Wikipedia and Librarians
Wikipedia is important for librarians. A month ago in a post entitled Wikipedia and Information Literacy Article in CILIP Update I reported on an article published in CILIP Update about the role Wikipedia can play in information literacy. At the time the article was only available to CILIP members. However after a short embargo period I’m pleased to announce that a copy of the article is now freely available on Google Docs.
The article describes how:
Popular, ubiquitous, if often contested, Wikipedia can highlight many aspects of information literacy and librarians can use Wikipedia-related IL activities to provide practical training sessions for users.
However it is not just librarians with responsibilities for information literacy who should have interests in Wikipedia. The recent international Wikipedia conference, Wikimania 2014, hosted several sessions on the relevance of Wikipedia and related Wikimedia projects for those working in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector including sessions entitled Creative Content, Evaluation, Organisations, Sources, Partnerships, Ecosystems, Models and Local. It seems there were no fewer that 20 individual GLAM sessions which were held including one which had the intriguing title “The Future of Libraries and Wikipedia“. The abstract for this session describes how:
Theoretically and strategically, Libraries and Wikipedia are natural allies. This relationship directly impacts our core activity of research and editing. Libraries are the ‘source of sources’, and Wikipedia is only as good as its sources. Meanwhile, Wikipedia has the viewership that libraries crave to bring people to their doors to do deeper research. By connecting Libraries and Wikipedia we can complete a virtuous circle of research and dissemination.
Encouraging Librarians to Be Creators and Not Just Consumers on Wikipedia
In addition to the sessions on Wikipedia I facilitated at the LILAC 2014 conference over the past year I have given several talks about Wikipedia including an invited plenary talk on “Editing Wikipedia: Why You Should and How You Can Support Your Users” at the CILIP Wales 2014 conference – a talk which was complemented by a blog post which provided Top Wikipedia Tips for Librarians: Why You Should Contribute and How You Can Support Your Users.
During the talk I encouraged participants to make use of the WiFi network to sign up for a Wikipedia account. I was pleased that during the talk one delegate announced:
Inspired by to create Wikipedia account!! #cilipw14
I also suggested that those who had a interest in and a desire to make updates to Wikipedia articles they could do so during my talk. I pointed out that, as shown, the CILIP article in Wikipedia included slightly dated membership details from 2012 which could usefully be updated. However I pointed out the Wikipedia neutral point of view (NPOV) principle which means “representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic“.
One way of minimising risks of sub-conscious biases in articles is to ensure that content is provided by those who do not have direct involvement with the subject area of an article. For an article about an organisation it would therefore be appropriate for an article about CILIP should be updated by editors who are not employed by the organisation.
CILIP Membership Numbers Since Its Foundation
The Importance of CILIP Membership Data
A recent blog post by Barbara Band, the CILIP President, highlighted the importance of data about CILIP’s membership numbers. In a discussion about an apparent decline in membership numbers over recent years Barbara point out that:
The problem I have is with the statement about CILIP membership being at its lowest … the person stating this has selected the year 2010 as the benchmark. Why? Why not 2007 or 2004? Why not take the year that CILIP was last the LA and use those figures?
Following a recent Twitter discussion about CILIP membership numbers that CILIP Wikipedia article was updated: the article now states that “CILIP has 13,470 members as of May 2014″ and cites the CILIP “Financial and membership report 8th July 2014″ report (PDF format) as the source of this figure.
However although this information comes from a reliable source and was added by a Wikipedia contributor who is not employed by CILIP this information by itself does not address the suggestion made by Barbara Band that there is a need for membership numbers since CILIP was founded (in 2002) in order to be able to have an informed discussion on trends in membership numbers.
I was told by a member of CILIP that information on membership numbers is available on the CILIP web site but is not easy to find. The information can be found in the Annual reports and accounts (note since the reports are in PDF format the information cannot be found using the CILIP web site’s search facility).
The “Year end 2013 Financial report item 13 March 2014″ (PDF format) provides, in Appendix D, the CILIP Membership Statistics as at 28th February 2014.
The appendix includes details of the monthly membership numbers from January 2010 to February 2014. A graph of the membership numbers, taken from the report, is shown.
It was interesting to note that this image contained the following interpretation of the decline in membership numbers from 17,857 in January 2010 to 13, 756 I February 2014:
Looking at the year on year graph of membership figure, 2014 continues to reflect positive trends compared with previous years, but this will become more realistic as the year progresses.
