BY-SA 4.0


Black history month in Nigeria in partnership with AfroCROWD Kaizenify – CC BY-SA 4.0


According to you, what common goals are there between Wikimedia Foundation’s projects and academic libraries?

Roberto: I would say that just like the Wikimedia Foundation, libraries, in general, are committed to facilitating access to information to their communities. While libraries are often bound by contracts with publishers that prevent from fully opening up resources to everyone, librarians are now, more than ever, beginning to advocate for more content to become more widely available and reduce the content kept behind paywalls.

Ray: Agreed! It is especially important, particularly now during the pandemic. As it has been reported, COVID-19’s Wikipedia page has been one of the most visited sites. Creating more works under open access (OA) will certainly help.


Can you tell us more about the open access model and why you choose it? 

Ray: Early in our planning stages, we went with an open access model because we felt that OA would give us and our contributors the flexibility to share their work with colleagues. We envisioned some of our chapters to be multilingual and wanted to enable access to such content. Wikipedia itself is open and for us, it was important to follow that approach.

Laurie: Wikipedia is radically open. Not only do you see the article, but you see the “talk” tab where the conversation is happening, you see the history tab, and you can see contributors’ history over time. One of the reasons Wikipedia is so popular is because it’s available for free, to everyone, anywhere (Of course, there’s censorship, but that’s another story.) Therefore, we felt it was important to have a book that is open and free to librarians.


Finally, what would be your recommendations for libraries wishing to develop Wiki projects?

Laurie: I can answer this question because I just co-authored an article about Wikipedia in libraries for educational use (you can see the post print here). I recommend reaching out and connecting with others, because there is a wealth of knowledge and people are eager to share their successes and failures. Many librarians start with the #1lib1ref campaign, which is low-stakes and easy to get involved with – you just need to add one citation to Wikipedia.

Another popular activity is editathons, happening everywhere in the world. I think the most popular topic for librarian editathons is Art + Feminism. It’s important to note that in-person editathons have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, but there are many remote editathons taking place. In the US and Canada, faculty members can run classes through the WikiEdu dashboard, and librarians can connect with professors who are using the dashboard and offer their expertise. For librarians outside of the US, you can connect with the Wikimedia Education team to find resources in your area.

How can anyone interested find out more?

You can find more information here: https://sites.google.com/view/globalwikipedia/


SDG Success as an Information Problem?

IFLA has engaged strongly around the Sustainable Development Goals, both in their preparation in the run up to 2015, and in their delivery in the years that have followed.

In this, we have worked hard to show how libraries contribute to success, and – more importantly – to help library associations and libraries around the world to do the same, in their own contexts.

We have identified the SDG targets – 20 of them! – which implicitly or explicitly refer to the need for access to, and the ability to use, information. We have collected stories and examples on the Library Map of the World, and have a growing collection of expert insights into how information and libraries contribute to individual SDGs in the Development and Access to Information Report.

This approach may work with policy-makers focused on getting success on the individual goals for which they are responsible. But it can often feel difficult to bring this all together at a more general level, and avoid a situation where access to information questions are only viewed, separately, from many different angles.

This is an issue for libraries, given that if there is a better understanding of the cross-cutting importance of information, this could lead to support for institutions focused on equitable, cross-cutting providers of access to information – libraries.

Without it, information (and so libraries) risks falling between stools as an issue, and ultimately being forgotten or neglected.

How to response? One angle could be to work to help decision-makers to understand better how the challenges they face are, at least to some extent, information issues, or information problems.

The idea of ‘information problems’ is not new of course. It is at the basis of work on information literacy in general. It also shows up in economics (where it is seen as a source of market failure), and in health (where it underpins a lot of work on public health), just to give a few examples.

But how to apply this to policy issues, and to encourage governments, in their work towards the SDGs, to think clearly and holistically about the information issues?

Governments themselves – at least in some situations – are already fortunately beginning to understand the information problems that they face in terms of good governance. As set out in an IFLA paper a couple of years ago, the notion of ‘evidence-based policy-making’ is a recognition of just such an information problem.

