Libraries & the 2016 Election

I, like many librarians, was rooting for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential elections. I was blindsided (perhaps naively) by her electoral defeat. For the first few days I was shocked, and went to work in a haze. But in the past few weeks I have found some things to consider and some points of joy. I thought it would be appropriate to share a few of each.

Points of Joy:

  • My current workplace (University of California, both broadly and here locally at Irvine) has stated in many mediums and instances that it will not tolerate harassment, intolerance, and prejudice and that it stands by principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, and social justice, and expects all students, staff, and faculty to do the same.
  • A political science professor, Sara Goodman, has started a petition to UCI administrators to persuade them to designate UCI as a “sanctuary campus” for undocumented members of our campus community. Many librarians and library staff have signed it.
  • Local and broader virtual meetings of librarians, archivists, and LIS professionals have been popping up all over in response to the election and its aftermath.

Things to Consider:

  • Much has come to light in the last few weeks about fake news, mostly as shared on social media. Google and Facebook have announced their intentions to combat the fake news phenomenon. I think as individuals we should see this (when we can) as a call to action. I have occasionally commented on re-shared clickbait with snopes.com links in the past. But I think I will draft up a few canned comments for instances of clickbait, skewed/biases sources, and lack of fact-checking. Friends of mine on social media will hopefully begin to understand that a higher standard for information and media literacy is just part of knowing a librarian.
  • Along with the increased interest in fake news, there have also been a few articles about information and media literacy among students (middle school through college), many specifically referencing a study done by Stanford. Their findings point to many areas of information and media literacy where library instruction could really help students: middle school students had trouble distinguishing between real articles and “sponsored content,” high school students accepted photographs without sources and had trouble distinguishing between real and fake news sources, and college students had trouble critically evaluating the background and potential bias of a news-like tweet. While all of this is somewhat discouraging, I think as a field we need to use data like these to advocate for increased library instruction and presence. We need the public to see us as more than just gatekeepers and access providers – we need to be seen as the educators of an informed democratic citizenry.

This is all I can offer for now. I have begun to seek out opportunities to support my campus community during this time. And I have banded together even more strongly with my fellow librarians throughout the country. I can only solider on, fighting the good fight for literacy, privacy, democracy, diversity, inclusion, tolerance, peace, love. I am afraid that the incidents of violence, intolerance, and hate will increase as time goes by; I hope I am wrong. But I am filled with hope when I see the responses of love, acceptance, and activism from so many. Take care of each other, my friends.

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