Recently I embarked on a project to discuss information literacy. I also acknowledged that I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to get from point A to point B… but let me just state that Point A is (waves hand in air vaguely) all this and Point B is either “Libraries are objective, but not necessarily entirely neutral” OR “libraries need to update their definition of neutrality” OR some other statement that reflects the “big tent-ness” of libraries while protecting appropriate boundaries for all users. I’m hoping that this is not an “underpants gnome” situation.

You may have noticed that the state of political discourse, which used to only fall apart when we talked about gun control or abortion, now falls apart when we talk about EVERYTHING. It’s hard to do this without picking a side to illustrate the nature of the problem… and picking sides is not what we do here at the library when it comes to politics. What we do is focus on objectivity. So, what’s a librarian to do when the set of facts you ascribe to is tantamount to picking a side?

For the purposes of this blog series, we are going to claim the following facts are objectively true. JCLS acknowledges that not everyone agrees with these facts and/or that there are facts here that are stated in a way that they are objectively true, but still leave space for discussion. But they are a set that we are going to frame our neutrality around. These are facts that are well-documented by research and/or reported facts from credible sources:

  1. The earth is spherical… Yup, that’s a thing that some legitimately believe is debatable. See here.
  2. The Earth is not at the center of the universe. Yes, it is true that at one time the majority of scientists/philosophers/scholars believed the converse of this statement. Yes, they were wrong about that. This does not mean that all scientific beliefs that are contrary to the mainstream will one day turn out to be true, but it does imply that some of them might.
  3. Birds are real and not spy drones, which directly contradicts information I found on this website. We are almost 100% positive this site is satire, but there have been signs around Ashland advertising that “Birds Aren’t Real” recently, so we thought we’d take a stand on this one.
  4. Current scientific thinking supports the theory that humans evolved over a period of millions of years from primates.
  5. The vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is a thing that is happening, and it is caused by stuff humans are doing to the planet. (It is also a fact that there are scientists who do not support these conclusions and that science does not function by majority or consensus decision making.)
  6. We are in the midst of a global COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last year, over 530,000 people in the United States have died of this disease.
  7. The Centers for Disease Control recommend the use of masks for the purpose of curbing the spread of COVID-19.
  8. The Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for COVID have been tested, and the results have shown that they are both safe and effective for emergency use.
  9. The US Constitution contains statements that are deeply racist. When taking into account the fact that many who signed the Declaration of Independence also believed it should be legal to own human beings and force them to live in a state of chattel slavery, one can make a contextual inference that there are racist underpinnings in that document as well (see “all men are created equal”). As a result of this and other factors, structural racism exists in our country.
  10. Science does, in fact, support the existence of transgender people (as does the fact that there are people in our community who are transgender). These people are human beings, which means that, from the standpoint of a logically structured argument, trans rights are human rights. This is a little fancy… we are using a logically sound argument structure called “Syllogism.” You can find more information here.
  11. President Joe Biden won both the popular vote and the electoral college in the 2020 presidential election.
  12. The people who stormed the US Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 were not peaceful protestors making use of their first amendment rights, they were breaking the law and were trying to overthrow an election that was rightfully won by President Biden (see point 11). Clear evidence supports the fact that they were Trump supporters and not members of antifa.
  13. Qanon is a term for the beliefs of an anonymous poster who goes by ”Q.” While those who follow Q’s posts find the narrative compelling, there is no evidence to indicate Qanon is anything other than disinformation. We are going to talk about how difficult it can be to prove a negative proposition later. You can read more about Qanon here.
  14. It is the nature of things that if a person from a century in the future was to read this list, that person will almost certainly shake their head in shame at least one of these statements. We seriously hope it’s the not the bird one. There’s a book called But What If We’re Wrong? that discusses this topic, inspired the booklist included in this post, and this item on the list!

We encourage you to read and explore these ideas using resources we are happy to provide… yes, even if the ideas contradict the facts as laid out above… and if you really want to check out differing viewpoints, our Opposing Viewpoints in Context database is an amazing way to see “both sides” of an argument presented. It had been a while since I used this resource myself. There are overviews of many popular topics, but I find the meat of the resource to be the “viewpoints” articles. The easiest way to get to these is to type “viewpoints” in the search bar. These are opinion pieces, no matter the slant of the piece it is framed with information about the author and questions to consider while reading that specific piece.

See you in two weeks. We’ll talk about data and how it was used to spread misinformation related to the results of the 2020 presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic.