Young Wikipedia editors become ‘Warriors’ during weekly library course

At least a handful of Thursday’s worldwide torrent of Wikipedia edits and uploads originated inside a cool room at the Lawrence Public Library, their authors likely among the site’s youngest editors.

The second of four “Wiki Warriors” classes at the library, led by a local software developer named Mike Dupont, featured three area students plugging away at laptops while editing entries about Lawrence and its landmarks and adding their own photos, which included a nearby fire station.

Teen services librarian Miriam Wallen conceived the course, which is scheduled to repeat from 2 to 4 p.m. the next two Thursdays, to get students in grades 6 through 12 more engaged with producing, and editing, information online.

“They can realize, ‘Is this a good source or not a good source?’ They can improve things,” Wallen said.

Within minutes after Kirk Johnson, 11, uploaded the photo of the fire station, it was no longer under the category where he filed it: another editor, far from the library, recategorized it under government. Another 15 minutes passed, and the class noticed that the same editor took time to further comb over the page.

“I think it’s really interesting to work with people not just in the same room but everywhere,” Kirk said.

For Dupont, the classes are also part of the earlier stages of a grander vision: to generate enough interest for a yearly conference on open-source knowledge in Lawrence. It’s a project he started in Kosovo, where he soon noticed young students growing interested in sharing information.

“They can make a difference,” he said. “There is no age barrier.”

Kirk said he signed up to get more engaged with reading-intensive projects this summer. On Thursday, shortly after Kirk’s uploaded photo was edited and further spurred a series of additional edits, Dupont used the opportunity to liken the interaction to something akin to a butterfly effect.

“He can sit down and with his work trigger an avalanche of change,” Dupont said. “It wouldn’t happen if he didn’t do it. There’s a feeling of empowerment.”