29 Sept 2022

The coming together of librarians post Covid - WLIC 2022

Guest post by Aisling Smith. Aisling recently graduated with an MLIS in UCD and is currently working at TU Dublin Tallaght Campus 

When New Zealand found they were unable to hold the 87th World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) in 2020 due to their venue, the New Zealand International Convention Centre in Auckland, being destroyed by fire, Ireland seized its’ opportunity and stepped in to save the day by offering to hold it in the Convention centre in Dublin. As a result of the pandemic, it was delayed until July 2022 and the subsequent return to in-person meetings and networking after an absence of two years, probably made 2022 the best Congress ever and cemented Ireland's place in world librarianship.

Being a volunteer team lead ensured I was kept busy during the Congress, but I endeavored to attend the session entitled “News Literacy: Fighting Mis/Disinformation at your library” in full.  Fake news and misinformation really came to the forefront with the rise of Trumpism and continued to be a major issue during the pandemic with increased dependency on digital resources for communication, information, and learning. Liffey Hall 2 was packed for the session and the presentations and Q&A session was most enlightening. We appear to be in a post-truth society, where beliefs are influenced by emotions and opinions rather than reason. Freedom of information gives freedom to create and disseminate fake news but fake news is a threat when aimed at those who are in a vulnerable situation or unable to think objectively.

We were advised that Nigeria might even have more problems than most due to the proliferation online of dangerous remedies even before Covid-19 such as salt for Ebola and that fake news can spread panic, tension, and fear in populations. In our post-truth era, young people are predominately dependent on social media and other online sources for information so especially vulnerable to fake news and misinformation. Fulton and McGuinness (Ireland) related how they developed a course for training librarians in media literacy to enable them promote media literacy in the community. Rajic from Serbia reminded us that librarians had to be conscious of the sensitivities of users when promoting media literacy, to anticipate anger and upset when serving “as the patrons’ shield” against fake news. Nguyen Thi Kim (Vietnam) reported on research that indicated that the dissemination of fake news or misinformation was reliant on poor digital and media literacy and this view was postulated by all presenters. The ensuing Q&A session included a discussion on tools to teach critical thinking. I learned that the CRAAP test is now deemed only fit for general literacy as opposed to media literacy and might even have a negative impact on students and leave them worse off. The SIFT method introduced by Michael Caulfield was proposed as being most effective especially regarding digital literacy. The importance of agile project management in libraries was highlighted as librarians have had to adapt and use strategies from other professions ever more frequently in recent years especially since Covid.

The importance of informal interactions at such an event cannot be overlooked. IFLA’s mission ( 2019-2024) is to “inspire, enable, engage, connect” and the Congress gave participants a chance to reconnect with others and share experiences and ideas. The poster sessions were an excellent way of promoting one's work and ideas, and one would be hard put to find so many librarians interesting and passionate people in such a small space.  Covid-19 highlighted the importance of libraries to governments and the general public. IFLA's WLIC 2022 gave librarians from all around the world the opportunity to reconnect by discussing important issues, networking and dancing to YMCA at the disco in the Lexicon public library in Dun Laoghaire. Volunteering at WLIC 2022 presented the opportunity to experience the friendliest conference one could attend. To belong to the tribe of librarians means one is consistently in the company of empathetic, altruistic, opportunistic, and optimistic colleagues, this is what made WLIC 2022 such a success and explains why the future is bright for libraries!


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