wikipedia in LCSH

I’m probably noticing this later than everyone else, but I just did and found it amusing. Apparently wikipedia is now an acceptable citation for source of information in an LCSH authority record?

Happened to notice this on the same LCSH authority record as I mentioned in last post regarding a different issue. I don’t think there’s any way to permalink to the actual individual authority on, but through your method of choice look up LCSH authority record with LCCN “n 2008030542”.

LCSH authorities include in marc 670,  “Source” information with citations providing justification for the other headings (preferred or lead-in) found in the authority record.

For, this record 100 heading “Rote Armee Fraktion”, there is a 670 citation:

670 __ |a Wikipedia, Apr. 24, 2008 |b (Red Army Faction; RAF (German: Rote Armee Fraktion) in its early stages commonly known as Baader-Meinhof Group [or Gang], was one of postwar West Germany’s most active and prominent militant left-wing groups)

Presumably (although marc authorities don’t use a convention to tie the ‘justification’ in 670 to the particular heading it is meant to justify), this is justification for the marc 410 “See From” non-preferred terms “RAF” and “Baader-Meinhoff Group”.

Who said librarians don’t like wikipedia, or find it an acceptable citation source?

(I would add, to be clear, it does seem entirely appropriate to me to use a wikipedia citation as a source here. Especially since the 4xx lead-in terms are meant to capture common usages and direct them to the authorized heading, wikipedia is a perfectly good source of useful 4xx lead-ins.)


7 thoughts on “wikipedia in LCSH”

  1. Pretty much any source can be cited in an authority record, if the cataloger creating the record believes it adds useful information. Wikipedia often contains useful information, and I wouldn’t hesitate to cite it if I found something there that I could verify as accurate.

  2. “That you could verify as accurate.” There’s the rub, right? Are you really going to go to another source to verify that wikipedia’s claim (in this case, that the organization has also been referred to as “RAF” and “Baader-Meinhoff Group”)? And if you do that… why wouldn’t you cite that OTHER source instead of wikipedia? If you have to “verify it as accurate” through another source first, then it seems kind of useless to cite it, and kind of a dis-service to provide it as a cite to someone else (who will then have to ‘verify it as accurate’ before assigning any value to it?).


    But in this case at least, I don’t see any need to “verify it as accurate”. If I understand the point of this 670 properly, it’s to “justify” the 4xx “see from” (which could also be called “also known as”) headings. And if something is mentioned in wikipedia, this seems alone pretty good justification that those terms really ARE something the organization in question has been commonly known as. Don’t see any need to “verify it as accurate” with another source.

  3. You’re right, Jonathan. I phrased that imprecisely. Catalogers frequently consult multiple sources of information to pull together all of the varying forms of a name in an authority record, so it’s not unusual to have more than one source reflecting the same form of name. What we cite in the record may be one of several where a particular form of name appears, or it may be the only source where a particular form of name appears. But in either case, it’s true that the appearance of a particular form of name in the source is enough to justify the citation of the source in the authority record to justify the cross reference. Whether or not any given form of name merits a cross reference in the authority record is a matter requiring verification and judgment, however.

  4. I think this says it all. Wikipedia is not a reference source, even though it wants to be. Information literacy workshops tell people that if they are to use Wikipedia, they must use it wisely. It may lead you to good sources, but as a source itself, it is unreliable.

  5. Interesting idea Ed. The particular example I ran into is supremely unhelpful in simply citing ‘Wikipedia’, and not actually a particular article in Wikipedia. The actual article URL isn’t there, and neither, I think, is even the article title, in any remotely machine recognizable way. It’s just an excerpt from, um, “Wikipedia”.

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