Wikipedia Cultural Professional Interns
A self-guided curriculum for student and professional editors working to profile library, archive, special and other cultural collection materials, while practicing digital librarianship
This page is about Internships at libraries and archives. For advice for cultural professionals at Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums more generally, see WP:GLAM
Libraries, special collection, archives have long been sending interns and student hires within their organization to Wikipedia to contribute content in order to expand the visibility of their collections and digital resources. This strategy works: there are a number of documented case studies within this professional community that show increases in traffic to organizations from the general public reading Wikipedia and moreover, from the Wikipedia community.
As part of The Wikipedia Library
, this resources page and its support pages outline a curriculum (outlined here
) that allows library consortiums, library schools and other cultural professional communities to organize interns and other employees to engage Wikipedia within community best practices. The self-guided curriculum is designed to help interns hired by libraries, special collections or archives get a better sense of the expectations of such contributions to the Wikimedia community, find support among fellow interns and community members, and ensure that they follow best practices that conform to the principles laid out by the GLAM-Wiki movement
. We have multiple levels of participation for both students without formal library/archival training
and students trained in librarianship or archival studies
and the resource is appropriate for guiding groups of professionals in a professional development situation. As part of a student's education, it is important that interns understand the "why" of their contributions and how they can use the skills in their future. To provide information for interns and their supervisor, this page offers an overview of research, editing practices and educational goals that guide Wikipedia Library Internships.
Wikipedia Library Interns are interns, student hires, or specially allocated staff hired by partner libraries or archives to contribute new Wikipedia content which improves Wikipedia, improves the profile of digital resources, and gives the students an educational introduction to Wikipedia and best practices within professional use of social media. As is listed in the case studies section below
a number of institutions have successfully deployed such interns and staff (often in the form of student hires), and have seen an increased access to their digitized special collections material.
Interns can be distinguished from Wikipedian in Residence
, the dominant type of outreach person for interactions with Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums
(GLAMS), in that they are not responsible for actively creating cooperations between the organization's staff and the larger Wikimedia community. Moreover, Wikipedia Library Interns are often inexperienced Wikipedia contributors, unlike Wikipedia Visiting Scholars
, who are experienced Wikipedians editing content of interest to a library; the internship should provide novice contributors an educational introduction to Wikipedia, research skills, and best practices within librarianship.
Libraries/Archives and Wikipedia share a common mission of disseminating useful research materials; thus internships should be focused on including research materials from both within the institution's digital collection and the larger information ecosystem facilitated by Wikipedia (for further information, see the discussion of avoiding conflict of interest and SPAM
Internships can be motivated by a number of institutional and student learning goals. Here are a few common ones:
Learning outcomes are an important part of any internship, and some institutions create these internships expressly for their learning outcomes. Libraries/archives create internships to:
- Familiarize students with library/archival practices of accessing and communicating access to different types of research materials
- Familiarize students with public and digital communication of the resources in a library, special collection, or archive in a model supporting the goals of the digital humanities or other digital scholarly efforts
- Reinforce research and writing skills
- Introduce students to practicing research and writing for a new knowledge-based community of practice
Institutional motivations Institutional motivations often revolve around increasing the institutional impact, including:
- Increasing public service by the organization, by leveraging student labor to make meaningful public resources
- Increasing visibility of institutional collections, including special collections, archival materials and finding aids, by creating links on one of the most used research-focused websites in the world
- Building collaborative relationships with volunteers researching topics of interest to the library
Libraries and archives that have participated in the program described in this outline, include:
- Corning Museum of Glass Library
- Pittsburg State University Libraries
- Oklahoma State Libraries
- Oregon State University Archives and Special Collections
- The Texas Collection at Baylor University
- Pritzker Military Museum & Library
- Cornell University Library
Published case studies
This following list includes case studies that highlight the use of interns or other library staff to improve the relationship between digital library/archival resources and Wikipedia.
