By Sarah Kresberg
Library Director, The Allen-Stevenson School
On Wednesday, May 5th, HVLA members gathered at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn for our spring meeting, a panel discussion entitled Librarians: Critical Thinkers in Critical Times.
After a warm welcome from Vince Thompkins, Head of School, Hannah Ehrlich from Lee & Low Books, introduced our panel. Our participants were Kate Angell, Assistant Professor and First Year Success Librarian at the Brooklyn Campus Library of Long Island University, Victoria Law a freelance journalist, and the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women, and Lydia Willoughby a Research and Education Librarian at the Sojourner Truth Library at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
Our moderator, Hannah, asked a series of thought provoking questions that brought forth a range of interesting ideas and resources. The discussion was fast-paced so I cannot offer a comprehensive overview but here are some of my takeaways. This is a combination of ideas from both the panelists and the audience.
- As librarians we have a responsibility to source and share less accessible documents
- Our students need to become familiar with the term News Literacy and understand why it is important
- We should teach students to try to get news directly from the source, for example by following a reporter on Twitter, track a news story through the course of a day and use a number of different sources
- Teaming with classroom teachers we can break down and explain the parts of the newspaper and teach students how to recognize native advertising
- When it comes to teaching advocacy the advice is to start when children are still very young and to help them to understand issues by putting it in terms of that child’s world; the trick is to find age-appropriate resources
- Librarians can encourage students to become politically active, call members of the city council, run for office at school, start a chapter of an organization such as a GSA; this helps them to apply classroom knowledge to the world
- We can bring in or Skype with activists, especially those whose work pertains to the curriculum; they are a strong role model and can help us to build empathy
- Librarians can set up a letter writing station to make it easy for students to reach out to representatives
- We can help students to notice the things in their own lives that are under threat and also help them to imagine what it is like for others who don’t have those things at all
- College students have more power than they might think since they are the very reason that colleges exist
- When setting up a protest, a poster creation session helps to bond people around the issue as does distributing flyers
- Zines are another way that students can communicate issues they feel strongly about; schools can set up zine electives or circulate zine kits
- Schools as a whole can recognize and act as one when a situation demands it, for example the school that asked all the students to wear a hoodie in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death
- Libraries themselves are a form of activism since they give access to resources such as the Internet and information that is vital like food stamps, job opportunities etc.
- Not having access to the Internet is an issue but so is not having a fast enough connection
- Libraries can play a role in teaching adults computer skills because many people are only used to using mobile devices and it is particularly hard for ex-prisoners to adapt to computers
- We need to teach students that they have a right to be protected online and a right to privacy although this is hard when many schools have parents fill out a blanket agreement giving consent to the school to post photos
- Some public libraries are using Tor browser which is free software that prevents others from learning your location or browsing habits
- Students should understand that they have the right to not be online and that it is a good thing to exchange ideas in real life
- If you are worried that you may be overstepping in your advocacy work, always look to your mission statement
- Vague language can be very helpful so that we avoid steering children politically, for example wording like “free people read freely” can be interpreted in a number of ways
- Students need to be taught that their identity has valuable, both to themselves and others who would like to profit from them
Digital Resource Center: Center for News Literacy from Stonybrook
Lots of up-to-date materials for teaching news literacy.
How to Choose Your News Ted Talk by Damon Brown
The inside scoop on how opinions, facts and false facts make it into the news and how to tell them apart.
How to Teach High School Students to Recognize Fake News
Article in Slate magazine about media literacy lessons.
I Taught My Fifth Graders How to Spot Fake News
Article by Scott Bedley on Vox
5 Ways Teachers are Fighting Fake News
Profile of Scott Bedley’s work on NPR
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
An anti-encryption browser.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
A non-profit organization that defends digital privacy, free speech and innovation
FemTechNet is a network of scholars, students, and artists who work with technology, science, and feminism in a variety of fields including Science and Technology Studies (STS), Media and Visual Studies, Art, Women’s, Queer, and Ethnic Studies
Points of View Reference Center
Opposing Viewpoints in Context
Free Bresha Meadows
Website supporting incarcerated 14 year-old who defended herself against an abusive father and featuring book drives for incarcerated women and girls.
Many thanks to the crew at Saint Ann’s, Ragan, Denise, Rebecca, Hannah and Nan, for hosting us and providing delicious snacks and much needed support to HVLA.