The American Library Association wants to help you distinguish real news from fake with the help of CRAAP.
By Maddie Crum
March 9, 2017
If you’ve been a student in any capacity since the advent of the internet, you’re probably aware of the stigma around citing online sources in research papers and other academic pursuits.
Teachers and librarians have had to reconcile student interest in online sources ― and the relevancy those sources have to their lives ― with the fact that in the past, sites haven’t been as rigorously fact-checked as published books.
To help students take a clear-eyed approach to internet research, librarians like American Library Association (ALA) president Julie Todaro use a resource called the CRAAP test, created by Meriam Library at CSU at Chico.
A widely used information evaluation system, CRAAP stands for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose. According to the CRAAP test, a 20-year-old article written by a PR firm, for example, would be less valid than a three-year-old statement made by an American president in a published memoir.
But now, due to President Donald Trump’s Twitter comments dismissing legitimate sources of information, including multiple attacks on The New York Times, the ALA is making some changes to the test’s criteria.
“We have standards for assessing news, and we had to go back in and change those,” Todaro told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. “We’re looking at having to flip what we’re talking about, taking a look at how many people said this, where they said it, what the statement was.”
Todaro and her team have worked to develop an update to the CRAAP test, where the “authority” component is more closely considered. “We have to talk about authority today and we have to have them not make the authority decision without the set of other facts like accuracy and currency,” she told Texas Standard.
“We talk differently about authority [now],” Todaro reiterated to HuffPost. “And we talk about credentials in a different way. We talk about going beyond a title that someone has.”
The CRAAP test is often applied to scientific or historical information, Todaro said, citing erroneous claims about the nonexistence of global warming or the Holocaust as examples of CRAAP-tested statements.
Tweaking the CRAAP test is just one way librarians are pivoting to meet the needs of citizens under Trump’s administration. In addition to helping readers access books, librarians are flexing their roles as community organizers and distributors of accurate information on immigration, trans rights and other issues, which Todaro describes as civil rights issues.
“Libraries aren’t partisan organizations. So it doesn’t matter how you voted, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. We can provide resources and services for everyone,” Todaro said. “We’re having to, sadly, take another look at the standard credibility that you and I, and children and adults everywhere, have taken for granted for years. That’s no longer there.”
Editorial note: The Toronto Public Library has created a "How to Spot Fake News" in a Canadian-context.