Become a “neighborhood librarian” with Wikidelphia

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Frankly, many of us were puzzled as we sat in a meeting in 2011, listening to the instigator, Stan Pokrastell us about a concept he called “information promotion”.

It was a new idea for us. Stan was inviting us to volunteer, but we were just beginning to grasp the concept.

I ended up involving myself more deeply than most. Soon Stan told me another name for his idea. A “neighborhood librarian” would be someone who directed neighborhood residents to sources of just about anything they needed. Stan also told me about the “city wiki” sites. I realized then that if a neighborhood librarian was going to have a full supply of information, it would be helpful to have an online home. Finally, a concrete project emerged: Wikidelphia.

For 11 years now, Stan and I have slowly built Wikidelphia to scale. We have thousands of pages on topics from all over the city.

Entries are categorized using mostly verbal expressions such as “Does Social Service”, “Does Youth Development”, or “Does Art”. The category system includes a geographical infrastructure, so to speak, under the “Where” category. I’m especially proud of this feature, because it took a lot of work. There is now a category page for each neighborhood in Philadelphia, and each page includes a map. It also has links to adjacent neighborhoods, so you can “walk around the neighborhoods.”

Another functionality is offered to you by the “Use volunteers” category. Most entries in this category have a direct link to where you can inquire or sign up to volunteer for a local organization. There are currently 321 such opportunities on Wikidelphia.

At the fire hall museum. (Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia)

One thing that surprised me is the number of museums in Philadelphia. Stop for a moment and guess how many! … Ready? In our “Is-Museum” category, we currently have 92. A few are out of town, but wow, Philly has a lot of museums!

One thing I had to get used to was the fact that Wikidelphia doesn’t have a standard page size. Stan wanted to do pages his way, and I wanted to have an immutable format. We made compromises. Stan formats the pages his way, I format them my way, and when we get more editors on board, they’ll be free too.

Let me tell you something that I love: to find new topics, I scan a long list of Philly news sources each week. To my delight, I sometimes find a useful story about a place that has just opened. It’s so new! Sometimes I find a story about a place that is still in the works or under construction.

For example, I saw a story about the American Revolution Museum several months before it opens. I started a page about it. Over the next few months, I found more stories and added them to the page. By the time the museum opened, I already had a full page about it, including the story of its opening as told by reporters in a list of stories. I love when that happens.

I hope you find Wikidelphia useful enough to visit regularly. If you would like to suggest a new page, our main page has a prominent link for that. At the top of the main page, you can “Request an account” and become a volunteer editor. Unlike Wikipedia, we will train you personally.

Explore or get involved -30-

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