Category Archives: Library Services

Readers Advisory Resources

Readers Advisory is a service libraries offer that includes helping readers locate materials through recommendations, book lists, displays, social networking, and other means. Basically, readers advisory means recommending books to patrons.

All libraries provide readers advisory services whether they realize it or not. It can be done “informally” (by verbally recommending books to patrons) and “formally” (by using displays and handouts).

If your library has recommended items to patrons either “formally” or “informally,” your library has done readers advisory. (Hint: remember this when filling out your library’s annual report)

If you would like to expand your library’s readers advisory services or if you would like to learn more about this service, here are some great resources:

Resources specifically for teens/ young adults:

Advertisements

Fake News

fake-1903774_1280

We live in a digital age of information. At the click of a button we have access to thousands, if not millions, of resources online. But can we trust all of this information? Unfortunately, no. For example, did you know the website MartinLutherKing.org is hosted by Stormfront, a white supremacist organization?

What is Fake News?

There has been an increase (perhaps explosion or pandemic) in recent years of fake news. But what is fake news? Fake news can be described as propaganda, a hoax, and/or misinformation that is purposely spread and published as real news – often using social media – with the intent to mislead for political or financial gains. Fake news will often utilize eye-catching headlines and images to increase sharing and views.

The Very Brief History of Fake News

Fake news is nothing new. It has been around for many years. A trip to your local grocery or convenience store’s checkout lane will reveal a plethora of tabloids containing fictional or less than reputable information, often about celebrities; and these tabloids have been in publication for many years (some of which include the National Enquirer, National Examiner, Star, Globe, Weekly World News, and Daily Mail). A 2017 NPR article explains that long before fake news, there were staged photos. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, tall-tale postcards emerged in the early 1900s with larger-than-life images of crops and animals, thanks to clever photography and darkroom tricks. Yellow journalism was a term coined in the 1890s to describe sensational news that is not well-researched but instead strives to be eye-catching to sell more newspapers.

Social Media (fuel to the fake news flame)

If fake news is nothing new, why is it at the forefront of current issues plaguing society? Insert social media.

Social media usage has exploded in the last several years. It has become part of everyday life. In fact, a 2016 survey from the Pew Research Center indicated that 62% of adults get their news from social media. This number is up from 49% in 2012. Social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., have become one stop shops for sharing content, interacting with others, and, you guessed it, getting news.

Sharing content on social media has never been easier. One or two clicks is all it takes. But did you take the time to read more than just the headline before you liked, commented, or shared? Is the source reputable? Unfortunately, fake news outlets use social media to their advantage because the before mentioned questions go unanswered, it is easy for them to share things too, they are able to reach a wide audience, and their headlines or images draw people in (also referred to as clickbait).

With so much information present on social media and the sharing of it, it can be easy to skim something and not realize it might be fake. People do not always take the time to fact check something before sharing or commenting.

Social media cannot be completely blamed, however. People moving away from newspapers, television, and radio to get their news; lack of media literacy; the ease of creating a blog or posting your own stories online; our tendency to trust what we see on the internet; and our tendency to trust the information we receive from friends and family are all contributing factors.

Consequences (so there’s fake news, so what?)

It’s safe to assume we can all agree that fake news is a problem. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center survey, 88% of adults say fake news is either causing some or great confusion about current events and basic facts.

Okay, fake news is a problem; but why is it such a big deal? Well, according to the same Pew Research Center survey, about one in four adults has reported sharing fake news, whether they were aware of it at the time or not. And that is just with adults. Children and teens are also susceptible to fake news.

Fakes news has sometimes received more views, shares, etc. than real news. The top 20 election stories on Facebook (from August to November 2016) received the following engagements (shares, comments, reactions, etc.): 8.7 million for fake news and 7.3 million for mainstream news.

Even journalists and politicians have been known to share or reference fake news. Fake news stories have even spiraled out of control and led to violence (like “Pizzagate” incident).

