Author Archives: Karolina

IFLA goes RightsCon!

This week Access Now’s RightsCon takes place in Brussels. IFLA is participating for the first time and does so by hosting a roundtable session on Friday 31 March 9am on digital privacy in the library:

Privacy for Everyone: Using Libraries to Promote Digital Privacy

The session will be chaired by FAIFE committee chair Martyn Wade and has an impressive line-up of speakers ready to share experiences and content that will help libraries promote and ensure digital privacy for all, inside and outside the library:

  • Damien Belvèze, Université de Rennes 1, who will talk about the why, how and what of arranging cryptoparties in libraries.
  • Seeta Peña Gangadharan, London School of Economics, who will present the Data Privacy Project which taught NYC library staff how information travels and is shared online.
  • Peter Krantz, National Library of Sweden, who will talk about the privacy checklist they’ve made for librarians to help them make sure their library is a digital privacy friendly environment for users.
  • Diego Naranjo, European Digital Rights (EDRi), who will present their Digital Defenders booklet for young people between 10-14 years and let us know the story behind it.
  • Melissa Romaine, Mozilla Foundation, who will talk about digital literacy projects Mozilla have run in collaboration with libraries.

I could write pages and pages (not that the A4 format applies to a blog) on libraries and privacy, but I think it’s a fact widely known that libraries historically have been defenders of their patrons’ privacy, e.g. by refusing to share records of materials checked out by the individual, providing a safe space for browsing information, and meeting other people.

It’s harder to apply this protection in a digital environment where personal data is both political and economic currency, and interlinked systems makes it harder to control where and how information is shared. The digital has done wonders for record keeping and accessibility, but at the same time it has compromised those values traditionally held in high regard by librarians (and championed especially by the IFLA FAIFE committee).

The technical development may seem to be too fast for librarians to keep up with, as it also brings so many other challenges: teaching people how to use a computer; how to lend an e-book; how to apply critical thinking; how to search in a database… basically, most librarians have full hands when it comes to catering the needs of a lifelong learning community trying to keep up with the latest digital goods and tools. Is there room for digital privacy?

Yes, there is! And in this session I hope people will find inspiration for new ways for digital rights advocates to collaborate with libraries to teach the average library visitor about encryption, cache, cookies, and webcams, whether it is through cascade training of librarians or co-hosting cryptoparties at the local library. Privacy is so important, we can leave no one behind.

Alternative Facts and Fake News – Verifiability in the Information Society

This week sees the continuation of Wikipedia’s #1lib1ref (One Librarian, One Reference) campaign (highlights from the first week here!). The thematic thread of this week’s activities is fake news, an expression that has been at the tip of people’s tongues lately, along with “alternative facts”. This blog explores the library take on this.

The relationship between information and opinion has always been fluid and uncertain. This has been as much the case in politics as in science or any other area of life. There have also always been charlatans, liars and forgers, aiming to gain money, power or simply attention.

However, 2016 saw the issue of false news stories move centre stage, even if the concept of the lying politician, or the sensationalist journalist is nothing new. The speed at which stories travel online has meant that traditional means of debunking false stories – corrections, apologies, etc. – are unable to keep up.

In addition to stories stemming from lazy journalism or exaggerations aimed at gaining more clicks, tales of a Macedonian town acting as a fake news factory have captured the imagination. The apparent if unmeasurable link between such stories and the US election results has made the issue seem deadly serious.

What responses are there? One immediate reaction has been to try and ‘ban’ fake news. A number of countries have proposed legislation in this area, from Iran and China to Italy and Germany. How effective such moves would be in terms of stopping sources of fake news is uncertain. There is always a risk that the accusation of being ‘fake’ will be abused to limit free speech. Not all ‘fake’ news is ‘real’, and in any case, one person’s fake news is another person’s opinion.

Facebook has received much of the blame for its hands-off attitude pre-election, even as its algorithms tended to create ‘filter bubbles’ – online worlds where users only see what they tend to like, rather the range of opinions you might see on a news-stand.

The company has at least received credit for having now sought to act. Already in the week following the US election, both it and Google promised to restrict advertising on known fake news sites. They have since promised not to ‘boost’ such stories, as well as making it easier for users to identify hoaxes, make more use of fact-checking organisations to verify stories, and develop software to detect where articles may not be true. Whether any of this works is yet to be seen, but it appears to be offer a more constructive way forwards than bans.

And libraries?

Discussions about fake news has led to a new focus on media literacy more broadly, and the role of libraries and other education institutions in providing this.

Librarians have long been taught to help users find and understand the information they need, and are looking to adapt their approach to today’s world, as this excellent piece in The Conversation suggests. This may be a challenge – simply telling people to doubt what they are reading is not enough. And implementing new approaches on the ground will take time, given relatively low levels of awareness or as this study sets out.

But libraries and their users can also have a positive role in developing the tools that help people check up on what they are reading. Wikipedia provides just such a tool. On 21 January, they tweeted a video which highlights their principle of verifiability in all articles on the online, crowdsourced encyclopaedia. One Wikipedia contributor explains that “[w]orking with Wikipedia is not only about writing articles but to understand the whole system of knowledge production.”

Just as academic publishing working assures quality through peer review, Wikipedia’s millions of users review and check its articles. In the flood of facts we’re faced with every day, this crowdsourced fact-checking is a game-changer in the verifiability business, delivering community trust in an age of suspicion. With their expert knowledge of where to find reliable information, librarians and their users can help ensure facts become facts – without a prefix.

Last week, IFLA and The Wikipedia Library published two opportunities papers which showcase the many successful collaborations between libraries and Wikipedia. For many years, they have added value and content to Wikipedia, either on their own or through initiatives such as #1lib1ref, Edit-a-thons, or Wikipedians in Residence. These papers encourage librarians world-wide to engage more with Wikipedia, guided by the examples outlined. Get involved!

IFLA has made this infographic with eight simple steps (based on’s 2016 article How to Spot Fake News)  to discover the verifiability of a given news-piece in front of you. Download, print, translate, and share – at home, at your library, in your local community, and in social media networks. The more we crowdsource or wisdom, the wiser the world becomes. You can also check out’s video based on the article.


If you want to make a translation, contact or Evgeni Hristov at IFLA Headquarters for an editable version of the infographic. The infographic is published under CC BY 4.0.