Wikipedia + Libraries: Health and Medical Information

WebJunction /

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia Medical Library owl.svgWebJunction and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine will present a free, online course for public library staff about health and medical information on Wikipedia.

When public library staff assist patrons seeking information on health and medical topics, Wikipedia may not be the first place they go. However, as a free and readily accessible encyclopedia, Wikipedia is among the largest and most frequently used online references for health and medical information seekers, not just for patients and their families and friends, but also for doctors, medical students, and policy makers. Knowledge of the inner workings of Wikipedia can help library staff critically evaluate and search this free resource.

WebJunction will offer Wikipedia + Libraries: Health and Medical Information, a four-week, online, instructor-led course that will demonstrate how and why Wikipedia’s health and medical information is relevant to libraries and their communities. The course is designed for public library staff seeking the skills to assess the reliability of medical information found in Wikipedia and to improve the health information literacy of their patrons.

Wikipedia has a tight-knit editorial community that regularly contributes to medical and health topics and has developed strict guidelines for referencing, editing or adding content. Understanding the nuances of these guidelines can help library staff make effective and authoritative searches and content recommendations. Course participants will learn the inner workings of health information editing and search techniques. In addition, they will benefit from collaboration with fellow participants to strategize how to apply their learning to strengthen public library services to their communities.

Librarians have been involved in Wikipedia since its inception in the early 2000s. But the open, crowd-sourced editorial processes can make evaluating this online encyclopedia different from other sources of information. This course will help public library staff see how health matters to the Wikipedia community and gain valuable evaluation techniques illuminating how health and medical information is referenced, strengthening their digital literacy skills to better serve their patrons and communities.

WebJunction’s Betha Gutsche will be joined by Wikipedian Monika Sengul-Jones to facilitate the course. The course will run October 8 – November 1, 2019. Registration is free and enrollment is now open! To learn about health and medical information on Wikipedia and to learn more about the upcoming course, view the recording of the webinar, Why Wikipedia Matters for Health and Medical Information.

The course is open to all public library staff with all levels of knowledge about Wikipedia and health information, including those who have participated in other Wikipedia trainings. Course work is expected to require an average of 3 hours per week, including the weekly 60-minute live online sessions, independent readings, online discussion forums, and activities between sessions.

This course is a topic-specific adaptation of Wikipedia + Libraries: Better Together, an OCLC training program for public library staff, presented in fall 2017. The skills and knowledge covered in the new course largely overlap the training program. The curriculum and materials from that training are available for public use and adaption under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Wikipedia + Libraries: Health and Medical Information is made possible thanks to sponsorship from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine.

The National Network of Libraries of Medicine has supported the strengthening of ties between Wikipedia and libraries nationwide in order to improve the quality of references on Wikipedia and expand access to reliable and authoritative medical and health information online for information seekers.

Photo: Wikipedia Medical Library owl.svg, Wikimedia Commons, Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International