People often fall victim to fake news because they don’t fact check; the story supports their argument, position, or belief; or the amount of information available is too overwhelming.

So here is the bottom line: fake news is dangerous.

What is the Point of Fake News? (why do people create fake news in the first place?)

  1. Money
    • The ugly truth behind fake news: there is big money to be made. The money comes from advertisements. The more clicks/views received, the more ads there are (which results in more money).
    • So when it comes to fake news, the more shocking the headline, the more potential for clicks and shares (and money of course).
    • In 2016, a teen in Macedonia made $16,000 between August and November with his pro-Trump websites.
  2. Agenda
    • Some examples of fake news have an agenda. They want you to get “fired up” and join their “dark side”.
  3. Joke
    • Some fake news is just a joke. It is meant to humor and entertain.
  4. Slander
    • Some stories are created with the purpose of damaging reputations.
  5. Other
    • And the list goes on and on.

Categories of Fake News

There are a few different ways to categorize it, but generally fake news can be put into these five categories:

  1. False/ deceptive
  2. Misleading
    • Stories that contain no established baseline for truth but promote an agenda
    • These stories will often take a tiny shred of factual information, give it their own spin, and run off with it in a completely different direction
    • Examples that fall under this category are intended to “rile you up” (like the story about the craziest person in Congress, Rep. Steve King, wants to investigate everyone but President Trump)
    • Conspiracy theories and propaganda tend to fall into this category
  3. Slanted/ biased
    • Stories that contain truthful elements but certain facts are selectively chosen or omitted to serve an agenda (like gaining headlines)
    • The stories that fall under this category are not necessarily false. The stories report true news, but they do so in a biased way.
    • Certain content from Fox News, MSNBC, and others could fall under this category
  4. Manipulated
    • Content or imagery that is altered falls under this category
    • “Doctored” or “Photoshopped” images would also be included (like some of the 2012 viral photos of Hurricane Sandy)
  5. Satire/ parody/ jokes
    • Stories are purposefully fake with no intention to cause harm, but has the potential to fool people
    • Satire news, like content from The Onion, seeks to entertain and be humorous rather than mislead, but people can misinterpret the content as real

How to Spot Fake News

There are a few quick and easy things you can look for to spot fake news. FactCheck.org has some great advice on how to spot fake news:

  • Consider the source
  • Read beyond the headline
  • Check the author
  • Check the supporting sources
  • Check the date
  • Is it a joke?
  • Check your biases
  • Ask the experts

It is easy to do a couple quick checks to identify fake or real news. But when in doubt, ask the experts – like librarians! Libraries are a trusted source of information. Utilizing librarians, library resources, and library databases is a great way of finding credible sources and information, and not to mention avoiding the possibility of running into fake news. Click here to explore the reliable databases available through the State Library.

Many libraries across the country are already working to combat the fake news problem. For example, many libraries are creating guides and resources.

The Harvard Library has created a guide that lists 5 ways to spot fake news:

  • Consider the source
  • Check the URL
  • Look for visual clues
  • Get a second opinion
  • Put your browser to work

Universities and schools are also fighting back against fake news. Librarians have partnered with the University of Michigan to offer a class on fake news called “Fake News, Lies, and Propaganda: How to Sort Fact from Fiction.”

Other things to look for to spot fake news:

  • ALL CAPS
  • Advertisements: excessive pop-ups, banners, etc.
  • Assess grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • Use a reverse image search (like TinEye)
  • If you’re not sure it’s true, then don’t like, share, or comment!

Preventing Fake News

While it is almost impossible to prevent fake news, we can, however, strive to prevent its spread. If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Let’s all be part of the solution by following these steps:

  • Before sharing, commenting, or liking, it is paramount that you read past the title of the article.
  • Follow the steps from FactCheck.org, Harvard, and others to identify fake news and determine if there are any red flags.
  • Put the article or source to the test and use a fact checking website (like Snopes).
  • Use the “Report” option on social media to flag fake news. Facebook and Twitter have options to flag posts that are spam, harmful, or inappropriate. Click the little downward arrow at the upper right of the post to report it (check out this video about reporting fake news on Facebook if you need additional assistance).
  • When in doubt, chicken out. If you are not sure if the article is true or the source is reliable, then don’t share, like, comment, etc.

There is a lot of information online, and that is unlikely to change. As more things become accessible online, we have to remain vigilant of what is credible and what is not. It is up to us to be responsible enough to decipher what is real and what it fake. Take advantage of the simple advice, the easy credibility checks, and the many resources at your disposal to win the war on fake news.

Resources

Handouts & Flyers:

Fact Checking Websites:

Identifying the Source:

LibGuides:

Videos:

Resources for Schools, Classrooms, & Educators:

Additional Resources:

Additional Reading:

  • Akpan, N. (2017). Everyone is too distracted to stop fake news, study shows. PBS Newshour. Retrieved from http://to.pbs.org/2sK1O5Y
  • Alvarez, B. (2017). Public libraries in the age of fake news. Public Libraries Online. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2iSOmcx
  • Biersdorfer, J.D. (2017) Twitter bot – or not? New York Times. Retrieved from http://nyti.ms/2qMshfs

Examples of Fake News

  • Fargo Man Arrested for Clearing Snow with Flamethrower
    • Source: FM Observer (clicking on their About page will reveal this message: “FM Observer provides farcical/satirical news and entertainment for the Fargo-Moorhead and surrounding area, as well as nationally. We are the greatest website you will ever visit in your entire human existence.”)
    • It is no secret that North Dakota can get a lot of snow, so something like this can easily catch someone’s interested because we all get sick of snow at some point and likely consider doing this to our snowbanks. This fake news article coincidentally resurfaces on social media each winter since it was first published in 2013.
    • Fact checking website Snopes has confirmed that this story is indeed FALSE.
    • Fake News category: Satire/ parody/ jokes
  • Vince Gilligan Announces Breaking Bad Season 6… (and this story also appeared on Facebook: Breaking Bad season 6 announced!!!) WARNING: these articles, although fake, do contain some spoilers about Breaking Bad.
    • Source: NBC? At first glance, it appears as though this article comes from NBC News. Look carefully at the URL. You’ll notice that it says “nbc.com.co”. Anytime “.co” is added to the end of a URL, you need to be suspicious of this news source and its content (this is an indicator that this source is not reliable). Also note that the official NBC logo is missing.
    • After 5 seasons, Breaking Bad aired its last episode in 2013. The show generated a large fan base, so it makes sense that people would get excited about seeing an article like this.
    • Fact checking website Snopes has confirmed that this story is indeed FALSE.
    • Fake News category: False/ deceptive
  • Social media “chain mail”
    • Before social media, there were chain emails (and before that there were chain letters). Somewhere in the email it would say something like “forward this email to 10 people or something horrible will happen to you.”
    • Now these chain messages have made their way to social media. Things on Facebook include: share this post and Bill Gates will give you money, Facebook is deleting inactive accounts so share this post to avoid deletion, Facebook will begin charging users so share this post in protest, etc. There is no truth to these examples; so if you come across them on social media, don’t like, comment, or share! Instead, you should report them as fake.
    • Fake News category: False/ deceptive
  • Even NPR pulled a fast one on us: Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore? (and also on Facebook: What has become of our brains?)
    • Source: NPR (very reliable – except when they pull April Fools’ Day pranks)
    • NPR basically conducted an experiment with this April Fools’ Day article. They wanted to see how people would react. If you click on the article and read its content, it says: “If you are reading this, please like this post and do not comment on it. Then let’s see what people have to say about this ‘story’.” If you look at the Facebook comments, you can tell many people only looked at the title of this article. Again, read the article before sharing, liking, or commenting!
    • Fake News category: Satire/ parody/ jokes

Homeless in the Library

Public libraries are much more than places where an elderly woman, with horn-rimmed glasses and her hair in a bun, shushes you every time you even think about speaking (common misconception). Libraries are community and cultural centers where individuals gather to explore, interact, learn, and read.

