From High School to University – The Important Role of Libraries in Teaching Media Literacy and Combating Mis/Disinformation

This presentation will discuss the current landscape surrounding mis/disinformation and media literacy in Australia including libraries. The presentation will also offer some practical ways libraries can support their users to combat mis/disinformation including showcasing some useful resources for teaching media literacy skills. Research has shown that only around 30-40% of Australian young people and adults know how to identify misinformation or tell fake news from real news. (Notley & Dezuanni, 2020; Notley et al., 2021) Research has also shown that young people are less likely to verify information from social media including images and videos and often don’t consider bias. (Johnston, 2020; Office of the eSafety Commissioner & Department of Education and Training, 2016; Wineburg et al., 2019)

A 2023 report on libraries and media literacy found that teacher librarians were the most confident in all aspects of media literacy including finding resources to support training others in media literacy, making a decision about what information to share online and media and copyright (Park et al., 2023). Unfortunately there is self-reported evidence of declining numbers of school library staff and teacher librarians. (Carmody, 2019; Softlink Education, 2022) with research also showing in 2020 that only 1 in 5 students said they had received lessons at school in the past year to help them work out if news stories are true and can be trusted (Notley et al., 2020).

Library staff face a number of barriers to being able to effectively manage mis/disinformation or teach media literacy including the constantly evolving ways that mis/disinformation spreads, lack of time to investigate accuracy of content or authority in collections, time and resources to learn more about the topic, and often a lack of strategic priority in schools or higher education. Despite these barriers library staff across sectors feel they play a core role in combating mis/disinformation and developing media literacy skills through advocacy, teaching, promotion and development of resources. (Johnston, 2023; Nettlefold, 2021; Park et al., 2023)

Another important consideration or complexity for libraries is how libraries should manage misinformation in collections with factors such as censorship, lack of time to assess collections, encouraging critical thinking and historical misinformation all raising questions around our role in countering misinformation in collections. Library staff would like support from national associations and educators though guidelines, teaching exemplars, toolkits, advocacy, training, discussions, and communities of practice with research also showing a high demand for online training and resources (Johnston, 2023; Nettlefold, 2021; Park et al., 2023).

A number of resources such as training courses, guides and books are currently available on mis/disinformation, but there is scope for the development of more resources to support library staff professionally develop in this area. With further training and support, libraries in Australia are well placed to advocate for the importance of media literacy skills, improve the media literacy skills of Australians, and help combat the rising tide of mis/disinformation. Carmody, R. (2019). School libraries hit by the loss of a dying breed as teacher librarians enter ‘survival mode’. ABC News. Johnston, N. (2020).

Living in the World of Fake News: High School Students’ Evaluation of Information from Social Media Sites. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 69(4), 430-450. Johnston, N. (2023).

The Impact and Management of Mis/Disinformation at University Libraries in Australia. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 72(3), 251-269. Nettlefold, J., & Williams, K (2021). News media literacy challenges and opportunities for Australian school students and teachers in the age of platforms. Journal of Media Literacy Education,, 13(1), 28-40. Notley, T., & Dezuanni, M. (2020).

We live in an age of ‘fake news’. But Australian children are not learning enough about media literacy. The Conversation. Notley, T., Dezuanni, M., Chambers, S., & Park, S. (2021).

Less than half of Australian adults know how to identify misinformation online. The Conversation. Notley, T., Dezuanni, M., Zhong, H. F., & Chambers, S. (2020). News and Young Australians in 2020: How young people access, perceive and are affected by news media. Western Sydney University & QUT. Office of the eSafety Commissioner, & Department of Education and Training. (2016). Young people’s trust and confidence in online information sources. Park, S., Walsh, B., & Su, J. (2023). Libraries and media literacy education U. o. Canberra. Softlink Education. (2022). 2021 School Library Survey Report Australia. Wineburg, S., Breakstone, J., Smith, M., McGrew, S., & Ortega, T. (2019). Civic online reasoning: Curriculum evaluation Stanford History Education Group.

Nicole Johnston

Associate University Librarian of Digital and Information Literacy, Edith Cowan University

Author Bio

Dr Nicole Johnston is the Associate University Librarian of Digital and Information Literacy at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia. Previously, Nicole was a Lecturer of Library and Information Studies at Edith Cowan University and University College London in Qatar. Nicole has also worked as a librarian in various roles in Australia, Ireland and Dubai. Nicole is currently a board director of ALIA and a previous member of the ALIA research advisory committee. She is a recipient of two ALIA Research Grant Awards. Nicole has conducted research and published in the areas of digital literacy, media literacy and information behavior.

Helen Weston

Program Leader Library and Research, Loreto College Coorparoo

Author Bio

Dr. Helen Weston is currently Program Leader Library and Research at Loreto College Coorparoo, Queensland. Helen has worked in school and tertiary libraries across Queensland and overseas where she completed extensive research on culture and information use. Her current research is grounded in the student experience of High Impact Teaching Strategies, Reading Habits and the role of Libraries in the Citizen Science movement. Helen was a 2023 finalist for the QLD College of Teachers TeachX awards, in the category of Innovation for her work in the Citizen Science and Libraries.