Media literacy at a public library

During the All Digital Week 2021, our project partner Global Libraries – Bulgaria Foundation organized six online training sessions on media literacy for librarians.  The trainers Dessislava Ognianova, a teacher with experience in media literacy, and Justine Toms, university professor and expert in online media, trained 48 librarians from public libraries to be trainers for adults and 14-16 year-old students.  Teenagers and adults of 60+ are the most vulnerable groups on social media and are most often victims of misinformation, fake news, and fraud.

Librarians were trained in three modules:

  • Understand what disinformation is
  • Understand how social media make money and why disinformation is vastly present on social media
  • Understand how to recognize and react to disinformation

The trainers used the teaching materials developed by the project Get Your Facts Straight. In an interactive way, they introduced the participants to basic theoretical statements about how social media works, why it is increasingly used to spread misinformation, disinformation and propaganda, and what is the place of trolls and bots. The trainer used a lot of online examples of misleading news and asked librarians to do searches and share their examples. At the end of the training, participants improved their skills how to identify the types of misleading news; to understand the consequences of believing and sharing false information for the society and for themselves; to understand the reasons why disinformation is published with the intention to mislead them; to understand that there are some political or commercial interests that try to affect their behaviour online.

The librarians  increased their ability to support their users  to be a positive and responsible social media user. They know how to teach patrons to check information and to have a general idea about how algorithms affect what we see online, and to know the changes in the media landscape.

The libraries shared with the trainers their doubts about teenagers, how difficult it is to get their attention. All agreed that the work with young people is a challenge and they discussed how to make the activities enjoyable so that the teenagers would be willing to participate and interact in training how to select interesting and amusing examples of misleading news out of the national context that will attract the young people taking into account the fact that they are not much into reading national news. There were interesting discussions during each session sparked by the curiosity of librarians and their online experience.

In addition, after each session participants were provided with a list of  links to useful  articles, videos (in Bulgarian and in English) as well as other materials, relevant to the topic. The training sessions finished with an online quiz.

The participants were very satisfied with the online training. All librarians mentioned that they were very happy with the training and that they would participate in future Media Literacy training as well, as they find it useful and helpful.

At libraries in the informal learning process patrons have the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication including technologies.  Librarians can ensure patrons make informed decisions by helping them think critically. Libraries of all types can promote media literacy by providing handouts, training, and programmess about separating fact from online fiction.