Would you use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail?

On one of the listservs I read, not too long ago, there was a flurry of exchanges about Wikipedia. Now this is a largely student listserv, so there’s always a bit of, well…let’s just say passion. It’s not a new debate. Wikipedia is a morass of unverified garbage. Wikipedia is what 2.O is all about. Pick your side. Wikipedia freaks people out for some reason. Freaks a lot of librarians out. It scares me to say this, but so does Google (although I must admit I’ve caught myself saying this on occasion too).

“Well, you know what they do. They go straight to Google.”

Well, yeah, they do. So do I. I have Firefox set up with a search plugin for Wikipedia. I also have one for Science Direct and one for EBSCO. But I go to Wikipedia and Google a lot.

That doesn’t make me a bad librarian. It doesn’t make a user a stupid person either. These are tools. And they are often starting points. What would make me a bad librarian would be if I took what it said on the Wikipedia page and stopped there. It would make the user kind of stupid if he or she did the same. But it is not a bad or evil thing to begin with Wikipedia.

It’s not exactly the primrose path to hell. It’s a tool. And like any tool, you need to know what its purpose is and when to reach for it. My reference professor spent a lot of time on learning to use reference books. I am profoundly grateful for that. When I train the library school students I work with, I put a lot of emphasis on the books too. It’s important. But those are not the only tools we as a profession should be turning to.

The Free Range Librarian posted this about 2 years ago. I have it tacked to my door.

For anyone who actually reads this. I urge you to take a look at it. Because it applies here.


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