Policy, Rights and Access to Information all shape our environment, community and lives in different ways with a variety of outcomes. Regardless of who you voted for in the recent presidential election there are strong feelings related to censorship and government transparency.

The Trump administration has seen a quick response to a perception that information should be censored. Activists within or connected to government agencies, set-up twitter handles recently to get information out to the public. New legislation was enacted under former President Obama that supports release of information and strives to improve transparency. Time will tell what further push back or support the new administration receives in its handling of information.

Once we have information, what we do with it is important and our ability to evaluate that information is critical.  K-12 and University libraries may offer more insight than Public libraries into Critical Information Literacy.  Perhaps it is time for Public Libraries to assist in this process.  MLIS programs can play a part in preparing Information Professionals for this task to ensure that standard principles for evaluation are used.  We have a right to information and this is considered a global right.  This ties into the librarian’s roles and expectations to be a link to information.  We have seen examples of a commitment to expression by the variety of services and events that occur at many libraries today.

As we pursue our right to transparency and work on pathways for improving how we evaluate information, we face other concerns.  We must walk a delicate balance of protecting our rights, fighting terrorism and government control. It can be a never-ending tightrope of checks and balances but staying true to making our own decisions based on how we feel is vital.

Finally, as we have looked at Policy and discussed Human Rights we must remember Access to Information and removing barriers are key.  We must continue to end barriers to all the rewards that libraries have to offer.  The struggle is real and we must work hard to make sure there are enough libraries for all regardless of background, neighborhood or income. The thirty million-word gap must be reduced or eliminated. Libraries are important and we need to use, grow and expand them!

Thanks for reading our blog.

This blog is a project for LIS 6010: Introduction to the Library and Information Science Profession. Group 3 runs the blog: Terri S., Heather L., Anne H., Shannon Y., Lauren A., and Melissa C.


Removing Barriers to Access in Public Libraries


For many of us, the use of multiple forms of technology is a normal part of our day. Access to the Internet is at our fingertips almost wherever we are with the help of computers, smartphones, and electronic devices. However, there are still many who struggle with using technology. Two of the biggest reasons often cited for not using technology are not knowing how to use it, and not having access to it.

This is where public libraries come in. Public Libraries are, for many, the places that break down those barriers and open up access to technology. (See: Still, despite these needs and uses, barriers still exist. To help break down some of these barriers, libraries are implementing programs and offering resources to help their communities gain greater access to technology and resources.


Libraries have begun implementing programs to encourage patrons to return to the library after being kept away due to fines and missing items. Read Down Your Fines programs encourage reading while allowing people to bring down their fines; fines that may have previously kept them out of the library. (Herrick District Library, 2017) Fine Amnesty days allow patrons to return items no matter how long they have been checked out. When the items are returned, all fines attached to them are forgiven. Chicago Public Library implemented such a program. They reported that over 37,509 patrons were able to return who hadn’t been able to access library resources for many years. They also recovered over 100,000 items worth almost two million dollars over a two-month period. (Urban Libraries Council, 2013)


While most public libraries provide access to internet and computers within the building, more and more libraries are also looking at new ways to provide internet services and technology outside of the building. Libraries have begun pilot programs that allow patrons to checkout internet hotspots and take them home, giving patrons an opportunity to use the internet outside of normal library hours. (Collie, 2014)

If patrons are unsure of how to use technology, some libraries have begun putting tutorials on their websites. (Herrick District Library, 2017) This allows patrons to access the information and begin learning about technology even if the library does not have the staff time and resources to teach technology classes.


While libraries work hard to provide programs and resources to patrons, all of these efforts cannot be done alone. Within communities are other businesses, organizations, and community advocates with whom partnerships can be made to bring more services to the community. Communication with policymakers about the needs of the community can help implement new laws and funding. Working together and with others, libraries can continue to break down barriers and open new doors for their community.


Carmichael, J. (2014, April 13). Public libraries. Retrieved February, 2017, from

Collie, V. (2014, May 7). Chicago public library to begin “hotspot at home” pilot project. Public Libraries Online. Retrieved February, 2017, from

Eliminating barriers to access. (2013). Retrieved February 2017, from–innovation-863.php?page_id=169

(n.d.). Retrieved February, 2017, from

(n.d.). Retrieved February, 2017, from

Babies Need Words Every Day!

