June 15, 2008 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on June 15, 2008.
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One of the better discussions I've seen online in a long time just now is under way -- interestingly in tandem, on a US econference and on an econference in France --
-- on collib-l as "Re: wikipedia use--ugh", in our prosaic US,
"COLLIB-L (the COLege LIBrarians List) is the official
professional discussion list of the College Libraries
Section (CLS) of the Association of College and Research
Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library
-- and on biblio-fr as "Re : Wikipedia, une utopie en marche", in maybe-more-poetic or maybe-just-more-utopian France,
"BIBLIO-FR : Bibliothécaires, documentalistes et
documents numériques -- La liste de diffusion biblio-fr
regroupe bibliothécaires et documentalistes francophones,
et toute personne intéressée par la diffusion
électronique de l'information documentaire."
-- but no, the two discussions are not linked, and that is partially my point here...
Perhaps it is only logical that both lists would be discussing the same topic, right now. Wikipedia is News: it also is threat, and promise -- a threat to many received, long-established, by-some-revered ways of doing things, and their ferocious defenders, and a promise to just as many new ideas and revolutionary folks who want to challenge The Old Ways.
The Wikipedia-thrash -- opponents deploring it universally, proponents prescribing it as the cure for all ills -- has taken place on both of the above lists periodically. Past titles include,
And these are not the only two locations, in the online and offline worlds, where the impact of Wikipedia has been and still is being debated.
But these two econferences happen to be places where the Wikipedia debates have been more reasonable than most. And better-informed: librarians in both the US and France are charged with the often-thankless task of explaining the new technologies to real-life users -- more often than not after the fact, after the users already have immersed themselves in the new digital flood, and then come crying or screaming to the librarian for rescue. So who better than librarians, to evaluate Wikipedia?
And the current discussions on both lists are particularly commendable: passions have not cooled, so the postings still are fun to read -- but it looks as though more knowledge and less simplistic heat now just may be found.
Some very interesting comments, too, both pro and con plus an emerging majority of muddled-middle, are appearing in the current discussions, where there was only passion back when we all started out on this. After all, even Jimmy Wales is on record as not understanding the whole thing, both now and back when Wikipedia first got going, so why should the rest of us know...
Librarians on both sides of the Atlantic are getting these questions now, sometimes as they cautiously introduce users to Wikipedia, other times as they warn users against it, still other times explaining to an upset user why her professor was so upset about her paper.
And now, for folks here interested in a multicultural take on this exact topic,and who know French: there is an animated discussion of many of these same "Bibliographic Instruction" and "Quality vs. quantity" and "Who authorizes the authorizers?" questions, running right now on the French librarians' econference, as well.
Easiest access to either is via the list's archive, at,
It can be very interesting, comparing the Wikipedia reactions of information professionals in France to those of their US peers...
For example, and of some surprise to Americans perhaps, French librarians seem less concerned with the democratic and populist issues, of having "just anyone" contribute and edit, than many Americans appear to be.
The French on the other hand seem very worried over the cultural impositions, of i.e. Wikipedia & Google & US-origin hitech generally, a worry which appears not even to arise in these US debates... The rest of the world shares more the French worry than the American, I bet: for that see inter alia Fareed Zakaria's impassioned book just out,
The Post-American World, by Fareed Zakaria (W. W. Norton, 2008)
But I'm generalizing, and from impressions only: others more systematic need to compare & contrast -- Wikipedia is a leading "globalization" phenomenon now.
Best we all begin to look at it that way, Wikipedians included: if it can accommodate French, and the French, it just might be able to accommodate Tamil & the Tamils, too, and one day maybe even Chinese & the Chinese -- globalization's on the way.
Jack Kessler, firstname.lastname@example.org
FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071-5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic | journal published since 1992 as a small-scale, | personal experiment, in the creation of large- | scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler. / \ Any material written by me which appears in ----- FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for // \\ any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me --------- credit and show my email address, and, b) it // \\ isn't going to make them money: if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives may be found at http://email@example.com/ (BIBLIO-FR archive), or http://listserv.uh.edu/archives/pacs-l.html (PACS-L archive), or http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/Collections/FYIFrance/ or http://www.fyifrance.com . Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison-pen letters all gratefully received at firstname.lastname@example.org . Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved except as indicated above.
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