Reflection and Action
There are so many moving parts with which to work in helping the greater community find common ground in shared facts. Beliefs and community values, social/family connections and identity/place play a big role. Shared facts in a community will always rub against or coalesce with those in mind. To be effective, the public library first needs to build trust as a respected and reliable resource within that community.
Opportunities for the public library to build trust as the go-to place for the most reliable information include engaging/partnering with community organizations, grass roots networks and schools, and using social media/technology thoughtfully. As an example, when I was working with teens in the public library, I partnered with ALA, the Chicago Center for Civic Engagement, the Community Trust and the public high school on a grant funded Art and Civic Engagement project in which we spent time reflecting on art and photography, learning the nuances of media/visual literacy, taking our own photos and looking at bias and point of view, and then developed an actionable plan to engage with the community. It was a wonderful blend of reflection and action.
School libraries are rich with opportunities and also faced with many challenges, such as grossly inequitable funding, elimination of teacher librarians, crazy schedules and traveling between schools. Advocacy is vital and better training of administrative educators (in graduate programs) on the integrated role of certified, professional teacher librarians is essential.
Where some of those things are in place, there are so many opportunities. Many states have information literacy and civics standards for high school and some for middle school. There is often little continuity between the developmental phases and information/media literacy has to begin at the elementary school. It's a golden opportunity, and there is much that is hard to undo if it doesn't begin there. There are exciting ways to fully engage students in experiential and developmentally appropriate learning at this age.
For example, at my elementary school we hold a school mascot election every 4 years to coincide with the national election. The students elect an endangered species to be the mascot. I was able to cover so much terrain with them on facts vs. opinions, accurate reliable research, personification poems from the point of view of the animal vs. facts from reliable, authoritative sources, fact checking, visual literacy and much more. Students campaigned for their chosen animal and learned through experience how campaigns get rife with emotion, opinion, spins, etc. They referred to these experiences when they talked about the national election. They are now raising money for the winning animal and dedicated to helping it remain in the wild. Reflection and action.