We Need Help Now
In 1962, John F. Kennedy said, “We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
Nearly 60 years later, instead of having risen to the challenge of becoming better discerners of information, we use unvetted social media posts, search engines that feed us information based on algorithms we help create, and endless hours of commentary (not news) as the foundation for our beliefs and opinions.
Libraries need to be leaders in the effort of reversing our living in a “world of disinformation.” We can help do that by ensuring we have a variety of views represented in the materials we have and display. We need to be proactive at being inclusive in our programing. We must be seen as impartial and offer a safe place for community discussion.
In a public library, it’s important that the staff seem as unbiased as possible. The library is a place where ideas are not just shared but challenged. Challenge doesn’t mean confrontation but open discussion. In encounters with patrons who make questionable statements, I respond with comments such as “Others feel differently. They may be getting different information about this topic.” “How do we know that the information we’re given is accurate?” Giving someone a pause in their thought process can open a door to seeing a different side.
When identifying and vetting credible information sources, I remember that I am as biased as anyone else and that although I am looking at information through my lens, I need to use objectivity. Then I examine the source. I consider the intention of the person/media outlet. Are they trying to persuade me or to inform me? Are they providing information or are they playing toward my emotions? What types are words are they using: highly charged words or simple words that explain the information as much without bias as possible. I share those ideas when talking with patrons.
Persuading people to discontinue a belief in alternative facts is an incredible challenge. I can’t think of anything more important for our country and the world.