- Belden, D. (2008). "Harnessing social networks to connect with audiences: If you build it, will they come 2.0?". Internet Reference Services Quarterly. 13 (1): 99–111. doi:10.1300/J136v13n01_06.
- Combs, M (2011). "Wikipedia as an access point for manuscript collections". In K. Theimer (ed.). A Different kind of web: New connections between archives and our users. Society of American Archivists. pp. 139–147.
- Zentall, Lena; Cloutier, Camille (2008). "The Calisphere Wikipedia Project: Lessons Learned". CSLA Journal. 32 (1): 27–29.
- Galloway, Ed; DellaCorte, Cassandra (2014). "Increasing the Discoverability of Digital Collections Using Wikipedia: The Pitt Experience". Pennsylvania Libraries: Practice and research. 2 (1). doi:10.5195/palrap.2014.60.
- Lally, A. M.; Dunford, C. E. (2007). "Using Wikipedia to extend digital collections". D-Lib Magazine. 13 (5/6). doi:10.1045/may2007-lally.
- Lally, A. (May 18, 2009). Using Wikipedia to highlight digital collections at the University of Washington. The Interactive archivist: Case studies in utilizing web 2.0 to improve the archival experience.
- Pressley, L; McCallum, C. J. (2008). "Putting the library in Wikipedia". Info Today. 32 (5).
- Szajewski, M. (2013). "Using Wikipedia to enhance the visibility of digitized archival assets". D-Lib Magazine. 19 (3/4). doi:10.1045/march2013-szajewski.
Intern activities and community values
Common on-wiki activities for Wikipedia Library interns include:
- Finding already established pages, and using digital and physical resources from their institution to expand those articles. Expanded articles draw greater public attention to a topic and provide a more effective gateway to both institutional resources and the larger research ecosystem. Best practice is to contribute information that can be WP:Verified both from institutional resources and outside research materials, thus highlight more than just institutional webpages.
- Creating new articles that build upon an institution's strengths. When creating new articles, it is important that the intern provide citations and links to other research materials beyond the institution's resources. The most effective Wikipedia articles endure because they provide a thorough examination of a topic using a wide variety of sources, a few of which don't have a vested interest in the topic. Multiple reliable sources beyond the institution's digital content demonstrates to other Wikipedia editors that the topic is of interest to more than just your institution and meets Wikipedia's General notability guidelines.
- Announcing your internship on WikiProjects listed at Wikipedia:List of WikiProjects that have related content focuses to your organization, and helping users at that project find source materials within your organization's collection or database resources.
- Uploading images, videos, or sound to Wikipedia:Wikimedia Commons that are in the public domain or have been published under an open license, such as a Creative Commons or a GNU free license, and using those to illustrate articles on English Wikipedia. Wikipedia articles do a good job at drawing greater attention to media, and the media and their captions can profile information about what is available in your collections.
Most library interns, because they want to keep things simple, start with the first two activities. Make sure to get your feet wet on Wikipedia, but also don't be afraid to Be Bold
and expand your approach. If you are interested in other types of activities related to Wikipedia, check out the next section about "Trained Librarian Interns" or the Wikipedia in Residence page
Trained Librarian interns
Students trained in library or archival studies programs or with professional experience in the field have a different set of skills than the average undergraduate or graduate student employed as interns by libraries/archives. While contributing directly to content like other interns might be the activity originally intended by the organization that has hired you, the best educational experience might be in building resources on Wikipedia that reinforce common professional skills: creating research indexes, assisting editors with research queries and organizing networks of information. Open up the box below to get some ideas.
Trained librarian/archivist opportunities
Here are some possible activities that could help expand your professional experience; you could:
Help at the Wikipedia:Reference desk
or the Research Exchange
. Because volunteers and the public use both resources to expand Wikipedia and to find basic research materials of interest to them, they present a great opportunity to practice general reference desk work.
