The Wikipedian on Campus

In 2016, the DePaul University Library recruited its first “Wikipedian-in-Residence” (WiR), Cassandra DellaCorte, to promote the presence of our special collections on one of the most-visited sites on the World Wide Web, to improve and enhance the content of Wikipedia articles with a connection to DePaul collections and academic programs, and to collaborate with faculty wishing to integrate Wikipedia-based assignments into their courses. In addition to working directly with librarians on projects such as #1Lib1Ref and Art+Feminism edit-a-thons,  DellaCorte has contributed to faculty development programs, and continues to grow as a Wikipedian by participating in programs like Wikimania, and working with Wikipedia educators and editors across the country to keep abreast of new Wikipedia-based teaching methods, learning tools, and training programs for new editors. Most recently, DellaCorte worked with Lauren Hahn to develop Wikipedia-based media literacy exercises for WRD 103 (Composition and Rhetoric I), and with Roshanna Sylvester to develop, deliver, and assess a month-long Wikipedia project for students in HON 102 (History in Global Contexts). Assignments such as these, designed and delivered collaboratively by library staff and classroom faculty, promote the development of critical thinking, media literacy, and information literacy skills among undergraduate students who become engaged in the active use, evaluation, and improvement of this universal resource.

While the primary focus for our WiR remains the discovery of library collections and the promotion of information literacy instruction and assessment, we have found that there is broader interest in the expertise that she brings to DePaul. Staff members in the Office of Public Relations and Communications, for example, consulted with DellaCorte on how to improve content related to the university on Wikipedia, and the Vincentian Studies Institute has worked with her to enhance Wikipedia articles especially relevant to the history and mission of the university, e.g., Vincent de Paul, Congregation of the Mission, Louise de Marillac. Over the past two years, DellaCorte has provided key support for growing engagement with Wikipedia in the library and in academic programs, both of which are critical as Wikipedia continues to grow as a platform for initial discovery of information about millions of topics, and as one to which students, librarians, and faculty can contribute as editors and community members. Our initial work with colleagues outside Academic Affairs suggests that Wikipedia expertise may be of broader value to the university, as other departments begin to explore ways to improve the content of Wikipedia articles relevant to work at DePaul and the institution’s engagement with the City of Chicago.

The DePaul University Library originally invested in a Wikipedian-in-Residence program in support of the university’s strategic commitment to promoting innovation in teaching and learning, but has found that we can also contribute to other strategic goals through this effort, e.g., the university’s commitments to deepening engagement with the community, and to fostering diversity and inclusion. Through programs like Art+Feminism, and by engaging members of DePaul’s diverse student body in editing, DellaCorte is not only contributing to instructional programs around media literacy and information literacy, but also to the development of Wikipedia content on, and created by, women and people of color.

If you believe you have a Wikipedia-based project, or would like the University Library to help to train your staff to edit (or contribute) Wikipedia articles relevant to the work and mission of the University, please contact Cassandra DellaCorte, Wikipedian-in-Residence, to schedule a consultation.

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