Being a better-informed citizen is knowing how to assess the information you see.
Library & Information Officer, Aude Charillon discusses the fake and false news around COVID-19 and how thinking like a librarian can help you find accurate facts.
Your local library staff are information professionals. We enjoy pointing you to your next read or assisting you on a computer, but we’re just as happy to help you find an answer to your question and point you to the information you need. We don’t want you to find just any random piece of information: we have the skills to help you find the right one, the one that’s accurate and comes from a reliable, authoritative source.
Fake news, ‘alternative facts’ or misinformation – call it what you like, – is not a new problem. But since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, misinformation has taken on another aspect: it can be directly harmful to your health. And there is plenty of Covid-related fake news around – with some, err, ‘going viral' (sorry!)
I’ve been publishing some tips on social media to help you be a better-informed citizen, especially when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak. Do follow Newcastle Libraries on Twitter or Facebook for future tips.
Think like a librarian
Part of being a better-informed citizen is knowing how to assess the information you see. If I wasn’t afraid of putting the tune of Walk like an Egyptian in your head, I’d call it: “think like a librarian” (… oops!) To me, it simply means being smart when you encounter information: look at it critically, question it. It’s tiring to do this all the time, but it’s worth keeping the method in mind when you see something that makes you react strongly.
There are many guides explaining how to assess information. Here are two of my favourites:
- IFLA’s quick How to spot fake news (pictured below);
- Full Fact’s more detailed How you can fact check claims about the new coronavirus.
IFLA is the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions – that's a bit of a mouthful, but here it basically means their guide was approved by librarians.
Full Fact is a UK-based independent fact-checking charity. I'd recommend following them on social media to read about the latest stories they fact-checked. You can also search their website to read their assessment of information you’ve come came across.
It’s often easier to get your information straight from a source that has authority and credibility for the topic. When it comes to Covid-19, here is where to find answers to some of your questions.Use authoritative sources
- What are the Covid-19 symptoms and what should you do if you have them? Check the NHS pages - health professionals have authority when it comes to our health! The pages have been extended over the past few weeks, and now include advice on self-isolation and information about coronavirus in children.
- What are the government’s rules for staying at home? If it was decided by the government, the place to look for the official information is the GOV.UK website. There is a summary page for all Covid-19 information and for this specific question a "what you can and can’t do” FAQ.
- What is the number of confirmed cases in your area? Public Health England, the national health agency, keeps track of confirmed cases in each local authority on their regularly updated data dashboard.
And that’s quite enough information for now... How did it make you feel? Do you trust the source? What’s our goal with this article? ;-)
Did you know?
Aude is a curious librarian. - she Tweets about library and book-related things, intellectual property, digital literacy, open data, privacy, online rights.
"We don’t want you to find just any random piece of information: we have the skills to help you find the right one, the one that’s accurate and comes from a reliable, authoritative source".