Winter 2023 Blog Post 3

You’ve been called in as a consultant on the development of a library instruction program for a new school. How would you set to work advising the library staff as someone familiar with Carleton’s reference and instruction program? What information would you want to collect, what goals might you suggest, what kinds of services — in person, online, service points, instructional, etc. — would you suggest they consider? What resources might you point them to or people would you connect them to?

One issue that I’ve been thinking about a lot after the readings I have done this term is of media literacy and the widespread prevalence of misinformation online. This kind of issue is hard to address in an academic library setting because the people most affected and targeted by misinformation are not those that have access to college and university libraries and librarians. Instead there is a general distrust of liberal and academic bodies that has been allowed to flourish, according to danah boyd in her article “Did Media Literacy Backfire?”, because of culture of individualism and the feeling that each person should investigate an issue themselves to find an answer (i.e. a distrust of academic and scholarly sources) combined with an over-reliance on search engines without realizing the biases these algorithms have as companies that make money from sponsorships, as well as the effect that different search terms have on results. These problems are what lead people down conservative rabbit holes and cause a distrust of anything coming out of academia.

To me, this seems like an issue that should be combatted early on in elementary and middle school, where children are learning to navigate the internet and form their own opinions on social issues. With good information literacy skills, which can be taught by school librarians and teachers, we can give kids the tools to encounter misinformation online and know how to effectively perform lateral reading and fact-checking to not be led astray. This requires a much more in-depth and updated curriculum than the traditional strategy taught to schoolchildren that relies on looking into the credibility of the source where the information came from. The modern librarian should teach children about how algorithms work and that different key words can bias search results. We should also aim to build trust in science and research, while being aware of its limitations.

These goals can be achieved in a variety of ways. At Carleton and in many school libraries, R&I librarians teach one-shot classes that provide lessons on information literacy. I would suggest in a school for younger children that librarians have a greater role in the students’ education, so that these information literacy skills are really emphasized. Library instruction is truly necessary at this critical point in time where information is more accessible than ever in this dynamic online landscape.