Help administer or do outreach for parts of the WP:The Wikipedia Library
. The Wikipedia Library is building a network of librarians and library resources to help Wikipedia become a better point of access to research materials. What skills do you have to help make Wikipedia a better research tool? Check out Wikipedia:TWL/About
to find out more about the project, apply to become a coordinator at or contact Ocaasi
to find out more about the opportunities in the library.
Treat "Further reading" sections as opportunities to practice your ability to create research bibliographies. How many resources can you find? For the basic guidelines on these sections, see WP:FURTHER
Similarly, on Wikipedia, when a topic's further reading section gets too long, we create WP:Lists
that act as bibliographies for that topic. For feedback and guidelines on creating bibliographies see Wikipedia:WikiProject Bibliographies
. For examples, see individual bibliographies listed at Wikipedia:Bibliographies
and Category:Wikipedia bibliographies
. Why not create an initial research bibliography for a topic of public attention? It would be invaluable for future researchers, and could profile topics relevant to your institution's special collection or collecting interests. What if the bibliography for a topic didn't have to be maintained solely by institution staff, but could be updated through crowdsourcing?
. On Wikipedia, Portals act like focused topical guides that help readers negotiate the vast network of information on Wikipedia. Acting like a LibGuide, these can be great environments to practice topical curation of published reference content and research materials. Moreover, building this resource could help you get to know how a topical area is covered on Wikipedia and help you identify where your institution can encourage more content creation on Wikipedia related to your collection. For more information about Portals, see Wikipedia:Portal
. What would the public like to learn about? How much is there available about your topic on Wikipedia?
Help set up a WP:Wikipedia Visiting Scholar position at your institution. institutional administration often involves negotiating the bureaucracy of access to resources; Wikipedia Visiting Scholars programs asks librarians/archivists to administer access to research materials so that Wikipedians can improve the quality of Wikipedia with high-quality resources: who do you need to contact at your institution? How will you give a non-member of your institution access to your resources?
events along the same lines as a WP:Wikipedian in Residence
. Wikipedians in Residence act as ambassadors between a Gallery, Library, Archive or Museum and the Wikimedia community, facilitating content creation for mutual interest. For more information on the different types of activities commonly run by Wikipedians in Residence, see the case studies at Outreach Wiki
Avoiding COI and SPAM
In the past, many interns for libraries and other organizations have been tasked with editing Wikipedia and, because of the interns' approach to editing, they have become disruptive in the community. This disruption can lead to both interns and community members spending considerable time discussing the intern's contributions and reviewing edits. To prevent your internship from causing disruption and entailing excess intern and volunteer time on Wikipedia, it is important to understand two simple community guidelines: WP:Conflict of interest
The conflict of interest guideline recognizes that many editors have outside motivations affecting their contributions to Wikipedia, but that the goal of any editor should be to avoid promotion of a particular organization or position. Instead contributions should be made with the intention of furthering the five pillars of Wikipedia
, which includes creating public educational resources.
Second, the spam guidelines recommend that articles not be created to promote items, people or positions, nor should links be systematically added as solely a means of directing user traffic. Instead content should be thoughtfully placed to promote information acquisition, rather than conversion of traffic or promotion of a particular position.
With all these warnings about what not to do, it's also important not overthink your additions to Wikipedia! Interns shouldn't have trouble avoiding violations of these guidelines: the main goal of libraries and archives is the promotion of information acquisition. If you approach your editing with good faith and this goal in mind, the community will often provide additional guidance. Generally, if you avoid the following problematic contribution approaches, you shouldn't encounter problems related to these policies:
- Don't simply add links to a Wikipedia article's "External links" section without providing additional expansion to the article's content. Links are useful, but increased information or better organization of information on an article that accompanies a link demonstrates your commitment to improving Wikipedia.
- Don't place multiple links to the same resource on one page unless absolutely necessary. Significant expansions of an article's written content should be the only time that multiple links to a single resource might be added, and only as part of the footnotes verifying the content.
