The Seattle Public Library system is now arming patrons with the tools they need to weed out fake news by launching a class called the Fake News Survival Guide. It's already sparked a lot of interest from the public, other city libraries, and even libraries across the country.
Many used the Seattle Public Library system as a real-life, human Google during the last election cycle. Last year Seattle public libraries answered roughly 850,000 phone calls, emails, and chats. Librarians around the country have been fielding reference questions in person and online for months.
"We had a lot of questions regarding fact checking," said Di Zhang, reference librarian. "So we put our library hats on and did the digging and found resources for people."
Zhang works at the Central Library in downtown Seattle and created a curriculum for the survival guide class.
"Our message is that we are here for you as a resource," Zhang said. "And in this confusing climate of fake news and fake information and scams and all these online hazards, you know you can come to us, and we can help you evaluate that information. And kind of find strategies and best practices on how to deal with information."
The key to that is finding best practices, he said.
"You might not be able to say for sure if something is fake or real," Zhang said. "You can only point to a source. And so, it's kind of a way of being humble and knowing your limitations. And knowing where the information is or isn't."
He gives examples of copycat news sites that look similar to legitimate news organizations. He also talks about Ask a Librarian -- a web chat powered by a consortium of libraries at all hours of the day. There, librarians answer anything and everything from online scams to how to navigate the online world in a safe way.
The first class launches Tuesday at the Central Library, but already fellow librarians in the district have expressed interest in teaching Zhang's curriculum. It's one of the many ways the library continues to reach out to the public.
"As kind of the world changes, people's learning habits change, and formats change, we are trying to adapt and meet people where they are," Zhang said.