Saturday, April 14, 2018 How Libraries Are Reinventing Themselves To Fight Fake News

By Ryan Holmes
April 10, 2018

When I was in grade five, the librarian at my school saw my passion for tech and encouraged me to enter a district-wide programming contest. Against the odds, I took home top prize, an Apple IIc personal computer—an unbelievable luxury for a kid in the mid ‘80s. It was a turning point for me and the start of a lifelong love of tech, all stemming from that encouragement from my librarian.

April 10th marks National Library Workers Day, a holiday set aside during National Library Week to recognize people like my elementary school librarian, Mr. Adamson. I know what you’re thinking—in an age when you can look anything up on Google, have librarians gone the way of pay phones, fax machines and encyclopedia sets? A recent article in USA Today went so far as to assert that librarians will be extinct by 2030. I sincerely hope not.

The reality is that being a librarian goes well beyond checking out books. One of the most important parts of the job is teaching information literacy. The American Library Association defines information literacy as the ability to “locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information.” Yes, this sounds dry. But in today’s age of fake news, knowing where to turn for reliable data—and being able to distinguish between objective and biased sources—might just be one of the most important skills of our time. It’s also one that’s sorely lacking.

The high price of information overload

The online revolution of the last 20 years has made our lives better in countless ways. But it has inundated us with information as never before. We’re flooded with news and commentary every time we look at our phones—much of it algorithmically slanted to confirm our existing biases. Without a critical framework to evaluate the reliability of all this information and to assess its underlying agenda, it’s easy to get disoriented and to reach mistaken, even dangerous conclusions.

I’m acutely aware of this coming from the social media world. A majority of US adults now get their news in real time from social media feeds, according to The Pew Research Center. The challenge is, of course, that these are largely uncurated spaces. There’s no gatekeeper on Facebook or Twitter vetting what shows up on your news feed for accuracy or objectivity. What you see is dictated largely by what your connections have clicked on and engaged with or who has paid to put an ad in your stream. It’s becoming little different with television and newspaper news media, many of which have abandoned their once objective platforms to support their own bias.

In the absence of a critical eye, falsehoods can, and do, thrive. And the consequences are very real. During the 2016 U.S. election cycle, Russian specialists spread slanted and patently false stories via hundreds of social media accounts, all in an effort to undermine the democratic process. By many accounts, they succeeded. And this is unlikely to be an isolated incident. The use of bots, trolls and paid ads to deliberately disseminate misinformation has become a new reality. 

Fighting back with information literacy

Part of our response to this challenge has to be technological—more robust algorithms and smarter tools to sniff out manipulation. Part of the responsibility rests with the social networks themselves to better police their content, partners and advertisers. But, for now and for the foreseeable future, solving this problem depends in large part on boosting our own media savvy. And that’s where the discussion turns back to librarians and the role of information literacy. 

To date, some of the best, grassroots responses to the tide of fake and misleading news have come from the library community. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions put together a handy “How To Spot Fake News” infographic, which has been translated into 37 languages and used around the world. Librarians at Indiana University East developed an interactive fake news website, complete with tips on fact-checking and a deconstruction of an article about “hollow earth.” In webinars and slide decks, librarians are fighting back against misinformation.

In the years ahead, it’s not hard to see the role of librarian evolving further. What’s needed—more than just a pamphlet or a set of guidelines—is a sustained, comprehensive effort to train a new generation in media and information literacy for the social media era. This isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s an urgent and ongoing need—something that should be integrated into primary- and secondary-school curriculums everywhere. And librarians—alongside encouraging and inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders—can be at the forefront of this charge.

In some ways, it’s hard to imagine a more important calling right now. I’ll end with a statistic that’s both depressing and a needed call to action. A recent study by the Stanford History Education Group at Stanford University looked at 7,000 college, middle and high school student answers to questions about online information. The study’s conclusion: “Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.” Fewer than 20% of middle school students were even able to distinguish between “sponsored content” and a real news story—let alone assess underlying bias.

