Tuesday, June 5, 2007


(Week 7, Thing 16)

There has been a great deal of debate recently over the accuracy of Wikipedia, one of the most popular sites on the web. However, I learned recently at a training class on Wikis that Nature magazine did a study finding that the Encyclopedia Britannica contains as many errors as Wikipedia. The people at Britannica were, naturally, upset, but there were unable to truly dispute Nature's assertions. Wikipedia seems to have enjoyed this, as they have left this trash talking parody article on their website despite it not fitting in with the requirements of most of their entries.

Obviously, this has significant implications for librarians. We have been trained to believe that we should rely on print encyclopedias instead less-reputable web resources. However, if Wikipedia is just as accurate shouldn't we just use what is more efficient? Of course, Wikipedia should only be a starting point and it should never be cited, but this is - and always has been - true for print encyclopedias as well. However, when elementary and middle school students are writing papers they are often told by their teachers that they can cite encyclopedias but not Wikipedia and other web resources. It will be interesting to see how - or if - this changes.

For the 23 Things program I was required to look at several library based wikis. They seem useful for their specific institutions, but I am not sure if any of them are highly relevant to the Calvert County Public Library system. Before we have any wikis ready for the public, we will probably see more staff side programs. For example, it would be very useful to have a wiki that could only be edited by library staff that offers support for work related questions. This way, instead of having to research how to resolve an issue, each librarian could use a searchable database to find a quick, step-by-step solution written by other librarians. If something in a specific article needed improvement librarians would be able to easily edit the information quickly and efficiently.

As for my own Wiki experience, see this article from Wikipedia on comic book villian Count Vertigo. During the Wiki training course that I took I was required to edit one Wikipedia entry. I chose to add information about the fact that Count Vertigo suffers from a condition called Ménière's disease, which runs in my family. I also edited the article on Ménière's disease to include Count Vertigo under the list of notable individuals who suffer from the condition. As you can see, Wikis allow users to add to the useless information on the internet rather than merely consuming it!

No comments: