Ingram Blog

Fake News, Infoliteracy, and the Librarian: Two Librarians And A Microphone Podcast

When news comes with two sides it can be a slippery slope. Add in community-built “reference materials” like Wikipedia, and the need for trustworthy and critical resource evaluators is vital to ensuring infoliteracy.

An open chat discussing ways libraries can help their community separate fact from fabrication and post-truths from objective journalism.

  • Librarians and patrons as critical evaluators of resources.
  • Your most powerful tool for fighting fake news.
  • How to present a breadth of factual information?
  • Fighting the battle against pseudo resources like Wikipedia.



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    Jim Heuer [00:00:13] Hey everybody. This is Jim Heuer, Director of Sales for Ingram Library Services. Welcome to our second podcast, in our Two Librarians and a Microphone series. Our first episode we talked about some library neutrality, naive or important? We thought it was a pretty lively discussion. We're ready to continue on looking at more things that are kind of trending in 2018. Today's topic will be fake news. I know personally fake news is now a thing, as my 16-year-old son used it as an excuse for why he hadn't done his chores. He claimed, "Fake news, Dad." I stopped laughing and still made him go do his chores, but we know it's now firmly and solidly in the vernacular. Once again, I have with me a few of our librarian friends, the Two Librarians, I'm the Microphone. Tricia, librarian one, what do you think about fake news?

    Tricia Bengel [00:01:12] Well, it sort of made me laugh because, you know, librarians since the beginning of time, have tried to steer patrons towards being critical evaluators of resources. So, we have fought a losing battle against Wikipedia, since the inception of Wikipedia, saying it's not a trustworthy resource. We never came up with the term fake news, though. I think if we had, we would have probably been a lot more successful in getting our users to be more critical of Wikipedia. But it is a definite topic of conversation now, and I really think it is a fantastic role for librarians to play, in terms of teaching people about how to spot fake news.

    Donna George [00:02:06] I think there's even a bigger topic at play here too, that I ran across as we started preparing for this podcast and I actually saw this on Facebook, of all places. But we have a few public libraries in the U.S. who have taken the place of perhaps a weekly newspaper that has gone defunct, and so the library is serving as a place to disseminate news to the community, where a newspaper or something like that would have done it before.

    Tricia Bengel [00:02:31] Yeah! You shared some great articles about that with me. As fascinating as I thought it was, I also thought something we've been talking about is how that's a slippery slope.

    Donna George [00:02:45] It definitely is. Especially if you think back to what we talked about in the first episode in library neutrality. News comes with two sides, and it definitely is a slippery slope.

    Tricia Bengel [00:02:55] I'm afraid we're going to start being seen as-- as journalists, who don't have the most stellar reputation right now.

    Jim Heuer [00:03:06] Journalism has somehow become a dirty word. So, that's an interesting trend, library as the news supplier, but we're talking-- as you mentioned, you fought battles about Wikipedia, you had a really interesting line. The tools that you use to fight fake news, right? You want to talk about that, Tricia?

    Tricia Bengel [00:03:28] Well, as all librarians do, we think a bibliography will solve all woes.

    Donna George [00:03:33] Yeah Here. Here.

    Tricia Bengel [00:03:36] And so, just like we do here at Ingram, we made a selection list of fake news books that we think everybody should be reading, and so Donna, can you tell people how to find that fake news?

    Donna George [00:03:52] Yeah, for sure. It's on iPage, if you go to the Browse tab. iPage is what I do, I know this by heart. You go to the Browse tab, and then in the middle column there's something called High Interest Categories. When you land there, you'll see lots of great lists that our degreed librarians have put together on an array of topics, and one of those is fake news. And I think as vendors and your partners, we're in a really unique position to hear about these trends from you. So, the way that fake news list got there, is that we started hearing from libraries that fake news was becoming a thing that they wanted to talk about, that their patrons were asking them about. And so, once we hear that two or three times, our collection development team will put some information together, Tricia, as you said-- we create a bibliography, and you can find that bibliography in iPage.

