The librarian invasion of Wikipedia continues. The WikiProject for Librarians now has 10 members & a fair To Do list. And this past weekend I got an internal message (a function of Wikipedia that I didn’t even know existed) from Michael Snow, that he’s written a piece on this for The Wikipedia Signpost. This piece appeared in today’s Signpost.
In this piece Michael writes that “some people were voicing concern about the rhetoric of ‘invading Wikipedia’ and how such attitudes might be received.” This is a fair point, & I just want to comment on that, since I’ve been throwing the word “invasion” around a fair bit here. It’s rhetoric, nothing more. Calling it an invasion is fun. But I’m not really suggesting, & I don’t believe that anyone else is suggesting, the violent overthrow of Jimmy Wales, or anything like that.
My position is this. Librarianship is a service profession: we should harness our skills in the service of Wikipedia and open information sources generally. And librarianship is an education profession: we should make efforts to educate the widest possible audience. I believe that, in Wikipedia, we have the opportunity to provide educational materials (in the form of reliable information) to a very wide audience. A number of other issues fall out of this, but I want to keep this short so I won’t go into them here. My conclusion is that it’s our professional responsibility, as librarians and information professionals generally, to help out on Wikipedia. Not to take over, but to contribute our skills, to make Wikipedia a better information source, a better place for everyone. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs, basically. That may sound corny, but I believe it. Probably why I’m an academic; most of us genuinely believe, when you get right down to it, that we’re contributing to the betterment of humanity by contributing to the great corpus of human knowledge.
In his Signpost piece Michael quotes me as having written, “I have just joined this project, and so should you” (“this project” being the WikiProject for Librarians). I think I come off sounding a bit authoritarian there, sorry about that. But here’s why I think librarians should join this project & contribute to Wikipedia (and open information sources generally). Librarianship and the information professions generally, when done well, are largely invisible. Information is like air, people move through it all the time, but only really pay attention to it when it’s absent. This is unfortunate, as it makes communicating the value of the information professions quite difficult. But that’s another rant entirely. My point is, the Wikipedia invasion is a great way to communicate the value of librarianship. Here we have an opportunity to publicly demonstrate our expertise in evaluating the quality and reliability of information sources. We should seize it; opportunities like this don’t come around very often.