15 ways to contribute to Wikipedia

By Outstandy (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Outstandy [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Happy birthday, Wikipedia! The project turns 15 today. I’m an active Wikipedian, and I encourage all gallery, library, archives, and museum professionals to join me in editing this free online encyclopedia.

If you’re asking “Why should we edit Wikipedia?” here are a few reasons. If you’re shouting “Wikipedia is evil!!!!” stop that! If you’d like to learn more about Wikipedia and how to get started, check out this beginner’s guide for information professionals. And if you want a few ideas of what to do on Wikipedia, read the rest of this post.

1. Edit an article

Does your library/archives have a special focus or a lot of resources on a particular topic? Perhaps you have the world’s largest toothpick holder research collection? Find a related Wikipedia article and use those sources to improve that article. No special collections? No problem – just pick a topic you’re interested in and find a few materials in your collection that can serve as references. If you’re new to Wikipedia, you’ll probably want to check out a beginner’s guide and learn about conflict of interest before jumping in.

2. Write a new article

So you do have a special collection or topic you want to work on, but there’s no Wikipedia article? Don’t panic, because you can write that article! Make sure your topic meets Wikipedia’s notability guidelines, gather together five or more high-quality sources, and get started.

3. Expand a bibliography, further reading section, or external links section

Wikipedia is a great place for quick answers and getting started on your research. But what about those people who want to dig deeper? The sections at the end of a Wikipedia article, including Bibliography, Further Reading, and External Links, are meant to point users towards more sources. Add major books, articles, and other sources to an article to help users continue their research.

4. Link relevant content from your site to an article

Many of us have online finding aids, research guides, or digital exhibits related to a Wikipedia article. Go ahead and add those links to the External Links section of that article. Just remember, Wikipedia is not a collection of links to your website. Be selective, and make sure the links you include lead readers to additional relevant content. You might try adding links from other libraries and archives as well – if you know another library with a top-notch toothpick holder research collection, why not add it too?

5. Check references

Every Wikipedia article should include a list of references to verify its text. Make sure those references are complete and correctly formatted. Here’s a guide to get you started.

6. Add high-quality citations

You may need to sit down before reading the next sentence. Over 320,000 articles on the English Wikipedia are tagged as needing citations, and 230,000 articles have no sources at all. Do you have a source that you can use to add or cite information in one of these articles? Add it!

7. Add media to Wikimedia Commons

Okay, so technically this one is a Wikimedia Commons task. But lots of the media uploaded to Wikimedia Commons ends up on Wikipedia. You can do that too! (see #8) Does your collection include materials in the public domain? Upload those images, videos, pdfs, and audio files so everyone can use them. Bonus: by including a link back to the item on your website, you’ll give people a chance to explore your collections.

Side note: Do you like to take photos and want to release them under an open content license? You can upload those to Wikimedia Commons too!

8. Illustrate an article using Wikimedia Commons

Just like books with no pictures, Wikipedia articles without media can sometimes be a little sad. Add images, videos, and other relevant media from Wikimedia Commons to spice up an article. If you’ve already uploaded content from your collections, match those files to relevant Wikipedia articles. Take that photo of a vintage toothpick holder you uploaded and add it to the National Toothpick Holder Collectors’ Society article.

9. Add categories

This one is perfect for catalogers and those of us who like to organize. All Wikipedia articles are sorted into categories, which helps users navigate articles with common topics. There are whole groups of Wikipedians who spend their time managing categories and categorizing articles – and you can too! (I’m looking at you, subject heading nerds.) Read up on Wikipedia’s categorization guidelines here.

10. Add identifiers

Did you know Wikipedia also likes authority control, ISBNs, and DOIs? Lots of articles still need identifiers, so go forth and add them!

11. Translate an article

Alright all you multi-linguists, here’s your chance. You can translate an article from the English Wikipedia to one of the 286 Wikipedias in other languages, you can translate an article from another language for the English Wikipedia, or you can help clean up text after it’s been translated.

12. Add templates

We’ve all seen a few of these on Wikipedia articles:

Template:UnreferencedTemplate:Cleanup-bare URLsTemplate:Primary sources

Templates are used to mark articles that need help and warn readers about potential issues. Learn more about templates and how to add them here.

13. Join a WikiProject

A WikiProject is a group of Wikipedians who have joined together to edit articles around a common topic (like toothpick holders and Christina Aguilera). Find a group you’re interested in using the WikiProject directory and join the fun! The majority of WikiProjects have long to-do lists for you to take a stab at.

14. Write about libraries, archives, museums, and professional organizations

They need articles too! Find ideas to get you started on the SAA 2014 edit-a-thon page. Want to write an article about your organization? Careful, you might have a conflict of interest. Consider requesting an article or using Articles for Creation.

15. Work on a sister project

Yeah, yeah, not a Wikipedia task. But stick with me. Do you like to travel? Do you have a habit of memorizing random quotations? Do you fancy yourself an amateur lexicographer? Then you might like to help the Wikimedia Foundation with one of their other projects.

Don’t have any idea where to start? Find lists of articles broken down by task in the Help out! section of the Community Portal. This is a good place to practice your editing skills.

Some of the ideas on this list come from this handout. Thanks, Phoebe!

P.S. – Yes, this is my second blog post in one day. I blame Canada, along with my expert procrastination skills.

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