On Friday, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and Wikimedia D.C. hosted an Edit-a-Thon, focused on updating committee information on Wikipedia. This is the second such event, and the first to be hosted at the Library of Congress.
The day was divided into two parts. The morning included a number of talks, including welcoming remarks by Deputy Librarian of Congress Robert Newlen and Law Librarian of Congress Jane Sanchez, that provided information and insight into the congressional committee process. It was followed by training on how to edit Wikipedia, a tour of the Library’s facilities, and a viewing of a portion of its rare books collection. The afternoon included small groups of newly-minted and veteran Wikipedians working together to update committee information.
Wikipedia is one of the major ways that people look up information online — the National Archives and Smithsonian both have had Wikipedians in residence — so it was heartening to see the Library of Congress open up its doors and welcome in the public to help improve public access to information. The Library, of course, is one of the greatest repositories of human information that ever has existed.
We believe this kind of collaboration is important and congratulate the Library for engaging the public in this way.
Interestingly, one of the issues the Wikipedians encountered was how rapidly information on Wikipedia can grow outdated. For example, committee pages on Wikipedia list the chair and ranking members of the committees for the 114th Congress, but not the 115th. This is an example where the release of bulk data about Congress can make it possible to automatically update information on Wikipedia, which improves accuracy and access to information to everyone.
At the Congressional Data Coalition, we are dedicated to improving public access to information about Congress, including publication of that information in bulk, and are so pleased to see Congress moving in this direction over the last half-decade.