Mansfield Public Library combating fake news as part of Digital Literacy Initiative

The Mansfield Public Library is combatting "fake news" with the Digital Literacy Initiative.(Photo via  http://mansfieldadvocatesforchildren.org )

The Mansfield Public Library is combatting "fake news" with the Digital Literacy Initiative.(Photo via http://mansfieldadvocatesforchildren.org)

The Mansfield Public Library is educating the public on how to detect “fake news” as part of its year-long townwide Digital Literacy Initiative.

As part of this initiative, the library wants to teach people how to detect online information that is accurate and that is not, which its website says can be challenging in the age of the internet.

“The internet has allowed us to access more information than we could at any other point in human history, but it also has allowed anyone with web access to post information, regardless of whether it is true (intentionally or not),” the website says. “In addition, the ease of spreading information has compounded the problem.”

The library posted a set of guidelines to help individuals determine the credibility of the things they are reading as part of the initiative.

“The most important thing you can do is actively think about what you are reading. Think about the five Ws: who, what, where, when and why,” the website says. “These words should guide you when you read pieces of information, whether it is on a news website, Facebook/Twitter or a paper newspaper.”

When reading something online, one should look at things like an article’s source, its author and what his/her credentials are and the biases of the news outlet from which it was found, according to the website.

Emily Tinnel, School Outreach Librarian at the Mansfield Public Library, said the “fake news” component of its Digital Literacy Initiative stems from the role of libraries as public institutions where citizens can go to find information.

“One role of librarians is to evaluate resources to make sure we are providing access to accurate and reliable information,” Tinnel said. “But we can only do that for information we put within our own collections. Since the internet provides people with so many sources of information, we want to help the public learn the same strategies that we use to evaluate information.”

Helping the public better detect “fake news” is only one component of the library’s Digital Literacy Initiative, which Tinnel said is not aiming to tell people what they should do, but rather aims to provide information to help people make digital technology choices that will help them.

“The initiative hopes to address topics that are pertinent to our citizens at all stages of their lives, from helping parents find information about screen time, bullying and other issues relating to the effects of technology on child development, to coordinating with schools where students are learning about digital citizenship and internet safety, to working with adults and seniors who may be late adopters of technologies to see how best to fit technology into their lives,” Tinnel said.

Tinnel said as part of the initiative, the library is planning events on “topics of interest.” and hopes to work with the University of Connecticut and other community organizations on them. The library currently has a page on their website where they are curating information on those topics of interest, Tinnel said.

“We hope to be responsive to the needs of the community as different topics become timely,” Tinnel said.


Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.