Libraries & Archives

November 03, 2017

Librarians: The Original Fact Checkers

Be kind, but also evaluate

As librarians, we want to say thank you to President Roloff for her "Happy Friday - Is It True? Is It Kind?" email which encouraged everyone to stop the spread of misinformation.

We would also go one step further and encourage everyone to evaluate what they read online. That's a huge thing we librarians teach students here at St. Kate's. We talk about looking at the authority, accuracy, and purpose of what they find to determine the author and their credentials, whether or not the information they are reading is supported by valid evidence and can be verified, and to recognize the purpose of the information and whether it is factual or propaganda and what it exists to do - teach, sell, or entertain.

We also like to remind everyone that Google isn't neutral. None of us get the same search results. They are heavily weighed by past search history, location, popularity, and by companies/organizations paying to have their results show up when we search in certain ways. We are not Google's customer; we are its product. Like President Roloff mentioned, they watch us to see what we do so they can sell what we do to their real customers, those who pay Google to advertise and move their search results higher up on the screen. The same goes for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.

We teach this to students in our information literacy instruction and every time we interact with them in the library. This goes far beyond the classroom.

We encourage anyone to ask us for help verifying what you find online, because librarians have been helping people fact-check since forever.