“Communities” a.k.a. Do you speak Fox News, NPR, or Jon Stewart?

As someone who watches Fox news and CNN for entertainment, and Jon Stewart and Colbert for “real news” (just kidding… barely) my interest was particularly piqued by Lankes’ discussion of credibility in his ‘communities’ thread (2011, p. 90-91).  Specifically I have a bone to pick with his observation that due to a “large number and large variety of information sources on the web, members can build credibility determinations from the consistent repetition of key factors across these sources” (Lankes, 2011, p. 91).  While it certainly is true that there is a plethora of news sources available in a variety of platforms, and while members certainly could make credibility determinations by ascertaining which key factors are repeated consistently across sources, the reality is that a large number of members do not make these determinations. Of course I recognize that Lankes (2011) never actually said that member did make these determinations, only that they could, but I am more interested in why a member wouldn’t make these determinations and what that means in terms of divergent community credibility standards.

To begin with, I think the main reason why some members do not take advantage of the many news sources available to them in order to make credibility determinations is due to the fact that – unless you are a political science major – you really don’t have the time or motivation (like I do!) to spend your free time haunting news sites and political blogs.  You might watch the evening news with Brian Williams or the PBS Newshour, or you might listen to Rush Limbaugh on your drive home from work – but what you don’t do is spend the time and energy it would take to gather news from both sides of the political spectrum.

In terms of community credibility standards, I think this means that within a single community (like the United States), there can and will exist divergent views on what is, and what is not, credible.  (Again I must note here that Lankes does also make this point: “Some find Fox News to be credible, whereas others do not.” (2011, p. 91).  Here the main point I want to draw out is not that there can and will exist divergent views on what is and what is not credible, but that with the explosion of news sources, there is a danger that the divide between divergent viewpoints will grow at an exponential rate.  As liberals are able to only consume news sources that reinforce their world views, and as conservatives are able to do the same, I think what will happen is there will be less common ground and fewer open lines of communications between these two communities.

How does this translate to the study of libraries and Lankes’ (2011)”communities” thread?  I think that although I agree with Lankes that it is imperative for librarians to cater library services to a specific community’s needs, I think I would reinforce the strain in Lankes’ (2011) argument that advises librarians to have a larger picture of how a particular community interacts and links up with other communities.  If I were an academic librarian, for example, I would try, as Lankes advises (2011, pg. 114) to be an embedded librarian whose information services provided a kind of “circulatory system” for the academic university or college community I served (2011, p. 115).  I would also however, work to connect the academic university or college community I serve with, not only the larger academic community, but with the local township community and even the part of the national community that scoffs disdainfully at eggheads in their ivory towers.  After all, what good does a fancy degree really do for you if it only allows you to preach to those already converted?

 Reference

Lankes, R. David (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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