What about in implementation? How do we encourage policy makers to focus? One approach could be to encourage them to ask the below questions, across their action to implement the SDGs:

  1. Does success depend on individuals being able to find out about new opportunities?
  2. Does success depend on behaviour-change among individuals?
  3. Does success depend on the possibility to respond to change, from the local to the global levels?
  4. Does success depend on innovation improving on existing knowledge?

These questions, hopefully, are not controversial. Yet each one touches on the importance of access to information as a basis for better decision-making, and so policy success, at all levels.

They are all areas where libraries make a difference, as a place to find out about new openings and programmes, to learn about new ways of doing things, to organise and better use information, and to power research.

And in almost every area of policy work, the answer to at least one of the above questions will be yes. For health policy makers, it will be all of them. For employment policy makers, it will be at least questions 1 and 3. For climate change policy, it will be questions 2 to 4.

The same exercise works for policies to deliver other SDGs, at all levels of government. When asked at the top level of policy-planning, this has the potential to make it clear how important information is as a cross-cutting issue, and so to justify action, including by supporting libraries.


Clearly, information alone cannot solve all problems. Indeed, it would be unfair to place all the responsibility for policy failures on individuals making the wrong decisions.

But at the same time, ignoring the information problems that exist in almost all overall policy challenges is to take a restricted perspective, and one that risks reducing success.

IFLA will continue to work at the global level to underline the transformative potential of comprehensive solutions to information problems in achieving the SDGs. We welcome your ideas here!

Engage through the Page: Libraries and Books Help Young People become Full Citizens

The climate marches that have marked the news in so many parts of the world over the last few months are, to a large extent, thanks to the mobilisation of young people.

The logic behind this is simple – this is the generation that will face the consequences of inaction today. But is it also reassuring to see a response to the cliché of younger people being disaffected or uninterested in global issues.

This is because democracy depends on people not only having opinions, but being ready to stand up and debate these in public. And as the climate marches have shown, the process of becoming a confident, informed, engaged citizen can start young.

This blog – on the first day of International School Library Month – looks at how libraries contribute to this.


Wider Horizons – School Libraries and Citizenship

School libraries – or other libraries providing school library services in some countries – have a mission not only to support teachers by helping develop literacy and a love of reading, but also to go further.

As set out in the IFLA-UNESCO School Libraries Manifesto, which turns 20 this year, they should also be gateways to the wider world, helping young people discover and engage with diverse ideas, experiences and opinions.

Just as any other library, in effect, school libraries provide a platform for young people to access information about the world, to build their awareness and sensitivity, and to exercise their intellectual freedom as an essential foundation of effective and responsible citizenship and participation in a democracy.

There are many great examples of this at work, for example in Portugal, where the Rights for Right project looks to make the link between literacy and citizenship, with an early focus on human rights. In the United States, school librarians work to build awareness of ethical issues among students, while in Brazil, libraries have stepped in where schools have been unable to help young people come to terms with the economic and social issues they face.


Starting the Conversation – the SDG Book Club

Of course, it isn’t necessarily easy to know where to start in order to get a discussion going about issues outside of the curriculum. Books can offer a way in – and indeed they do in all of the examples mentioned above. By telling a story, they can provide a less direct way of getting young people thinking, especially when they look to make the links between what they are reading, and their own experience.

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Book Club is one way of finding books that allow this to happen.

Set up by the United Nations in cooperation with IFLA, the International Publishers Association, the International Board on Books for Youth and the European and International Booksellers’ Federation, this provides a sample of books in each of the six official languages of the United Nations for each of the SDGs, month by month. The most recent list focuses on SDG 5 (gender equality), with SDG 6 (water and sanitation) up next.

The website, in addition to ideas for books, also has a number of other tools, for example how to set up a local book club, communications materials, a newsletter, and a blog – take a look!


With the need for – and potential of – engagement by young people shown by the recent climate marches, there is a window for school libraries to show what they are doing to create the citizens of the future. International School Library Month provides a great opportunity, and the SDG Book Club a great tool, to do this.


Find out more about the work of IFLA’s School Libraries Section.

