Information Literacy Instruction May Not Be Enough

by Margaret Ambrose

Photo by Dimitris Kalogeropoylos on Flickr CC

Fake news is here to stay. Information professionals need to factor this reality into their strategic vision for the future because there is no turning back the clock on this one – Pandora’s Box is officially open.

Putting questions of how we reached this point aside – fellow RIPS Blogger, Paul Gatz, recently wrote a piece entitled Information Literacy Outside the Walls of the Library. It is an excellent piece and has actionable tips information literacy professionals can take to combat fake news through social media.

I agree with Gatz completely, but I also think more needs to be done. In this moment, more than just a principle of the profession hangs in the balance. The fake news phenomena represents a watershed moment for information professionals. The public needs information professionals in a way they never have before. We can either meet this need, or we pass up a golden opportunity.

To begin, what is the need? The need goes above and beyond calls for information literacy instruction. It is based in something librarians already do: curate materials – only this is curation on steroids. Librarians, as information professionals, need to seek out ways to be as savvy as our information competitors.

We will always have superior content on our side – as well as principles that click bait news sources can’t touch – ensuring access so that patrons who employ a modicum of information literacy skills can locate reliable, accurate content. But this may not be enough. We need to up our curation game by developing additional strategies for cutting through the noise for our patrons and also throw life lines out to the public to draw them back to the land of facts. This will entail aggressively pushing higher quality content out to our patron base in a way we have never done before or have done so on a limited basis. It might also entail additional strategies for anticipating patron information needs by monitoring trends in the news, including politics, pending cases, and viral videos on social media, ultimately curating online content that addresses these trends and does the information-literacy work for the patron.

We can start by analyzing the methods used by our information competitors and  by studying the fake news phenomena further.  Already at Cornell, the Collection Development Executive team has discussed the need to archive fake news (author’s credit to Thomas Mills for this information).  Understanding how information is consumed and accessed in this new paradigm is key to the survival and future flourishing of the profession.

As librarians and information professionals adapt to this new paradigm and begin to improve upon and even shape it, we may yet see a revival and an opportunity for librarians to secure the profession far into the future.

About margaret.jane.ambrose

I work as a Access & Research Services Librarian at Cornell Law. I am also a Board Member of ALLUNY.
This entry was posted in Information Literacy, Issues in Librarianship (generally) and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Information Literacy Instruction May Not Be Enough

  1. Scott Frey says:

    I agree that information professionals need to engage the public with both information literacy instruction and content curation. But what percentage of the public can — and should — information professionals try to reach? (Collectively, our patron base is large. Of course, for many information professionals, the base is relatively small and relatively reachable, e.g., in a law firm.) To what extent will we be preaching to the converted? Can we devise tools that instruct and provide content to many people who, at this point, accept fake news or don’t read beyond the headlines? I hope that information professionals, journalists, or others in a good position to guide the public to reliable information are able to accomplish this. But I imagine it will be a long — perhaps never-ending — and difficult effort.

  2. FCIL-SIS says:

    Reblogged this on DipLawMatic Dialogues and commented:
    Here’s an interesting and timely post from AALL’s RIPS-SIS blog. If “fake news” is here to stay, what can librarians do?

  3. Pingback: Bridging the Political Gap (or yawning chasm) in the Classroom | RIPS Law Librarian Blog

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