Wikis are a great way to publish web content without the need for HTML knowledge. Most wiki programs are WYSIWYGs (what you see is what you get); just about any user familiar with basic word processing can create, edit, and publish content to the web on a wiki. The social media functions available on wikis also make them particularly useful for collaborative work and group publications.
Like many, the first wiki that I encountered was Wikipedia. As an instructor, I often heard debates on the validity and authority of content published on Wikipedia, a debate that I continue to witness among librarians and members of the library community. I find wikis such as Wikipedia, wikiHow, and others useful for quick reference and research, especially when the information sought is generally well-established and/or fact-based. Nevertheless, I do warn students at my library against relying on Wiki content for scholarly research, and recommend that these be used only as a starting point when developing a research question (to get an overview of the topic).
As a collaborative/social tool, wikis empower web users and encourage a community approach to learning and information sharing. Want to learn how to get wine stains out of a carpet? There’s a wiki article for that. Need a quick overview of China’s dynasties? There’s an article on that too. Overall, wikis simplify the process of locating and sharing information on a variety of topics. Of course, users still need to be aware that the open nature of wikis means anything can be published on a wiki-based site, including false information.
Wikis and ILI
There are plenty of uses for wikis in information literacy instruction. For instance, the 23 things program (SLA’s 23 things) that I am following is published on a wiki , allowing for greater interaction between members and site creators through the wiki’s comment interface. Other members of the library community use wikis developed by professional organizations/associations to interact with members of the community and share knowledge, ideas, and experiences.
Some of the library wikis that I found while learning about wikis in libraries include:
- Library Success – a best practices wiki
- LIS Wiki
- The Decatur High School Library wiki
- ALA’s Read Write Connect wiki
And many more, just try a search for “library wiki” on Google and you will receive thousands of hits.
Based on the library wikis that I browsed, I concluded that some of the best practices for wikis in ILI include the use of wikis to create resource directories, and to publish tutorials and other helpful how-to materials that can assist students and/or patrons when learning how to conduct research asynchronously.