Librarians and Wikipedia

Wikipedia, according to Wikipedia, is "a free, Web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project." But the reference librarians we checked with would want a second source on that.

"Personally, I don't rely on Wikipedia, because of people's ability to go in and edit anybody's text and change the history," says Karen Sharp, senior librarian and webmaster at the Wayne Public Library.

Wikipedia, which comes (according to Wikipedia) from the Hawaiian word "wiki" — "quick" — joined to the "pedia" from "encyclopedia," was launched 10 years ago this Saturday by founders Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger.

Since that time, reportedly 365 million readers have pored over 17 million articles – all written by volunteer contributors – on subjects ranging from Aachen ("spa town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany") to zymology ("scientific term for fermentation").

Wikipedia has profoundly changed the way most of us gather information. It may have had less effect on the people whose job it is to look things up: reference librarians. Yes, they'll use it sometimes, they told us. But with misgivings, and never as a sole source.

"We use it as a backup," says Sharon Castanteen, director of the Johnson Free Public Library in Hackensack, who has a background in reference. "We'll start with that, get some ideas from it, but we won't trust it 100 percent."

North Jersey has the story.


I find there are two schools of thought on Wikipedia in the library community These two quotes about reflect them perfectly.

I don't really understand the point of view that Wikipedia should never be used. Yes, anyone can edit it. However, the Wikipedia community is very good at correcting errors. So much so, that it's statistically as good as Britannica. (Source: )

(Additional info: )

We should take Wikipedia as what it is. A very good encyclopedia. Do you know any librarian who would trust an encyclopedia 100%? In academia, I surely don't ... at least not for "real work." For me, Wikipedia is a great tertiary source. It gives me a good enough basic primer on the topic and then sources for me to dive into further. My students are advised accordingly.

there are few things on the internet that got everyone's attention before Facebook, Twitter and WikiLeaks. without Wikipedia or MySpace or eBay, most people still wouldn't know anything about the Internet because almost nothing about the internet was newsworthy for many many years.
and Wikipedia keeps librarians on their toes. we continully search for sources to invalidate Wikipedia and show everyone how much more we know... did any librarian ever do that when confronted with the World Book's incomplete or nonexistent entries? no. but we offered our patrons a second or third source. and that's what we do with Wikipedia.
I love it because the references are really useful for finding primary or root sources for information.
so go visit them now and donate $5 for all Wikipedia has done for librarians.

"We should take Wikipedia as what it is. A very good encyclopedia. "

And one of my teachers said another good thing about Wikipedia: it's great for "pre-search" -- a starting place before other research. It's great for looking around at a subject in the same way we might use another encyclopedia.

To say nothing of the fact that is has much more info on pop culture information than any printed encyclopedia I know of.

This really is shocking, to have the deputy director of the ALA's OIF anonymously astroturfing for net neutrality. Then the ALA, most likely, got me silenced on Wikipedia as a result of my publishing the below blog post, which now contains information censored out of Wikipedia on behalf of Deborah Caldwell-Stone:

"ALA Pushes Net Neutrality on Wikipedia; Political and Pecuniary Interests Promoted Anonymously by ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom May Violate Ethical and Tax Codes"

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