Information access has exploded in the last 20 years. With the advent of broadband internet, smartphones and social networking, we have at our fingertips an amount of information that would boggle the minds of librarians a century earlier. This fact is truly a mixed blessing. Early excitement about the democratic and liberating effect of easily accessible information has been tempered by the realization that we cannot easily determine if that information is questionable or not. This has created the problem of the “needle in a haystack” – how does one wade through massive amounts of data to find relevant, accurate and trustworthy information? Information literacy and critical thinking skills are more important than ever with the massive disinformation campaigns that are underway online. The Thunder Bay Public Library is dedicated to combating misinformation by sharing resources on critical thinking and media literacy with the public. We offer many resources on this topic, primarily books that can help you develop these skills.
Th!nk for Yourself by Andrea Debbink and Aaron Meshon introduces critical thinking skills to older children and teens. The book is colourful and the interior design includes a lot of illustrations, simple diagrams and creative layouts that keep the book visually interesting for younger audiences. Th!nk for Yourself was published in 2020 which means that the examples within are fairly current. Although some of the content talks about American political systems, this should not be a barrier for Canadian readers; the points being made are more broadly about how to approach civic and political information. Readers are asked to consider how they find information, what they consider to be a reliable source and why they privilege certain types of knowledge over others. Th!nk for Yourself is meant to be interacted with as well as read, so it is sprinkled with quotations, quizzes, and examples which are distinct from the main text; this supports Debbink and Meshon’s point that information must be actively engaged with for critical thinking to work.
Journalist, presidential advisor and economist Bruce Bartlett’s The Truth Matters is a small, handy book for adult media consumers. Although the book is a few years old, the issues it addresses are still very topical and relevant today. Bartlett’ gives an overview of media issues and how the quickly changing media landscape is affecting our consumption of news. The primary thrust of Bartlett’s discussion is around the proliferation of information and how, unlike past media such as newspapers, radio and television, this information is mostly uncurated. He goes over the various modern sources of information and provides insight on how to assess their trustworthiness and reliability. His style is very clear and accessible without a lot of professional jargon. The small size, resource list and index make this a great “pocket resource” as well as an engaging read on its own. The downside of this compact size is that it doesn’t always give a full treatment of the topics it covers, but the resource list can point the interested reader to further material – some online, and some available at the Thunder Bay Public Library.
Bartlett provides a particularly interesting discussion of the “fake news” phenomenon. While he rightly points out that this issue is not new, the uncurated nature of online media makes it harder to track down sources and determine if there is an agenda at play in any given piece of online news.
To place a hold on either of these books, visit the Thunder Bay Public Library’s catalogue at search.tbpl.ca, or call us at 345-8275, Monday to Friday from 10 am-4 pm. If you don’t already have a library card, you can get one by calling the number above or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ryan Gracey – www.tbpl.ca. If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you.