In the 1800s, the public library was considered a vital force for strengthening democracy. Today, librarians are poised to play no less critical a role—helping tomorrow’s leaders navigate an ever swelling sea of information, discerning the hard truth from convincing lies. This is a vocation worth celebrating and fighting for. To all the librarians, and to Mr. Adamson in particular, Happy National Library Workers Day.


Friday, April 13, 2018 We will wait and see’ says Vancouver Mayor on policy banning librarians from giving naloxone

By Jeremy Lye and Simon Little
March 20, 2018

Vancouver’s mayor is staying non-committal about the prospect of city library staff using naloxone to reverse overdoses.

The drug has been responsible for saving countless lives amid B.C.’s opioid overdose crisis, however some city staff have been told they are not to administer it.

Librarians have been told instead to call 911 if they find someone they suspect is overdosing — but according to the city, that’s over safety concerns.

On Monday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the “next steps in terms of staff training and policy around naloxone” required further study.

“We will wait and see the outcome of that review,” he said.

Vancouver police and firefighters were some of the first in North America to be equipped with the drug, and Robertson pointed to their specialized training.

“With the rest of city staff, it’s still a process of training and determining exactly… the incidents of overdose are far fewer for those, the rest of city staff,” he said.

“We have quite a few front-line workers on the streets and first responders that obviously are trained for this.”

More than 1,400 people died of suspected drug overdoses in B.C. last year. In January this year, overdoses killed British Columbians at a rate of about four per day.

Vancouver saw the largest proportion of those fatal overdoses, with 33 recorded in the first month of the year.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Kelowna Capital News: Kelowna librarians, city staff, preparing to help in OD crisis

By Kathy Michaels
March 28, 2018

Librarians aren’t the first people who come to mind when discussions about the overdose crisis arise, but they’re among those who have had to adapt to the change it’s created.

Just a year ago there was an overdose in one of the Okanagan Regional Libraries, said Michael Utko, the Okanagan Regional Library’s communications manager, and it’s had an effect.

“The situation was handled well, but the potential for a death was there,” said Utko, adding that it, plus the stories from libraries in high drug traffic cities around North America, have sparked change.

“While we don’t have anything finalized, equipping staff with naloxone kits to help with overdoses and other incidents is being considered…It’s not going to be mandated, but if we do it, it will be person to person, librarian to librarian ”

Kelowna’s library won’t be the first place to implement such training measures.

In larger high drug traffic cities librarians have become unlikely frontline workers in the opioid crisis, roaming from bathrooms to the stacks looking for men or women exhibiting the telltale signs of an overdose—ranging from paleness and shortness of breath to unconsciousness.

The reason for this unlikely scenario is simply that libraries are open to the public and welcome people of all walks.

The job of bylaw officers has shifted for a similar reason.

Lance Kayfish, risk manager for the City of Kelowna said that all their bylaw services staff have had the training to administer the life saving substance—though it’s also not mandated training.

“We started having that conversation awhile ago,” Kayfish said. “There is interest by some and there is some concern and apprehension by others, also.”

Some of those who have taken the chance to educate themselves on using the naloxone kits have had the opportunity to put their training to use.

“I do know that we have been administering naloxone on more than one occasion,” said Kayfish.

Kayfish, himself, has taken the training, noting that it’s not as though there isn’t ample access to services in the downtown if he were to come across an overdose—it’s simply a reflection of the times.

Source: Kelowna Capital News

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

CBC: Good news, bad news as libraries remain open but underfunded, say librarians

April 4, 2018

N.L. Library Association says statement by minister on budget day was not expected

A budget announcement that not a single branch of the public libraries would be closed was welcome, albeit surprising, news for Newfoundland and Labrador librarians.

But allocating $11.3 million for the next year means libraries are still underfunded, says Kate Shore, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Library Association.
This was great news to hear that it's officially off the table now.- Kate Shore
"We were not expecting that," Shore said of Education Minister Dale Kirby's announcement that no libraries would close.

