What do you get when the world’s largest medical library and the world’s largest encyclopedia meet up?

a person types on a laptop on which is visible a page showing the Wikipedia "W" and the medical caduceus symbolWe think the result is even better than happily ever after.

Because now more people than ever before have more access to credible, evidence-based information on rare diseases.

The anticipation had been building for weeks when medical librarians from all over the country joined forces through NLM’s National Network of Libraries of Medicine for an all-day #CiteNLM2018 Wikipedia edit-a-thon on April 17.

The event was so successful that rumors have been circulating that these collaborators will meet up again.

The rumors are true.

Read on to find out what the first National Network edit-a-thon was like and about preparations for the next event—including what you can do to participate.

A First

For so many the first National Network of Libraries of Medicine’s (NNLM) edit-a-thon on April 17 was an exciting, rewarding experience—even for those may have been skeptical of Wikipedia initially.

“Librarians had been told not to use Wikipedia and not to refer others to Wikipedia. We’d been told that anyone could put anything out there,” explained Ann Glusker who participated in the NNLM Wikipedia day. “It’s really not true. There is a strong culture of fact-checking in the Wikipedia community.”

Collaboration and Innovation: NNLM’s Nationwide Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon

For the eight health science libraries that function as Regional Medical Libraries (RML) for their respective regions, the edit-a-thon provided one more way to reach more people in more ways through enhanced dissemination and engagement.

Through the edit-a-thon, they shared NLM tools—Genetics Home Reference, MedlinePlus, PubMed, and NIH’s Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center.

On the day of the edit-a-thon, librarians could visit an online dashboard and see in real time edit-a-thon statistics, editing histories, and more. A project page provided links to training, citation editing basics, and resources.

The NNLM would like to thank participating staff: Karen Coghlan, Aimee Gogan, Ann Glusker, Erin Latta, Brian Leaf, Alicia Lillich, Franda Liu, Mary Piorun, Elaina Vitale, and Amanda Wilson.

Glusker, a librarian and data coordinator of the NNLM Pacific Northwest Region at the University of Washington, stressed the quality of training for the Wikipedia day and the importance of references, citations, and sources.

The moment Glusker arrived at work on April 17, she started editing and didn’t sign off until nine hours later.

The day went fast.

“It’s very unusual, working with a nationwide group of people—sort of like group projects in graduate school where you’re wondering who’s going to pick up the slack and who will have the same ideas about things,” said Glusker. “It was really great to work with people who were pulling their weight, supporting each other. We had complementary interests and skills and really enjoyed the experience.”

But most of all, Glusker said, “I really liked using my librarian skills in finding unique NLM resources to give content to the system.”

Medical librarian Alicia Lillich agrees.

As the Kansas Technology Coordinator of the NNLM MidContinental Region, Lillich said, “I thought this sounded right up my alley. I’m really interested in technology and ways we can use conventional means to reach consumers, anyone.”

Just as Lillich was discovering resources for others, she, too, was learning.

“It turns out that cat scratch fever is more than the title of a song. It’s a rare disease that’s just what it sounds like,” Lillich explained. “It’s a lymph node infection you get from a cat scratch or bite.”

Looking back, Lillich said the day was “a blast.”

Word got out about how cool it was to participate.

“The day after our edit-a-thon, I went to a meeting of a local group of health science librarians. Because of our promotion, they did an education session on using Wikipedia as a way to keep up reference skills and learn about NLM databases,” Lillich said. “It had a ripple effect.”

That ripple continued as NLM shared information about the edit-a-thon at two virtual conferences, one for the National Information Standards Organization and one for the National Federation of Advanced Information Services. Another collaborative edit-a-thon is in the works.

And the next time NLM and Wikipedia get together?

Edit-a-Thon by
the numbers

111 articles edited
736 total edits
43,500 words added
838,000 article views

The date is November 7, and the topic will be women’s health.

“It will seem like the Wild West because there’s so much information,” said Glusker.

But librarians will be ready, able, and willing to once again make more evidence-based, credible information available.

All are welcome to join.

To learn more about the NLM Fall Wikipedia edit-a-thon, visit our project page.

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  1. Pingback: The National Network of Libraries of Medicine Gears Up for 2019 | NLM in Focus

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