A recent American Library Association's “Read for Later” news blast shared an article from British daily The Guardian that profiled Snopes.com 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”).
Eugene Kiely of FactCheck.org 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!