- Make sure to declare your involvement in an internship on your user page. Avoiding such a declaration might lead other users to believe that you are trying to covertly co-opt Wikipedia for other ends. Placing a conflict of interest statement on your user page will help users recognize your involvement in an organization aligned with Wikipedia's mission. For examples of such conflict of interest statements, see Wikipedia:COIDEC.
- Don't edit articles that describe the actual organization for which you are working: focus your edits on content that your organization has in its holdings, rather than on the organization itself. Writing about the organization for which you work will often be viewed as a Conflict of Interest or SPAM that is promoting your institution. It is generally more acceptable to write articles about, for example, the founder of your organization or any notable people who have worked at your organization, provided that you do not get paid by that person and that you have made a conflict of interest statement on your user page as explained above.
- Don't immediately re-add links to articles when other users have removed them. This can lead to other policy violations, like WP:Edit warring. Instead, approach the other user on their talk page or the article talk page, and ask why they removed it and how you can help improve such changes in the future. Feedback from experienced users never hurts.
- For further guidelines oriented toward other audiences besides institutions, see Wikipedia:Plain and simple conflict of interest guide#Advice. Remember, most of these apply to people whose conflict of interest derives from commercial employment, rather than employment by a cultural institution that shares a common mission with Wikipedia: to promote access to information. As long as you are working towards that common mission and openly discuss your editing approach, the community is often receptive to new and valuable content.
Communication of activities during an internship is an important part of maintaining an ethical and transparent relationship to the Wikipedia community and provides supervisors and your hiring organization the ability to assess both educational and organizational outcomes. Here are a few ways that should help in reporting to these interested parties:
What do you need to share with Wikipedians?
It is important to maintain a good relationship with the Wikipedia community; Wikipedia's main contributors are volunteers who spend many hours maintaining the accessibility and quality of the information on Wikipedia. They also have considerable power over what information stays in the encyclopedia. Here are a few pointers for interacting with Wikipedians:
- Make sure that you include descriptions of your internship position and your purpose on your WP:User page. The Wikipedia community appreciates transparency-oriented and communicative user pages; a communicative user page helps volunteers better assess your intentions.
- Wikipedians like to be able to monitor what you are working on while contributing to Wikipedia, and the easiest way for Wikipedians to follow your edits is via Special:Contributions. You don't have to do anything to set this up, but know that all of your contributions are on public record and contribute to your reputation within the community. That being said, everyone makes mistakes, so please don't be timid in contributing: we would much rather have new users "Be Bold!!!!!" than worry about community reactions. However, be ready to listen to advice from users when they notice that you are making mistakes; contributing to a public, collaborative project like Wikipedia inherently involves making mistakes, and working with others to resolve them.
- Make sure to use descriptive WP:Edit summaries, which indicate to other users that you are consciously making changes, and why you are doing so. Community members tend to be more sympathetic to contributors who actively communicate what changes they are making and why they are making them. This indicates that you want to work collaboratively with others.
What should you share with supervisors?
The following are some types of reporting that can be useful to supervisors, and help documenting learning:
- A list of Wikipedia articles to which you have contributed. Make sure to describe the depth of contribution and how that contribution connects to the goals of your internship, that way supervisors can understand your contributions. These lists might also help your supervisors, who have expertise in the institution's resources, help you find other topics to contribute to, or change your focus. Make sure to bring these to periodic update meetings.
- A contributions journal: many internships and credit-bearing internships require work journals to keep track of a) what you did, b) when you did it, and c) how you did it. Make sure to use this document as an opportunity to connect your actions with the purpose of your internship and your learning outcomes. Also, think about the journal as a way to help you remember what you have done: during a busy semester, it's easy to forget how much work you have completed. Keeping an up-to-date journal provides a powerful resource for both you and your supervisors.
