Learning patterns/How to build a core community from scratch using the local network of libraries
What problem does this solve?
This pattern explains how a local community may be built by relying on the network of local libraries. Outreaching to new contributors on the long run is a challenge. It is not just about getting newbies to sign in for an account once, it is also about motivating people to log in regularly and to incorporate the Wikimedian community. By establishing long term relationship with libraries, we create a link between people who can become contributors but also open the possibility of freeing actual content that can feed the various Wikimedia projects.
What is the solution?
This pattern assumes that no local volunteers is identified before starting the program. The community of volunteers is built from scratch.
- Identify the Libraries mailing lists
- Identify the active librarians
- Offer Wikipedia introduction sections on the mailing list
- Forward your email directly to the active librarians you previously identified
- Inform your communities, they may know people and provide some leverage to force positive answers
- Set-up regular meetings (once a month, same date every month, for instance: every first thursday noon)
- Inform the community, they may want to welcome and meet the newbies offline
The first step is to identify how libraries communicate between each other to access this channel of communication. Indeed, with this strategy, it is best to initially contact the libraries massively rather than individually. This research phase enables to depict the channel of communication in question. At this point it is worth mentioning that it is often a mailing list. Following this identification process, a period of observation is required to identify which institutions are the most active. Like most libraries, people are readers or subscribers, and only a few are active participants in the regular activities of the institution. Having short listed the active libraries and those who enjoy the most dynamic participants, those people in question may be contacted individually. Once enough libraries and participants have been identified as groups potentially interested in the offer of a Wikimedia project workshop, you can start the mass mailing process. The important element to share in the offer is that you are offering libraries a service that they cannot provide themselves. In Switzerland, we suggested the possibility of organising Wikipermanences to inform the library's public and staff about Wikipedia and Commons. Keep in mind that the best option is to provide a packaged deal to the libraries, they only have to provide a welcoming space and communicate about the event through their channels. Asking them for more will most probably create extra work for the library staff who might prevent the organisation of such activities. In a way imagine the staff of the library as a guest in their own workplace.
Things to consider
- Librarians are busy, the best approach is to offer them an all inclusive introduction course on Wikimedia projects to their staff and visitors. Unless they are Wikimedians they will most likely not take the time to organise it themselves.
- There are local Wikimedians in the area, they are still diamonds in the rough but yes they are!
- Libraries have resources and fabulous content to share on Wikipedia, like a collection of pictures or an edition of rare books for instance. By unlocking their understanding of the Wikimedia projects, they may find an interest to release their treasures under the creative commons licenses.
- Wikipermanences may become regular meeting points for current Wikimedians and potential newbies. They are also an opportunity for libraries to show an edge in their offer of 2.0 workshops and help them build content in their program of activities. It might attract people to their libraries that they cannot reach themselves.
- This project might also create contact points for establishing Wikipedian in Residence projects in the libraries.
- All in all, connecting with the libraries is a win win situation for them and for the Wikimedia movement.