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Libraries, Museums, and Fake News

by on March 31, 2017

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about fake news and “alternative facts.” As librarians, we help foster intellectual freedom, education, and lifelong learning. We also provide access to unbiased and accurate information for the communities we serve. All of these ideas originate from our professional Core Values, and we take pride in what we do to support them. That is why it was heartening to see libraries and museums participate in the successful “Day of Facts” campaign on February 17. The idea originated from museum educators Mara Kurlandsky and Alli Hartley, who felt it was important that museums illustrate they are “trusted sources of information and facts are important and truth is important.” However, they stopped short of calling the initiative “a form of resistance.” Even so, promoting truth, creativity, and the free flow of information is an essential part of what educational and cultural institutions do for our democracy.

There is a great IFLA blog post which discusses how libraries play a role in combating fake news and misinformation. The post also includes a helpful infographic on how to spot fake news. It points out that “the relationship between information and opinion has always been fluid” and “there have…always been charlatans, liars and forgers, aiming to gain money, power or…attention.” This an important point to remember. The hasty and unapologetic attempt to legitimize and rationalize falsities is partly what led to the furor. That’s why it is important for libraries (and other institutions like museums) to assist our users with information and media literacy. An article in American Libraries details how various high profile projects are attempting to do this. One suggestion it makes is for libraries to “train” high school and college students with an enhanced curriculum or educational LibGuides. I would go further and say this role is imperative for school libraries as well. Whether libraries promote a “Day of Facts,” create a guide for identifying fake news, or teach a media literacy class, we can and will encourage our users to educate themselves on what is truth and what is fiction.


Fake News Resources

Fake News, Misinformation, and Propaganda

Information Literacy and Fake News

Post-Truth: Fake News and a New Era of Information Literacy (Webinar recording)

AL Direct 3/21/17: ‘Who shared it?’: How Americans decide what news to trust on social media


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