Many of you may have heard of or used Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. At this posting, Wikipedia encompasses 1,565,565 articles in English. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has rapidly grown into the largest reference Web site on the Internet. The content of Wikipedia is free, and is written collaboratively by people from all around the world. It is the central focus of the Wikimedia Community that includes over 700 distinct Wikis in hundreds of languages.
A Wiki is a collaborative effort with articles written by individuals from around the world using wiki software that allows content to be added or changed by anyone. As a result, Wikipedia is a dynamic work that is always growing, always changing. This approach, however, is not without its problems. I personally know some educators, including librarians, who will not use or recommend Wikipedia.
However, LibraryJournal.com conducted an evaluation of the validity of Wikipedia by three professional librarians. Their conclusion was:
While there are still reasons to proceed with caution when using a resource that takes pride in limited professional management, many encouraging signs suggest that (at least for now) Wikipedia may be granted the librarian’s seal of approval.
Personally, I love Wikipedia and use it daily. It is the best way to find information quickly. I would not cite Wikipedia for academic publication, but I find that the quick overview is usually what I need. Articles that have some depth to them generally have citation of sources and also links to other sources on the topic.
To utilize Wikipedia, use the search box on the left side of their home page. For example, typing in “Chattanooga” will give you a pretty detailed look at our city. The contents for this article include sections on: History; Economy; Politics, government, and law; Education; Health care; Culture and Tourism; Demographics; Geography; Transportation; Media and communications; Notable residents; Sister cities; Other communities named
I have contributed to Wikipedia, including developing new articles and providing minor edits and additions to extant articles. In addition, I have recently added a couple of dozen photos to articles. You can see one of my photos by searching for “Grand Traverse Lighthouse.”