For those of you who aren’t following this little drama in the library blogosphere, Stephen Francoeur recently discovered that a big chunk of his webpage on dig ref had been plagiarised & used as the Wikipedia entry on dig ref. He posted to Dig_Ref about this & got some response. I even came out of lurker mode to suggest, as I have before, that librarians should take the initiative & fix Wikipedia whenever it’s clearly necessary to do so.
More recently, Stephen discovered that someone deleted the entry in question, an option which he had considered and decided was “altogether a bad idea.” Stephen then launches into a really interesting meditation on what his role should be in cleaning up this plagiarism problem. He concludes by commiting to “helping repost sometime next week a new improved entry on digital reference services.” In an attempt to put my money where my mouth is, I’ve volunteered to help write this entry.
I mention all of this for 2 reasons. First, because it’s an interesting little drama that highlights issues and problems with open information sources. As this new genre develops, there will inevitably be growing pains. Still, I believe that librarians should not let issues like this scare us off from participating in the creation of open information sources. If we can’t resolve problems having to do with the development and quality of information sources, who can?
Second, Stephen mentions Peter Binkley’s recent post about a project page for librarians in Wikipedia. I think this is a great idea & I wish I’d thought of it (but I didn’t even know that project pages like this existed… clearly if I’m going to advocate for the librarian invasion of Wikipedia, I should learn more about how Wikipedia works!). Anyway, I have just joined this project, and so should you. Peter’s post amuses me: he writes that “It is my modest hope to play John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, not Eisenhower in Normandy.” No one wants to lead the charge, but everyone wants a charge to occur! I’m the same; I want librarians to take some responsibility for Wikipedia (just to help out, not a coup, despite my rhetoric), but I have no time for a major commitment either. It is my hope that people like Peter, Stephen, and me are, in some small way, opinion leaders on this issue. If we lead, perhaps others will follow, and eventually there will be critical mass. What will happen when there is critical mass I don’t know, but I believe that hordes of librarians running around in Wikipedia will improve the quality of information found there, and that in itself is no small thing. And tomorrow, the world! Bwoo ha ha ha!