Wikipedia vs Library:
Analysis of an
In my own PLN, one of us discovers an infographic relevant to learning or libraries or research and it’s all over the
edtech/library world in a matter of minutes. And many of us are now using infographics as a student assessment.
But, like political or commercial messages, infographics are carefully crafted media messages. And they beg careful
deconstruction, scrutiny, and analysis.
The infographic, Wikipedia: Redefining Research, for instance, appeared on Open-Site recently. It documented
the end of Britannica’s long print-based history and Wikipedia’s growing prominence as a reference source. As I looked
carefully at the infographic, as I really read it, I began to see some distorted truths and some opportunities for information
Some of the statistics presented:
• Students use Wikipedia more than libraries. Only 25% of students visit the library but 8 in 10 students turn to
Wikipedia for their first source of research.
• Library use is declining by 11% annually. And the amount of books is declining by 12%.
• 1.59 visits to the library annually. 5.7 billion visits to Wikipedia annually.
The source for the statistic
regarding decline in library use comes
from a November 18, 2010 article in
the Concord (NH) Monitor. And that
Concord article actually notes that
despite the decline in use seen in two
local branches, libraries across the
nation have seen more people using
their services in recent years due to the
In the statistic comparing library
visits to Wikipedia visits, the creators
also quoted an IMLS study, based on a
2009 survey, using it to compare 1.59
billion library visits to 5.7 billion visits
to Wikipedia. While that may be true,
it seems a bit of an apples vs. oranges
comparison. And, in fact (ironically),
the original source uses the 1.59 billion
number to report an increase in library
Other questions to ask relating to
• Which libraries were you
• Which students? Which teachers?
• Are those students who may not
visit the public library visiting their
school libraries–either physically
or virtually–during the school day?
• Did you explore the digital use of
public, school, or college libraries?
Students now use library resources
even when they are not physically
in their libraries.
• Does YouTube give Wikipedia a
run for its money?
• And is there an irony–a rather
sad one–about the authors titling
their own infographic “Research
Redefined”? While the authors
of the infographic may have used
a few reliable sources, in my
mind, their own research is a little
shoddy. I would have expected
more of my own students.
Joyce Valenza is the Teacher-Librarian
at Springfield Township High School,
author, and technology advocate. Read
her SLJ NeverEndingSearch blog here.