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Harvard on the hiring trail for “Wikipedian in Residence”

Harvard University is on the look out for a breed of professor that will be tasked with making sure one part of the institution’s vast catalogue of literature is given a chance to prosper on Wikipedia.

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The university is advertising for a “Wikipedian in Residence” that will be tasked with creating new articles and improving current ones related to the university as well as uploading archive material to the site.

The position on offer is specific to the university’s Houghton Library, which has a vast collection of rare and old books and part of the Wikipedian’s brief is to bring some of this valuable content online.

"Seeing this work successful at other institutions, … we thought it'd be a good way to make our resources available to the public," John Overholt, a Houghton Library curator, told The Verge.

Harvard’s job description explains that the position is for three months and the library won’t be deciding what the Wikipedian will focus on. Instead it wants the hired person to work on subjects that they are familiar with, thus allowing their short stay to be more productive for the library and the public.

"This is definitely an experiment for us. If nothing else, I hope it will interest people in the Wikipedia community into using Houghton resources,” Overholt said.

A number of other institutions have already hired similar members of staff to work on getting more content onto Wikipedia and Harvard has put on “edit-a-thons” in the past to take advantage of the free trove of information. Promoting the university’s collections is a clear goal of Harvard and the institution, for one, believes that its hire will have huge advantages for both sides.

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"It's a win-win situation. We get, hopefully, more use for our collections, which is what we're here to promote, and Wikipedia gets enhanced content, users get more useful articles — it's to everybody's benefit,” Overholt added.