News Based in Facts

As I pack my suitcase and organize my schedule for the American Library Association Conference in New Orleans (#alaac18), I am once again reminded of how important our national associations have been and continue to be essential components of my professional learning. In addition to seeing long-time friends and colleagues, participating in the Lilead Project meetings, attending AASL meetings, keynotes, events, and enjoying the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet tradition with select tablemates, I am especially looking forward to this session:

Fake News or Free Speech: Is there a right to be misinformed?
Saturday, June 23rd from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
With James LaRue, Nicole Cooke, Damaso Reyes, Joyce Valenza, and Mary Minow
Morial Convention Center, Room 288

This is the session description:
“‛Fake news’ has always been part of the communication landscape. The difference now is that we are inundated with social media that makes it possible to disseminate “fake news” quickly and easily. In the past ‛fake news’ was used as propaganda to isolate individuals or groups of people, destabilize governments, and foment anarchy. ‛Fake news’ may be inaccurate, dishonest, misleading, intentionally untrue, and even intended to damage the paradigm of factual information. But is it illegal? Is it protected by the First Amendment? Can ‛fake news’ — or suppressing it — undermine our democratic way of life?”

A few days ago, Loretta Gaffney posted a compelling reflection in her Knowledge Quest Blog post: “School Librarians and Truth in an Era of ‘Fake News.” Loretta shared how students had come to her in the library on 9/11 when they were unsure about what was happening in the world. They trusted Loretta and they trusted the information they could access in the library (with her support).
This was the comment I posted to Loretta’s article:

Loretta, Your experience in creating and promoting the library as an information source learners can trust is a model for all of us.

I, for one, would like to see the term “fake news” abandoned by school librarians and the library profession as a whole. Yes, all information/news is a social construct and reflects the perspective of the author/reporter.

However, using the term “fake news” legitimizes it in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Nearly every day, the Arizona Daily Star publishes a “Fact Check” article that has taken up to two pages in our small Tucson newspaper. The constant need for fact-checking our country’s leaders and political candidates is alarming to me.

I believe we can acknowledge that news always has a point of view and still agree that there should be “facts” to back up any information source. I also believe we should expect our leaders to get their facts straight, and we must start holding them accountable at the voting booth.

Let’s give no more credence to “fake news.” Let’s encourage students and classroom teachers to abandon the term in favor of “news” and call the fake stuff what it is: half-truths, distortions, propaganda, outright lies…

To my way of thinking, that would be a start at maintaining the librarian’s and the library’s reputation as a person and place of trust (end quote).

As Brian Bess, Library Assistant, Huntsville Madison County Public Library, recently posted in ALA Connect: “…our mission is to disseminate reliable, reputable, and helpful information to the public…” I agree with Brian and am very much looking forward to learning what others in our profession are thinking at next Saturday’s session at ALA. Could suppressing “fake news” undermine our democratic way of life? Really?

I welcome your comments here. I will post a follow up after the session. Thank you.

Image Created at The Ransomizer.com

Start with Why, Part 2

While authoring my forthcoming book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is part two of the eighth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Before participating in the Lilead Project Summer Institute in Norfolk, Virginia, I had no intention of extending my review of Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why. (See Part 1 published on 7/17/17.)

But last week, twenty Cohort 2 Lilead Fellows, four Cohort 1 speakers and other supporters, the Lilead Project Team, and five mentors  (of which I am one) spent four days thinking and talking about, writing and revising our “whys” in terms of the Fellows’ Lilead projects.

Throughout this process of connecting the purpose and value of school librarianship to goals for their projects, Fellows had support for pushing their thinking and connecting their “whys” to their personal and professional values and to their school districts’ priorities.

During the week, John Chrastka from EveryLibrary shared information and strategies related to the importance of political literacy, particularly in terms of the Fellows achieving their project goals. (EveryLibrary is registered as 501(c)4 social welfare organization and supports library organizations around the country in achieving their goals.) John said this, “Our concern is on the basics: fix the disconnect in districts that say they want successful schools and fully prepared students but don’t fund their libraries or hire qualified librarians.”

John noted that for many library supporters a librarian “who cares (about other people’s literacy needs and welfare) is a proxy” for supporters’ own desire/need to care. These people comprise the “library party” and believe that the library is a transformational force in their communities. Everyone in the room agreed that passionate librarians are “true advocates for lifelong learning.” These connections apply directly to the “whys” Lilead fellows are addressing with their projects.

The Fellows were asked to write about their values related to education and librarianship, their vision for their school/district, why they do this work, and what happens if they don’t do it. All of these thinking activities connected and reconnected to their “whys.”

When the Fellows were asked to share the key ideas that frame their projects, the similarities in their “whys” were very exciting. This is what I heard in terms of key concepts: issues (access/budget/resources/staffing) related to equity (7), cultural responsiveness (2) a subset of equity, librarians as instructional/digital leaders/building capacity (5), advocacy/changing perceptions/increasing visibility (3), K-12 curriculum (2), and increasing future-ready learning spaces (1).

To “see” the Fellows’ “whys” expressed in these ways leads me to believe that the school library profession can coalesce around a shared overarching “why.” With a collective “why,” the “what” we do and “how” we do it may look different in different schools and districts but the benefit of an overarching “values-based approach” (John Chrastka) can help school librarians work within a shared values framework. It can help us identify and build coalitions. It can help the Fellows elevate their projects because they are based on authentic truths—on the school library profession’s shared values.

Thank you to Simon Sinek for giving us the “why” prompt as a stimulus to our thoughts, discussions, and the feedback we shared with and received from one another.

Thank you to John Chrastka for teaching us about political literacy and helping us apply these principles to help us achieve our goals for and with our library stakeholders. We look forward to learning more with you.

Thank you to Roger Rosen, president of Rosen Publishing, for joining us in Norfolk and for sponsoring our learning with John. We are grateful.

Resources
EveryLibrary.org. Newsletter Subscription.

Sinek, Simon. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York: Penguin, 2009.

Sweeney, Patrick PC, and John Chrastka. Winning Elections and Influencing Politicians for Library Funding. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.