Libraries Transforming Education: Equity, Capability, Continuity

This year’s International Youth Day focuses on the need to transform education.

As the United Nations’ own website underlines, the combination of the crucial role of education in delivering other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as the future role of young people themselves, makes this a vital area of work.

Libraries have always had a key part to play in supporting education, from simply making available the materials needed by students to more active provision of teaching.

They can also be at the heart of the transformation that will be necessary to make education truly universal, effective and meaningful for all. This blog suggests three ways in which they can make a unique contribution.


Equity: a key challenge faced by many schools is the unevenness of basic literacy skills among new entrants. It is clear that those children who have had more opportunity to read – and listen to others read – before starting formal education are in a better position to succeed.

Libraries have a long experience of promoting reading for pleasure from a young age, and indeed in the Netherlands are seen as part of the overall government offer of support for young families. In this way, they allow for early intervention, which helps stop children starting school at a disadvantage.


Capability: in addition to supporting basic literacy, libraries are very well placed to help young people develop the critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in an information-rich world. Many support media and information literacy classes, for example, giving youth the tools they need to take their own decisions and engage in civic life.

In other cases, libraries provide a space for learning how to use new technologies which may not be available in schools (for example in Kibera, Kenya), or to learn to code (as in rural regions of Romania). There are further great examples in the most recent newsletter from IFLA’s Section on Library Services for Children and Young Adults.

Such skills can be essential if young people are to go into the world with the knowledge and abilities they need to be independent.


Continuity: crucially, the support that libraries offer does not stop when school does. A key strength of the library field is that services are available for all, throughout their lives. Evidence from the United States suggests that about half of all 18-35 year olds have visited a public library in the last year, a larger share than any other age group.

Especially where compulsory education does not extend far beyond primary school, libraries can be essential as places for young people to keep contact with learning opportunities. As underlined in Katarina Popovic’s contribution to this year’s Development and Access to Information report, these are chances which are indispensable if we are to achieve the SDGs.


With the right support, libraries ready, in turn, to support the transformation of education necessary to ensure that everyone has the knowledge and skills they need.


See also our blogs for World Youth Skills Day 2019 on the importance of information skills for youth, for World Teachers Day 2018 looking at how libraries support teachers, and for World Youth Day 2018, focusing on libraries providing safe spaces for youth.   


10 Reasons to Engage with Wikipedia: Revisiting the Opportunities Papers

Wikipedia 1Lib1Ref

#1Lib1Ref has just begun. Around the world, for the next three weeks, librarians will be doing the thing they do best – helping people regardless of background to access quality information – by adding references and improving articles on Wikipedia.

Through this, the power of the library field, with its 2.3 million institutions, comes together with the reach and recognition of one of the world’s biggest websites.

The result is a great opportunity to boost the quality of a resource which is increasingly central for everything from medical research to gentle curiosity. You can find out about how to get involved on the dedicated website.

It’s also a good time to look back at the two Opportunities Papers created by IFLA and the Wikimedia Foundation (the organisation that runs Wikipedia, as well as a number of other projects) in 2016, focusing respectively on Wikipedia and Public Libraries, and Wikipedia and Academic and Research Libraries.

These highlighted a number of ways in which libraries gain from working with Wikipedia, both in direct practical terms, and at the level of promoting equitable access to information globally.

Here are just ten of them:

1) It improves democratic access to reliable information: Wikipedia represents a major source of free knowledge, open to everyone (at least where it has not been blocked). While there may be debates about its reliability, the same goes for more traditional sources. Crucially, it complements the work of libraries by allowing people to find information at any time of day, as long as they have an internet connection (and sometimes even when they don’t!).

2) It’s a supplementary information resource (including within catalogues): Wikipedia has, in some countries, even been added to library catalogues, meaning that when a user is searching for a specific term or question, the Wikipedia results also come up. Wikipedia is also increasingly recognised as a starting point for research. More and more, other products are using Wikipedia entries – for example Amazon in its Kindle, or Facebook in combatting fake news.

3) It’s a means of teaching digital literacy: editing Wikipedia can be a key part of the development of digital literacy skills among library users. It can allow people to gain confidence in using the internet by sharing their own knowledge – potentially for the first time – and in doing so help others.