Communication is important from the baby’s first cooing and vital for development especially before age three. Babies from newborn to fifteen months move from cooing, to babbling to imitating sounds.  They usually will know 5-10 words by the age of fifteen months.  It is important to have communication in the home that inspires vocabulary growth.  Access to libraries and the services they offer are important and the lack of access to books and information can contribute to a word gap with children. An awareness project titled “Babies Need Words Every Day: Talk, Read, Sing, Play” by the Association for Library Service to Children, (ALSC) has played a part in providing materials and support services to help bridge the gap.


In many low-income neighborhoods, there is a “book desert”, which means there are less libraries and bookstores.  There is less access to materials that encourage development that is critical prior to three years of age. According to a study done by New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development there are more dollar stores than libraries or bookstores in low-income neighborhoods. They looked at low-income neighborhoods in Detroit, Washington D.C and Los Angeles. In middle to high-income neighborhoods, there is approximately one book for every thirteen children versus one book for every thirty children in low-income neighborhoods.

The University of Kansas (Hart, Risley 1995) conducted research and found that children from low-income neighborhoods have a thirty million-word gap by the age of three. This affects children’s ability to do well in school; it lowers self-esteem and can lead to crime.  It also affects children and adults incentive to use library resources due to reduced communication skills. This is compounded each generation because of the carryover of low vocabulary skills.

The “Babies Need Words Every Day: Talk, Read, Sing, Play” project was started in to help bridge the thirty million word gap.  The campaign places posters in schools, libraries and communities to educate parents on different methods to improve vocabulary through reading, rhymes, and games. The project has collaborated with companies to create programs for communities impacted by this gap.  Libraries have sponsored book donation programs that go to schools, clinics and community centers.

The negative effect of the thirty million-word gap can be reversed through partnerships with parents, schools, and libraries.  Reducing and eventually eliminating the thirty million, word gap will help improve self-esteem, which in turn motivates a person to achieve goals.  That success inspires more goal setting and could be the positive change in a community.


Association for Library Service to Children. (n.d.) Babies need words every day: talk, read, sing, play . Retrieved from

Hart, B. and Risley, T. (2003). The early catastrophe: The 30 million word gap by age 3. American Educator, 27(1), 4-9. Retrieved from

Jomard, Asa. (2009, June 9). Speech development milestones. Retrieved from

Study identifies ‘book deserts’—poor neighborhoods lacking children’s books—across country. (July 12, 2016). Retrieved from

Information Access Under the Trump Administration

With a recent poll showing that 1 in 3 Americans would move to one of the newly discovered alien planets if it meant avoiding American politics, there’s no question we’re in some strongly divisive times (D’Angelo, 2017). However, there is one concept that almost everyone can agree on: Data created by government agencies should be easily available to the public.

Current Movements

Many Americans are showing concern about potential issues of censorship in the new administration. In response to this fear, people are teaming up to make sure information is not lost, and that facts are heard. Teams of “Guerrilla Archivists” have met in such

Retrieved from

places as Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania where they work to copy government data onto public servers (Dennis 2016). When the twitter account of the Badlands National Park “went rogue” by tweeting facts related to climate change after many federal agencies were put on “information lockdown” with memos going around blocking the release of any news releases or social media posts (Resticcia, Guillen, & Cook, 2017), a band of new twitter handles such as @AltUSNatParkService and @BadHombreNPS made up of non-government individuals popped up and continue to post politically motivated tweets (Capatides, 2017). A @librariesresist account exists in a similar vain. Groups such as The American Library Association have put out statements about their concerns. The Society of American Archivists with others even submitted recommendations for the transition team.


The OPEN Government Data Act recently passed the Senate and in December 2016 was held at the desk in the House of Representatives. This nonpartisan bill would force all federal agencies to make all data they produce, with some exceptions for national security

Image Retrieved from

and other concerns, public in a machine-readable format (S. 2852, 2015-2016). It is
essentially an extension of an executive order put forth by President Obama in 2013 entitled “Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government information” (Executive Order No. 13642, 2013).

The Freedom of Information Act, passed in 1966, is still relevant today. The US Department of Justice’s website explains that the act has “provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency.” This act does a great deal to aid in transparency of government as well as access to information, but it is far from perfect.  In 2014, under the Obama administration, the backlog of unanswered requests grew by 55% by the end of the year. While the act was “more popular than ever” with a record of 714,231 requests (Bridis, 2015). Currently, the FOIA is being used by such groups as the ACLU, who submitted a “massive” request for information regarding potential conflicts of interest in the Trump Administration in another attempt to increase transparency (Blumenthal, 2017).


