January 29th, 2021

Balance and Bias

Public libraries have such wonderful, reliable resources: newspaper databases such as NewsBank, from trustworthy national and local sources; databases with scholarly articles, all of which patrons may access from home at their convenience. Our greatest challenge is getting the word out to the public, many of whom are googling or getting random "news" from social media or newsfeeds. Some libraries are hosting programs on information literacy, not always well-attended, or are writing about these issues on blogs. Public Librarians will need to be more intentional, increasing outreach to the community in order to communicate what we have to offer, and to stay relevant in this forum.

In order for all our patrons to trust us, and to find common ground, we must remain politically neutral information brokers; we must listen and not judge, and provide objective answers to patron questions. We can feature objective comparison websites such as AllSides, or data from the Pew Research Center, without directing patrons to information supporting our own biases. Intellectual Freedom guru Jamie LaRue says, "We Reflect, not direct, our culture." Most recently, publishing houses are refusing to print books with right-of-center perspectives, effectively censoring these viewpoints, and the same must be happening with journalists and reporters. How will libraries, long the bastion of intellectual freedom and officially anti-censorship, maintain a full spectrum of political thought in our information sources as oppositional voices are silenced? It will be difficult to find common ground in our community when many patrons feel alienated and shut out of the conversation. Our role is to be trustworthy, and likewise to trust patrons to seek truth and unity.

Tags: Censorship, Freedom of speech, Public trust

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Comments (1)

Comments (1)

Hi Cristina:

Thanks for sharing such an important point -- about the need to remain neutral. It's easier said than done for some people. How you stay neutral? And how do you help your colleagues do that?

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