This year’s Janet Doe Lecture was presented by Michelle Kraft, AHIP, FMLA. Michelle spoke to MLA | SLA ’23 attendees about the critical role medical librarians have in disseminating misinformation, disinformation, and fake news for our users and healthcare communities.
Michelle began by sharing her journey with social media, her blog “The Krafty Librarian,” and how technology has broadened her perspective as a medical librarian by engaging with doctors, nurses, information professionals, and healthcare communities online. There are highlights to using social media, including the ability to share information, learn from others, and connect with new colleagues; however, the negative impacts include the threat of fake news, misinformation, and disinformation. Michelle’s lecture focused on the impact on medical librarians and health information.
On the main screen, Michelle displayed a phrase, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” No one knows who said this phrase, although there are many authors credited with variations of this saying. The idea, Michelle stressed, is that falsehoods spread much faster than truths. She discussed the different types of lies: false/deceptive, misleading, biased, and manipulation, and explained the various motivations behind these types of lies. Money, being famous, spreading beliefs, gaining power, and sharing information are all interconnected with why we lie. Michelle pointed out that we can fall for fake news because lies can be assumed true if they align with our personal beliefs. We can be guilty of accepting information as true if it aligns with our perspective, but the only way to combat misinformation, disinformation, and fake news is to question information—question our personal belief systems to determine what is right and wrong.
The lecture finished with a call to action for medical librarians to get involved. Librarians are educators of information and critical thinking. However, in the age of information overload, librarians can inadvertently contribute to the spread of misinformation if we are not vigilant and proactive in our practices. Suppose we do not engage in thorough fact-checking or fail to critically evaluate sources before adding them to our collections. In that case, we may unintentionally provide a platform for fake news to proliferate. In addition, if librarians do not actively educate patrons on media literacy and information evaluation skills, individuals may unknowingly perpetuate false information they encounter within the library’s resources. Therefore, it is crucial for librarians to continuously prioritize information literacy, discernment, and unbiased curation to combat the dissemination of fake news within our libraries and the communities we serve.