#EarthDay and #libraries – what the what?

Traditionally, Earth Day has been about recycling, conserving water, biking and walking instead of driving, and picking up litter. In this new era, that simply won’t suffice. Today, I want to talk about the significance of librarians and libraries to Earth Day.

If you believe in alternative facts and do not find fake news to be fake at all (or a real issue) then this post is for YOU. And there are a lot of people who believe fake news. Check out this infographic from Statista, a credibleresearch and statistics database.  On the left you will find fake headlines, and real headlines on the right. Beneath the headline is the number of people who remember seeing the headline and believed it to be very or somewhat accurate. What this says to me is that people are believing nearly everything they read! This is dangerous!

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I don’t condemn these individuals, rather, I think more education is needed. Somewhere along the line, the ball has been dropped in teaching individuals how to evaluate sources.

But since this is an Earth Day post, let’s talk about the scientific method, a tried and true method for evaluation. There are six steps in the SM.

  1. Observation – What is occuring? What do you see? Are you interested in discovering more? What is happening?
  2. Question –  Create a question you can use in your experiment. Why is this happening?
  3. Hypothesis – This is where you suggest an answer to your question based on your observations. I think this is happening because…
  4. Experiment – This is where you test your hypothesis (an educated guess). It’s not just ONE experiement, but rather a series, and the data from each will help you in Step 5. I will test my hypothesis.
  5. Analysis – In this step you will review your data from your series of experiments.
  6. Conclusion – What did you discover from your experiments? 

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Of course, facts don’t come from one scientist employing the SM. At first theories are developed based on tests using the SM. Remember theories, laws, etc. from school?

When multiple scientists have conducted the same experiment and receive the same result, we generally consider that knowledge as fact. Why? Because it has been tried several times and there is evidence of the truth. So does that mean if you read that a study concluded XYZ to be factual I can share that information as truth? NO! Let me give you a famous example:

We are all aware of the on-going vaccine debates. Many individuals believe that vaccines cause autism but there isn’t any actual evidence. But what about that study? In 1998, a study was conducted by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that showed a significant link between autism and vaccines. The report spread like wildfires and is still spreading today. But it was wrong. In 2011, the British Medical Journal conducted an investigation that discovered Wakefield deceived the public and damaged public health. Wakefield’s study was full of errors, admitted errors. Furthermore, it’s been reported that Wakefield was not honest in the medical history of his patients. And finally, no other studies have come to the same conclusion as Wakefield. As a result of his misinformation and individuals not following proper information evaluation, vaccines administered against measles, mumps, and rubella dropped. And sure enough, diseases that were nearly eradicated reemerged a few years ago, most notably at Disney Land in California.

So how does one evaluate information? In this digital age it involves a few clicks of your mouse and keyboard! Let me give you a few infographics! The first one has been shared by libraries everywhere and is concise. The second gives you more information!

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If you are unsure if something is trustworthy, you can always seek out a librarian. We can help you come to that conclusion. In fact, many of us are actively involved with universities and the public to help fight the spread of misinformation (also known as fake news and alternative facts). Which brings me to my next point: why libraries matter in this fight against misinformation and fight for science.

In addition to teaching individuals how to evaluate information, we also provide access to that information for many who do not otherwise have the means. Local and university libraries spend millions of dollars on research databases, online news subscriptions, books, magazines, and films. We can help students and the public locate quality information! Check out what your libraries are up to, now.

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On this Earth Day, I implore you to read, research, cross-check, and question what you see on the internet, TV, and in newspapers.

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