Australia and New Zealand report
NLS6 and ALIAonline
Sue Gardner on stage at the Brisbane Convention Centre giving the ALIAonline keynote address
Two library conferences were held in Brisbane, Australia in February. The first, for which Wikimedia Australia was a platinum sponsor, was the Sixth New Librarians Symposium, and the second was the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) Online Conference. Sue Gardner gave the keynote address at both. Members of Wikimedia Australia attended, including President John Vandenberg; Treasurer Craig Franklin (Lankiveil); Committee Member Kerry Raymond and Chapter members Whiteghost.ink; Liam Wyatt (Wittylama) and TaraMacphail. Wyatt gave a presentation entitled GLAM-Wiki from Australia to the world and back and Tara Macphail with Tony Naar spoke about the paralympic project. An evening Wikimeetup made it possible for more Australian Wikimedians to meet Sue. Press coverage included a newspaper report on 12 February, entitled "Data plans 'unnerving': Wikipedia boss" and
Sue Gardner's interview with ABC radio presenter Richard Fidler, which was broadcast on 15 February.
Librarians and Wikipedians
Richard and Sue about to begin the interview
The synergy and potential for collaboration between libraries and Wikipedia was explored in conversation with attending Wikimedians. Conference presenters also made some interesting points relevant to the engagement of Wikimedia and libraries. During the panel discussion for instance, one speaker noted that the different websites (art gallery sites, library sites, archive sites) do not provide information about one topic (the speaker used the example of Ned Kelly, Australia's most famous bushranger), before going on to say that "customers don't care who has the information - they want to get it all in one place. In curating the information, authenticity counts in terms of experiences, but access to the information is important." It was this sort of comment that showed the usefulness and relevance of Wikipedia to librarians.
"Embedded librarians" and Wikipedians-in-Residence
In another session, a speaker described the role of "the embedded librarian" which bears a remarkable similarity to a Wikipedian-in-Residence. Embedded librarians work in corporations, health and even observatories. In universities, for example, embedded librarians do "research and liaison"; they "develop and deliver information and resources to support teaching and learning," they "teach, consult, write, select, promote and build relationships with the University community". So the work and contributions of Wikipedians began to be recognisable to librarians, and hence familiar to the conference audience.
Gardner commented on the possible peril to Wikipedia as people move from laptops and desktops to tablets. The change in medium has produced an immediate and rapid decline in editing - that is, there appears to be a shift to consumption over production. Such a decline in creative contribution, Gardner noted, is likely to have a bad effect on Wikipedia. She recommended reading The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu (ISBN 9780307269935).
Having explained how it all works and why it is important, Gardner gave practical advice to the librarian audience. She exhorted them to:
- edit Wikipedia;
- explain it to their customers; and
- stand up for free and open Internet.
IFLA and WIPO
Another keynote address was given by Ingrid Parent who is currently President of International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). She spoke of the new roles of the librarian: "instructor, author, copyright expert, publisher, curator, information specialist, and explained how the professional librarian was moving away from being reactive to serving the public wherever they are ... connecting people with information". The kind of change being experienced by librarians reflects the purpose and interests of Wikipedians, and this was even clearer when Parent explained efforts made by IFLA to work with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in order to secure a copyright regime appropriate for libraries. Following the Brisbane conferences, Parent discussed the issues with the Director of the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney, in a conversation before a group of interested people at the State's biggest library. She said that IFLA provides a voice, and was now setting the agenda with WIPO, whereas previously libraries had been "outside the tent".
The interests of indigenous peoples in Canada and Australia were also considered, especially in light of their expressed desire to control access to their histories and information, restricting it to some, but not all readers.
"Doing it the Wikiway"
At the Info Online session, Michelle Swales of the State Library of Queensland and Rachel Lethem of the Gympie Library presented a paper entitled "Doing it the Wikiway – Giving Local Content Global access, a grass roots perspective". The paper discussed the experiences of contributing local studies information to Wikimedia, and the benefits to the local community that could be had from doing so. The paper noted that while the experience in Gympie had been an extremely positive one, there were pitfalls that new editors had to be aware of, including notability requirements on the English Wikipedia and a strict focus on copyright at Wikimedia Commons. The paper does conclude though that ultimately, "Successful Wikipedia editors however,
could be anyone," and that "It soon became apparent that there is so much untapped knowledge and enthusiasm to share in Queensland communities – people just needed a mechanism to capture their content and make it findable and Wikipedia does exactly that."
The full text of the paper can be accessed at the following URL: http://www.information-online.com.au/pdf/Sub_Michelle_Swales.pdf
Trainees in Bendigo get their first taste of Wikimedia
Wikimedia Australia's regional workshop programme continued in February with events in the regional Australian cities of Toowoomba and Bendigo. These events were held under the auspicies of Wikimedia Australia's regional WikiAcademy programme, which since 2011 has been holding workshops in regional and rural areas of Australia.
The Toowoomba workshop took place on 8 February, and took place on premises kindly provided by the Toowoomba Regional Council. John Vandenberg and Kerry Raymond presented and took users through creating new articles on Wikipedia, uploading images to Commons, and explaining how the Wikimedia movement in general works.
The Bendigo workshop took place on 21 February at La Trobe University's Bendigo campus. The main trainer was, with support from Chris Watkins and Leighblackall. The session was planned and managed through Outreach Wiki, and a full report is available at Wikipedia training day, Bendigo Victoria.
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