Special Libraries, Information Fluency, & Post-Truth

Lots of librarians are communicating online about providing resources and information in these fraught times. Some are creating displays and programs to support diverse populations. Others are crafting statements of support and/or opposition. More practically, some are stocking their reference desks with safety pins and extra scarves (to be used by women who have had their hijab snatched off).

But these activities are more useful, perhaps, in public or academic libraries.

In the past few days, "fake" news and propaganda has been receiving a lot of attention. (Hear a rundown from On The Media  - clearly a very liberal news source but transparent about it). As noted on this blog, it is not really possible to insist that our patrons/customers/users use only our licensed sources. To be quite honest, even if we could, that alone isn't enough to ensure they are getting the best information. We think that because our people all have at least college degrees that they are experts on or at least competent in critical thinking.

I think, though, that the media environment isn't what it was when many of them were in school. We take the click bait and we see headlines repeated so often on Facebook that maybe we start to believe?

So, now, how do special libraries train and support their organizations in the post-truth world? I have been asked and have accordingly scheduled training that discusses critically evaluating resources; however, that is NOT at all attractive to busy professionals. The only training I offer that is well-attended is problem oriented and is explicitly related to doing the scientific and technical work (no surprise here to my library school professors!). Otherwise, short on-point training at the point of need is also well-accepted.

Integrate aspects of critical thinking and evaluating resources into every bit of training you do. If your user base can qualify for a free web account for the Washington Post (.gov, .mil, & .edu), make that information available even if you provide access through another source.  Do show finding news information in other topical sessions. For example, a session on aerospace engineering could cover things like society news sources and Aviation Week.

If your organization has an internal newsletter and or social media site, link early and often to reputable sources.

Are you integrated into strategic processes (never as much as you would like, I know!)? What information is your leadership getting and from where? The very highest levels of your organization won't typically attend your classes - can you brief their assistants? Can you make this information available to their mobile devices?

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