Tag Archives: media literary

World Press Freedom Day: Libraries Supporting Intellectual Freedom during the Pandemic and Beyond

May 3rd marks the annual World Press Freedom Day, and this year’s dedicated campaign launched by UNESCO focuses on the theme “journalism without fear or favour”. This day puts the spotlight on challenges to press freedom and independence, safety of journalists, and gender equality in media. For libraries, these issues are of course deeply connected to their core mission and values of access to information and intellectual freedom.

Where does news media stand in 2020?

On World Press Freedom Day 2020, journalism and news media are facing new and remerging challenges, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. A recent statement by the Council of Europe, for example, highlights that some legislative initiatives against disinformation can have significant and disproportionate impacts on press freedom and people’s right to receive information. The International Press Institute points out the different challenges that have emerged or intensified: from increasing restrictions on ‘fake’ news, to limits on journalists’ access to information, financial or accreditation challenges, and more.

On a larger scale, the newly released 2020 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) highlights the key pressures that impact the future of free, independent and diverse journalism. These include: geopolitical and economic crises, the evolution of digital informational ecosystems where journalism and advertising, political, economic and editorial materials coexist and compete, and hostility and mistrust towards journalists.

The good news is that the overall global indicator does register a small overall improvement of press freedom in the world since last year. That being said, the RWB report emphasises that the coming decade will have a profound impact on the future of freedom of information and media.

What is the role of libraries?

Naturally, there is a significant degree of affinity between journalistic and library values – as a 2019 Nieman Foundation Report points out, both fundamentally work to inform and empower communities. This can work as a powerful starting point for collaboration – so can libraries help address some of the key challenges the RWB report outlined?

The economic crisis: hybrid models and partnerships

One of the big impacts of the economic crisis in news media is arguably the financial sustainability challenges that local news faces. One possible solution to this challenge that is being discussed over the last few years is providing support to local newsrooms, for example by providing space in such public facilities as libraries or post offices – or even libraries delivering local news directly.

While this is still an emerging idea, libraries and local news organisations continue to explore ways to cooperate. Some collaborations are a continuous arrangement – like a grassroots local online news organisation NOWCastSA housed inside the San Antonio’s Central Library in the United States. As a Nieman report points out, this partnership also allowed them to team up and carry out joint events, and to highlight some of the library’s programming in NOWCastSA’s reporting.

Some initiatives have even evolved to adapt to the difficult COVID situation. For example, in New York, an independent news outlet THE CITY launched a joint project with the Brooklyn Public Library called “The Open Newsroom”. Already in 2019, they had started hosted public meetings in library branches to identify key neighbourhood concerns and see how the local news can be more collaborative and better serve the needs of the community. Now, in the face of the pandemic, the plans for a second round of meetings have been adjusted, and the public meetings will be organised filly online, allowing the project to continue!

Tackling the crisis of trust and technology

If a lack of trust and confidence in news and media – especially in the hyper-dense online environment – is one of the pressing challenges to journalism, media literacy can definitely be an important part of the solution.

A draft Council of Europe study on “Supporting Quality Journalism through Media and Information Literacy” identified five main models of MIL activities; and libraries and community media play a key role in the “training model”. Reports drawing on Swedish and Finnish approaches to MIL, for example, also show how libraries can be actively engaged in delivering MIL training to their communities.

Partnerships in the area are also common: for example, NewsGuard – a company developing “nutritional labels” for popular news sites to mark how correct the information is – has a partnership program for libraries in Europe and the US.

Advocacy: together for Intellectual Freedom

Naturally, libraries and library institutions are often actively engaged in promoting and standing up for Intellectual Freedom. The Canadian Federation of Library Association, the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, and several library associations, for example, recently celebrated the Freedom to Read week, a campaign focusing on promoting freedom of expression, freedom to read and report the news. Such library initiatives clearly show the significant overlap between libraries’ Intellectual Freedom values and the freedom of press.

Drawing on library expertise – news media digitisation and preservation

Even though perhaps less relevant for current day-to-day journalism but rather for historic records, libraries can also help preserve the news that has been published. News archiving and preservation in the digital age can be a challenge: a recent Columbia Journalism Review report, for instance, points out that many news agencies they had interviewed don’t see the value in preserving their output, or do not have established preservation policies and practices.

This is also a prospective area for collaboration. The University of Missouri Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and University Libraries, for example, have received a grant for a joint project to explore ways to preserve today’s digital news. They plan to set up visits with US and European news agencies to see how their policies, equipment and operations impact their preservation processes.

Another example is a web archive launched by several Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation librarians, aimed at preserving some specific areas of at-risk online news web content. These are a few examples of how libraries can help make sure the valuable work of journalists is preserved.

Similarly, libraries have been clear in underlining that applications of the principle of the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ should respect press freedom. In a recent joint statement with the International Council on Archives, IFLA stressed also that broader privacy legislation should not lead to the deletion of news articles in collections, and so their non-availability for future generations.