At the budget lock-in last week, Kirby said everything would be "status quo" for the province's public libraries. In 2016, the Liberal government announced it would be closing 54 branches.

After public outcry, the province put a hold on that plan in favour of a consultant's review by EY, which was completed in 2017 and recommended some branches close, others be consolidated, and a system of regional boards be put in place to run them.

Kirby said at the 2018 budget announcement that the report was shelved and the operating budget for the provincial libraries would stay the same.

But Shore said that doesn't necessarily take into account the changing costs of library materials.

"When he says status quo, it's back to its pre-2016 budget. But when you take inflation it's not really any kind of increase and you can see that we're definitely still in need of more money," she told CBC's On The Go.

For example, Shore pointed to the fluctuating American exchange rate.

"We buy books, that's one of the things that happens with operating budgets, and if you're talking about major change, books are gonna be more expensive so it means less bang for your buck, really," she said.

"Luckily we no longer have the 10 per cent extra tax on books, so that's one of the greatest things that did come out this year. But those kinds of things really do take a toll on the budget, where that money could be appropriated in other places."

Librarians Not Only Ones Surprised

Despite Kirby calling library closures a "dead issue," Shore said none of the librarians and library staff she's spoken to, herself included, knew about this announcement in advance.

"I don't think that message actually really was out there because the message last year after it (the report) came out was they kept saying, we'll wait until the review to see what happens," Shore said.

"We assumed that those kind of changes would take over a gradual amount of time, because it does take planning, so we just assumed, OK, well, we're gonna hear more. But we never did."

CBC News has asked Kirby's department for comment.

Shore and the Newfoundland and Labrador Libraries Association weren't the only ones surprised by Kirby's announcement.

The Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador in a release last week said things were "ominously quiet" after the EY review was done.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees' Dawn Lahey said in a release that it was wonderful news to hear no branches would close, but added "members have been working in a very difficult situation, wondering every day whether or not they will have a job tomorrow."

"It's unfortunate that it took so long for the government to make it clear that they are committed to library services for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador," Lahey said in a release.

All of those groups were, however, happy with the announcement overall.

"It was great to hear officially that the 54 libraries are not gonna be closed," said Shore, who feels it will eliminate uncertainty for library workers and patrons.

"This was great news to hear that it's officially off the table now."


Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Star: DIY dudes are crafting a cultural shift

Brandie Weikle talks to a growing cohort of men — dads included — who are embracing handicrafts such as knitting, sewing and cross-stitch. 


March 22nd, 2018
By: Brandie Weikle

Shawn Cantelon picked up knitting about five years ago. His wife, a skilled, longtime knitter, would always have a project on the go while the couple watched television together.

“One day I just said, ‘Teach me to do this. I want to see if I can knit a row.’ By the end of the row I was addicted,” said the Toronto dad of two, including a 10-year-old son who has just begun to knit himself. Since then he’s completed about 15 projects including sweaters, stuffed animals, hats and a felted bag for his mother.

The meditative aspects of the craft — knitting’s much-loved way of bringing quiet to the mind — are what got him hooked, Cantelon said. “It’s this repetitive motion that’s almost like, if you’re religious, doing the rosary.”

Plus, it makes him feel productive during downtime. “Now if I just sit and watch television it’s a waste of time. Whereas if I’m making a sweater, it’s a great use of time.”

Cantelon is part of growing cohort of men — dads included — who are embracing handicrafts such as knitting, sewing and cross-stitch that, at least in recent times, our culture has considered the domain of women. Witness a men’s knitting magazine, men’s knitting groups, images of bearded dudes knitting on Instagram, all helping to counter limiting stereotypes about what is and isn’t a “typical” male pastime and to demonstrate broader definitions of masculinity for their sons.
Interestingly, knitting has a storied history dominated by men. While accounts vary, many believe it originated in Egypt in the 11th Century. Guilds of male knitters found employment in Europe until the industrial era mechanized production, and the handicrafts became a hobby mostly practised by women.

