Examining Media in Libraries
Information comes in many forms of media, and the medium is often the message. In other words, the way in which a message is delivered is just as important as its content. From the packaging standpoint, communications standards are upheld by organizations such as the FCC that dictate what can and cannot be said or shown on radio, television, etc. However, as those who follow various news programs know, a lot of bias can still get through while still conforming to these standards and practices. After all, it's not always what you say but how you say it that gets the most attention, as evidenced by several pundits. Because librarians are gatekeepers of information, this is something they should be aware of and ought to be included in their training.
This is not to insist that librarians should be all-knowing - indeed, no one is. The basic premise of being a librarian is not to know everything but where to find it. Sources, especially online sources linked to on a library's home page, are vetted at the time someone makes the decision to include them in the collection. The issue comes up again when helping someone find information they need, judging whether or not a source is helpful, relevant, or covers specific questions the person may have. Understanding of the material is required to some extent on both parts - the patron looking for a reliable source of information and the librarian helping them to find it. This process is sometimes departmentalized, especially in large libraries that have vast collections on many topics requiring at least one specialist per area.
Just as it is important to teach students what to look for in valid resources on the web, librarians should have some idea what is in their collections and know that the information therein is sound. Most education-friendly sources supplied for student use may strive for neutrality, presenting information in a non-biased format. Other series, such as Point-Counterpoint, include political slants and present them in a balanced fashion. Those in charge of collection development would most likely take the all-inclusive route and provide their patrons with the most diverse and complete store of information in a given field as is necessary and manageable. Many librarians and educators are not fans of book-banning, but they do have standards and select better-quality resources. Sources with hidden agendas should be kept to a minimum or identified and explained outright. Thankfully, most genres other than history and politics have this problem of which to be wary. Wise librarians - and readers - take note.
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