19 Apr 2017

CONUL Conference Bursary - Call for Applications

We are happy to announce that CONUL (Consortium of National & University Libraries, Ireland) is providing funding for two current LIS students, who are studying on LAI accredited courses, to attend this year’s CONUL Conference, on the theme of Inspiring & Supporting Research, taking place in Athlone on May 30/31.

The Bursary will cover all registration costs for the conference. This includes the following:
•    Entrance to the Conference Sessions
•    Entrance to the Exhibition
•    Conference Documentation
•    Lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday
•    Tea/coffee during official breaks
•    River Shannon Drinks Reception & Conference Dinner on Tuesday 30 May
•    One night’s accommodation in the Hodson Bay Hotel on the night of 30 May

To apply for the Bursary please email martin.oconnor@ucc.ie with a letter of expression of interest (maximum of one typed page) that includes:
•    an outline of why you would like to attend;
•    Your anticipated learning outcomes and why you would benefit from attending 
•    a short overview of your experience using social media, including links to relevant websites or examples of your work in this area (e.g. twitter handle, blog URL, guest blog posts etc.)

LAI Accredited courses can be found here and here:

This will be a great opportunity for somebody at the start of their LIS Career to attend an internationally regarded conference. There will be an opportunity to attend sessions and to network with delegates.

The selected candidates will primarily be assisting the Social Media team in covering the event. This will involve attending sessions where you will be expected to live tweet (and other related activity). Selected candidates may also be asked to help out other committee members.

Selected students must be available to be at the conference venue in Athlone from 09.00 on Tuesday 30th May until 17.00 Wednesday 31st May.

Please note that students will need to cover their own transport costs to and from the venue.

Closing Date for Application has been extended and is now Monday 8th May 13.00

12 Apr 2017

Fake news is an Oxymoron and a LibGuide won’t cut it - review

Guest post by Siobhan McGuiness. Siobhan is part of team @uklibchat & @rudai23 for 2017. Siobhan has recently been appointed Chair of SLA Europe Digital Communications
Photo by Siobhan McGuinness 
Fake news is an Oxymoron and a LibGuide won’t cut it, was the title of Alan Carbery’s very popular talk recently held in the Royal Irish Academy. The talk was organised by the Library Association of Ireland
Alan began his inspirational talk about the many changes, good and bad, he has seen happen in Ireland over the last few years. His place in a liberal arts college in the U.S. allows him to keep abreast of issues such as homelessness, the marriage referendum, and abortion.

In a world where all these serious issues are at the forefront of every country, I have questions, for instance; What information is the next generation absorbing? How can teachers and librarians make sure these kids are getting the right information and a are getting a balanced view on these issues? Is the technology we are all using doing more harm than good? 

In a world where the President of the United States uses tweets to inform the world, tweets that are in so many ways contradictory, how are these kids meant to know what is true, false or even fake?

Teaching students today about credible sources needs to be more than about how to search numerous databases. Teaching students today should be about illustrating that credible and popular are two very different things. Get the student to think, are the authors credentials making it a credible source. In the same way, because it is a popular source is it a credible source? Each student should be given the tools to critically analyse the source and to be able to make that decision. Alan states that we could make Information Literacy meaningful and genuine by placing it within a real-world context. We can take our library tools and real world knowledge and use the two for good IL practice. 

So, let’s look at those real-world problems. Alan shows archival documents dating back to a time where the language used in policy documents surrounding the topic of immigration was discriminatory. He then points out how in today’s world with “a Muslim ban” being enforced in the U.S., how policy documents today are also showing this same discrimination. Showing this important information to students and allowing this conversation to take place is how we teach our students information literacy in the era of fake news.

However archival documents are not enough today. We also need to look at social media  tools like Twitter - a force / source of information that spreads ideas and knowledge - to see how we can use these tools to look at information relating to issues such as gender inequality. 

Alan sees that students want to talk about the issues that surround them. For example, explaining to students how the Spanish version of the White House website was removed soon after President Trump came to power shows them a live relevant information literacy topic in action. It shows a real-world issue of how one ethnic group is being treated in the U.S.Other examples like this can be found to teach students information literacy.

Again, students are challenged with technology. With filter bubbles they only see what the search engine thinks they want to see. This gives a narrow unchallenged view of the world. We all need to see all sides of an argument before we decide where we sit. If students are getting most of this information from the internet then how are they making informed decisions based on that information?     

The onus is on teachers, librarians, educators to bring the real world and critical information literacy together to teach our students how to make informed decisions about the information they are seeing and the issues surrounding their society.

Photo taken by @ibelle

6 Apr 2017

Invisible librarians have contributed to the post-truth era: a debate

Below is a verbatim account of one side of a debate which proposed that 'This house believes that invisible librarians have contributed to the post-truth era'.

Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow debater, moderator and distinguished guests I am here to convince the house that invisible librarians have contributed to the post-truth era.

When it comes to invisible librarians, I can literally say ‘I wrote the book’ which is on sale tonight at a bargain price, come and talk to me later – sales pitch over!

I feel I need to clear up a few concepts here.  Invisible meaning ‘not seen’.  Post-truth era meaning circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.  The president of Harvard University Drew Faust described it just last month as an era when “evidence, critical thinking, and analysis are pushed aside in favour of emotion and intuition as bases for action and judgment”.  Much talk of fake news has amplified the fear around a post-truth era. We are living in unprecedented times where there have been significant social and political upsets, in the USA a president was elected with no previous political experience or political position.  He is, in the words of Noam Chomsky “a showman”.  In the UK the people voted to leave the European Union.

