Event report: Aberystwyth TeachMeet on “Information Literacy in the Age of Fake News”

George Smith, Graduate Library Assistant at Aberystwyth University Library, has kindly provided a report on their recent Library TeachMeet event, which was hosted by the University and sponsored by the CILIP Information Literacy Group.

Aberystwyth Library TeachMeet: “Information Literacy in the Age of Fake News”

This year’s theme at the Aberystwyth LibTeachMeet was “Information Literacy in the Age of Fake News”, a challenging issue facing libraries and their readers. The CILIP Information Literacy Group kindly sponsored the event, which was held on June 21st, 2017 at Aberystwyth University.

Librarians and information professionals working in higher and further education were amongst the attendees, and it was apparent that we all faced similar issues in student engagement, especially when promoting information literacy. Nia Ellis and Elizabeth Kensler, Customer Services and Academic Engagement Managers, opened this year’s TeachMeet. Nia and Elizabeth reiterated that fake news posed a considerable threat to information literacy and they hoped that this TeachMeet would inspire some innovative ways to combat it.

We began with ‘The One Armed Bandit of News’ icebreaker, where I put our attendee’s fake news detection skills to the test. Loosely based on a certain long running satirical news show, two humorous headlines were shown and it was up to the attendees to decide on which they thought was the “real” headline. The icebreaker proved that, even as information professionals, it can be somewhat difficult to sift fact from fiction.


The first talk of day was An Alternate History of Alternative Facts, presented by myself. I spoke about the different types of fake news and discussed a few downright sinister examples from history, explaining that fake news is by no means a recent phenomenon.

Our next speakers were Dr Amy Staniforth and Simon French of Aberystwyth University, with Facts Matter: Truth, Memory and Metadata. Simon and Amy examined the “librarians’ agenda” when providing accurate information and metadata. The talk inspired a rather heated, but good natured, debate about the ethics of censorship in libraries.

Next up, Julie Archer and Tom Francis of Aberystwyth University presented a historical case study of Professor Herman Ethè, a shameful episode in Aberystwyth’s history.  Tom, an acquisitions librarian who has also written a play about the ill-fated professor, gave a detailed account of the larger-than-life character, who found himself at odds with the local townsfolk. Julie, Records Manager and Archivist, delved deep into the Aberystwyth University archives to show the wave of anti-German hysteria that had taken hold of the town following an intense propaganda campaign in the First World War.

Our first external speaker of the day was Catherine Finch, who had joined us from Cardiff Metropolitan University. In DuChamp’s Bicycle: teaching students about keywords in searching, Catherine demonstrated an effective exercise she uses to get students to think about keywords in relation to searching on the internet.

Our second external speaker was Jacinta Jolly of NPTC Group of Colleges. Jacinta kicked off the after-lunch talks with a perspective from further education, reviewing critical literacy teaching. Jacinta discussed the perennial issue of student engagement with initiatives, and demonstrated some effective strategies to encourage students to take part. She finished her talk with a fun ‘kahoot!’ critical thinking quiz, which motivated some friendly competition amongst the attendees.

Finally, Joy Cadwallader, subject librarian at Aberystwyth University, presented Embedding in the curriculum: first steps in fake news. Joy discussed some future ideas for teaching students about fake news, including using musical clues – the choice of the Fleet Foxes rounded off the day nicely!

There was plenty of commentary and photos shared on Twitter thanks to our own dedicated hashtag #AberLTM17.  I would like to thank the CILIP IL Group for kindly sponsoring this year’s TeachMeet, and our attendees who had travelled from the length and breadth of Wales. I would also like to thank our speakers who delivered excellent, thought-provoking presentations.

Keep your eyes peeled for Aber LibTeachMeet 2018!

Are you planning to host a TeachMeet or other IL event? Apply for ILG sponsorship! More information can be found on our CILIP webpages.

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