It’s been a long time since I’ve done my librarians-need-to-take-professional-responsibility-for-the-reliability-of-Wikipedia-as-an-information-source rant here, mostly because I felt there was nothing more to say on the matter. However, I need to revisit it on account of this article in the latest D-Lib Magazine:

Lally, A. M., & Dunford, C. E. (2007). Using Wikipedia to Extend Digital Collections. D-Lib Magazine, 13(5/6).

In May 2006, the University of Washington Libraries Digital Initiatives unit began a project to integrate the UW Libraries Digital Collections into the information workflow of our students by inserting links into the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. The idea for this project grew out of our reading of OCLC’s 2005 report Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources [1] which states that only 2% of college and university students begin searching for information at a library web site. It is, therefore, incumbent upon Librarians to look for new ways to reach out to our users where they begin their information search.

The explosive growth of Wikipedia made it a prime candidate for our efforts at pushing information about the Libraries out to where users conduct their research.

Thank you! Damn straight!

My rant has always been that librarians need to edit Wikipedia to make it more reliable. But the good people at the University of Washington Libraries took a different tack: directing Wikipedia users to resources that were known to be reliable, since they were under the control of the library. Very creative! Excellent thinking!

And the results?

Analysis of server statistics indicates that Wikipedia is indeed driving more traffic to our site. … What is significant, then, is the steady increase in usage we have seen from Wikipedia. … Web 2.0 technologies offer librarians a great opportunity to enhance the authority of resources that students use on a daily basis, and to push their knowledge and expertise beyond the traditional boundaries of the library. We now consider Wikipedia an essential tool for getting our digital collections out to our users at the point of their information need. We view this as a very low cost way to enhance access to our collections…

Yes! I say, well done, University of Washington Libraries!