Librarians: The Disinformation Antidote

One of the things I’ve always loved about the library is the validity of the resources. If I’m doing research and I find something through the library, I know it can be trusted. This doesn’t mean I agree with the findings, or that it’s the best thing out there, but it has a certain level of credibility. Libraries, and particularly librarians, are in the business of verifying the trustworthiness and quality of materials before they get added to the collection. This includes practices like developing criteria, vetting resources, and making sure items remain current and relevant as information changes.

Libraries, especially public ones, are amazing resources. I worked at a public library for about a year when I first became a librarian. My role as an “auxiliary librarian” presented me with the opportunity to work in branches all over the city. Basically I covered shifts for full-time librarians who were out. The wealth and variety of the collection, or how each branch tailored its resources to the patrons, constantly amazed me.

For example, a patron came to me once with an imitation of a signature he had found on a painting purchased at a garage sale. He wanted to know if the artist was famous. To my surprise, the library had a book of famous artist signatures exactly for this purpose. We weren’t able to match the chicken scratch he brought in, despite our efforts. But still, a book with famous artist signatures! I suppose now one could take a picture of the signature and use Google Lens to find a match. However, sometimes these things take a human eye to discern.

The Disinformation Antidote

Back to the main point, librarians are the perfect resource to combat the “infodemic.” Or any of the disinformation (and misinformation) spreading around digitally. Librarians are real information professionals. Our education includes methods for verifying and validating trustworthy resources. Many librarians are expert researchers and fact checkers.

How would this solution work? It’s not straightforward, especially considering how easily disinformation and misinformation goes viral. Facts are not always sensational, but during a pandemic, when information changes rapidly, it’s critical to get it right. One possible solution is for credible agencies to hire librarians to help with research and dissemination of accurate information. Get them posting the real stuff to drown out the noise of the infodemic.

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