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Library helps residents change city history on Wikipedia

Posted by: under People and neighborhoods Updated: February 25, 2012 - 6:16 PM

Nellie Stone Johnson was the first black person elected to citywide office in Minneapolis when she got a seat on the Library Board in 1945. She was the first woman in the country to negotiate labor union contracts for equal pay for women. But despite Johnson's accomplishments, she doesn't have her own page on the internet encyclopedia Wikipedia. But that is going to change.

Nellie Stone Johnson

Nellie Stone Johnson

On Saturday, the Minneapolis Central Library hosted its first Minneapolis History Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, where the general public was invited to use the library's Minneapolis Collection to edit and augment Wikipedia entries on city  history. Johnson's page was one of several that was worked on.

The event was aimed at trying to make Minneapolis-related entries more accurate and in depth as well as having residents take advantage of the library's resources, said Ian Stade, a librarian at the James K. Hosmer Special Collections part of the library.

Even though Wikipedia has been criticized for the inaccurate and incomplete information of some of its entries, Stade said, librarians including himself use the site regularly.

"It’s not the only resource, but it can be a good resource to get started," he said.

On Saturday, some of the other pages that were augmented was the bio of Stanley Avery, a composer who also served as the choirmaster and organist at St. Mark's Church for 40 years and the page for Nicollet Island. Compare the changes by clicking on the "View History" tab at the top right corner.

Wikipedia edit fests have been popping up at libraries across the country, according to a recent story in American Libraries magazine. Last October, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts hosted “Wikipedia! The Musical!," an event dedicated to contributing to Wikipedia’s articles on musical theater. The Tom of Finland Foundation Library in Los Angeles had a “Queering Wikipedia Editathon” to create and update LGBT-related articles. The Chicago Public Library held an editathon devoted to President Obama’s early life and career, as well as information about his state, U.S. Senate, and presidential campaigns and elections. 

About ten people made it out to the Minneapolis editathon, Stade said, on Saturday afternoon. Stade said the library will probably try hosting the event again.

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