Both upsets are linked to fake news, where the ultimate headline ‘We send the EU £350m-a-week let’s fund our NHS instead, vote leave’ was everywhere and was believed to be true.  Such headlines gave people hope and people vote for hope.  Some people and some politicians are opportunists and they have always lied and will continue to lie.  Post-truth, misinformation, disinformation and propaganda have fuelled many political campaigns, however the difference today is that the Digital Age we are living in has allowed the news and the story to be amplified.  Fake news is churned out as fast as it is retracted, but nobody reads the retractions.  One exception to this is a French newspaper, Le Canard Enchaine, whose editor refuses to make the paper digitally accessible.

The editor argued that when the Internet came along other newspapers made content available online and pushed out alternative facts only to retract them later.  They found that it was the only way to keep sales figures up, by selling fake news.  Le Canard continues to be only available in print. This is in a country which values freedom, equality and democracy.  A country which brought us the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789, a fundamental document in the history of human and civil rights with a major impact on freedom and democracy.

Last year at a health conference I heard a professor of organisational behaviour and a leadership thinker (Gianpiero Petriglieri) state the following: “Whoever controls the story, controls the people”. If we take democracy to be an acceptable and equitable way that people have a say in how they are controlled, by casting their vote and by electing a government to represent them, then what we all need to ask is “who is controlling the story?"

The story is largely controlled by the press, the media, journalists.  Who controls them?  Big business and government.  According to Forbes 15 billionaires own American's news media companies.  According to the EU Commission, Ireland is exposed to a "high risk" over its concentration of media ownership.

Professions in academia and in the press are exercised about the post-truth era.  Why?  Because it is touches our values.  What has any of this got to do with librarians?  We share values with scholarship and the press – the value of intellectual honesty – in other words - truthfulness and we have a social responsibility to uphold our values. 

“We are living in a time of universal defeat when telling the truth is a revolutionary act” (G. Orwell).  Librarians have largely been invisible and apart from the fact that it is leading to the demise of the profession, it is also leading to the distortion of the truth.  The truth is something that cuts to the core of our profession. Veritas is our raison d’ĂȘtre. Librarians are defenders of intellectual freedom, of rational decision making and of democratic values.  We are defenders of the truth. If we remain invisible, and if we remain neutral, arguably so will the truth.

We are invisible in the following ways: by remaining neutral, through staffless libraries, by having low social media presence and by continuing to market the ‘library’ over the ‘librarian’.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT… NEUTRALITY. There is nothing neutral about librarianship, as Wendy Newman a Senior Fellow at the University of Toronto has said ‘Librarians are anchored in values’ and our values are democratic, not neutral. She says librarians are rooted in timeless values. I agree with David Lankes, Director of the School of Library and Information Science at University of South Carolina when he says "Good librarians aren't neutral: they are principled".  The underlying principles of both journalism and librarianship are to be truthful.  According to the IFLA Code of Ethics, we have a social responsibility to society and to individuals to assist people in finding information, factual information, peer-reviewed research.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT… SOCIAL MEDIA. Many Librarians in Ireland are invisible on social media. I can count on one hand how many health librarians are on Twitter. My esteemed colleague and immediate past president of the LAI is equally invisible on Twitter. I found a Philip Cohen intern but I don’t think that was you. There is no excuse left in the book for librarians to remain invisible on Twitter, believe me I have heard them all.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT… STAFFLESS LIBRARIES. Let’s be clear that a library without any visible staff is a reading room. Equally a digital library without any visible librarians is just a gateway. The link is not being made in the general public or among the majority of library users/non-users about what it is that librarians do and the library – be it physical or digital. Our skills are largely un-communicated, misunderstood and invisible. We need new service models where the visibility of staff and staff skills are clear for all to see and to understand. It is not just our skills but our values and we need a revolutionary act to start communicating what these are.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT... MARKETING. Why we continue to market the library over the librarian is beyond me.  Certainly in the case of public libraries I can see a rationale, but not for other types of libraries. Yes I’m talking about academic libraries, yes I’m talking about special libraries, yes I’m talking about health libraries. The shift in emphasis needs to move from ‘library’ to ‘librarian’ otherwise our profession and the values that we hold high will remain invisible. We need to guide people to the truth through education and empowerment. Information literacy is one of our core skills, we need to start telling people this is what we are about. The ALA defines IL as “The ability to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." This is where we add value, this is part of our social responsibility, this is most likely one of the reasons we became librarians in the first place. If people don’t know about what it is that we do, if they can’t see it, they won’t value it. And we want people to value the truth don’t we? And we want people to value librarians, don’t we? 

Michael Moore who brought us the film ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ said ‘I didn’t realize librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group. They are subversive.  You think they’re just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything.  They’re like plotting the revolution, man”.

Our revolution is to hold our values high, to take part in revolutionary acts, in this time of deceit and to rebel against untruths and most important of all, to be visible. 

We need to market our skills, talk about our value, become highly visible and defend the truth.  We must empower people with the skills to critically appraise information and give them the confidence not to believe everything that they read.

We have heard about grey areas, but the truth is not grey.  It can be ugly and it can be beautiful, but it is never grey.  The truth illuminates, the truth is worth defending and upholding.  As librarians we have a unique position in society to speak the truth, to uphold the truth, to defend the truth and ultimately to control the story.