Also, libraries are often havens for people with nowhere else to go. Public libraries can be sanctuaries for the homeless. Libraries are a safe place for them to use the computers, read, attend programs, learn, utilize library services, etc. (which are the same reasons everyone else visits the library). Libraries have a responsibility to serve the homeless that come through their doors and treat them like any other patron.

According to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Services and Responsibilities of Libraries, ALA “promotes equal access to information for all persons, and recognizes the urgent need to respond to the increasing number of poor children, adults, and families in America… Therefore it is crucial that libraries recognize their role in enabling poor people to participate fully in a democratic society, by utilizing a wide variety of available resources and strategies.”

The Federal definition of a chronically homeless person is “either (1) an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR (2) an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years,” and homeless is defined as “a person sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation (e.g. living on the streets, for example) OR living in a homeless emergency shelter” (Defining Chronic Homelessness: A Technical Guide for HUD Programs).

So with all of that in mind, here are some great resources for libraries on providing services to homeless patrons:

State Resources

ALA Resources

Other Resources

Articles

 

Services for Homebound Patrons: Part 2

Once you’ve decided which services you want to offer to homebound patrons, how do you find the people who might qualify and are interested in these services?  Homebound patrons aren’t going to be coming through the doors of the library, so how do you get the information out to them?

Some groups and government entities that may be able to help spread the word about the services you are offering include:

Disability Groups
Libraries for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Meals-on-Wheels
North Dakota Human Services
Religious Institutions
Senior Centers
Support Groups
Veterans Affairs
VFW Halls

Some of them may even be willing/able to help get the items to the homebound patrons while delivering their own services.  Depending on your community, there are probably many other ways to get the information out, but this is just to give you a launching point.

Also, make sure to utilize your city’s newspaper and calendar of events to get the information out to those who have a need for your services, along with getting it on the radio and on the community access channel on television, if possible.

A toolkit that you may find helpful when starting a homebound program is the Homebound Program Toolkit.  This document gives advice on the pros and cons of the different delivery methods, policy development, planning the program, and marketing the program.  It also includes forms that you will probably need when setting up the program, including a reader profile, participant application, and route schedule log.

Also, a great resource for your patrons (whether they are homebound or not) who are unable to read standard print materials due to a visual, physical, or reading disability is the Talking Books program.  If you or your patrons have any questions, you can find more information available online (http://library.nd.gov/talkingbooks.html) or by calling 1-701-328-1408 or 1-800-843-9948.

Services for Homebound Patrons: Part 1

The main priority of libraries is to provide services for the people in their community. Libraries do a lot for the patrons who use the library by providing programs and items that can be checked out. How do libraries make sure these same services are also available to the patrons who are unable to leave their homes?

Homebound patrons can include those who are temporarily or permanently confined to their homes due to illness, disability, surgery, age, etc. They may be feeling isolated and bored and in need of the services that your library can provide. Some of the ways that you can provide services to homebound patrons include:

Mail delivery. Staff members can select items based on the patrons’ interests or the patrons can request specific titles and send them through the mail.

Home delivery. Staff members or volunteers take items directly to the patrons’ houses on a regular schedule. If you go this route, make sure to have rules/policies to make sure that the patrons are providing an appropriate and safe environment for the staff/volunteers and that the service can be suspended if unsafe/inappropriate conditions exist (threatening behavior, wearing revealing attire, unconfined pets, etc.).

Delivery with other services. Find a service that already delivers and see if they would be willing to deliver books, as well.  One service you could check with is Meals-on-Wheels.

Book discussion groups. If the patrons give permission, the library could connect patrons with each other so they can discuss books and other interests they share.