I would interpret the graph as indicating a sharp decrease in membership numbers in spring (possibly when annual subscriptions must be paid) with a much smaller increase in numbers over the rest of the year, perhaps when new members join.
Finding Further Information
Although this information is useful it does not answer the question posed by Barbara Band when she said “the person stating this has selected the year 2010 as the benchmark. Why? Why not 2007 or 2004? Why not take the year that CILIP was last the LA and use those figures?“
An intriguing question for an information profession might be “How would you find the membership numbers of an organisation which has been in existence since 2002?” My initial attempt at using annual reports on, in this case CILIP’s Web site only provided relevant information for since 2010 – I understand that the CILIP web site may have been relaunched around this time, with old content lost.
My next attempt was therefore to use the Internet Archive. I found an archived copy of the Annual Report captured on 5 December 2008 which contained links to annual reports for 2005, 2006 and 2007. However the reports themselves (which were in PDF format) were not captured :-) However from the Internet Archive I managed to find an archived copy of the CILIP Membership page captured on 2 December 2002 which stated “CILIP is the professional Membership body of choice for around 23,000 Members“. Although this isn’t an authoritative figure it does provide an indication of the size of the organisation around the time it was established.
My fourth attempt was to make use of another Web archiving service – the UK Web Archive. I was able to find an archived page of CILIP’s Annual reports and accounts captured on 7 October 2008. However the Annual Report and Account 2006 (PDF format) does not provide membership numbers. Instead the figures are hidden within the statement:
If CILIP members, consumers, e-subscribers and stakeholders are taken together, then the CILIP community encompasses over 40,000 people who give their support to CILIP.
However even this bland statement is better than the Annual Report and Account 2005 (PDF format) which simply states:
The forthcoming year will see a renewed focus on membership growth
My final attempt at finding this information isn’t based on using an advanced search engine. Rather I’m seeking to make use of the ‘wisdom of the crowds’. If you’re reading this blog post and you were a member of CILIP between 2002 and 2010 perhaps you may still have copies of official CILIP papers which may contain information on CILIP membership figures during this period. If so, I would invite you to share this information, either as a comment on this post or, preferably, by updating the CILIP article on Wikipedia or the CILIP article’s Talk page. Use of the Talk page would be particularly appropriate if you are new to Wikipedia and are unsure as to the processes for updating content and ensuring that content is provided from a neutral point of view.
Note that the talk page currently contains the following information on CILIP membership numbers [N.A. means Not Available]:
|Nos. of members
As its name suggests the Talk page, which every Wikipedia article has, can be used for discussions about the Wikipedia article. In addition to the thoughts I have added on finding sources for CILIP membership numbers, I have also added a section on “Additional Information for the CILIP Wikipedia Article” which invited suggestions for further developments to the page.
In addition to including further textual information and images to the article another development to the article could be further factual information provided to the article’s ‘info box’. As illustrated this currently contains the name and abbreviation of the organisation, its logo, foundation date and URL for the CILIP web site.
Looking at the American Library Association Wikipedia article for ideas, perhaps additional information such as location (London), region covered (UK), budget, numbers of staff and names of the president and other senior figures could also be provided.
It should be noted that, unlike the content provided in the main body of Wikipedia articles, the information provided in info boxes is harvested by the DBpedia service and made available as Linked Data which enables structured queries to be carried out on the information. Librarians and information professionals, in particular, will appreciate the benefits to be gained from carrying out structured queries!
I was surprised how hard it was to find information on the membership number. However the exercise has highlighted some issues which I feel should be considered by those with responsibilities for managing organisational web sites:
- It can be useful to pro-actively ensure that the content of your web site is archived by a service such as the UK Web Archive prior to any Web site redevelopment work.
- Important information can be hidden in PDF files. Although PDF is an open standard and is suitable for archival purposes, the Web-based archiving infrastructure works better with Web-native file formats (i.e. HTML). In addition content held in PDF files may be hidden from search engines.
So although finding the information is proving difficult, the exercise has been useful in identifying some best practices for web site management which I hadn’t previously considered. In addition I have discovered the value of the Internet Archive and the UK Web Archive in ding content which has vanished from live web sites.
Finally, I hope that trusting the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ will help in finding the missing information and being able to respond to Barbara Band’s request that we “take the year that CILIP was last the LA and use those figures?“. Over to you!
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