Archive for March 6th, 2018

As a librarian, I naturally rely on data that are credible. When answering reference questions, I am loath to give out inaccurate information.

When I hear/read something that doesn’t seem correct, I’ll often ask, “Where did you get that?” More often than not, they’ll say, “I saw it on the Internet.” Or “Facebook” or “Twitter.” But that isn’t the answer to the question. I’m looking for whether they got it from CNN’s website or FOX News’ Facebook page or the New York Times’ Twitter feed. This helps me to ascertain how much credence I should give a report.

Also, since I scan a LOT of news, I start to see trends. A few months back, I read that Kirk Douglas, the actor, died four days shy of his 101st birthday. But I never saw this in ANY source I had actually heard of, such as the Washington Post or Chicago Tribune. Immediately, I went to Snopes.com and discovered it was a death hoax.

This process helps me determine whether the things I read are true. I saw an unattributed graphic that said that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan wanted to raise the Medicare age to 76. I had never heard that before. Sure enough, there was a 2016 story that Ryan wanted to hike the age requirement to 67, which is bad enough, but NOT 76. One’s antipathy for a politician may make the worst news seem plausible, though not necessarily accurate.

A friend of mine, obviously frustrated that she was asked an easily knowable thing, mused, “Doesn’t anyone Google anymore?” Assuredly they do, but it does not mean that it’ll be right. I Googled for the price of a current first-class stamp and the first item I found gave the information for 2015 rather than 2018.

And I won’t even get into malicious disinformation. Or the difference between fact and opinion.

Some people have said to me that being a librarian now must be easier because I have so much information at my fingertips. Others have said that we don’t NEED librarians now because EVERYONE has so much information at their fingertips. Neither of those assertions is true; librarians spend an inordinate amount of time separating the wheat from the chaff.

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