Special interest visits. Library volunteers can visit the homebound patrons and discuss hobbies, interests, etc. The volunteer could also record the experience as part of an oral history project for the library.

What types of services does your library provide to homebound patrons?

Check back next week for the next part in Services for Homebound Patrons, where we will discuss how to figure out who your homebound patrons are and how to make them aware of what the library can offer them.

2016 ARSL Conference

arslOn October 26-29, I had the pleasure of attending the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) 2016 Conference in Fargo, North Dakota. This was my first national library conference, and what a conference it was! Each day was full of interesting speakers and great sessions.

Perhaps my favorite moment from the conference occurred during Will Weaver’s speech. Weaver is the author of Red Earth, White Earth, A Gravestone Made of Wheat and Other Stories, Saturday Night Dirt, and Striking Out. In his speech, Weaver talked about the importance of libraries and how they have influenced him over the years. He held up a book at one point, and confirmed with the crowd of librarians that it was indeed a library book. He admitted he has the tendency of accidentally stealing library books when he visits them for various engagements. As it turns out, a librarian from the library to which the book belonged was in attendance! As the audience roared with laughter, Weaver had the librarian come up to the front and he returned the book to her.

I thoroughly enjoyed each keynote speaker, and I don’t think there was one session I regretted attending. If anything, I regretted not being able to attend more sessions!

I attended two sessions on programming. One was on teen programs and the other was on how to utilize your community for library programs. The session on teen programs, presented by the librarians at the North Loan City Library in Utah, offered some great ideas: Nerf gun events, teens volunteering at the library to earn points, forming a teen advisory board, and creating an email list just for teens so they can stay up-to-date on what teen-related things are happening at the library.

The mining your community session, presented by the librarian of the Stanley Community Library in Idaho, was just as beneficial. Every community has its gems so utilize them! For example, if someone in your community knits as a hobby, ask this person if he/she would come to the library and host a program on kitting; or if someone is a toy collector, set up a display or have the person come in for a lecture on their history. Some of the great program topics from this session included knitting, adult coloring, lectures, writing classes, music, car maintenance, photography, and cooking.

Librarians are often seen as the people who know everything. As a result, we are likely to receive technology questions that we may not know the answer to, or perhaps the patron is not being receptive. One session on patron technology training tips addressed this. Some of the tips from this session included identify yourself as a technology trainer and do the best you can, create a plan, take deep breaths, narrate your process to the patron, focus on quality, create teachable moments, and implement a resource guide.

Another session, presented by California librarian/ trainer Crystal Schimpf, covered the basics of digital storytelling for libraries and how it can be used for advocacy. Technology is ubiquitous in today’s world so it makes sense for libraries to use it to promote themselves and reach patrons. Libraries can make videos that highlight a database, give a virtual tour, or provide a crash course on services. The sky is the limit! The session stressed that videos should be short but fun. When creating videos you will want to create goals, pick your video platform, write scripts, log your shots, and get the necessary equipment and software (which can be done at a relatively low cost). Once the videos are done, share them on social media and get them out there as much as you can.

One of the more entertaining sessions was presented by Harmony Higbie, director of the Underwood Public Library in Underwood, ND. The session was on Kahoot, a modern twist on trivia. Kahoot can be played for free on your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Kahoot can be used in the library for trivia, book clubs, and more! For more information on Kahoot, visit their website: https://getkahoot.com/

In addition to the before mentioned sessions, I attended two sessions relating to digital preservation. If you would like more information on this area, review the services offered by the Internet Archive. You can also contact the State Library’s Digital Initiatives coordinator.

There were around 500 librarians from across the country at the ARSL conference, and I was lucky to meet some of them and hear their stories. One of the librarians I met was from beautiful St. George, Utah, which is where the ARSL conference will be in 2017. The librarian will be the co-chair for the 2017 conference, and he had some great things to say about the St. George area (he even showed me a picture of the view from his backyard to prove his point).