The handicrafting industry folk I spoke to for this story say there are a few different factors influencing a recent increase in interest from men. In addition to the stress-relieving aspect, it’s connected to the broader “maker movement,” a trend that’s made all things do-it-yourself popular again. This is in part an antidote to our tech-connected lives where few of us produce anything more than a lot of email over the course of a day, but also out of increased interest in self-sufficiency.

Additionally, we’ve come to understand the impact of fast-fashion in recent years, which is helping us to place greater value on having fewer, well-made items that will last, rather than a lot of disposable stuff to wear. Finally, men are simply pushing back against traditional gender norms.

Cantelon, who has been knitting since his son was 5, says “it’s as commonplace that his dad knits as it is that he plays hockey.”

Yet Cantelon says he’s observed something interesting in his own approach to his knitting pastime. “I’m still a closeted knitter. I wouldn’t go to a cafĂ© and knit and I wouldn’t do it on the subway. I find that strange because I consider myself a feminist. I think it’s stupid that I feel this way, but it’s there and I can’t deny it.” (Cantelon was OK with being “outed” as a knitter in this column.)

But in Ottawa, therapist Matthew Rippeyoung — a single dad to two teen boys — is a proud public knitter. His experience knitting in shared spaces has been nothing but positive, he says.

“In public it’s a great filter. People who are going to be hateful are not going to come up to the guy who is knitting,” says Rippeyoung, who has a track-record of confronting social norms. Though now divorced, he and his former wife combined their last names when they got married.

Rippeyoung started knitting about a decade ago as a way to connect with his then mother-in-law, and later even joined one of those old-school knitting and sewing circles known as a “stitch and b----.”

“I was the only man and it was mostly my wife’s friends, but problems got solved, let me tell you.” Much in the same way kids will talk more freely in the car while they can avoid eye contact, he says, it’s a little safer to open up about some of the trickier stuff when everyone’s gaze is on a pair of knitting needles.

Mike Reynolds took up cross-stitch in January after making a New Year’s resolution to learn something new. Reynolds, an Ottawa dad who blogs about raising girls and attends a women’s and gender studies program in his spare time, had noticed that a lot of feminist art he admired was created in the cross-stitch community.

Armed with a feminist pattern book given to him by his wife, he got started stitching figures of iconic women and girls. “The first one I did was a Michelle Obama piece. It took me a long time but it only took 30 minutes for me to realize that I’d become obsessed with it.”

Today Reynolds is stitching one little pixilated person per day, ranging from Anne of Green Gables to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and from Marie Curie to Black Panther characters Shuri and Okoye. For him the practice of cross-stitching in restaurants or the curling rink is intentional.

“When I started to cross-stitch I didn’t want to hide away in my bedroom and not let anyone know that I was doing it,” he said. “I wanted to make sure to show that this is part of my masculinity and I don’t feel less like a man because I do it.”

Reynolds thinks the trend toward men embracing handicrafts is a sign of more liberal thinking.
“I’m hopeful that these kinds of things are happening more because people are realizing how ridiculous that notion is that only person X would do activity Y.

In the 10 years since she opened the Workroom, a studio space where people rent sewing machines, take classes and enjoy shared community around the handicrafts, Karyn Valino says she’s noticed an increased interest in learning to make things, and men are a part of that.

“We do definitely get a fairly good range of men who come to take the classes from various backgrounds,” Valino said. “Some really get into quilting, which is really interesting. One young man took a beginner clothing class because he’s very interested in making clothing for his daughters, which I thought was very sweet.”

Jonathon Leonard, manager of Romni Wools, a Toronto knitting institution that’s been around for four decades, says he’s seen a steady increase in men visiting his family’s two stores. It addition to more tolerant views of acceptable activities for guys, Leonard thinks it’s partly a sign of our connected times.

“The further we go with technology there’s more of an interest in getting back to basics and a distraction from all of that, when you can just focus on knitting for a period of time and not look at your phone or social media.”

He says he’s encouraged by the number of boys picking up knitting through school programs, adding that he thinks there’s “less of a stigma” than there once was.

