Wikipedia had a birthday and invited librarians to the party

Happy birthday – 15 January 2016 marked fifteen years of Wikipedia.

To mark it they asked “each librarian on earth” to take part in #1Lib1Ref – adding a citation to one of the ‘citation needed’ articles. Maybe you read about it in our weekly roundup and took part?

Wikipedia has had, over the years, a slightly prickly reception from some academics and librarians, a common complaint being that because ‘anyone can edit it’ it isn’t reliable. Some have discouraged use of it, some have barred students from citing it in papers, whilst others love it and the skills and expertise that using and contributing to it can bring, as well as seeing the unique role that librarians can bring to it. It certainly seems that pretty much everyone is using Wikipedia, and so it makes sense that libraries can help teach the most effective way of using it. Wikipedia itself agrees, saying that “librarians are fundamental allies to the mission of Wikipedia”. In fact, it seems that Wikipedia has agreed with the advice not to use Wikipedia as a primary source, saying that it should be used as a “place to start your research” but is “not an authoritative search”, and describing it as “a first stop for researchers”. I certainly use it in my studies in this kind of way – as a starting point, a summary, an introductory place to find links to authoritative sources on a subject I’m unfamiliar with. Despite initial concerns about Wikipedia, it does seem that it has more recently become viewed – by library professionals as well others – as more reliable and usable, and Wikipedia is only too keen to return this love to librarians.

If you missed #1Lib1Ref you’ll find that there are still plenty of ways you can get involved with Wikipedia:

What do you think? Do you use Wikipedia in your studies or professional life? Do you purposely avoid it? Do you think libraries have a role in teaching about how to use it?


Featured image “Wikipedia in library” by ABX [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

3 replies

  1. Wikipedia is an amazing piece of technology. While it still suffers from issues, like lack of diversity, a certain instability, etc, it definitely has matured to the point where it’s a reasonable first reference source (which is all encyclopedias are really intended to be). Recently… OK, a while ago. I came across a citation which led me to H.G. Wells’ book The World Brain, a series of lectures and talks Wells gave on the subject of a world encyclopedia. The most elucidating of which was the first essay, World Encyclopaedia. I was searching to double check I had the title down accurately and came across a digitized version:

    It’s definitely worth a read if you’re interested in the role such a technology plays in our lives.

    Great write up!


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