Common Knowledge was pleased to partner with the Pacific Library Partnership (PLP) to help design the recently launched News Literacy Toolkit with resources for librarians as well as the community at large. The array of free materials was developed with a multi-level “community-driven design” approach that began with a survey and regional forum of library leaders and journalists, followed by research and workshops with patrons. A working group of media-savvy Bay Area librarians developed and curated materials to be used and adapted to meet each library’s needs.

The media landscape has changed dramatically over the past ten years. The Pew Research Center reports that about two-thirds of American adults get at least some of their news on social media.  While many of these social media users have concerns about accuracy, the primary reason cited is convenience. As has been covered widely, the social media arena has been plagued with “fake news.”  At the same time, libraries top the list of institutions that provide information that people trust a lot.

Source:  April 2018 PLA Presentation by Lee Raines at Pew Research Center

Our work with the PLP, a network of 46 Bay Area library systems, was to investigate how best to help librarians support their patrons in the current media environment. Input from diverse patrons indicated the following:

  • There is more interest in “finding quality news” than in how to deal with “fake news.” Patrons using TV, radio, print, as well as social media are experiencing challenges with the current media landscape
  • They are unhappy with the 24-7 news model of chasing breaking developments without going deeper into the issues
  • There is frustration with slanted sources and partisan political focus
  • They feel overwhelmed with the proliferation of sources and want help choosing a few to rely on:
    “There’s an explosion of sources. The volume!”
    “The news is coming at you 24/7. It’s always with you. You don’t get a break.”
    “It’s all a big maze and nobody has a magic wand”
  • The library was not top of mind as a resource for navigating this challenging media landscape yet it was seen as reliable. Many patrons were not aware that their library offered easy links and free subscriptions to a variety of news sources.

In response to this input from patrons plus the experience of librarians, the PLP News Literacy team focused the toolkit on  five key media literacy concepts (explained in depth in the Toolkit Content section):

  • The changing media environment
  • Fact vs. opinion and “fake news”
  • Evaluating information and verifying claims
  • Exploring bias (including your own)
  • The role of social media

The election is over.  Before the next campaign cycle begins, It’s the perfect time to increase awareness of the kinds of quality news resources available at local libraries.  Please visit the toolkit, share it with others and give us your feedback.