[Libs-Or] IFC Tuesday Topic: Vetting Information Sources for Credibility

Alanna Colwell alanna.colwell at gmail.com
Tue Feb 21 11:56:18 PST 2017

*Oregon Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee*

*Tuesday Topic, February 2017*

*[image: Inline image 2]*

*Welcome to Tuesday Topics, a monthly series covering topics with
intellectual freedom implications for libraries of all types. Each message
is prepared by a member of OLA's *Intellectual Freedom Committee
<http://www.olaweb.org/if-home>. *Questions can be directed to the IF
Committee member who sent the message or to one of the **co-chairs*
<http://www.olaweb.org/contact-ifc>* of the IFC. If you prefer this
information in another format feel free to print the attached PDF. *

*Vetting Information Sources for Credibility*

The American Library Association adopted the Resolution on Access to
Accurate Information
January 24, 2017, in response to a growth in the use of disinformation and
media manipulation. The resolution “urges librarians and library workers to
actively seek and provide sources of accurate information,” and supports
the critical role of instructing information literacy as a direct link to
intellectual freedom and basic human rights. Vetting information sources is
a fundamental literacy skill that is critical and needs our immediate

Regardless of the size or scope of the user community all libraries are
committed to assisting users in locating and vetting information sources.
This Tuesday Topic was written with the purpose of encouraging librarians
and other library professionals to consider ways that vetting current event
information sources and using primary sources can be integrated with
programing and instruction that is already offered. Rather than give
specific programing guidance, this post is designed to provide resources
and tools to tackle these two specific areas that are often overlooked in
library programing, as well as, encourage deeper participation in classroom
and community events.

*Current Event Information Sources*

“Yellow journalism” and “fake news” are examples of why all sources cannot
be judged equally. The ability to vet sources is a foundational skill that
has become even more challenging to instruct in an intellectual environment
where print journalism, cable news, and even the federal government cannot
be assumed to be an accurate or credible source for information. This
environment is a challenge for all intellectual freedom fighters, but also
represents an opportunity. Just as “yellow journalism” led to the demand
for journalist integrity and standards in the 1920’s, the current “fake
news” crisis has focused the spotlight on source credibility. An
environment where the credibility of journalism is at question, this is a
great time to tailor instruction and library programing around the topic of
vetting media sources.

A January 2016 study
by Stanford University researchers indicated that most students in the
United States cannot tell the difference between a persuasive opinion
piece, a corporate advertisement, and a reported news article. This is a
startling truth when many individuals keep updated on current events
through social media and other less credible information sources.
Instructing patrons on how to vet information sources for current events is
one way that you can bring source credibility into your programming and
instruction for any patron demographic. In a Ted-Ed Blog
discussing the Stanford study, the author Laura McClure suggested that five
questions be asked of any news item:


   Who wrote it? Locate the byline and see if it is sponsored content, an
   industry expert, or a journalist with the intent to inform.

   What claims does it make? Check the sources and dig deeper to see if
   cited sources come from credible publications. A good information source
   will have several citations to other legitimate publications.

   When was it published? Be careful about breaking news: don’t trust
   anonymous sources and don’t trust reports that only cite another news
   outlet as the information source.

   Where was it published? If it is not from a source that fact checks, you
   need to fact check before sharing.

   How does it make you feel? If the article makes you feel a strong
   emotion, look at the word choice: do you see persuasive or factual

Academic institutions and K-12 schools may have professors or teachers that
are focusing on these exact skills in journalism or social studies and that
can be supported with this type of instruction. During reference
interactions at any kind of library, providing these questions can guide
patrons towards quality information sources. Current events often have
limited peer-reviewed resources, requiring more critical thinking to vet a
source’s credibility.

*Integrating Primary Sources*

The most effective method for vetting information and uncovering additional
information is following the source. Secondary sources, including
peer-reviewed scholarly journals, are interpretations and analysis written
at a later date. Adding primary source research can enhance critical
thinking, build information literacy skills, and connect library users in a
more tangible way to the research. Locating a historical document can be
thrilling and create a deeper connection to a subject.

Integrating archival research into your library’s tool kit is a great way
to support existing projects with professors and teachers. Public libraries
and academic libraries can connect with the local historical society or
museum to create programming that brings history alive. Including primary
sources of information (including historical and legal documents,
eyewitness accounts, statistical data, audio and video recordings,
speeches, and art objects) is easier than ever before with the availability
of digital repositories.

There are a variety of ways that you can connect existing programing and
instruction with primary sources and build information literacy skills.
Connecting with local events and historical people and places are great
places to start. Here are a few questions to consider:


   Do you know what archives hold the papers of people who are integral to
   your community or institution’s history?

   Does your library’s website offer links to primary source databases?

   Are there annual events and/or projects that are historically focused
   that would be improved by having primary sources included?

   Do you know your local historical society or history groups?


There are so many great resources for integrating primary sources. For


   The National Archives <https://www.archives.gov/> has a plethora of
   education resources available.

   The Getty <http://www.gettyimages.com/> has an amazing photo archives.

   The Internet Archive <https://archive.org/web/> has archives of over 279
   billion websites.

   The State of Oregon Archives
   <http://sos.oregon.gov/archives/Pages/experience.aspx> has locally
   focused programming.

   PBS/Oregon Public Broadcasting offers POV films
   <http://www.pbs.org/pov/video/>, among other great resources, for free
   to public libraries for viewing.

These are only a few of the amazing online resources and repositories.
Finding repositories that have resources which interest the community and
intersect with existing programing and instruction is the key to creating
traction with any push to integrate primary sources into library
instruction and programming.

We would love to hear what you are already doing that has worked well, and
any ideas that this post may have inspired!

*Alanna Colwell <https://www.linkedin.com/in/alannacolwell/>, MLIS, M.A.S.*

*Member, Oregon Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee*

*Archivist & Records Supervisor, Washington County, Oregon*
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