Tag Archives: openGLAM

Z. Blace & Kristian Benić: building Wikiprojects at the Rijeka City Library (Croatia)

The Rijeka City Library started to engage in Wikimedia activities within the library led by  Z. Blace and Kristian Benić. IFLA is delighted to travel to Croatia to have a dive in this project.

1. Thank you for agreeing to participate in this interview, could you please tell us more about yourself and your collaborators?

Z: Z. Blace (~Zblace) – artist and cultural worker, active in advocating open and free digital commons with communities and institutions, cross-pollinating queer/commoning

Z. Blace, Telekomunmunist International satellite event of Transmediale in Berlin, 2016/02/26 photo by Alp Klanten

perspectives and embodied experiences across different networks and contexts… and now first Wikimedian in Residence in Croatia.

K: Kristian Benić, head of marketing and projects at Rijeka City Library, which includes all sort of activities, but most importantly for this context being the editor of our two online media projects Magazin GKR https://gkr.hr/Magazin and Brickzine https://brickzine.hr that also have printed editions periodically, as a magazine for children and parents.

2. Could you explain to us how and why this position was born within the Rijeka City Library (Croatia)?

K: Rijeka City Library is for many years seen in Croatia as one of the most progressive, innovative and fast membership growing, although at the same time it has huge infrastructural challenges. This was the first library in Croatia that established a maker-space with 3D printers GKR Lab https://gkr.hr/Lab, has one of the most effective digital communication strategies online, newsletter and generally openness to ordinary people who can write about books and more. We really want to be in the first row of the big everyday changes and at the same time empower communities that we serve. Library is not just a service, it is an active community stakeholder and can serve as a platform for progressive ideas.

Z: I was interested in GKR work before (was interviewed by their Magazine for doing an exhibition a few years ago) and also in the city as a super interesting non-capital and ofte

Photo of Kristian Benić lecture about history of geek culture in Yugoslavia, by Lucija Jančec, CC BY-SA 4.0

n border-case city that is the 2020 European Capital of Culture. I suggested that we try doing something and for them to test the format of having artist-in-residence as a wikimedian and organizer. In the pandemic they remained flexible enough to test this, though it was hard to operate so we submitted this as a rapid grant proposal to Wikimedia Foundation. We are remote, but learning things online on the fly and it is an interesting challenge to navigate the Wikimedia world where (almost) nothing is hidden/deleted, but many things are non-obvious.

3. Have you heard of a similar job in the library or GLAM sector in Croatia before? If not, what do you think about the creation of such a position could mean?

K : I am also not aware of activities with Wikimedia in Croatia. That is a little bit strange because concepts like one Wikipedia develops is perfect for all sorts of librarian activities. Wikipedia changed the role and meaning of printed encyclopedias which used to be one of the most important parts of traditional libraries.

Z: In short this is an exception and first step. I reached out to WMF to ask and indeed it seems that this is a first WiR position in Croatia, so fairly late, but also not too surprising considering the terrible reputation Croatian instance of Wikipedia has for about a decade. GLAM sector in Croatia is not really univocal or even coordinated around policies like digital commons, so I hope to advance that in both the city of Rijeka, Croatia and the region. Think my experience as a new media practitioner and cultural networker is good for a start as WiR now on the smallest WMF experimental grant, but in future different types, scales, resources, plans and capacities should be developed once basic understanding exists.

4. What is the development strategy on Wikimedia projects within your institution? Or do you have to create your roadmap?

K: For our library all of this is really new. With Z. we are actually learning about potentials and searching for the best options in the future. But the general idea is to form some kind of local community which is interested in creating high quality content for Wikipedia/Wikimedia and to empower a few librarians for educational activities, try some new event formats…

Z: We are in the learning, roadmap building phase so hope to have the first version of ‘strategy’ by the end of this harsh year (that will include reflecting on #Rijeka2020 and 20 years Wikipedia anniversary). We try to establish basis for Croatian GLAM coordination with Multimedia Institute that did pioneering work on CreativeCommons, but also establish new actions like our crossover of established #WikiLovesLibraries and #WikiLovesMonuments with ~OkGsG and ~GK_Ivan_Vidali remote libraries that operate as cultural centers). We also did #femWikiRAINBOW as an intervention into CEE Spring translation event, than few small local workshops (#1, #2, #3), presentations and follow-up with education, outreach and networking to individuals, groups, NGOs, institutions before the end of 2020.
All this only makes sense if there are ripple and multiplier effects that go in directions of different communities and stakeholders. Only in sinergy significant changes can happen.