If you are interested in attending the ARSL conference, I would highly encourage you to do so. You can learn more about ARSL and the annual conference at their website: http://arsl.info/

If you have any questions or would like more information on the ideas and conference sessions I shared, feel free to contact me.

Every Kid in a Park

4th parkDid you know that through August 31, 2016, 4th graders and their families are eligible to get a pass allowing them free access to nationals parks through the Every Kid in a Park program?

As a librarian, you can access the downloadable activity guides to use for library programming. Check out Discover the Forest for links to other ideas and activities. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also has resources for kids. You can also access a downloadable tool kit and media kit to help promote the program. The tool kit has a poster just for libraries!

It may still be chilly in North Dakota, but now is the time to start thinking about planning summer vacations! You can use Find Your Park to locate national park sites in North Dakota.

park-passYou can promote the Every Kid in a Park program in conjunction with the State Park Passes available at public libraries in North Dakota. Through a partnership with the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, all North Dakota public libraries have received passes that patrons can check out to waive the entrance fees at North Dakota state parks. You don’t have to have a 4th grader to take advantage of the state park passes – they are available to all ages! You’ll find flyers and Facebook banners on the State Library Marketing page that you can use to promote this program.

How do you promote the State Park Pass program in your community? Share your suggestions in the comments!

Transforming Lives through 3D Printing at the Library

unleash-creativity[1]In September, I attended the NDLA annual conference in Jamestown. One of the sessions I attended was “3D Printing @ Your Library” presented by Greta Guck, the director of the Leach Public Library in Wahpeton. I thought it would be an interesting session, but it turned out to be considerably more inspiring than I expected!

Greta talked about how she was inspired to acquire a 3D printer after hearing Mick Ebeling speak at the ALA 2015 Midwinter conference. The founder of Not Impossible Labs and author of Not Impossible: The Art and the Joy of Doing What Couldn’t Be Done, Mick has used 3D printers to create prosthetic limbs for people in Sudan who have lost their arms due to violence in the area.

After the conference, I did some research and one of the articles I found about “Project Daniel” makes an excellent point: “To many people 3D printing can seem trivial or a bit silly, but for some this technology has the potential to transform lives.” Many people probably do think of 3D printing as something neat and cool, without stopping to think about the life-changing applications of the technology. Continue reading

Librarian Ethos

BalanceBasically good ethics are common sense, linked with good manners, filtered through a moral or philosophical worldview. Culture, education, and experience shape our worldview. We perceive and filter information through our worldview, and then act. If our worldview is too fundamental or too narrow, we perceive more threats. It is essential that the information professional remain open to other worldviews, other cultures, and other ways. To truly listen, we must suspend assumptions.

We do not want to become the librarian at the gate, hands on hips, frown on face, demanding the return of a book so it can be correctly shelved in its properly cataloged place.  Basically, librarians need to remember that we have chosen a service-orientated profession.  Our work should always be user-friendly.

This ethos means that most librarians want to find meaningful, service-oriented work in a healthy and cooperative environment.  We want to be creatively challenged but not overwhelmed. We want to be understood, capable, and compensated equitably.  We want the opportunity to keep learning so we can adapt to change and innovation.

We have learned core communication skills that our professional life demands: listening, presenting, writing, persuading, participating, leading, and managing. We must be able to analyze, problem-solve, make decisions, and take risks. We must be accountable and dependable.

Librarians must make the shift from merely disseminating information to designing user-centered library services. This may require reevaluating policy, structures, and personnel on a regular basis. The skills we have acquired will enable us to make a positive contribution to our clients and our profession.

“The survival of libraries depends on librarians.” – Roger C. Greer (educator & author)

Importance of Library Services to Younger Americans

The Pew Research Center surveyed over 6,000 Americans ages 16 and over. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish from July to September, 2013. The chart indicates the percentage who say these library services are “very important” to them.

Importance of Library Services by Age and %

LibServices

For the complete September 2014 Pew Research report, see Younger Americans and Public Libraries.

“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” – Robin Williams