4) As a way of confronting and advancing discussion: editing Wikipedia can also be an education in information literacy. Following the edits made to a page give an idea of what lies behind any particular stated fact, as well as broader insights into how knowledge and perceptions are created. Operating within the rules of the community also offers an experience in how to work cooperatively.

5) It’s a way of helping people become more engaged in a subject: for librarians with users who are particularly interested in a specific subject, or who bring a strong expertise, Wikipedia and specific Wikimedia projects can offer a great way of exploring a personal passion further. This is fulfilling for the individual, and increases the volume of information available internationally.

6) It’s a tool for engaging with local communities: what works for individuals can also work for communities. Working together, the members of a community can start to present their area, their subject of interest, or their history

7) It’s a way of decolonising the internet: libraries have become increasingly aware of the impact that collections and cataloguing practices have had on the representation of minority groups. However, the internet is also dominated by content from particular sources, with many others not finding material in their language, or about subjects they care about online. Libraries can help to address these gaps by supporting editathons and other efforts to build locally relevant content on Wikipedia.

8) It’s a place to share public domain materials: Wikipedia increasingly relies on underlying databases, such as the Wikimedia Commons (documents and images that are either openly licenced or in the public domain), and Wikidata. Uploading library materials – where this is permissible – strengthens the resource base available, and raises awareness of library materials.

9) Because it’s a way of advancing Linked Open Data: with its work on Wikidata, the Wikimedia Foundation is looking extensively at how to connect data concerning different collections and materials. Given the global reach of Wikipedia, this is a potentially very interesting

10) It’s a place to talk about your library and its collections: Many libraries have their own Wikipedia pages, or make sure that their details (opening hours, special collections) are available on their town or city’s website. Given the high search ranking often given to Wikipedia results, it’s a great way of sharing this information. Of course, don’t forget to avoid conflicts of interest when editing!

3 Days to Human Rights Day: The Right to Participate in Government

3 Days to Human Rights Day

For the fifth in our series of blogs looking at different articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, today’s contribution looks at the right to participate in government. It shows how libraries, by providing access to information – and helping people to use it – can support an active and engaged citizenry.


One of the key definitions of freedom is the possibility to take decisions about yourself – what you think, say, and do.

However, it is clear that we cannot leave everything up to individuals. Humans need to work together in order to achieve common goals. Progress in health and education would not be possible in a purely individualistic society. Neither, many would argue, would be security.

Working together implies that decisions need to be taken on behalf of the group. This is the role that governments play, at least when the ‘group’ is the people living in (or coming from) a particular country, region or area.

Government therefore implies a restriction on individual freedoms, which is what makes the right to participate so important. As Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights underlines, ‘Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country’.

Information plays a role in this, as some very interesting research from Nigeria at the World Library and Information Congress has demonstrated, with a clear link between a feeling of being well informed and a readiness to engage in elections.

So how can libraries help with this. This blog sets out two ways.


Delivering Information

A first – and fundamental – contribution is simply to making information available. Government information and parliamentary libraries in particular play a vital role here, bringing together official publications and laws into one place.

This supports the work of researchers trying to understand the processes and forces at work in government. But it can also make them into gateways for public information.

Indeed, Finland’s Parliamentary Library has been tasked since 1908 with also acting as a ‘public central library’.

These ideas have spread. For example, in Zimbabwe and Japan, parliamentary libraries have a deliberate policy of making sure that centres at the local level – often public libraries – receive copies of key documents, or have access to the most important databases.

It is also more and more broadly accepted that the public should have access to briefings prepared for Members of Parliament in order to inform their decision-making. The Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service has been a high-profile recent example of an institution starting  to do this.

In effect, libraries are working to ensure that people are at least as well informed as lawmakers. This is an essential step towards participation in government.


Making it Usable

Yet, simply making information available is not enough in itself. The work of governments is complex, and often technical.

Additional effort can be necessary to help people find their way, especially for people who do not have the time that elected representatives or officials may have to engage.

