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Flog of the Prokonsul

Internet fluency, digital governance and Wikipedia propaganda. You have been warned.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On librarians and... (suprise) Wikipedia

I don't think many will be suprised when I say that the most interesting chapter in Courtney's book was for me the chapter on Wikis by Boeninger.

Interestingly, Boeninger doesn't focus on Wikipedia - something I would like to address here.

Librarians 2.0 should certainly be familiar with Wikipedia. It is, after all, the largest encyclopedia, coming up top in most Google searchers, and something their patrons will often turn to for information. They need to know whether its reliable or not; how to efficiently research on it; and also - how to tie Wikipedia with their profession, communities and individual libraries.

The librarian at Great Meadows Middle School in New Jersey has blocked access to Wikipedia from computer; she has put up signs all over the library that declare "Just say no to Wikipedia" (read news story here). Yet I believe that we should heed historian Roy Rosenberg who wrote that in the end - it is just an encyclopedia (read his article here). You should not end your research with one - and you should never trust one source to be perfect - but to expect people not to use the mostly correct, free and user friendly resource is akin telling people that printed press allows dissemination of errors and they should only trust hand written manuscripts. Wikipedia is as correct as Britannica (read Nature's study here), and should be no more banned than it.

Of course, it is important to know how to use those tools widely. Librarians should be aware that Wikipedia has has useful guides - ex. Researching with Wikipedia or project such as Wikipedia:WikiProject Librarians. I would expect librarians 2.0 to have a Wikipedia account, and contribute to Wikipedia articles on individual books (ex. Wikinomics), their libraries (ex. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh) - or concepts related to their job (ex. Library catalog). With such tool as Catalog 2.0, linking books in library catalogue to their Wikipedia's entries, blog reviews and such, and librarians monitoring the quality of that content - helped by the vast masses of good-willed amateurs - I am looking forward to library 2.0 experience.

Further reading:

Chad F. Boeninger, The Wonderful World of Wikis: Application for Librarise, in Nancy Courtney (ed.), Library 2.0 and beyond.

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