- Access to your contributions page via Special:Contributions. Supervisors might need help interpreting the contributions page, so make sure to explain the meaning of what you have done to your supervisor.
What should you share with sponsors?
Reporting to sponsoring organization
Unlike supervisors who are interested in both the educational outcomes and work hours, most organizations need information that helps demonstrate the impact of your edits on their own digital presence. There are multiple types of metrics both within and without the organization that might be useful to help the organization understand and justify your internship. Here are a few of the most useful that could help supplement the supervisor reports mentioned above:
Supervisors: Where to get started?
If you have reviewed this page and would like to learn more, host an intern or organize a class of interns email Alex Stinson (astinson
wikimedia.org), the project manager for the Wikipedia Library.
Organizing a class of interns
The program no longer organizes central classes of interns as it did in the pilot stage, but rather, organizational partners who coordinate classes within their own networks. Organizing a class of interns requires a relatively limited amount of resources: a coordinator and a network of organizations (cultural institutions, departments, or professional courses classes) that would be interested in hosting the intern. We recommend consortia, multi-unit organizations or professional development groups organize classes of interns. Institutions can also, but won't have the added benefit of a network of support, but are welcome to follow the curriculum
(it's largely self-guided).
Hosting an intern
Organizations that want to host an intern, should be tasking Wikipedia intern activities to a new or old student employee that is participating in an established practicum, intern or student hire program. When the institution sponsors an intern, the educational materials here about Wikipedia Library interns provide much of the guidance for that intern as well as tools for discovering community help when they encounter problems. The materials are designed around an 8-week or longer internship at 10-15 hrs a week; however, because all internships are different, the curriculum is designed for customization based on length of internship and amount of time devoted to it.
What administrative support do you need? When setting up support for a Wikipedia Library Intern, important infrastructure includes:
- an established practicum, intern or student hire program or professional development situation that allows for the role and is either credit-bearing or paid and provides a structure for reporting/supervision.
- Providing a supervisor for the intern.
- Staff willing to help help with initial orientation to topics of interest and research materials; typically this will be a librarian or archivist who has significant knowledge of the topic students are writing around.
Who should be an Intern? Typically, when looking for Wikipedia interns, most students trained as cultural professionals, either. Moreover, particular skills you are looking for, include:
- Self motivated researchers, in a field that encourages public writing and/or synthesis of cultural content; most interns have been Library/Information Science, Humanities or social science students.
- Writers ready to communication with a public audience - the best students already have a knack for public communications
- Flexible learning new technologies, platforms and technical skills - Wikipedia editing has a few small technical hurdles that most everyone can learn, but students who have experimented with web tools in the past, will often learn quicker
Sample call for applicants Here is a sample call for applicants, that you might find useful:
The [Organization NAME] is offering [# AVAILABLE] internships during the [Period] that concentrate on increasing the visibility of our archival sources on Wikipedia. Based on our collection strengths, interns would be trained on how to add or edit articles on Wikipedia that pertain to primary and secondary source material held in the archives. The collections specialization in [Topics xyz] will focus much of intern research time; however, we are also interested in interns expanding on other topics relevant to our other collections. Interested applicants must provide a resume and sample of research and writing skills. Preferred candidates will be self motivated, have some experience writing for public audiences and/or developing websites or web content, have taken the research skills classes for their major program and have interest in the public communications of the [humanities or other topic].
If you are interested in an internship at the [INSTITUITION NAME], contact [Name] at [EMAIL].
When supervising an intern for the first time, typically you will be in unfamiliar territory in both understanding Wikipedia and leveraging it. Most previous participants have had little experience with Wikipedia! The materials are designed so that the student can go through self-guided training, instead of having to be introduced by the supervisor: so you don't need to master everything. We recommend exploring the following to help support the internship:
- Going through the assignment design part of the Education programs training for educators - this outlines frequent design concerns and pitfalls that teachers encounter when students edit Wikipedia. Note the Interns curricula is a bit different than a typical assignment, but they are based on the same principals!
