Using Wikipedia in Libraries

I want to go on record as saying that I love Wikipedia. I’m a contributor and user of Wikipedia and often steer students and others to this valuable resource to answer quick reference questions or to get an overview on a topic, especially current events or popular culture. Does Wikipedia have issues? Sure, but then so does every other reference tool from the venerated Encyclopaedia Britannica to a pathfinder created to illustrate the finer points of a library’s collection. I would rather teach our students how to be proficient users of any information source than to prohibit them from using this popular and, often times, well-written and well-researched source.

Inside Higher Ed has a great article today about how the University of Houston is harnessing the power of Wikipedia to gain more exposure for their digital collections. This is a novel and excellent way to “partner” with Wikipedia to make Library collections and resources more readily and widely available. I would challenge my fellow librarians to look for other ways to “partner” with Wikipedia to make the resource better. Consider editing or creating a Wikipedia article. Look for ways to incorporate Wikipedia into library instruction or reference service. Or use Wikipedia to highlight collections and resources at your local library like the University of Houston has. Wikipedia is only as good as the people adding information to it and I feel that we librarians have a lot to add to the mix.

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