Libraries are also active here, drawing on experiences of helping users engage most effectively with the information they have. This can go from improving the presentation of databases and documentation to make it more user friendly, to forming partnerships with public libraries to build capacity to explain them.

In Taiwan, for example, libraries proactively worked to give access to information at a time of protests in Taipei, in order to help people understand the issues and engage in debate.

Libraries are also helping promote transparency more broadly, for example through publishing live voting information, or even through running consultations with citizens. This creates new possibilities for individuals to hold those taking decisions on their behalf to account.


Libraries can provide important support for the realisation of the right to participate in government through meaningful access to information. Of course, they can also go further – American libraries were active in encouraging people to register to vote ahead of the recent mid-term elections.

At the same time, their – and their users’ – interests themselves need to be represented and protected.

From unjustified cuts to services to bad copyright laws or censorship, libraries need also to be heard in decision-making processes. IFLA works hard to do this, and, in line with the Global Vision Summary Report, encourages every librarian to be an advocate.


Read more about these themes in our article on access to information and democracy, and in our brief on libraries and good governance.

4 Days to Human Rights Day: Libraries as Champions of Free Expression

Libraries, Free Expression and Free Access to Information

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Freedom of access to information and freedom of expression is guaranteed under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR). It provides a powerful basis for efforts to ensure the free flow of information.

As IFLA has argued, access to information is at the foundation of successful development policies, by ensuring not only that everyone can make better choices themselves, but can also take part in collective decision-making.

As with all human rights, constant work is needed to support their realisation, and ensure that people are not missing out. It is perhaps not by accident that within a year of the agreement of the Universal Declaration, the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto was also signed, stressing the importance of everyone having access to a place where they could learn and grow, without discrimination. Libraries have, arguably, become symbols of a societal commitment to freedom of access to information.

But what about their role around free speech? The original Public Library Manifesto argues that libraries ‘should not tell people what to think about, but […] should help them decide what to think about’.

Yet this element of libraries’ work is perhaps less known, and indeed can get lost behind the stereotype of libraries as quiet places, more focused on consumption, not creation, of knowledge and ideas.

This blog will look at two ways in which libraries are involved in linking together the two elements of Article 19, and indeed can be as strong a force in promoting free expression as they are in promoting access to information.


Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Libraries have a strong vested interest in free expression. Without the production of varied new books, articles and other materials, librarians will find it harder to develop diverse collections responding to the needs and interest of their communities.

For example, in order to serve users who belong to marginalised groups or communities, libraries may well require books that talk about their experience, and their concerns. Yet if writers are not allowed to take these perspectives, or approach these subjects, the supply of books dries up, and libraries cannot fulfill their mission.

In turn, by giving access, libraries can ensure that these works are read, and so help their authors reach more people than otherwise would be possible.

Initiatives such as Banned Books Week bring these two elements of Article 19 together by highlighting the impact of  censorship both on the ability of library users to choose what they want to read, and the ability of writers to have their voices heard.


Towards Convergence

Seeing free expression and access to information as two sides of the same coin nonetheless implies a binary view of the world – that there are some people who produce, and some who consume knowledge.

While this may have been true when publishing a book or communicating views required expensive equipment and infrastructure, this is no longer the case. It has never been easier or cheaper to produce an article or book, or record a new work, and then share it with the world.

Indeed, there is a strong argument that the most effective form of access to information is when someone is able not only to find, understand and use information, but also create and share it.

Through the production of new information, not only do individuals fully realise the potential of the information they have, but others benefit from the results. The results of these new possibilities are already visible through the huge variety of content and ideas available on the internet.

Here too, libraries have a role.

Many have long encouraged activities such as creative writing, but now are branching into maker spaces and other means of promoting creativity. Supporting the application of tools such as text and data mining on library materials allows for new research. And through Wikipedia editathons and community archiving, they are helping under-represented groups become creators themselves.


The summary of the first phase of IFLA’s Global Vision sets out that libraries should be champions of intellectual freedom. This implies breaking away from stereotypes, from the idea that libraries are only really about access. But it is a necessary break, and an opportunity to realise fully the potential of our institutions as drivers of development.