Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Librarians and Journalists

HOE'S PRINTING PRESS, 1847. - Richard Hoe's ten-cylinder revolving newspaper printing press, 1847. Contemporary color engraving.. [Fine Art]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

DiBello, Amy 

Beard, D. (2018). Tale of 2 polls: What do librarians have that journalists don’t?Poynter. Retrieved 28 February 2018, from
American journalists are being stigmatized not only by Donald Trump but most of the public. Journalist David Beard cites The Knight Foundation and Gallup polls that reveal only 33 percent of Americans trust the news media. Of 18-29-year-olds polled, only 22 percent trust the media.

American complaints against the media include bias, sensationalism, and attempting to influence the way news is reported. A Pew Foundation poll reports that 78 percent of Americans trust their public libraries to help them find reliable information. Millennials, at a rate of 85 percent praise libraries for helping them learn new things. Over 65 percent of Americans claim that libraries enrich their lives and help them to "grow as people" (Beard, 2018).

As newspapers across the country fold, libraries are stepping into the void by offering access to databases and research help. The Albuquerque Journal still exists and is the first item our patrons request upon entering the library. We also offer access to Zinio Digital Magazines and NewsBank.

People who frequented their libraries as children have fond memories of story time, crafts, the thrill of getting their first library card, and being able to take books home with them. The association of a librarian as a non-judgmental helper can endure through our formative years. Laura Saunders, an associate professor in library science at Simmons College contrasts this with the negative associations' people have with the news media. Saunders praises librarians for offering GED, ESL, and computers classes to the disenfranchised, day shelter for the homeless, and a sense of community for patrons. "Librarians are taught to help people access and evaluate information, but not to judge people's questions or motives, but rather to support their intellectual freedom," said Saunders.

Tom Huang, an assistant managing editor for the Dallas Morning News suggests that newspapers and local news channels should work closely with libraries in a collaborative effort to engage the community in what libraries have to offer and give journalists an opportunity to show the public "what they do to provide accurate information." Huang's goal is to get patrons to participate in community meetings and city council hearings. The Morning News has trained high school students on journalism techniques (Beard, 2018).

Huang also believes that bonding with librarians would give journalism an improved image. For areas not served by newspapers, libraries, which are trusted by the community could become what Huang refers to as "a hub for news collection". The element of trust required to train people about journalism would refrain from investigative pieces, but focus on the beginning steps of journalism. "Ultimately, we could train librarians to do some of this stuff," Huang says. "It's not like it's rocket science."

I agree. It's not like it's rocket science. It's library science. 

Our library system's relationship with the media is cordial but we rely on our director to speak to the media in order to explain our policies, respond to questions, and give the media correct information instead of playing telephone. Our librarians have also put together an excellent LibGuide about fake news. We are sensitive to our patrons' concerns and the way we address these concerns is by offering them information but leaving them to their own opinions and conclusions.

The quotation "A truly great library contains something in it to offend everybody." is attributed to Jo Godwin and sums up one of the unavoidable facts of collection management: we will often have to answer to someone, whether it is an offended reader or an inquisitive reporter about what the library carries and offers to the public. Beard refers to librarians as journalism's "information gathering cousins" who are riding an enviable "cloud of popularity". I think boundaries are necessary, even among cousins, but we're always here to help check the facts.


  1. This is interesting, Amy (Aimee Piper, here). I wonder if the variance in trust comes from the fact that libraries are spaces where patrons learn and are encouraged to see with their own eyes, and not with the eyes of another...?

    1. I think neutrality is one of our greatest strengths. Due to our current political situation, I constantly have patrons trying to draw me into discussions about politics and religion. I always politely use my boundaries and let them know city employees are not allowed to discuss those issues.