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Merrilee Proffitt

Senior Manager, OCLC Research Library Partnership

Wikipedia and libraries: partnerships to reach the future

The vision statement of the Wikimedia Foundation states, “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.” If libraries had a shared mission statement, it would be something quite similar, in line with the UN SDGs for Quality Education and Reduced Inequalities. However, despite this shared mission, librarians sometimes discount Wikipedia as being unreliable, low quality, and as a competitor to library services. In so doing, librarians may be missing an opportunity to leverage the omnipresence of this gentle giant in online world.

 Collaboration between the Wikimedia volunteer community and professionals in cultural heritage institutions including librarians has led to increased visibility and user engagement at participating organizations. This talk will highlight both the ways that OCLC has invested in partnerships with Wikimedia projects, as well as international success stories from academia, archives, museums and libraries that all share a goal of connecting communities of knowledge. The talk will touch on how libraries can involve in the Wikipedia community through programs and activities such as  

  • hosting editathons;

  • OCLC’s Wikipedia + Libraries education for librarians project;

  • contributing content and helping to bridge important gaps in Wikipedia (including OCLC’s effort to connect libraries to needed health information on Wikipedia);

  • ensuring that library content is connected through the world’s biggest encyclopedia;

  • introducing the Wikidata project, a place to connect free metadata and facts; and

  • engaging with Wikipedians as allies in a quest to expand access to knowledge (with OCLC’s Project Passage as an example of the possibilities in this area).

 

A key UN SDG is Partnerships for the Goals, and libraries can definitely benefit from partnering the Wikimedia community to improve content quality while simultaneously ensuring that library services and collections are more visible on the open web. Wikimedia projects likewise benefit from the skills and resources provided by the librarians and libraries. OCLC’s direct experience as well other case studies presented in this talk will make a clear case for partnership in addition to providing exemplars.

 

Merrilee Proffitt works in OCLC Research and provides project management skills and expert support to institutions within the OCLC Research Library Partnership.

Merrilee is an active member of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries (RBMS-ACRL). She has also served on the Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard (METS) Editorial Board, the Text Encoding Initiative Council and on the Encoded Archival Description Working Group. Merrilee has authored or co-authored articles, guidelines, and reports for a variety organizations and professional journals. She is frequently an invited speaker at international professional conferences and workshops on topics relating to digital libraries and special collections.

In 2014, Merrilee was elected as a Fellow of SAA, the highest honor bestowed on individuals by SAA and awarded for outstanding contributions to the archival profession. She is passionate about forging connections between Wikimedia projects and cultural heritage institutions. She is the editor of Leveraging Wikipedia: Connecting Communities of Knowledge (ALA Editions, 2018).

Her current projects and interests include: archival description, increasing access to special collections, the impact of copyright on primary source material, digital library initiatives, looking at developing better relationships between Wikipedia and cultural heritage institutions, and how online instruction and degree programs may impact libraries. 

Before coming to OCLC in 2001, Merrilee was Director of Digital Archive Development at the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.

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