Information Superstars: Facts Matter

We work in a profession and an organization that is focused on learning.  Our new mission statement is “Sparking curiosity and connecting our community through literacy and learning” and along with our brand “Stay Curious” we are positioning ourselves to be a learning organization.

As trusted sources in the community to help customers locate accurate information and resources,  we recognized that we must constantly learn to keep our library skills fresh and relevant.

It’s possible you may never have a customer ask you “Is this fake news?” directly about a resources. The following information should help you improve your skills in evaluating information at work and in your own consumption of information/media in the world.

This Information Superstars post is a summary of the best information from a Library Journal online course called “Facts Matter: Information Literacy for the Real World.” Many of the presenters focused on content creation, journalism and working with college students, so I have tried to present the most public-library-focused and actionable information for you here:

fact-checkers’, get to the truth of an issue in 60 to 90 seconds.  How do they do it?

Four moves and a habit from Mike Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University in Vancouver, WA.

He says fact-checkers read laterally — moving quickly away from the original text, opening up a series of tabs in a browser to judge the credibility of its author and the sources it cites.  A paper from Stanford researchers provides support for this idea.

Caulfield has packaged this approach into what he calls, four moves and a habit.

Moves accomplish intermediate goals in the fact-checking process.  They are associated with specific tactics. Here are the four moves this guide will hinge on:

  • Check for previous work: Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research.
  • Go upstream to the source: Go “upstream” to the source of the claim. Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information.
  • Read laterally: Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.
  • Circle back: If you get lost, hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole, back up and start over knowing what you know now. You’re likely to take a more informed path with different search terms and better decisions.

In general, you can try these moves in sequence. If you find success at any stage, your work might be done.

Caulfield cautions that one of the most important weapons of fact-checking comes from inside all of us, When you feel strong emotion — happiness, anger, pride, vindication — and that emotion pushes you to share a ‘fact’ with others, STOP. His reasoning is that a news piece that appeals to our emotions is designed to short-circuit our critical thinking.

Caulfield explains how to do each of the moves/strategies in his free online textbook. Click through to read a bit more, especially for his list of Fact Checking Sites.


Pro Truth Pledge, presented by Gleb Tsipursky

The “Pro Truth Pledge” is an actionable effort to change behaviors and reinforce the concept that facts matter. The creator spoke about it as a tool to raise awareness and accountability among individuals AND professionals.

  • You do not need to “take the pledge” as part of your job.
  • You do need to read through the 12 points in the pledge and use these techniques in your information work at the library.

Here is the pledge directly from the website:

I Pledge My Earnest Efforts To:

Share truth

  • Verifyfact-check information to confirm it is true before accepting and sharing it
  • Balance: share the whole truth, even if some aspects do not support my opinion
  • Cite: share my sources so that others can verify my information
  • Clarify: distinguish between my opinion and the facts

Honor truth

  • Acknowledge: acknowledge when others share true information, even when we disagree otherwise
  • Reevaluate: reevaluate if my information is challenged, retract it if I cannot verify it
  • Defend: defend others when they come under attack for sharing true information, even when we disagree otherwise
  • Align: align my opinions and my actions with true information

Encourage truth

  • Fix: ask people to retract information that reliable sources have disproved even if they are my allies
  • Educate: compassionately inform those around me to stop using unreliable sources even if these sources support my opinion
  • Defer: recognize the opinions of experts as more likely to be accurate when the facts are disputed
  • Celebrate: celebrate those who retract incorrect statements and update their beliefs toward the truth

Homework assignment – post your comments here or email them to the Reference Team at

  • Based on what you read here, what additional training would help you learn to evaluate information?
  • What customers questions are you getting that seem to fit with this kind of training?
  • What could the Reference Team do to help staff increase their skills or experience on this topic?

One thought on “Information Superstars: Facts Matter

  1. Debbie Stanton on said:

    I would love to see a program on something like How to Build Respect Dialog on Social Media 🙂 Not sure if it’s possible, but sharing tips on how to respectfully disagree or divert conversations that seem to be going south.