Library Instruction West 2020
Seattle, Washington
July 22-24
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Friday, July 24 • 11:00am - 12:15pm
Fake News LibGuides as Sites of Injustice

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After the 2016 election, the term “fake news” became popular in media outlets. A rallying cry to fight this age of “post-truth” and misinformation reverberated throughout the United States, and librarians were there to answer the call in the best way they knew how: by creating LibGuides. Hundreds of Fake News LibGuides were created in an attempt to educate students and fight misinformation, and librarians re-positioned themselves as the gatekeepers of truth. As part of an ongoing, grounded theory research project, the presenters observed and analyzed the content included in Fake News LibGuides. They observed that Fake News LibGuides are presented primarily as checklists, and many guides are virtually copies of one another. Further analysis revealed that copied guides were not vetted for accuracy and that checklists were used despite research critiquing their reliability in teaching source evaluation. The hypocrisy of publishing content about misinformation without verifying sources is an injustice to students. Additionally, creating Fake News LibGuides with unvetted content to position librarians as experts in misinformation while ignoring the complexity of information creation and evaluation by using checklists misleads students, dismisses students’ ability to critically examine content, and places librarians in an unearned position of authority. Drawing on the study and an extensive literature review, the presenters will discuss how Fake News Libguides are used as a tool to inflict injustice upon students; how the complexity of mis-information is multi-disciplinary and goes beyond the limited structure of LibGuides; and how conversations are better suited for engaged classroom settings.

Key Takeaways
  • Current iterations of Fake News LibGuides are an injustice to students because librarians are positioning themselves as experts when they haven’t critically analyzed the content included in the first place.
  • Fake News Libguides were created by librarians, for librarians, and suggesting that they promote information literacy is an injustice to students
  • Adding “check your bias” as an afterthought to a checklist is an injustice to any student harmed by unconscious bias because it ignores the work it takes to recognize and address bias (work that many librarians have not done before creating the guide). 
  • Checklists are a poor tool to teach evaluation and assess the complexity of information, and many Fake News LibGuides are essentially elaborate checklists; taking a complex process and telling students that it is easy is misleading and assumes students cannot critically think for themselves.

avatar for Melissa DeWitt

Melissa DeWitt

Regis University
avatar for Erin Richter-Weikum

Erin Richter-Weikum

Information and Research Specialist
Erin is a research and information specialist for a consulting firm in San Francisco where she supports consultants in secondary research primarily around technology and healthcare. She is also the data management and governance specialist and loves talking her co-workers ears off... Read More →

Friday July 24, 2020 11:00am - 12:15pm AST
HUB 334 (Seats 60)

Attendees (5)