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In the news

US librarians see opportunities in Wikipedia

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) met for its 13th National Conference in Baltimore on March 29 to April 1. A session on Wikipedia was led by Dan Ream, head of education & outreach services at the Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries, and Lucretia McCulley, head of outreach and instruction services, at the University of Richmond Library. They did a straw poll of people at the session. They began by asking the crowd if they had used Wikipedia in the past week. More than 50 percent said they had. "About one-third said they'd recommend it to library users, and about the same number said they preferred Wikipedia to a traditional encyclopedia. About one-quarter of the crowd thought librarians should have an active role in editing Wikipedia. Still, at least half the attendees indicated they had told students not to use it." One of those who said they never recommend it later said this was because students would be insulted as they already knew about it and used it. In the debate that followed, it was pointed out that inspired amateurs have had a rich history contributing to reference works with the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, described in The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester used as an example. Some held that Wikipedia offered them and their students new opportunities to learn critical thinking.

It also emerged that University of Washington's decision to actively link Wikipedia entries with links to its previously underused collections of digitized photographs [1] had resulted in usage skyrocketing and 235 Wikipedia entries now include an image sourced from them. (See some at Category:Images from the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections.)

Everything else wiki

Sporadic media reports have featured a new wiki site yet to launch which will give whistleblowers in government or corporations the opportunity to post documents which reveal wrongdoing or deception. The site, to be called Wikileaks, will be powered by MediaWiki, the same software which powers Wikipedia, but will be specially adapted to anonymise contributions. The Wikimedia Foundation is not involved in this project.

Commentators have cast doubts on the site’s ability to guarantee anonymity and its ability to stop itself being swamped with spam and disinformation.

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