    Jim Heuer [00:04:40] And as always, some of the-- you know, there are plenty of back lists, but one of the things that we noticed is that there are more books coming about things like alternate facts, post truth, fake news, right? Those are all two-word phrases that probably 18 months ago were not in the vernacular, but today they certainly are. I really love the idea of fighting the battle one bibliography at a time, right? That's what librarians do. So, some of the other things that we're still dealing with so, this is now the idea, moving away from neutrality to being more of a critical evaluator of information for the community. Like Donna mentioned, Episode 1 talked about library neutrality, this is talking about library being some critical evaluation. So how do you guys think about that role, the library serving as that?

    Donna George [00:05:48] I think, you know, to answer that question in a slightly different way, one of the articles I ran across was a comparison of how consumers feel about the trustworthiness of librarians versus the trustworthiness of journalists. And so, I'm looking at an article from early January, I think, and it says 44% of those polled in one poll think that the news source reports things objectively, compared to a different poll that says that 78% of Americans feel that public libraries help them find information that is trustworthy and reliable. And I think that really feeds into what you're saying, Jim. And I think we can all argue that from the beginning of time, or certainly since the beginning of our careers in library, we’ve tried to present the most robust information about any topic, and let the user kind of use all of that to come to an opinion or arrive at the facts and what have you.

    Tricia Bengel [00:06:43] Tangential to that, I think Meredith Farkas is someone that I have followed for years. She is a really incredible writer, great librarian, out in the Pacific Northwest. And she wrote a really, an eye-opening article for me, in American Libraries last January where she really said neutral is not what's important. Being critical is what's important. And what she said was, “…librarians really need to be critical of the resources, to pick out the best resources. The most reliable resources, the most accurate resources.” Those may not be neutral, you don't have to show both sides of every topic per se. If there is, going back to the conversation we had last time about 9/11, post 9/11 and all the conspiracy books out there. According to Meredith, we really probably shouldn't have worried so much over putting out those conspiracy books, because they were not heavily resourced, they were not based on a lot of accepted facts. What we need to do is be critical. I think that that nuance between critical and neutral, is something that I'm going to pay a lot more attention to in the future.

    Donna George [00:08:12] I think librarians are really in a great position to be critical. That article I mentioned that I was reading from January, says that when you look at kind of librarians versus journalists, a quote straight out of that article: "A librarian's mission is not to exploit us, or make money off of us". So, when you compare that to kind of typical journalism, I think it puts libraries in a really unique position to present a breadth of information.

    Jim Heuer [00:08:38] And no paid content, or agenda filled content kind of taking the place. Which I think, once again, I think in our previous seasons you got to meet some of our collection development librarians. The lists that they put together on iPage are also going to be using that same critical bibliography that Tricia was talking about, right? These books will be vetted, you can trust that your patrons will get a well-rounded view of all sides. But this is also something that, I think, you and your collection development teams need to be on the lookout for. There's a lot of books that are going to be coming out about fake news. This is going to be a publishing trend, a micro-genre, if you will, right? Certainly, for the time being. Once again, you'll find some of that material available for you to bring into your library on iPage, or at least check our list. Maybe you can put a collection together, a display, that type of thing. We've kind of now delved into a couple of different topics that should be familiar to you if you're paying attention to anything going on. First was library neutrality, second is fake news. We're going to look at in our next topic, civility, and how civility in the library kind of comes into play, and some of the things that we found. There's a fascinating book that Tricia was reading that we'll talk about. Civility, that's on Episode 3 of Two Librarians and a Microphone. So once again, remember, you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes,

    Jim Heuer [00:10:16] you can subscribe using the Apple podcast app. If you're enjoying this, let your friends know. Tricia's mom, after the first episode, did say she enjoyed it. We know that we’ll get one thumbs up. I'm pretty sure my mom gave me the thumbs up, too. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, #TheLibraryLife, all of those places you should find Ingram and what we're trying to do, and our Two Librarians and a Microphone podcast. Once again, thanks for tuning in, and we will talk to you guys next time. Bye.