Wiki software in libraries

Wikis are a tricky subject for me. Libraries are striving to keep up their reputation as places of authoritative information, and I don’t think that adding a service the likes of Wikipedia would do anything to improve that reputation. We need to make sure that all the information associated with or coming from the library is accurate and verified. A reputation for reliable information is one of the only things the library has over all the other information providers today. While we have seen some good examples of very successful wikis, I believe that the library needs to have control over what information it recommends to its trusting patrons. Thus, I don’t think that an informational wiki sponsored by the library and edited by the public has a place in libraries.

However, wikis are a great tool when the editing is limited to a specific group of people. It allows anyone to edit the web pages without any coding knowledge. This capability is especially useful if the wiki is used to create the library’s website; librarians no longer need to wait for a technician to update the site because they can do it themselves. Wikis seem to be successfully used for subject guides, personal projects, and employee intranets. Of especial use is the discussion feature of wikis, which allow patrons to suggest additions to the page that librarians can then evaluate and add if appropriate. This is an ideal way to incorporate the interactive and collaborative information aspects of a wiki while allowing librarians to vet the information before recommending it.

As for Wikipedia and the library’s place in this environment, I think that the University of Washington Libraries Digital Initiative has found the best way to integrate library services in community information. I found their project to insert links to valuable library sources in pertinent Wikipedia articles a wonderful and innovative way to bring library services to the public without purporting the information on the article as accurate or library-supported.

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2 thoughts on “Wiki software in libraries

  1. I definitely agree with your assessment about wikis. I believe that popular sites, like Wikipedia, has a huge reputation for being unreliable for true and factual information. However, I do believe there are plenty of Wikipedia users out there who are doing their best to keep things as factual as possible. I think the managers of Wikipedia do their best to keep users informed that some pages don't have citations (even in-text citations are noted), so they certainly cannot guarantee the information in the article is accurate. I think that while libraries do need to promote themselves as reliable and truthful with their information, I believe that if there is strong oversight of the entire wiki, that you can open up the editing to include everyone and still have a successful and informative resource.

  2. @M.Clark… not sure where you've gotten your information about Wikipedia being unreliable. It's been shown to be just as reliable as Britannica.

    I have to say that I don't really agree with you that libraries have to ensure that all their information is accurate and verified. Just because a book was published doesn't mean the information contained is truthful or accurate. It would be an impossible task to try and determine if every text was accurate, and a lot of it is subjective.

    Should we stop providing copies of popular magazines like People or even stop providing access to the Internet? It is part of our job as librarians to teach patrons how to judge what information is accurate, especially today when there is so much information out there.

    I think part of the problem with libraries is that they try to control patrons too much already. Libraries need to start changing how they look at their service and have to start involving their patrons more. A lot of people do not feel that personal connection with the library. Creating a wiki in which the members of community can feel like they make a difference or add to their library is imo a great move. That doesn't mean it shouldn't ever be monitored or updated frequently by library staff, but I think we should all have a little more faith in our patron's abilities.

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