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Several weeks ago WiKipedia was cussed and discussed on this list.  Below 
is a Kansas Library Listserv (Kanlib) post from one of the librarians at 
the state library that has relevance to the conversation:

The State Library of Kansas has cataloged close to 1,000 Wikipedia articles
on OCLC so far including about 600 articles on Kansas cities/towns as well
as the 105 articles on Kansas counties.  I knew it was a gamble, cataloging
these articles.  Before starting I did a lot of looking/reading.

Quality control is a big issue on Wikipedia.  Out of curiosity I've looked
through the "history" sections of articles on volatile topics such as
abortion, Taliban, etc and found running "battles" between
vandals/people-with-issues and Wikipedia volunteers/staff.  Rarely, when the
vandals get way out of hand, an article is locked and updating has to be
approved.  Sometimes a warning appears at the head of an article telling a
reader that the "neutrality" of the article is in question and suggests the
reader check the Discussion section to figure out where the arguments are
coming from.

Even something as "bland" as an article on a Kansas town can have an
unfortunate edge to it that has to be deleted/altered by Wikipedia
volunteers.  I've seen this once and witnessed a quick "fix" by Wikipedia

On the whole I've been impressed with the quality of Wikipedia articles.
I've also noticed that Wikipedia is pretty upfront about letting people know
that they are getting information from volunteers and that it's always good
to double check sources.  This is true even of the best sources.

We catalog a lot of biographies here at the State Library (out of printed
books by reputable publishers).  When I first started cataloging biographies
years ago I was surprised how often I found entirely different dates for a
person's birth/death within the piece I was cataloging and the dates for the
same individual on the Library of Congress Name Authority record.  In
checking other resources I've sometimes found the work I have in hand has
incorrect dates and other times discovered that LC has the wrong
information... and written LC with my cited resources and gotten their
incorrect information changed.  A good example was former Kansas governor,
Mike Hayden.  The Library of Congress Name Authority record for him said
that he was not only the governor of Kansas but an author of guide books
about the West Coast.  This seemed very strange to me when I first saw it.
I checked into this, discovered that there is another Mike Hayden out West
who writes these books, gave the information to LC and they split the Mike
Hayden heading into the two different men.

I learned this lesson many moons ago when I was a freshman at KU. I was
working on a paper regarding the history of England during the Reformation.
I went to Watson Library and checked out several books.  As I read through
the books I'd checked out I discovered that different writers reported facts
and events in ways that totally conflicted.  Sometimes the authors even gave
different dates/locations/names for the same event.  Huh?

"But it's written in a book so it must be true?"

A light bulb went off in my 18 year old brain... which occasionally has to
be recharged... "When in doubt, check it out."  (Can you tell why my kids
have told me that being the child of a librarian is a pain in the rear when
you ask Dad to help you with your homework?)

The Seigenthaler affair in Wikipedia is unfortunate.  It's good to approach
articles in Wikipedia (as well as stories in "USA Today" or any other print
source) with a wary eye.

Bill Sowers -- Cataloging/Kansas Publications
State Library of Kansas
300 SW 10th, Room 343-N
Topeka, KS 66612
785-296-3296 / 800-432-3919

Harry Willems, consultant
Southeast Kansas Library System

Harry Willems, Consultant Asst. Dir.            620.365.5136
Southeast Kansas Library System         620.365.5137 (fax)
Iola, KS  66749               

42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

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