Academic libraries combat the spread of Covid-19 misinformation
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DURBAN - ACADEMIC libraries in South Africa have played a significant role in combating the spreading of misinformation pertaining to the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic by ensuring that people had access to high-quality content about the virus.
This is according to the findings of Siviwe Bangani, director of Research Services at Stellenbosch University’s Library and Information Service.
“Academic libraries have played an important role as sources of trustworthy information against fake news and relied on several strategies to combat it,” says Siviwe Bangani.
His research looked at how academic libraries ensured that facts about the virus were given in high quantities so as to combat the spread of fake news.
Bangani’s literature review and content analysis was based and compiled from websites and library guides (Lib Guides) taken from South Africa’s public universities, uploaded between July and August 2020, at the time of the country’s first wave peak of the Covid-19 infections.
Bangani also browsed through online platforms like Google Scholar, SA ePublications, EbscoHost, Science Direct, Scopus as well as Web-of-Science. During his searches, Bangani used the following terms as his keywords “Covid-19”, “Covid-19 and (fake news or infodemic)”, and “fake news or the infodemic”.
Bangani concluded that universities’ landing pages had rich information regarding the topic, while on the other hand, their Lib Guides provided a lot of data about fake news or infodemic.
“My study shows that academic libraries combated Covid-19 related fake news through, among others, the provision of quality and credible information, Information and Media Literacy instruction, creating awareness about fake news, librarians attending or presenting in seminars and conferences, as well as the collection of resources that could be useful in the fight against fake news.
“Some have set up Lib Guides dedicated to providing current information about Covid-19. These Lib Guides link to free electronic material such as books, journals and websites such as the South African government website that provides credible information about Covid-19. The Lib Guides also provided information about the virtual services provided by the libraries during this period.
“These libraries have used their websites and Lib Guides to provide and promote access to quality and credible Covid-19 resources and information.”
According to Bangani, numerous South African Lib Guides had links of evaluation tools such as the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ (IFLA)'s “How to Spot Fake News”, CRAAP (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose) as well as videos related to the subject.
“The IFLA's ‘how to spot fake news’ is very popular among librarians that incorporate information on how to fight fake news in South Africa in their Lib Guides.”
Additionally, some of these academic libraries bought anti-fake news books and issued warnings to their clients about the negative effects of the consumption of fake news. They also provided links to help their clients source quality information on their own and gave them tools that would help them easily spot fake news.
“Online training, often anchored on ways to find credible information sources, continued during the Covid-19 enforced lockdown period. For example, Stellenbosch University continued with its Smart Researcher workshops and also offered training to students and researchers to learn new skills that would put them a step ahead in dealing with fake news.”
Bangani says his study’s findings can be used as a template when looking at how libraries would handle crises in the future.