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Catching Up

A grandfather clock stands guard against an exposed brick wall. Five gray tables with blue and green chairs are arranged on a blue carpet. Beige metal carts hold biographies and graphic novels. Baskets display books for  early readers on subjects as varied as sharks, LEGOs, and Spider-Man. A rotating wood magazine rack with issues of Boy’s Life, National Geographic +Kids, and Sports Illustrated Kids.

The library is different, but the librarian is a familiar face: Ms. Stephanie Loiselle, who departed the Wilton Public Library in September 2017, transitioning to her new role as Elementary Technology/Media Generalist Teacher at Florence Rideout Elementary School (FRES).

msstephaniebwHer library is on the school’s third floor and is open for students to come in and exchange their books. During bi-weekly library class, Ms. Stephanie offers storytimes in a well-lit alcove as well as lessons in library skills, such as searching the catalog, finding books on the shelves, and learning the Dewey Decimal system.

“I do miss programming and special events.” Ms. Stephanie admits. “I also miss seeing the kids with their families. And I miss seeing their young siblings, the Pine Hill kids, and the homeschoolers.”

“Oh, and my co-workers of course,” she adds with a smirk.

Sporting a stylish and short haircut, Ms. Stephanie helps the first-graders navigate the shelves and operate the barcode scanner at the desk. The first graders have recently learned how to check out their own books. They grip the scanner in their little hands, aim the red laser at the barcode, and check out books with a satisfying beep.

 

The tech room, Ms. Stephanie’s other domain, is a floor below the library. It is marked with her name — Ms. Loiselle — and a drawing of a cartoon mouse. “It took me a minute to get why the mouse was there,” Ms. Stephanie confessed.

The room itself contains 22 computers, a rug with bold and bright patterns, and a smart board, which projects Ms. Stephanie’s desktop onto the whiteboard to demonstrate computer skills. “It’s so helpful,” she says. Signs decorating the real wall show students how to be creative communicators, digital citizens, and empowered learners.

At the computers, younger kids learn to find letters, write stories, sign into their accounts, and draw digital pictures. Older kids are creating a yearbook for the fifth-grade class to buy. Ms. Stephanie is planning a unit on online safety to teach kids “what to share, what not to share. What’s personal and what’s private information. How to be a good digital citizen and not bully people online and how to react when you see someone being cyberbullied.” She also plans a unit on body image as portrayed through advertising, social media, and PhotoShopped images. “Just because it’s there does not mean that it’s real.”

A planned lesson on Winter Olympic athletes combines library skills with tech skills. While researching a winter athlete of their choice, students learn to choose good sources, evaluate search results, research the athlete’s home country, design PowerPoint slides, and write a story. “I try co-operative units to show them that the skills are complimentary,” Ms. Stephanie explains.

As in her role as Youth Services Librarian at the Wilton Public Library, Ms. Stephanie’s skills aren’t only applied to those under four feet tall. A teacher needs help with the copier. Ms. Stephanie handily removes a sheet of paper jammed in the copier’s side panel. A blue light illuminates and the machine whirs to life. The teacher collects her pages, and Ms. Stephanie steps into the hall to greet her next class. “Tell everybody I said hi.”

(this article appeared in part in Circulation Vol. I, Issue 02)

 

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Just the Facts

As librarians, we try hard to share real information. Facts. We study how to verify information and how to sort facts from fiction. However, changes in how news is produced and how we find it has made this more difficult. With the advent of social media and its abuse by folks not interested in facts but rather in marketing, political influence or disruption, the face of fact-finding has changed.

On March 20 the library presented a nonpartisan public program titled “Fake News: What’s the Real Story?” with Randall Mikkelsen.  According to Mikkelsen’s bio, he “has worked as a financial and political journalist with Thomson Reuters since he joined Reuters in 1988.” He has covered the White House, Justice Department, CIA and other agencies in Washington, and covered economic and general news from postings in Philadelphia and Stockholm, Sweden. He also served as a Reuters desk editor for the Americas.

So what did we learn? The news world is full of agendas meant to fool and manipulate readers, from advertisers willing to disseminate “click bait” stories that grab our emotions in order to sell merchandise, to Russian bots posting thousands of fake stories to sway voters, to political and cultural organizations looking for a way to influence the public. It is up to us all to learn to navigate this new world of disinformation and find facts on which to base our decisions, by recognizing the ways in which these folks try to fool us.

The basics are simple, but sometimes hard to remember when a Facebook story hits a hot button.  Protect yourself by looking at these things: Where did the story come from? Is it a reputable news organization?  Who wrote it? When was it written? Check the information about the article by looking at the website of origin.  Is it a real site? Click past the headline to other articles on the site. What do they tell you about the website?  Is the web address similar to, but not the same as a real news source? Is it trying to fool you into thinking it is a reputable source with a name or web address that sounds like something else? Take some time to learn about the source. Fake news reports are found across the spectrum of politics, science and culture. An interesting graphic about the reliability of news sources and an interview with Mikkelsen can be found on the website for NHPR’s local talk program The Exchange.

Did you miss this program at the library? Would you like some strategies for protecting yourself from fake news? Check out some of the articles Mikkelsen has written on the topic at Thomson Reuters.

— Pat Fickett, Library Director

(this article appears in part in Circulation Vol. I, Issue 03)