I am a Wikimedian, librarian, and free culture advocate, interested in how knowledge is constructed and how we teach people to use and understand information. I am an experienced academic reference, instruction and collections librarian, with deep background in computer science and engineering information in particular. I have been a contributor to Wikipedia and a volunteer with the Wikimedia movement for over 17 years. I speak and write widely about Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects, teach people how to contribute, and organize events on a local and global scale to bring people in the free culture community together. I value openness and participatory, cooperative systems.

I also spend time reading, cooking, gardening, and volunteering for climate change action, voting rights, and bail reform. I am a fan of puzzles.

Science & engineering librarian

cc-by-sa by Victor Grigas

I am currently the librarian for electrical engineering, computer science, and mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries, where I also serve on our research data management team.

I was previously at the Physical Sciences & Engineering Library at the University of California, Davis, specializing in electrical engineering, physics, computer science, earth sciences and atmospheric sciences.

I've been at MIT since 2015. In my role at MIT Libraries, I specialize in research, instruction and outreach. I coordinate (as of 2018-19) our science and engineering librarians team and serve on the Library's central reference team. As of 2020, I collect for mathematics, statistics, electrical engineering, and computer science. I teach workshops on data management topics and research in the disciplines, and developed new workshops in conducting literature reviews and managing research code which I regularly offer. I have particular interests in managing and citing software and infrastructure to support open science, and developed an Open Access Hackathon in 2018. I am the library liaison to the EECS department (aka Course 6, the largest department on campus by undergraduate majors), the Math department, and the Institute for Data, Systems and Society, and I also work with colleagues to support interdisciplinary programs across the Institute, including the Technology and Policy Program, the Leaders for Global Operations, and the new Schwarzman College of Computing. I graduated in 2005 from the University of Washington's iSchool MLIS program.


  • I was a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees from 2013-2015 and from 2010-2012. My first term I was selected by the chapters; my second, elected by the community. The Board is the governing body for the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts Wikipedia and her sister projects.
  • I help libraries work with Wikipedia. See our outreach wiki and my 2013-4 project at the UC Davis libraries.
  • I organize Wikimedia events large and small, including involvement with most of the international Wikimania conferences as an organizer, presenter, and bid jury (now steering committee) member. I have organized many other meetups and conferences as well, including WikiConference North America, Recent Changes Camp, and dozens of edit-a-thons in various settings. I specialize in making joyful, participatory community events (usually with little infrastructure support and on tight deadlines).
  • Find me on Wikipedia here. I also, to a lesser extent, regularly edit Wikivoyage, Wikimedia Commons, Meta (the Wikimedia coordination wiki), Spanish Wikipedia, and Wikidata.

Other projects

cc-by by PierreSelim

  • I am a member of the Association of Computing Machinery Publications Board, which deals with questions relating to all publications of the ACM; I am on the digital library subcommittee.
  • I am on the advisory board for EngrXiv, a preprint server for engineering.
  • I was the 2011 chair of the Sierra Nevada chapter of the Special Libraries Association, and was involved in various other capacities. The SLA is an international professional library association; SLA-SNC covers the Sacramento Valley/Western Nevada.
  • I was general conference chair for WikiSym 2010, the sixth annual International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration, held in Gdansk Poland with Wikimania. WikiSym is an annual symposium about wiki and collaborative technologies, held in Europe and North America.

Writing and speaking

I am the co-author of How Wikipedia Works, published in 2008 by No Starch Press. It's about how to use, understand and contribute to Wikipedia, the extraordinary free online encyclopedia. I am proud that the book was originally licensed under the GFDL and was re-licensed under CC-BY-SA. You can find the text and more about the authors here (text courtesy of the Internet Archive) and there's an editable version here.

A few other things I've written:

  • If you liked Britannica, You'll Love Wikipedia" New York Times, March 14 2012.
  • Wikipedia and Libraries. "Wikipedia @20: Stories from an Incomplete Revolution." MIT Press, 2020.

    I have spoken about Wikipedia at events, celebrations and conferences around the world, including major library conferences. I enjoy introducing the world of Wikimedia to new audiences, thinking about the big picture and future of open knowledge, and talking to librarians about ways they can participate.

    Bios for talks

    (current as of 2015)


    Phoebe Ayers is a librarian at MIT, where she specializes in electrical engineering and computer science. Prior to that she was a science and engineering librarian at the University of California Davis. She served four years on the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia and its sister projects. She is the co-author of a book about Wikipedia, and is a long-time member of the project's community.


    Phoebe Ayers is a librarian at MIT, where she specializes in electrical engineering and computer science, working with students, faculty and researchers on their information needs. Prior to MIT, she was an engineering and science librarian at the University of California, Davis, where she specialized in physics, electrical engineering, computer science and earth sciences. Ayers has an MLIS from the University of Washington. She has been involved with Wikipedia since 2003 as an editor and community member, and has helped organize Wikimania, the Wikimedia community annual conference, on five continents. In 2008, Ayers co-authored a book about the English-language Wikipedia called How Wikipedia Works: and How You Can be a Part of It (No Starch Press, September 2008). The book covers using, understanding, and contributing to Wikipedia; it is freely licensed and was only the second how-to book to be published about the site. In 2010, Ayers was selected as a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, which governs the non-profit foundation that runs Wikipedia and its sister projects; she served from 2010-2012 and was re-elected by the Wikimedia community to serve an additional term on the Board from 2013-2015. During her terms, she served as secretary and vice-chair of the Board. She has also been involved in efforts to help libraries and cultural insitutions understand the Wikimedia projects and efffectively share their expertise with the projects. Ayers' interests center around open access and open science, engineering and science information resources, the effective use of collaborative tools (such as wikis) within communities,and how trustworthy information and knowledge is created both on- and off-line.

  • phoebe.ayers at gmail dot com   @phoebe_ayers

    photo credits: Gabor Eszes, cc-sa; Victor Grigas, cc-sa; Pierre Selim, cc-by; Nick Roach/Elegant Themes, GNU-GPL