Re: Setting an Example for Academic Research

Comment to Daniel Stuhlman’s blog posting Setting an Example for Academic Research, Monday, May 7, 2012.
This shows the changes that are occurring now in the field of publishing and bibliography. I personally do not like some of these trends, but nevertheless, they are happening. Wikipedia is becoming an accepted and valued source, if not by academia, then by the world at large, and even by academia itself, as you mentioned.

There is no way to stop these trends and I don’t think they are such bad ones. 30 years ago, if someone were stuck in a little town with a poor library–not only in the US but around the world–your options for information were very limited, but compared to today for those people, an entire world has been revealed. A lot of the scholarly tools are hidden behind pay-walls (that is, right now, but this too may change), so Wikipedia is certainly far better than a book written 25 or 30 years earlier, which may have been all that your library had. If that.

One task for librarians in their information literacy workshops for students is not to tell people only about what is available in the databases the library pays for but what is on the open web. Why? Because the students will leave someday, and relatively few will stay in academia. We don’t want our students to be stuck high and dry without anything, and Wikipedia is certainly far better than nothing.

But there is much more than Wikipedia on the web, some very valuable open archives, some great book talks, entire conferences, think tank publications, and on and on almost without end. Google doesn’t find a lot of these great resources since Google contains far from everything, and even if these materials are in Google you may not be able to find them unless you know how to search and consequently, you must have some skills. Better searching tools would help too.

There is so much librarians could do to improve matters today, but I don’t know if it will turn out that way.