“Fake news will remain with us" - this is the view of Ms Ellen Tise, Senior Director of the Library and Information Service of Stellenbosch University (SU), who was sharing her perspective on the role of libraries in the fight against misinformation as part of a UN Library international panel. In her remarks, Ms Tise stated that fake news seems to flourish when there is a crisis and uncertainty, as with COVID-19. She linked that to other crises that have bred fake news in South Africa, such as HIV/AIDS and xenophobic attacks. She pointed out that during the COVID-19 pandemic, fake news has centred on five areas, namely the origin of the virus, the existence of the virus, why the virus exists, infection rates and who can be infected and miracle “cures". Ms Tise pointed out that although libraries (or anybody for that matter) cannot eliminate fake news, they can play a role in neutralising its worst effects. The role of libraries in the fight against fake news has been mainly around creating awareness, providing credible information resources, sensitising library clients to the harmful effects of fake news and empowering people to differentiate fact from fiction. Ms Tise was in the company of three other esteemed panelists from other countries. According to Mr Thanos Giannakopoulos, Chief Librarian of the UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library, the webinar was well received with more than 90 attendees from all over the world.
Parallel to the UN Library panel discussion was an international webinar organised by Elsevier Library Connect entitled Librarian best practices ensure uninterrupted access to research and education. Infrastructure readiness, communicating with users to ensure awareness of the Library's continued services and resources and how to access these, and the challenges of working remotely (during the lockdown) were shared by E-resources Manager of the Library at SU, Ms Naomi Visser. A “significant increase in user activity of our databases" in April to June of lockdown, compared to the same three months in 2019, was reported by Ms Visser. The “effort put into communicating with our users" contributed to an average increase of 71% in use of the four resources which were illustrated.
Acquiring individual e-books and access to e-textbooks are just two of the challenges Ms Visser discussed. “Everyone had to be more aware of, and understand, the individual challenges of our clients and colleagues."
Ms Visser received input from her colleagues in preparing the presentation, while Ms Emily Singley, Head of Library Systems at Boston College, USA, was a co-presenter of the webinar.
Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service, Helpline Numbers: +27 21 808 4883, Corp Office / Postal Address: Private Bag X5036 Stellenbosch, 7599