Using Wikipedia as an authoritative list: National libraries and IFLA

February 10, 2008, [MD]

Looking through a bunch of old PDFs I have downloaded, I came across this little tidbit from the IFLA Newsletter, June 2007:

**Help needed: Directory of National Libraries on Wikipedia*\ The Standing Committee has discussed the creation of a Directory of national libraries worldwide,\ taking into account existing lists such as that maintained by the European Library Service for the\ national libraries of Europe members of CENL (Conference of European National Librarians). We\ have now learned that a worldwide list exists on Wikipedia:\ *

\ We think this is an excellent basis for developing a list: since it is open each country may add its\ national library details and maintain them, thus avoiding setting up another infrastructure. We\ encourage you therefore to check your country’s national library (and other) details on this site and\ update – or create - entries as required. Please let us know your comments on the entries and help\ maintain an up-to-date list. As an example, the reference staff of the Swiss National Library ensure\ that the Swiss entry is accurate and up-to-date as part of their general information service mission.\ Thank you for your input!

The listdoes indeed exist. I think it is very forward-thinking of IFLA to have their members contribute to Wikipedia instead of setting up their own list - with this effort we can ensure more high-quality content in one central location. However, it of course awakens the questions of editing articles about yourself. I suppose that nobody knows the central statistics of the National Library of Norway better than they themselves, and in one sense, it should be part of the job description of someone there to keep their Wikipedia page up to date with new numbers, facts etc. On the other hand - we don’t want anyone to “take ownership” of a page because of their authority… What happens if someone lists a national library that doesn’t fit IFLA’s definition of a national library (conjured up example)? Ideally people will then hash it out as equals - nevermind that one is a 14 year old, and the other is the world library association. Will such encounters convince IFLA to go off and create their own list somewhere where they are in full control?


Stian Håklev February 10, 2008 Toronto, Canada
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