Jessamyn on Wikipedia

I jumped out of my chair and “raised the roof” on Friday after reading Jesamyn’s comments:

“Wikipedia is just scratching the surface of the debates we’ll be seeing in the years to come. Librarians ignore Wikipedia, and by extension the new face of information, at their peril. Keep in mind I’m not saying that we all have to run to the Internet to answer our questions, just that if we fail to see the impact these systems are having, and the openness and transparency they bring with them, then we fail to learn something crucial about the downsides to the inflexible authority of print. Downsides that people have been living with and taking as a given all these years, and now may no longer have to.”

I’ve had many conversations with colleagues about using Wikipedia as an online resource. Many say that we shouldn’t trust it. My usual replay is that we shouldn’t trust anything both online and off. That includes those ready-reference materials that sit right at the reference desk that we turn to to answer a basic query (are there any basic queries anymore?) We should treat Wikipedia like we treat anything online. With skepticism.

That said, I think that Wikipedia is a decent starting point because its content is created (and edited) by the masses (I added to my first Wikipedia essay today – I felt exhilarated after the submission) and not a bunch of academics who think they know something about a topic. Jessamyn is right: We shouldn’t we have to deal with the downsides of (and inaccuracies within) print media, especially since there are so many people watching them (see previous post titled, “Regret the Error”).

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