Reference Blog Entries

Are we living in a ‘post-truth’ era?

Ann's picture

A recent American Library Association's “Read for Later” news blast shared an article from British daily The Guardian that profiled founder David Mikkleson and asked the question, who produces (and reproduces) inaccurate information?  With non-stop news cycles, online information and social media, satire sites and digital photo editing, how can we be certain that what we see, hear, and read is accurate?

The increasingly blurry concept of truth isn’t a new issue, of course. (Ever heard of the Barnacle Goose?) Back in 2006, then Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert coined the word “truthiness,” defined as “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.” The concern must have resonated with people because “truthiness” was chosen as the ‘Word of the Year’ (over the words “google” and “decider”). names 4 main sources of misinformation: legitimate satire sites; legitimate news organizations that don't fact check;  political sites that deliberately distort; and fake "click bait" stories.

Eugene Kiely of is quoted in The Guardian article as saying that all fact checking sites are seeing increased traffic. Thank goodness! Determining (and sharing) what is factual and credible is a pursuit that is near and dear to the hearts of all librarians. Information literacy, the ability to recognize when information is needed and how to locate, evaluate, and effectively use information, is part of the core curriculum of every Library and Information Science graduate and has become part of school and research librarians’ responsibilities—especially important with our overwhelming reliance on online information sources.

The UA Public Library Reference Desk is always happy to help you find accurate and credible information or double check a source. Don’t hesitate to call or visit. And in case you missed it, Erin has already published a very helpful resource on fact-checking sources for the 2016 Election. Check it out!

Wordsmiths, Coiners, and English Buffs

Megan's picture

Mixed up letter tiles from a Scrabble game If you’re a fiction writer, language buff, or trivia fan, you’re probably interested in words. The UA Library subscribes to the Oxford English Dictionary, which does much more than reveal a word’s meaning or part of speech. For historical fiction writers, you can create interactive timelines for words that were coined in a particular region, so you can browse through new and popular words for each year (or avoid anachronisms).

Language buffs and trivia fans will enjoy the histories available for each word, including quotes of each word’s usage, and the year it was first used. There are some surprises: “Reality TV” was first used in 1980, and “Millennial” (in reference to the generation) in 1991. For more on the history of English and English words, which is surprisingly intense, check out: