Why I Use Wikipedia

A few days ago we had a kiddo amble through our front door. Like most kiddos her age, she needed a book on a famous person because it is that time of year where the local schools are doing reports on famous people. These things work in cycles. There’s the state and country reports, the famous person report, the mythology report, the history report, occasionally an explorers report, a science related report, and the Colbert Report.

That last one is mostly for watching after the reports are handed in.

Anyway, the kiddo had a semi famous person, but nothing like a superstar famous. I’d heard of this person, but then again, I’m a public librarian. She needed some sources and, at that time, it didn’t matter where they came from. So I told her I’d check a few places. I got her a book or two and then I hit up the good ol’ Interwebs. I pulled up the library’s encyclopedia database and brought up World Book. I searched for the name and got…

A paragraph.

That’s it. One friggin’ paragraph. I mean, this person wasn’t George Washington famous. They weren’t Albert Einstein famous. But they did lots of stuff in their lifetime and deserved more than a damn paragraph. Fine, I thought, let’s hit Wikipedia and see how much it has on the subject.

FIVE PAGES.

Five pages from the free alternative versus a paragraph in the expensive encyclopedia.

I think there’s something to be said about having fans writing and fact checking certain things. Granted, Wikipedia shouldn’t be a one stop shop for information, but as far as encyclopedias go, it’s sure not a bad place to start. Besides, you know what else Wikipedia had that the World Book didn’t?

Valuable references and a bibliography.

That way I knew where I could find other stuff about this, and so did the kiddo.

I believe that’s what they call a win/win scenario.

1 comment

  1. Today I helped another librarian (at a small, local library) who had a school report on events that happened in a certain year–1982 in this case. Another one of those regular reports. Anyway, since she was asking the big library for help, it felt kind of funny to say “have you checked Wikipedia”? But the truth is, I’ve found that Wikipedia usually has the most comprehensive list of events in any given year, all of which can then be externally verified if you feel like double-checking.

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