Wikimedia workshop in Rijeka with Z Blace, Kristian Benić, CC BY 4.0

5. How do you think Wikimedia projects support the work and objectives of libraries?

K: As I said, Wikimedia projects seem perfect for libraries and librarians because they have skills and approaches that can be really useful in the post-factual world. At the same time libraries are some kind of open spaces which have a role to empower communities, they are used by all sorts of different groups so they can be really helpful in removing some fog around Wikimedia.


Z: Libraries are super important as cultural (infra)structures that both preserve and bring coherence in the super complex and problematic times. Kristian used the post-factual world example, but I would also add post-social (here post-socialist and pseudo-capitalist). Much of the shared ‘norms’ have either collapsed (like a sense of communal good and responsibility) or have been reducing (like middle-class life quality and public services).

We live in “a small country for a great vacation” that from soft-socialism fell into most wild privatization and corruption of (post)war mess. WikiMedia as a site of participative co-editing and co-curating, sometimes even co-production that can help re-socialize knowledge work.

It is not easy to judge for the moment as Wikimedia projects are so many and it is not super easy to get an overview and even more to be clear how to make the most of them and where to focus (they have different internal dynamics or state of adoption and even dormancy)…
Taking part in Wikimedians in Residence Exchange Network – WREN  makes it a bit easier as I know who to ask for advice (at least when I can formulate questions). Hope that young librarians in Croatia will have use Wikimedia support to work with both as WiRs in 2021.


Restitution with a Catch? The Copyright Perspective on the Sarr-Savoy Report

The Sarr-Savoy report on the restitution of African cultural heritage, published in November 2018, proposes to recontextualise the presence of African artefacts in French heritage collections.

The objective of this report is to develop, in view of the role of the French state in colonisation, recommendations to update relevant laws around restitutions, as well as to encourage bilateral agreements with countries following requests for restitution.

Among its recommendations, the report suggests that collections which are returned should be subject to digitisation beforehand, with the digitised files then made available for use under free and open access to everyone.

This recommendation is easy to miss in the report, as the paragraphs which concern it are discreet. Nonetheless, it raises questions on two essential questions:

Who owns the physical and digital collections and who has the right to choose the policy of digitisation and openness of these artefacts?

This blog looks at the report’s approach, and presents some of the concerns expressed by this, in particular through a letter drafted by Mathilde Parvis and Andrea Wallace.

First of all, the suggestion to digitise and make collections accessible may seem an interesting initiative in the context of outreach by heritage institutions. For a number of years now, it has been clear that giving access to digital collections is a key mission for cultural institutions, as the report mentions briefly.

However, there are questions about whether this should be subject to the decision of the French state, or be a pre-condition for restitution. The term ‘restitution’, as defined in the report, is strongly connected to the question of legitimate ownership of the object. This cannot be brushed aside when it comes to digital collections.

Arguably, the legitimate ownership by African governments of returned items should give them the right to take decisions regarding the appropriate policy to be put in place on digital collections. Can it be appropriate for the government of a former colonial power to set out such demands in a restitution agreement when talking about heritage that arguably should never have been in its possession in the first place?

Indeed, as Mathilde Parvis and Andrea Wallace’s response perfectly underlines: it should rather be up to the communities to make decisions concerning the artefacts of their heritage. Indeed, suggesting or imposing in bilateral agreements a policy of digitisation and open access to collections appears to be at odds with the principle of recognition of spoliation.

Moreover, the report’s proposals concerning free and open access to and use of images does not seem to match the policy around images in French collections. Indeed, French policy on openGLAM is not based on a centralized ministerial incentive but on the will of cities and organisations independently of each other (whereas German GLAM institutions are far more organised and supported).

