Today’s the day it’s all happening. Fingers crossed. I am hosting a Wikipedia edit-a-thon in the Library and there also be a talk/discussion about women in science (not in the Library). A blogpost is coming out, and we have a poster exhibition on the same topic.
I made an early start. I opened all the upper windows first thing to get some fresh air in to the reading room. The man who cleans the Library was still around when I arrived, and he kindly helped me with a bit of furniture shifting first thing, starting to prepare the area for today’s event.
I had an email from Science notifying me that one of our researchers has a paper coming out next week. I have already done a draft news item for this one but am awaiting revisions back from the paper’s author. I forwarded the notification to them as a “hurry up and get back to me”.
Then I saw that the Occam’s Corner blogpost by Athene and myself had been published. It was about women in science and the Wikipedia edit-a-thon that we are hosting. It is only my second Occam’s Corner contribution, so was pleased to see it there. It started getting noticed on Twitter.
I then did my daily scan for science news/policy items. Highlights were (immodestly) the Occam’s Corner post, the Rosalind Franklin Google doodle, and something about university-industry collaborations. I was in a bit of a rush so didn’t search quite as thoroughly as usual.
Then Mel Nunn, the MRC Head of Diversity and Equality, arrived. He is co-ordinating a series of MRC Wikipedia edit-a-thons (for the MRC Centenary) so has been doing much of the organising of this event. We got the area set-up – more furniture shifting and power cable plugging (I had to run round and find an extra extension lead as ours had disappeared). I know from bitter experience that if people are coming to an event with their laptops or tablets then they are going to need access to power sockets, so I had made sure we had plenty available.
The first delegate arrived pretty early but luckily coffee arrived not long after that. The room still felt cool but I suspected it would heat up later so I asked them to bring up jugs of iced water too. My Library colleagues arrived and were soon helping out. We had previously selected some useful books and reference sources for people to use during the edit-a-thon, so hoiked them off the shelves. Then more delegates started arriving so we took it in turns to go down and guide them up to the Library. Then I had an email to say “Le gateau est arrivé”. We had arranged to have a rather nice cake to finish the day off (more later).
By 10.30 we had 25 people gathered – from as far afield as Cambridge and Portsmouth – all with laptops or tablets (or both!) connected to the WiFi (thanks to expert assistance from IT Matt and my colleague Patti). Some quick introductions and then the day began.
Edward Hands, a Wikipedia volunteer editor, outlined the aims, ethos, methods and ecosystem of Wikipedia. Richard Nevell, from Wikimedia UK, went through a practical demonstration of the mechanics of registering an account in Wikipedia, your user page, using talk pages, checking the revision history of a page etc etc. He answered several questions along the way (e.g. “Who chooses what goes on the news page each day?”). A picture emerged of a consensual way of doing things and reaching decisions. Meanwhile a few latecomers arrived and I needed to fetch an extra table as we had one or two more people than expected.
The workshop attendees ranged from professors to undergraduates. Five came from the Institute, but the majority were visitors. Only two were male – one aim was to help increase the number of women Wikipedia editors so we had tried to encourage women to attend.
Then Athene arrived – she had agreed to give a talk about women in science, during the lunchtime session, followed by a panel discussion. I picked her up from reception and we went to the seminar room to check everything was working fine, then back upstairs to the Library where lunch was now served. That had to be eaten swiftly and everyone trooped downstairs to hear Athene’s talk followed by a very lively discussion. The seminar room was packed with about 100 people – standing room only.
At 2pm the serious editing started. Phoebe Harkins from the Wellcome Library introduced the online historical resources that they make available to registered members of the library (many are available to remote users). My colleague Patti Biggs introduced a tip sheet she has written on searching for biographical information, plus some published reference sources.
I then left them to it as I had to go and take minutes for a Heads of Divisions meeting.
Back upstairs 90 minutes later I found a hive of activity. Most people had their heads down in concentration, studying text or editing pages. Kath Nightingale from the MRC Comms team (she runs the MRC Insight blog) was interviewing various workshop attendees. Elizabeth Gibney from Times Higher was also talking to various people to get a flavour of the event. I took her down to interview our Institute Director too.
Assisted by the three Wikipedia experts (Edward, Richard and Kate Chan) the new editors were making good progress in creating new pages and improving existing pages. Patti was dashing around finding useful information sources for people.
Meanwhile on Twitter I had had more RTs and mentions than I can ever remember before, connected with the OC post and the edit-a-thon.
The editing session was scheduled to end at 6pm, for the really dedicated editors, but we had the cutting of the cake scheduled for 5pm and that effectively marked the end for most people.
A slight technical hitch occurred when we realised we didn’t have a cake-knife available and the restaurant kitchens were closed already! I ran around and managed to track down a moderately-sized (but small) knife. You always forget something! The cake was duly photographed and cut and, of course, eaten. It was very tasty – kudos to the cake makers Anika and Reena Mistry. People slowly drifted away after that and we started clearing up. Then I took the three Wikipedia trainers down to our bar for a quick drink and a debrief. And, relax! It was over.
It was a great day, made great by so many people helping – not just those mentioned above but also those helping with preparations in advance (thanks Amy!) and on the day (thanks Nicky!) and of course by the enthusiasm of the attendees. There really seems to be a great deal of demand for this kind of event.
It was the first we have hosted anything quite like this, or as high-profile as this, in the Library. I think the new layout of the Library worked very well for the event.
It wasn’t exactly a normal working day, but was certainly very rewarding.
See you tomorrow for my last “Library Day in the Life” post.