There was a time when professors, scholars, and even one of Wikipedia’s founders, Jimmy Wales, said the user-edited online encyclopedia should not be used in academe. But in recent years, academics seem to be looking more favorably on the popular reference tool.
The newest indication: The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, is now the first presidential library in the United States to have a “Wikipedian in residence” on its staff.
Michael Barera, a master’s student in Michigan’s School of Information, has been selected for the new internship position and charged with increasing and enhancing the library’s presence on Wikipedia.
“Wikipedia is a completely new outreach venue for us,” Bettina Cousineau, exhibit specialist at the Ford Library and Museum, said in a news release. “Not everyone can visit our museum and library in person, but everyone can visit us online.”
A Wikipedian in residence is a Wikipedia editor who has an on-site placement at an institution. It turns out there are many such Wikipedians at archives and museums around the world, including the National Archives, but there has never before been one at a presidential library.
Mr. Barera has been editing articles on Wikipedia for five years, and in 2012 he joined the Michigan Wikipedians, a student club that was the first of its kind at an American university.
Last fall Mr. Barera and the Michigan Wikipedians attended a Wikimedia Foundation seminar where he met Ms. Cousineau. The master’s student soon began volunteering his time and skills to locate Wikipedia articles about President Ford for the library and museum’s staff to fact-check, as well as to create tags and templates on the site.
Mr. Barera started his new job as the library’s Wikipedian in residence last week.