The request made to African governments regarding the opening of access to digital collections of collections seems, therefore, to be antithetical with the policy it applies to the digital collections of France’s own institutions.

Clearly, openness is to be welcomed in general as the best way of giving the biggest number of people possible the opportunity to engage with heritage, where other concerns (privacy or indigenous rights for example) do not stand in the way. Nonetheless, in these conditions, it risks being seen as an imposition, not a virtue.

Therefore, Parvis and Wallace’s reply defines several ways to reframe the recommendations of the Sarr-Savoy report, such as:

– Clearly define the scope of Open Access – commercial, non-commercial, public domain, possibility of reuse.
– Clearly define who owns the digital image reproductions.
– Carry out research on the conformity of these recommendations concerning the laws of African countries.
– Do not separate digital reproductions from returned objects because the reproductions are also subject to cultural appropriation.

With plans now underway to reform France’s Heritage Code, we will follow closely how this debate is reflected in any proposed amendments.

Developing partnerships to achieve global library goals: an interview with Jason Evans, Wikimedian in residence at the Wales National Library.

What do you do as a Wikimedian in residence?

Traditionally a Wikimedian in Residence focuses on increasing the quality and quantity of content on Wikipedia and its sister projects, such as Wikimedia Commons (for openly licenced media) and Wikidata (for linked open data). When I first started as a Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales the goal was pretty simple. Firstly I would run events and workshops aimed at improving the quality of content about Wales and its people on Wikipedia, in English and Welsh. Secondly, I was tasked with sharing the library’s digital assets on an open licence via Wikimedia Commons so that they could be used to illustrate Wikipedia articles.

As the project evolved we began to collaborate with the Welsh Government on thematic projects aimed at increasing the availability of information in Welsh on Wikipedia, as part of their long term strategy for the language. We have worked to improve content about health and medicine, pop music, Welsh people and literature, and we are currently working with the education department to identify and develop Welsh language content needed by school children to support their studies.

We have also increasingly engaged in sharing our catalogue data via Wikidata as linked open data.


How did you get interested in this job?

Before I took on my role as a Wikimedian I worked as a research assistant in the maps and manuscripts department. My first experience of editing Wikipedia came after an article I had published was used as the bases for a Wikipedia article. I was really impressed by the speed, efficiency and accuracy of Wikipedia editors in taking reliable peer reviewed information and making it available to all on Wikipedia. And I was amazed at the ease with which I was able to edit and make improvements to the article. It was shortly after this that the Library, in partnership with Wikimedia UK, advertised for the post of Wikimedian in Residence.


What are the biggest challenges in your work?

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have great support from the National Library. However, any disruption to long established norms will obviously present challenges. The public engagement side of my work doesn’t really present any major problems but sharing data openly definitely requires care.

Wikimedia projects all follow an ‘open’ ethos. All the content created on Wikipedia, or media, and data shared on these platforms must be openly licenced in order to remove barriers to reuse. ‘Open’ in this instance means more than simply making something available for free, it means removing restrictions on reuse. Content must be downloadable and licenced for free use for any purpose including commercial reuse. It’s a fantastic approach, which is being adopted by more and more cultural institutions in order to give their users the best possible value, to simplify work streams and to encourage maximum engagement with their content.

But we need to be careful about what we share. If an item contains 3rd party copyright of any kind we don’t actually have the right to share it openly. To minimise risk, we have focused on sharing public domain content (digital versions of items which we know are out of copyright).

Another challenge, as a publicly funded institution of finding the balance between giving our users the best access and meeting targets for income generation. We try to identify where there is commercial potential in collections and share those in a different way, or often we share screen resolution images openly and retain the highest quality digital images for commercial licencing. The current trend though seems to be to simplify these processes by simply giving unlimited access to all digital versions of public domain works


Why did the National Library decide to open this position?

About a year before the library appointed a Wikimedian in Residence they made a policy decision not to claim any rights to digital reproductions of out of copyright works. This was the first step towards ‘Open Access’, but they recognised that a policy decision alone would have resulted in very little impact or change. So one of the main aims with the Wikimedia residency was to use Wikimedia Commons to actively share our public domain content on an open licence in order to encourage reuse and engagement.

