The Wikipedia Library/1Lib1Ref/Lessons/May 2020

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The Wikipedia Library

#1Lib1Ref Year 5

May 2020 Report


The second iteration of the #1Lib1Ref campaign ran from 15 May to 5 June, 2020. The campaign runs twice a year, in January and May, encouraging librarians around the world to add citations to Wikipedia articles. In recent years, we have expanded outreach for the campaign to include anyone with a passion for free knowledge to add missing references to articles on Wikipedia.

The May campaign was run with a focus on deploying strategies to ensure scaling up the campaign outside of Europe and North America. This year, we focused on growth in Africa, with a partnership with African Library and Information Associations (AfLIA) and their professional network. We also experimented with strategic community support through the “Regional Ambassador Program” to ensure participants (new and old) and partners received support from experienced Wikimedians. Delegating support to regional coordinators allows the central team at the Wikimedia Foundation to focus on communications and partnership support with AFLIA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and other regional library associations.

The partnership with AfLIA allowed us to run several experiments for scaling the campaign, which resulted in a major surge in edits that increased the volume of edits by nearly three times that of previous May campaigns. African contributions to the May 2020 campaign comprised 85% contributions of the total global edit count.

Importantly, this was the first time in #1Lib1Ref history that the May campaign generated more engagement than the preceding January campaign!

Key learnings[edit]

Anticipating audience training needs. Every time we collaborate with a new audience or partner on #1Lib1Ref, we discover the need for different trainings and communication tactics that are tailored for that group. For example, part way through this campaign, we realized that librarians in AfLIA’s network have a different understanding of reliable sources than those in other parts of the world. Many were using user-generated content or Wikipedia mirrors as citations, instead of reliable sources as defined by the Wikipedia community. AFLIA and the African regional ambassadors plan to invest in new trainings to strengthen related skills for future iterations of the campaign.

Engagement with Lusophone and Francophone Africa were minimal. Organising one or two trainings in these regions was not enough to carry these subregions within the continent. Lusophone Africa regrettably could not be featured at all, and Francophone Africa had limited participation; hence the need to develop strategies to focus on these language areas of the continent. This omission will not be repeated in the next campaign. We hope to identify Portuguese trainers, set up WhatsApp platforms and provide the necessary training and support for our librarians from Lusophone Africa.  

Need to simplify the sign-up process. Several librarians felt that the sign-up process to participate was a bit cumbersome, but, upon explaining the need to complete all three steps for evaluation and assessment purposes, they understood. This stemmed mostly from the fact that AfLIA (our partner) could not identify (for award purposes) or reach participants by their usernames on the dashboard so they collected other personal information via additional forms. However, with the benefit of hindsight, we hope to find a better way to approach this in the future.

Quite a number of the librarians who signed up on the partner (AfLIA’s) dashboard were not able to actively participate. From the evaluation form, they noticed that many of the inactive participants did not have access to computers because their libraries had been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They had hoped to participate using their mobile devices but were disappointed to find out that it was much more complex and less convenient editing on Wikipedia via their smartphones. It is our hope that librarians in this category will have access to library computers in the next campaign or will have an improvement to the mobile interface.

Data constraints accounted for the inability of some librarians to participate. Our training sessions were detailed, systematic and designed to help everyone who connected. This usually meant holding a training session for more than two hours. Those who could not afford to purchase data or stay that long for a training session were essentially not available for adequate training. Going forward, we hope to explore opportunities to get support to give out data vouchers. Also we hope to put together series of short tutorial videos (in English, French and Portuguese) focusing on the key aspects of participating in #AfLibWk #1Lib1Ref and circulating them within our networks for the benefit of librarians who cannot stay on for detailed training sessions.  

Collecting regional ambassador input during pre-campaign outreach strategy development. Involving regional ambassadors early on in the outreach development strategy will help to gather more indigenous knowledge about doing outreach in the region and identifying partners and the best channels of communication through the region. It's also essential in creating synergy among the team from the region and avoiding the shock of having to implement a strategy that they may not be familiar with.

Incentives and low complexity tasks can combine to create high-impact, high volume participation.  In previous iterations of #1Lib1Ref, we have observed competitions by different global communities (i.e. Wikimedia Canada). However, this was never deliberately scaled to the international campaign. As part of #AfLibWk, we supported AfLIA in providing rewards, including .... This resulted in over 300 of their participants actively contributing to the campaign at much higher volumes than in previous #1Lib1Refs.

Functionaries were not ready for a large scale influx of editors. The #AfLibWk campaign brought in a surge of new Wikipedia editors. Due to the training constraints noted above, some of these editors were making low-quality edits at a high volume, in order to increase their ranking in the competition portion of the campaign. On English Wikipedia, the Administrators noticed this increase and were concerned about the low-quality edits.Fortunately, the short term of the competition by AFLIA (one week) and the easy access to those participants, allowed us to communicate directly with the admins and reduce disruption to new contributors. We are observing a similar pattern in the Wikipedia Pages Wanting Photos campaign with some new contributors.

Key Statistics[edit]

Here are some key stats from the campaign:

  • There were over 33,257 total edits made across 24 projects in the campaign, a 394% increase compared to last year
  • 27,800 edits (84% of global total) were from our partners (AfLIA) through the African Libraries Week (#AFLibWk) competition
  • 1.47 million words were added as recorded on the dashboard
  • 550 editors  participated, a 6% increase from the previous year
  • 310 articles were created, and 5,610 were edited by editors tracked in the Programs and Events Dashboard

Next Steps[edit]

We are keen on growing the #1Lib1Ref campaign in new regions and providing more opportunities for communities to learn from our experience in organising campaigns.

  • Continued support for AfLIA members and its network. We will continue working with AfLIA through the partnership developed to build the capacity and to ensure continued engagement with their network.  We are currently doing this through a Wikimedia Foundation  grant that seeks to build capacity among African information professionals and could ensure retention on our platforms.
  • Growing participation in the Asian region. We aim to create new and strategic partnerships in the region and work with our collaborative (Asia Regional Ambassadors) to train and build the capacity of our target audience. We will achieve this by improving relationships with other regional international library associations to scale the practices we developed with AfLIA.
  • Campaign Office Hours. We will develop a community showcase of all campaigns run in our movement and provide a one-on-one opportunity with community organisers to share their input and insights about their experiences.  
  • Developing better guidelines or support for competition and incentives for editing campaigns. The #1Lib1Ref/#AfLibWk, Wikipedia Pages Wanting Photos, and Project GLOW campaigns all experienced a small number of editors producing a high-volume of low-quality edits because of the incentive structures. We will develop new systems and guidelines to address this issue.
  • Notifying major language Wikipedias  about upcoming campaigns. We recognize the importance of having a deliberate discussion about upcoming campaigns with functionaries and communities that participate in such campaigns to create awareness and preparation towards a number of contributions. Notifying functionaries may not be sustainable for scaling campaigns in the future as we may need a technical way of doing this.

Thank you to everyone who helped make #1Lib1Ref 2020 a success. We look forward to collaborating with you next year for the campaign during Wikipedia’s 20th Birthday celebration!