Increased accessibility to information does not render libraries irrelevant

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With information at the fingertips of virtually every person on the planet, students have come to see libraries as an outdated way of acquiring knowledge.

According to the Pew Research Center, six out of every 10 Americans get their news from social media, but this untraditional source of information comes with its own drawbacks. Fake news and alternative facts are two phrases used more often in recent months when describing misinformation.

Kelly Peterson-Fairchild, dean of library and learning services, and Public Services Librarian Dianne Aldrich said it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate reputable sources with online hoaxes.

“In the age of alternative facts, we need to help people learn to be able to tell if they’re reading something that’s not true, and some of [the false information] can be super convincing,” Aldrich said.

Library Administrative Specialist Emma Lanners said libraries are there to help students find more relevant and credible information rather than skimming through the millions of results that pop up after a Google search.

“I think the message [the library] wants to get out to students is the time saving [element],” Peterson-Fairchild said. “I don’t think students recognize sometimes that [the library] is here to help students; [librarians] aren’t here to create more work for students.”

In the era of information overload and the progression of technology and social networks, libraries are needed more and more, Peterson-Fairchild said.

“Here on campus, the library is more than [building or] a place to get help, but it is also the center of campus and a place to be engaged,” Peterson-Fairchild said. “It’s where faculty are, [and] it’s where you can get help from a librarian on numerous things.”

Despite the internet-vs.-library nature of many arguments, all three ladies agree both libraries and technology can benefit from each other.

“[Libraries] were early adopters of technology,” Peterson-Fairchild said. “Libraries were at the forefront. People forget libraries were the ones who invented makerspaces.”

With recent general education requirement changes, the library and learning services administrators hope to not only communicate the importance of libraries and library skills but also increase retention rates.

“[The general education changes are] much more of a point of need so [students are] much more embedded in the place where [they] can practice those skills and it can be better enforced,” Peterson-Fairchild said.

Most of all, Aldrich said, she wants to stress that the library is a place where students can freely ask for help.

“A great majority of the time when students come up to our service desks they start by saying ‘I’m sorry to bother you,’ and it always makes my heart die a little bit inside,” Aldrich said. “Please bother us. We’re waiting on [students] to ask [for help].”