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What do patrons know about Wikipedia?

Mar - 18 - 2008
Nicole C. Engard

My husband told me a shocking story last night!! He and his colleagues were debating whether America’s favorite ice cream topping is called “jimmies” or “sprinkles.” One of his colleagues (and I should mention that they’re all early thirties and under) said, we’ll check Wikipedia after lunch. My husband responded, we can’t trust that, people will edit the article to meet their opinion. His colleague was shocked. He asked what my husband meant only to learn that anyone can edit pages in Wikipedia. After lunch my husband showed his colleague how to edit the page on “sprinkles” in Wikipedia.

Most articles (or blog posts) I read usually assume that people know that Wikipedia is a wiki and a wiki is a page that anyone can edit – but somehow that fact has still escaped some of our patrons. How do we educate people like this? Of course they were just looking up something for fun – but what if it was something more important??

I mention this because Wikipedia has been in the news (again) lately. Today I got this article from the New York Times pointed out to me and a earlier I got this one.

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10 Responses so far.

  1. Owen says:

    And you’re just going to leave us in the dark about the whole “sprinkles vs. jimmies” debate? Librarians! They won’t just tell you the answer, they wanna make you go look for it…

  2. Nicole says:

    LOL – Owen, I personally think it’s a matter of where you grew up. I called them “sprinkles” and grew up in northern New Jersey, but when we moved to southern New Jersey they were called “jimmies” – who knows what the right answer is!!

  3. Cheryl says:

    OK, “Computer Geeks” Mom speaking again….
    Congratulations to my daughter (brillant as always).
    By googling (learned this from her), I found the concrete answer!! ENJOY…..

    Thanks to The Capital Times, I now know the difference between sprinkles and jimmies. The difference is there is no difference. Both are the little bits of candy-coated chocolate that liven up your ice cream. The real distinction seems to be one of place. As a New Yorker I call them sprinkles. Folks in Philadelphia, Boston, Michigan and Wisconsin call them jimmies.

    But where does the word jimmies itself come from? As with many food origins, there’s a fanciful story. In the 1930s the Just Born candy company manufactured sprinkles. Seems a guy named Jimmy ran the the company’s sprinkle-making machine and the name stuck.

    The article also goes on to detail how sprinkles are made as well as foreign variations. It even suggests some really novel uses for sprinkles. All I can say is cream cheese and rainbow sprinkles on a bagel is one combination this New Yorker isn’t trying. And nobody’s gonna fool me by calling them jimmies either.

  4. Nicole says:

    Now – I must add a note to my mother’s comment – I did teach her how to use search engines – but I also tell her to check with libraries and librarians in addition to Google – don’t go giving me a bad name among librarians :) hehe

  5. Nicole says:

    Owen, that is so cool :)

  6. abby says:

    Found your blog when looking for info about dustjackets. Just a quick thing-first Jimmies have a racist connotation—Jimmie comes from Jim Crow, as in the Jim Crow laws. That being said in Massachusetts my home state it’s jimmies not sprinkles.

  7. Emily says:

    You know, that’s a really good point. I think I usually assume that everyone knows Wikipedia can be edited by anyone. It’s in the news enough, right? Common knowledge.

    But now that I think about it, I seem to spend a lot of time explaining to folks what a wiki is… And if people don’t know that, then knowing that it’s editable by anyone isn’t necessarily something they’d know. It’s good to challenge those simple assumptions sometimes.

    BTW, it’s totally “sprinkles.” :)

  8. Gar says:

    Check this out:

    CAS decides to work with the Wikipedia community to improve their use of CAS Registry Numbers:

    http://www.cas.org/newsevents/caswikipedia.html

  9. ellie says:

    I grew up outside of Philly and had only ever heard of jimmies until after undergrad when I tried to order jimmies in Los Angeles and got a blank stare. I didn’t even know to call them sprinkles, I had to point. Now when I go home I pick up a bag of jimmies from the pre-packaged bulk section of my local supermarket just to show people who have never heard the word jimmies. :)


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