However, in some environments Leonard does turn a few heads when he takes out his knitting.
“I still get a funny look if I pick up a pair of knitting needles to relieve stress while I’m watching the hockey playoffs at the pub. It’s funny but, especially in crunch time and being a Leafs fan, you need some kind of stress relief.”

Source: The Toronto Star

Friday, March 23, 2018

CBC News: 'Slippery slope': Opposition mounts to Canadian media's plan to block piracy websites

Critics fear the plan could lead to rampant internet censorship


February 18th, 2018
By Sophia Harris

Opposition is mounting to a media coalition's plan to block Canadians from accessing piracy websites. 

Many people fear that the plan — backed by big players such as Bell, Rogers, and CBC — could lead to rampant internet censorship.

"It starts with 'blocking piracy' and ends with corporations blocking information that opposes their goals and viewpoints," wrote Thomas Herr from Barrie, Ont., in a submission to the CRTC on the issue.

He's one of more than 5,000 Canadians who has submitted an opinion on the piracy site blocking plan to the CRTC after the broadcast regulator invited comments.

Many submissions express deep concern about the proposal.

"The start of a slippery slope," wrote Charlotte Bush from Richmond Hill, Ont. 

"Abuse of the system is inevitable," said Renaud Bissonnette from Laval, Que.  

The submissions started flowing in after the coalition of more than 30 members — including media companies, unions and creative industry associations — submitted their request to the CRTC on Jan. 28. 

They propose that the CRTC create an independent agency to identify blatant piracy websites that internet providers would then be required to block their customers from accessing.

The coalition, which calls itself FairPlay, says Canada needs to take action to stop the scourge of piracy sites that are threatening the country's cultural industries.

But many Canadians fear FairPlay's plan threatens the concept of a free and open internet.
"People are scared," said Laura Tribe with Vancouver-based consumer advocacy group, Open Media.

The organization has posted its own online page where Canadians can add their name to a submission Open Media will send to the CRTC opposing FairPlay's plan.

More than 16,000 people have signed on so far.

"The biggest thing that we're seeing is people who are not in any way in favour of piracy, but just concerned about how grossly overreaching this proposal is," said Tribe.

"It opens the door for this to become a lobbying game around what people can and can't see."

Shan Chandrasekar heads up the Asian Television Network (ATN), which is spearheading FairPlay's efforts. He said Canadians need to understand the seriousness of the piracy problem and shouldn't fear the collation's proposal.

"To go after blatant piracy sites is, in our opinion, an extraordinarily simple, common-sense approach," said Chandrasekar, president of ATN, Canada's largest South Asian broadcaster.

He said his company has lost close to $4 million in revenue over the past five years, and he blames the decline on lost subscribers who have turned to piracy.

Chandrasekar says piracy has become a much bigger threat largely due to the recent popularity of Android boxes. When hooked up to a TV, they allow people to easily stream pirated shows and movies from the internet for free.

Many box users are also paying underground operators $15 a month or even less for a subscription to more than 1,000 pirated live channels from around the world.

"It's no longer a program that's being pirated on YouTube. That doesn't bother us," he said. "The entire 24/7 channels, the linear channels are now pirated."

Chandrasekar said FairPlay's proposal focuses on blocking "only extreme blatant piracy sites" and that the CRTC would ensure that all the rules are followed.

"The CRTC, in my opinion, is an extremely responsible body. They would definitely do their necessary due diligence."

He also said anyone who opposes a blocked site would be able to make their case to the Federal Court of Appeal.

"There is judicial oversight."

But Open Media's Tribe argues the opportunity to contest a blocked site comes only after the decision has been made.

"What they are calling judicial oversight is actually an appeal mechanism well after the fact," she said. "We don't think that's fair."

Tribe also questions the plan's effectiveness because, in the past, when piracy sites have been shut down, new ones pop up in their place.

"It's not hard for people to build a new website," she said.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre will also be making a submission to the CRTC opposing FairPlay's plan. 