The position was also fully supported by our local Wikimedia chapter – Wikimedia UK. They initially helped to fund the position and provided training and logistical support. This support obviously reduced the risks for the National Library and made the idea of hosting a Wikimedian in Residence more appealing.


What are the impacts of your work in the Library?

Before we started, we knew from similar residencies at the National Library of Scotland and the British Museum, for example, that collaborating with Wikipedia could lead to some big impacts, but I think we were all surprised by the benefits of our early activities.

When it comes to digital images there are few platforms better than Wikipedia for getting your content seen. We are talking about one of the world’s top 10 websites with 18 billion page views a month. We shared a handful of photographs and prints in the first couple of months and the content was quickly added to Wikipedia articles leading to 20,000 views in one month. Now we have shared about 20,000 images to Wikimedia Commons. Thousands of these are used in Wikipedia articles in over 150 languages leading to over 15 million image views every month. As of January 2020 articles containing National Library of Wales images had been viewed 781,121,633 times! It would take us nearly 400 years to get that many views of our own websites. The use of our content on Wikipedia and other 3rd party platforms is now recorded as a key performance indicator and fed back to our funders.

Whilst we half expected big numbers from sharing images, we hadn’t counted on the value of public events. Wikipedia is a ready made crowdsourcing platform with great infrastructure and a massive community of editors. Holding ‘Edit-a-thon’ events to improve content about our collections, about welsh people, history and culture has helped us to engage with new audiences in new ways. Events and projects have directly led to over 15,000 new Wikipedia articles but events are also about building communities, teaching new skills and growing confidence. Events aimed at improving content on the Welsh Wikipedia also provide a forum where Welsh speakers can get together chat and to create content in their native language, whilst improving access to Welsh language information for all.

Another emerging area of impact for use comes from our use of the Wikidata project to share our collection data openly. Wikidata allows us to share open data without having to invest in our own internal infrastructure. Wikidata already has a query service and a raft of tools for analyzing and visualizing the data. By converting out data to linked data in the Wiki ecosystem we can actually enrich our own data by drawing on additional data from Wikidata, like map coordinates, external authority records and biographical data. And because Wikidata is multilingual – data can be described in any language – we are able to convert much of our English language data to Welsh or any other language, thanks to existing user contributed Welsh language descriptions.

We have seen great engagement with our data since we began this work and now hold regular Hackathon events to promote reuse. We are also starting to round trip this rich data to improve services on our own websites. We now pull in links to VIAF records and Wikipedia articles from Wikidata to our Dictionary of Welsh Biography website, and will soon add an interactive timeline to the site, powered entirely by Wikidata and openly licensed images from Wikimedia Commons.

All this work has really helped to raise the profile of the library in Wales and internationally and we have formed some great partnerships as a result of interactions around our work with Wikimedia.


What would be your recommendations for smaller or medium size Libraries?

I know not all libraries manage digitized collections, but if you do, using Wikimedia projects to give access to that content can be a really cost effective way of reaching big audiences. The Wikimedia Foundation is currently setting up a ‘GLAM’ (Galleries. Libraries. Archives & Museums) team, to give more support to cultural institutions looking to share their content through the projects, so the support and the tools available to smaller libraries is only going to increase.

Wikipedia’s goal is to give free access to the sum of all human knowledge so there is always more work to do. Notable gaps in content include a lack of articles about women, who currently make up less than 20% of biographies on the site. The global south, traditional and local knowledge are also poorly represented and I believe libraries are the perfect partners to help tackle these issues. Libraries are the keepers of knowledge but they are also community hubs. Empowering those communities to improve subjects important to them on Wikipedia can be massively rewarding and editing Wikipedia has never been easier.

I would definitely recommend that any library interested in engaging with Wikimedia reaches out to their local Wikimedia chapter or user group, or the Wikimedia Foundation directly. Often they can arrange for training, provide logistic or technical support, and they have a grant program for those looking to host larger events or programs.