- Become familiar with guidelines for paid editing from a cultural institution perspective: for example, see the guidelines laid out by the National Archives for their staff
- Preparing a list of notable topics from your collection, that a student could reasonably research. Wikipedia:The Wikipedia Library/Archivists outlines the best ways to think about adding information to your archival or special collections holdings! Once you read the Archivists page, we recommend that you create a list of notable topics that your student could work on, frequently topic discovery is the part of the semester that takes the longest, and you, as someone familiar with your holdings, will know best what both meets Wikipedia's WP:Notability policy . For topics related to archives, typically there is enough outside conversation about the topic that your student would be able to find secondary sources; primary sources should be used with care.
Activities for interns should be tailored to both develop professional skills and other learning outcomes that help further intern education. Internships that don't work towards shared learning goals often don't help students reach their full potential. Fortunately for supervisors, the WP:Wikipedia Education Program
and published case studies above
provide significant accumulated experience in tailoring an internship to a student's learning needs. Here are some learning outcomes that might be used to tailor the kinds of work that you ask students to complete:
Basic Learning Objectives
Contributing to Wikipedia provides a number of basic skills important to develop in all fields and educational settings. Editing and adjunct assignments might focus students on practicing:
- Research and writing skills.
- Using library resources and general reference materials to support their particular research and writing needs.
- Applying research and writing skills to Wikipedia's community of practice expectations. This allows students to practice skills acquired in other communities, and alter them to apply them directly to community expectations. This emulates the kinds of practice that researchers get when writing for different journals, publishers, or types of organizations, but often does not get worked into student writing experience (most students practice writing mostly within their own discipline through one community's practice methodology).
- Using Content Management Systems, like MediaWiki, to develop web content
- Understanding Wikipedia as community-based social media in order to better understand web media more generally.
- Collaborative writing
- Negotiation and collaboration with librarians and Wikimedia community members
- Media literacy focused on Wikipedia and research materials from other communities
- Understanding the ethical use of web platforms to disseminate and shape public knowledge.
Field-specific skills and learning objectives
Contributing to Wikipedia might also be tailored for other more field-specific goals.
- Humanities and Social Science skills
- Practicing literature reviews - humanities education often focuses on interpretation, rather than surveying the established field. Wikipedia articles tend to focus on the survey of the field.
- Practicing public communication of primary field - humanities classrooms are often full of specialized assumptions about the field and how practitioners arrive at information in the field. Interns can practice communicating the "why" and "how" of humanities or social studies analysis.
- Reading scholarship from unfamiliar subfields - libraries and archives often contain materials relevant to specific and diverse sub-fields of scholarship. Students exposed to these resources learn how to be flexible information consumers, rather than inculcated only in one subfield.
- Science skills
- Writing literature reviews for a public audience - though science students tend to practice literature review earlier in their academic careers than humanities and social science students, these reviews often revolve around field-specific knowledge, glossing a number of different concepts in favor of expert knowledge. Wikipedia's audience forces writers to practice writing for a more general audience.
- Communicating the cultural context of science - Wikipedia's articles about scientific topics are interested in more than just the raw technical information about scientific topics. They also tend to emphasis the cultural and social implications of that science. Science students writing on Wikipedia get a chance to unlock the black boxes often created around the history, politics, sociology and anthropology of science.
- Library, Archival or Information Science skills
- Facilitating access to the public resources in diverse fields - writing Wikipedia content is about designing information and knowledge, no matter what the field.
- Practicing curation techniques - as a grand social experiment in crowdsourcing, Wikipedia has a very large and disorganized body of information; we always benefit from users willing to get into the curatorial practices of organizing this information to create better public access.
- Communicating research processes, and the most effective resources available to support them - many articles on Wikipedia are missing the meta-level conversations about why different resources are more reliable and how they effect the history of those concepts.
Related community programs