Executive director John Lawford suggested a better solution would be to offer what Canadians want: inexpensive, accessible streaming services as opposed to pricey, multi-channel cable packages.

"If that's the new business model that keeps people from pirating, then why not change your business model into that?" he said.

But Chandrasekar argues there's no model that could win over the pirates who are offering content for free or for a minimal cost.

"You cannot compete with the pirates because they have no expenditure," he said. "They are not paying licence fees, they are not paying Canadian wages."

The debate and submissions to the CRTC will likely continue as Canadians have until March 29 to comment.​

Source: CBC News

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Saskatoon StarPhoenix: Rewriting Canada’s memory banks: Archivists ’decolonize’ collections

February 19, 2017
By: Bob Weber

A Government of Canada sign sits in front of a Library and Archives Canada building next to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on November 25, 2014. Reconciliation is rewriting Canada's memory banks as archivists across the country work to make their collections more open to and sensitive towards Indigenous people. Library and Archives Canada is leading the way with a $12-million project to hire Aboriginal archivists to work in First Nations communities and to give more control over materials gathered there to the people who created them. ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Reconciliation is rewriting Canada’s memory banks as archivists across the country work to make their collections more open to and sensitive towards Indigenous people.

Library and Archives Canada is leading the way with a $12-million project to hire Aboriginal archivists to work in First Nations communities and to give more control over materials gathered there to the people who created them.

“It’s huge,” said Camille Callison, Indigenous service librarian at the University of Manitoba.
“It’s like the biggest thing happening right now. A lot of people are making changes.”
Several recommendations in the report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission urged libraries and archives to rethink their work in light of Indigenous people.
“Archives are instruments of bureaucracy, instruments of power,” said Greg Bak, a historian and archivist at the University of Manitoba.
“The archives become one way in which colonial views of relationships tend to be fixed and preserved.”
The national archives, for example, hold reams of residential school records. Few, said Bak, speak of the children who died there.
That institution is hiring seven Indigenous archivists to fan out across the country. They are to find out what materials are held locally and to record fresh oral history, said Johanna Smith, director of public services.
“That is brand-new for (Library and Archives Canada) to do,” she said.
“There’s definitely interest out there. When we talk about this, every time there’s a community that says, ‘Hey, we’ve got a freezer full of tapes that really need help.”‘
Instead of being centralized in Ottawa, materials could remain in their community. So would the copyright — a big shift and a step toward recognizing the concept of “cultural copyright.”
Currently, a recording belongs to the person who made it.
“The rights of that individual who was recorded are not as clear,” Smith said.
“It’s about saying how can we connect those dots a little bit differently to put some agency back in the hands of the individual whose voice was recorded. It’s a community sense of belonging to that object. A community sense of privacy, also.”
Staff are also poring over old records to find those of interest to First Nations.
“Our holdings are vast,” said Smith. “We’re going to do some targeted research and … we’re going to Indigenous archivists to do that research, to identify collections that could be digitized.”
Other projects are also underway.
The Association of Canadian Archivists with 125 institutional members offers a scholarship for Indigenous archivists and has set up a working group to share best practices and to figure out how to best address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
“There’s no manual to follow,” said director Jo-Anne McCutcheon.
“Every community is different. Settler-Indigenous contact happened differently, so it’s complicated.”
Archivists in Manitoba are reworking the old U.S. Library of Congress subject headings, the access points to any collection.
“They call Indigenous spirituality things like shamanism — the really antiquated terms we don’t use any longer,” said Callison.
Edmonton’s city archivists are rewriting catalogue descriptions so they don’t repeat offensive language contained in the documents they refer to.
“It’s growing on an annual basis,” said Raymond Frogner, archivist for the National Truth and Reconciliation Centre in Winnipeg. “It’s definitely gaining a lot of momentum.”
Archives aren’t necessarily neutral, Frogner said. Archivists and those who use them have to work to ensure everyone’s experience is reflected in the stories told
“We are what we choose to remember, but we also are what we choose to forget.”
— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960