March 06, 2008

Librarians ponder wikipedia in academia

Alloway Librarian Bill Badke's most recent article published in ONLINE magazine What to Do With Wikipedia? is receiving a lot of positive attention on the reference librarian listservs. Once again he's done TWU and Alloway Library proud!

To get an idea of what's got librarians buzzing, here's a brief extract from Bill's column:
If you want to get five opinions from four information professionals, just mention Wikipedia. Often banned by professors, panned by traditional reference book publishers, and embraced by just about everyone else, Wikipedia marches on like a great beast, growing larger and more commanding every day. With no paid editors and written by almost anyone, it shouldn’t have succeeded, but it has. In fact, it’s now emerged as the No. 1 go-to information source in the world. It’s used not only by the great unwashed but by many educated people as well. ONLINE reported on the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s findings that 36% of the American population regularly consult Wikipedia (July/August 2007, p. 6).
Figuring out what to do with Wikipedia is part of a larger question: When is academia going to acknowledge the elephant in the room? Over the past decade, the web has become the primary informational environment for the average student. This is where our students live. Wrenching them out of it in the name of academic quality is simply not going to work.
Ultimately, the academy has to stop fighting Wikipedia and work to make it better. Academic administrators need to find ways to recognize Wikipedia writing as part of legitimate scholarship for tenure, promotion, and research points. When professors are writing the articles or guiding their students in article production and revision, we may become much less paranoid about this wildly popular resource. Rather than castigating it, we can use it as a tool to improve information literacy.
Thanks to Duncan Dixon, Bill Badke

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