I appreciated the short history rewind that Donald Barkley offers in his recent column The Challenge Facing Libraries in an Era of Fake News, which ended up making me feel wistful and nostalgic for a split second about card catalogs and old volumes of the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. If only today’s media landscape was that ordered, that predictable, that slow. Instead today students, from kindergarten up to university, are faced with a torrent of information sources that are increasingly difficult to evaluate on the basis of authority, credibility and plain old truth. With internet delivering millions of search results to a single query, how is the user to determine the best one for their research goals?
As a librarian, I love owning the responsibility to develop a strong collection of books and resources for my school. I love showing teachers and students the newest additions to the collection and helping the navigate to the online encyclopedia. But I know that my students, each armed with an iPad, are not starting their exploration in these library resources–I know that takes more effort that a quicker fix. Instead, I see them in Google search trying out a mix of keywords and looking for answers, often lacking the patience to rephrase their query or go beyond the first page of results. I want to help them navigate that online world, and help them sort the good stuff from the garbage. I wish I could teach a simple formula or give a quick checklist that could provide foolproof verification of a trustworthy source but I am finding this difficult to accomplish in our era of Fake News.
I know that I have my work cut out for me in this endeavor; I’ll need to get more involved in their learning process and provide more guidance as they develop habits and skills that help them evaluate, question and acquire knowledge. I know that one or two presentations in their English class is not enough to change their behavior or influence the way they study across all subjects. I know that I need to also be training our teachers what I know about information sources and evaluating them, and I’ll hopefully get them to partner with me as they look for resources for lessons they plan. And in my first year as a teacher librarian, that can feel overwhelming sometimes.
I’ve begun the work, however. And I’m partnering with a couple of teachers to look for ways to give kids practical experience evaluating web resources and determine if news is trustworthy. I’ve used a mix of materials I found from Common Sense Media, the News Literacy Project and the Newseum. I’ve started with a special education class, and they are evaluating newspaper articles, looking for facts and then tracking where the facts came from in the article, one fact at a time, teaching kids to pay attention to the details.
My theme song for this year: Just Gimme Some Truth.
Barklay, D. (2017, January 4). The challenge facing libraries in an era of fake
news [Blog post]. Retrieved from The Conversation website: