Virtual Privacy Lab from San Jose Public Library

by Jo Flick, Montana State Library

The San Jose Public library created an online toolkit for patrons to explore their own boundaries on maintaining privacy online with tips on how to achieve a the level of privacy that they desire.  The tool kit consists of articles about various virtual privacy issues, from data mining to social media and allows patrons to complete mini self-assessments to lead them to tips on how to limit access to personal information online.

It’s all arranged very neatly into an interactive website.  Check it out here: 

Mining-Labor History

by Micah Gjeltema, Montana Tech

Labor day has come and gone, but if you need ideas for exploring it next year, I wanted to point out a resource that we hold here at the Montana Tech Library. Our Digital Commons repository collects student and faculty scholarship, but it also has a wealth of old newspapers that have been scanned and digitized. The text is all searchable, which may prove useful. If you have individuals curious about labor history in Montana, or the mining activity that was so rich (pun sort of intended) across the state, consider directing them to the Copper Commando archives. The Copper Commando publication was created by the Victory Labor-Management Committee, a joint-effort between representatives of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company and representatives of the various labor unions involved in their operations. The two groups, normally at odds, used this publication to document and promote cooperation in light of the WWII war effort. It’s a fascinating look at the labor history of Montana, and valuable as a window into the past and the more domestic struggles of wartime. There is a Butte emphasis, but other locations in Montana are explored and featured as well. If you need a quick place to start, I recommend taking a look at the 1943 Labor-Management issue. It includes statements from the Governor, War Production Board, various individuals representing the Anaconda Company, and representatives from the spectrum of unions ranging from miners to pipefitters to electricians.


Emotions: Fake News and Fact Checks

by Micah Gjeltema, Montana Tech

Coming out of 2016, I feel as though all I’ve been reading about is the “fake news” of our “post-truth” world as information is processed and opinions are formed based on “feels not reals.” However, as a librarian I’m sure that’s just another bubble I’ve got going on–our students/patrons, for the most part, won’t have devoted as much time to these information literacy crises.

What resources (exercises, videos, examples) do you find helpful for explaining and demonstrating good information literacy habits specifically in the face of willful misinformation intended to be consumed in casual (non-academic) spaces, like social media and conversation?

The obvious challenge is to speak apolitically on the matter, since it’s so thoroughly a political issue at this point. On the flip-side, does anyone have strategies to specifically address politics in regards to information literacy? Tricky waters.

One video I like is “This Video Will Make You Angry.” It was uploaded before the idea of fake news came to prominence, and doesn’t actually focus on news, exactly, instead discussing the idea of ideas as germs and the way that the internet amplifies the effect. It explores the way bubbles form, and how ideas spread more successfully when they’re exaggerated to the extreme that will make the intended audience the most emotional, typically appealing to anger. What we’re really talking about is critical thinking, but I sometimes think students have heard “critical thinking” so often that it’s less meaningful. Talking specifically about the role of emotion when evaluating information seems like a more accessible way to engage students, especially when discussing non-academic contexts. You can also discuss misinformation as those everyday germs that are inevitable and normal, so we wash our hands regularly, and fake news as being germ-warfare or poison–intentional sickening that requires a diligent regimen of vaccines and antidotes.

Another more recent video I found interesting concerned the myth of annual spider-eating. The creator explores the idea that you eat 8 spiders a year in your sleep, which is a commonly debunked fact. However, this scenario reveals the many possible layers of misinformation–the fact is often debunked using language from, which posits that the original “fact” came from an attempt to show how misinformation spreads. But the video creator then explores that information and finds that the citation used to disprove the myth is itself unverifiable and may be a myth itself, suggesting that it may even a meta example of Snopes playfully spreading misinformation about the playful spread of misinformation. Again, the takeaway is to think critically, but also to be aware that fact-checking organizations are not infallible, and are certainly not a substitute for the primary source. You can also highlight “being wrong” vs. “lying.” I do hesitate to wade into “don’t trust anything at all, why even bother” territory, but it is helpful to demonstrate the many layers of misinformation that may exist, and to emphasize the idea that even if you’re using high-confidence information in an argument, you must still concede the 5% chance that you are inaccurate, leaving yourself open to new information and critical thinking rather than doubling down. The follow-up question, of course, is “how much do we trust this video, and what do we do about that?”

In a politically charged climate, even the idea of fake news has become difficult to talk about, when everyone is using the label to undermine the opposing argument without holding their argument to the same standard; because these videos don’t actually use the term “fake news,” that may actually make them more suitable for framing the idea.

What do you think? What examples do you use to discuss these ideas, and do you address the idea of “fake news” at all? How should we, as librarians address politically weaponized misinformation? How does the approach change in a classroom vs. at the reference desk, or with academic vs. public audiences?

Analyzing Images

by Kate Zoellner, University of Montana

I recently came across the article “Want to resist the post-truth age? Learn to analyze photos like an expert would”, written by two communication professors largely in response to the claims by President Trump and Press Secretary Spicer that journalists distorted photographs to understate attendance at Trump’s inauguration. The article made me think of the inclusion of visual and media literacy in both the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education and the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner, and that this is a ripe time to focus on those literacies. The article authors offer recommendations for analyzing images: consider the source; pay attention to aesthetics; ask “what is the narrative of the photo?”; and cross-check information. Our Montana colleagues Megan Stark and Tammy Ravas, in their presentation “I Spy with My Little Eye: An Introduction to Visual Literacy”, indicate that the same evaluative criteria used for print information can be applied to the evaluation of visual images; individuals should consider: bias, authorship/sponsorship, credibility/accuracy, coverage/scope, purpose, timeliness, and reliability/verifiability. The ACRL Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education indicate students should be able to evaluate the effectiveness and reliability of images as visual communications; the aesthetic and technical characteristics of images; textual information accompanying images; and to make judgments about the reliability and accuracy of image sources. And among other performance indicators, students should be able to situate an image in its cultural, social, and historical contexts.

While I recognize the timing is rich for visual and media literacy – and there are plenty of images in the popular and social media to analyze – I haven’t often discussed it in the instruction I provide, aside from with education students in the context of sharing resources for evaluating images in children’s picture books, specifically the portrayal of American Indians (e.g., Evaluating American Indian Materials and Resources for the Classroom). As a librarian would, I did some research and came across a long list of image types (and added some of my own) that I could start from for examples, including: Advertisements, Artwork, Bulletin Boards, Cartoons, Charts, Collages, Comic books, Diagrams, Dioramas, Drawings, DVDs, Graphic Novels, Graphs, Icons, Infographics, Maps, Memes, Multimodal Texts, Pamphlets, Photos, Pictograms, Political cartoons, Signs, Slide shows, Storyboards, Symbols, Tables, Timelines, Videos, Websites. And now that I have this list, I can focus in on the particular images used by the students I teach in the education and health sciences fields so that it is applicable to their work. For example, education association websites, proficiency level charts, medical drawings, counseling professional development videos, and patient pamphlets. My plan is to blend the evaluation of images into the discussion of evaluating textual information.

If you’re more interested in photos and fake news than images generally, check out the article How Photos Fuel the Spread of Fake News which has a few examples you could use in teaching.

Do you teach visual literacy? Do you blend it within information literacy or have separate instruction dedicated to image evaluation? What types of images have engaged your students or library users? Do you think there is an increase in ‘fake’ images with the rise of ‘fake’ news?