Wikipedia and Your Catalog
Wikipedia, boon or bain, is an integral part of the information lives of most Internet users. I’ve read scathing articles about it by authors who, weeks later, site it as a source of information in an email or instant message. It provides quick, straight up information on most topics for use in casual discussions or quick research and often it offers links to more substantial resources as well.
We have cataloged about 1,000 Wikipedia articles analytically at the State Library providing links via the Kansas Library Catalog, WorldCat/OCLC and the State Library’s consortium OPAC, ATLAS. Most all of the Wikipedia articles we’ve cataloged are concerned with Kansas, Kansans or current topics with few resources initially available via standard library resources. We had one of the first records in WorldCat/OCLC linking to information on then-Supreme-Court-nominee, John G. Roberts, as well as an early record on Hurricane Katrina. We followed these entries with other cataloging records accessing more substantive resources, but yes, the initial records were for Wikipedia articles.
Within each Wikipedia cataloging record we’ve included a warning statement in a note stating, “Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia that is being written collaboratively by the readers of the web site. The site is a WikiWiki, meaning that anyone can edit any article right now by clicking on the edit this page link that appears in every article in Wikipedia. All of the articles are covered by the GNU Free Documentation License, to ensure that they can remain freely available forever.”
In other words, “Caveat spectator!” (Let the viewer beware.)
Generally we’ve been pleased with the Wikipedia articles we’ve added to our OPAC. The Kansas Wikipedia articles we’ve cataloged include about 630 records on towns and cities in Kansas and 105 on Kansas counties. During the past four years since we began this project, I’ve noticed some blatant errors, politicking or “griefing” issues with some Wikipedia articles but they’ve been cleared up quickly by volunteers bent on maintaining the quality of the site.
So, should you run over to your computer and begin cataloging Wikipedia articles? No. First review your community of users’ needs, library collection development policies and check with your colleagues. If you do decide to enter Wikipedia articles into your catalog, concentrate on topics of importance to your library community such as the towns within your county. Be sure the articles you want to catalog contain valid, clear, concise information with outside references. If you have information you can add to an article, do so! Also consider adding yourself to the “Watch List” for each article you catalog so you can keep track of changes made to the page.
Even if you don’t catalog Wikipedia articles, consider adding an article about your library to the Wikipedia website. As much as the site is used, having an article about your services, collections and programs is an excellent way of providing free information about what you do. Simply join Wikipedia as a contributor and go through the basic steps of setting up a new article. Once you have your library up on Wikipedia, edit it frequently with new information.
You can view the State Library’s cataloged Wikipedia articles on the ATLAS OPAC at:
All of these articles should be on the Kansas Library Catalog as well.
Kansas Documents and Cataloging
State Library of Kansas