All these and other areas show the connection between libraries and journalism – and their shared values. World Press Freedom Day is the opportunity for us to celebrate intellectual freedom, freedom of expression and access to information – and see what can be done to uphold these.

Media and Information Literacy for All: Libraries and the 2019 Global MIL Week

Changing digital media environments, the growing abundance of information available online, rapid technological developments – the information ecosystems of today are increasingly complex. From verifying a piece of information you come across to safe and ethical behavior online, people need a particular set of skills and competencies to succeed in an increasingly information-rich world. This includes the ability to effectively search for, evaluate, meaningfully use and create information.

These competencies fall under the broad umbrella of Media and Information literacy (MIL), and October 24th marks the beginning of the annual Global Media and Information Literacy week. Led by UNESCO and GAPMIL, it brings together actors which help people develop these competencies.

Libraries have a long history of promoting information literacy. In part, it has to do with some of the key tasks of librarianship: libraries offer access to information and help users make the most of it – from helping them understand what information they need, to finding the most relevant sources, checking and evaluating them.

Particularly important is a library’s ability to reach vulnerable populations. Open to everyone, they can offer MIL learning opportunities for groups at risk of exclusion – for example, those that do not have access to formal educational programmes, or internet and computer access at home.

This year’s theme is “Media and Information Literate Citizens: Informed, Engaged, Empowered”. Empowering citizens requires particular efforts to include more vulnerable groups – both youth and older people, women, cultural or linguistic minorities, and many others.

To mark this year’s MIL week, we would like to highlight the work that different libraries around the world do to help the more vulnerable groups strengthen and develop their MIL competencies.

For rural communities:
The “In4skill Program” is an information literacy training module developed by the National Library of Malaysia. The module is designed to address key information search and usage skills – from teaching Malaysians to identify their information needs, to finding, evaluating and organizing information, to its ethical use and dissemination.

Recognising the particular informational needs of rural communities and a knowledge gap between urban and rural dwellers, the National Library made a concerted effort to reach rural communities with its information literacy initiative.

It upscaled the program and collaborated with community and non-governmental agencies in rural areas, as well as schools and state or village libraries. The result was a series of informational literacy programs implemented in different rural communities, as well as “training for trainers” workshops to help rural librarians, teachers or educators organise their own information literacy initiatives.

For older learners:
Libraries in Lithuania actively work to help their communities develop their media and information literacy skills – through many different initiatives, projects and partnerships. Several projects have focused on helping older learners develop their MIL competencies – such as Kaunas County Public Library’s “Changing Media World: Developing a Responsible User”, Kudirka Public Library’s “Academy of Media and Information Literacy”, or Pasvalys M. Katiliškis Public Library’s “Information in the World: Understand, Evaluate, Use”.

These three projects introduced a wide variety of lectures, workshops and training sessions, covering many crucial information and media literacy competencies – from critical engagement with information on both digital and traditional media, to personal data protection, to social media use and creation of their own media content, in a safe and ethical manner.

These projects, recognising the information needs of older residents, aimed to improve their quality of life and encourage their active (and informed!) participation in the digital society.

For people with disabilities:
Other initiatives introduced by Lithuanian libraries have focused on the MIL competencies of persons with disabilities. For example, the Kaunas County Public Library have recorded and made available educational videos about media literacy in sign language, as well as organising and live-streaming lectures for persons with disabilities on such topics as hate speech, online content creation, fake news and augmented reality.

For lower-income families:
In the US, the Wash and Learn initiative launched by Libraries without Borders brings digital and physical library assets and information services to laundromats, which they identified as a spaces particularly well-suited to engage with lower-income families and underserved communities.

Through this program, visitors get access to curated collection of information sources (selected daily), tailored to the local community’s needs – e.g. on relevant health, educational or legal matters. Librarians or para-librarians are there to help visitors navigate available information, refine their search questions and identify their information needs – and, importantly, reinforce and develop their own information literacy skills.

As such, they can offer guidance in finding and assessing, for example, basic health or legal information, and helping visitors find answers to their own questions.

For children and youth:
One of the areas the School Libraries Network Programme in Portugal works on is developing literacy skills and capacities of school children, subdivided into three categories: reading, information, and media. Noting that there had been comparatively less activities focusing on media literacy, the Network organised an intervention with the aim to raise awareness and encourage teacher librarians to help develop their student’s media literacy.

This prompted the creation of teaching resources and activities for both librarians and students. For example, the MILD Manual de Instruções de Literacia Digital website was created as a resource for media literacy teaching materials and activities for students between ages of 14 and 18. It offers materials for both formal and informal learning, in different settings, on topics ranging from media news and content to social networks to digital citizenship.

Another example is the annual Media@ção contest, where primary and secondary school students are invited to explore different issues and themes surrounding internet and digital media in their entry submissions – e.g. a video or a podcast. Examples of such themes include “media, democracy and tolerance”, or dealing with fake news.

How does your library celebrate the Media and Information Literacy week, and help people become informed and active digital citizens? Share your inspiring examples on social media using the hashtag #GlobalMILWeek, or send us an email to let us know what you are doing!