Blumenthal, P. (2017, January 20). The ACLU announces mass FOIA for Donald Trump’s business conflicts. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Bridis, T. (2015, March 18). Obama administration sets new record for withholding FOIA requests. PBS. Retrieved from

Capatides, C. (2017, January 24). Badlands National Park twitter account goes rogue, starts tweeting scientific facts. CBS News. Retrieved from

D’Angelo, C. (2017, February 24).  1 in 3 Americans would move to an alien planet to escape U.S. politics. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Dennis, B. (2016, December 13). Scientists are frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump. Washington Post. Retrieved from

Exec. Oder No. 13642, 3 C.F.R. 244-246 (2013).

OPEN Government Data Act, S.2852, 114th Congress. (2015-2016).

Restuccia, A., Guillen, A., & Cook, N. (2017, January 25). Information lockdown hits Trump’s federal agencies. Politico. Retrieved from

The United States Department of Justice, (n.d.). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from

International Covenant Civil & Politics Rights, Article 19: The Right to Know – Internet Access

In order to fully appreciate the immense importance of our right to access to information in a library, we must first understand the United Nation’s declaration that every individual in the world has a human right to freedom of expression as well as, a human right to internet.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 19

In 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 states that every human being has a right to freedom of opinion and expression. The rule further states that this right includes the freedom to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media…” (United Nations, n.d., p. 3).

The freedom of expression in Article 19 grants the right to all individuals. Freedom of expression gifts people the ability to understand the world through an unbiased lens and creates a safe and unfettered way to exchange ideas and opinions with others without fearing the repercussions of intolerant laws.

pic1Retrieved  from

Expansion of Article 19 to encompass a human right to internet access

Nearly the entire globe uses the internet to communicate and work in their daily lives. Billions of people have access to the internet but there are many governments and countries that seek to restrict or control usage. In 2016, the United Nations saw the importance of providing a right to uncensored access to internet. On July 01, 2016, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations and a multitude of countries passed the “promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet. (United Nations,  July 2016, p. 1) The resolution that was adopted contained many clauses that described the importance and scope of the right to internet. Of the most notable and helpful to the information profession were those that noted the link to lack of internet (and therefore access to information) in certain groups of people. The resolution noted that there is a digital divide between genders, poorer countries, individuals with disabilities and that countries should not alter or disrupt the distribution of information that is available on the internet.

Why is this important to librarianship?

Under the American Library Association, it is a librarian’s role to promote the freedom of expression and access to information. With the development of technology, this has expanded to include internet usage. As librarians we should know the greater importance of upholding this right – it is not simply a right prescribed by the United States Constitution but a right the world is in agreement about. In conclusion, it is important for librarians to know the full scope of our duty to provide our patrons with unfettered internet access because of its vast importance.


American Library Association. (n.d.) Library Bill of Rights.

Article 19. (n.d.). Freedom of expression. Retrieved from

Sandle, T. (2016, July 22). UN thinks internet access is a human right. Retrieved from

United Nations (2016, June 27). Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. Retrieved from

—. (2016, July 18). Resolution adopted by the human rights council on 1 July 2016. Retrieved from

—. (n.d.) Universal declaration of human rights. Retrieved from

Authored by: Heather Levrant

The Need for Critical Information Literacy Instruction in Public Libraries

The Public Library as an Educational Institution

The public library was originally conceived of as a compliment to, and extension of, the nineteenth century ideal of universal education. Literacy rates in the U.S. increased dramatically after the implementation of universal education, and the library was envisioned as a place where an adult’s education could continue after the end of their formal schooling. Dewey quote on iphone.pngMuch about public libraries has changed since then and much has stayed the same. Libraries continue to offer information resources and services to patrons, but technological advancement means the types of information available and the way patrons access and use information have changed dramatically. In this era of ubiquitous technology and information overload, information literacy may rightly be considered a survival skill.

Critical Information Literacy Instruction in Public Libraries

While there is much debate over literacy types and definitions, critical information literacy may be understood as emphasizing the evaluate part of the ALA’s original 1989 definition of information literacy, which is “the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” Critical information literacy is especially important in this era of post-truth, alternative facts, and fake news. It is especially important under an administration that has adopted an adversarial approach to rights of a free press, in particular, and access to information, in general. While K-12 and academic librarians have focused on teaching critical information literacy for some time, there is a dearth of literature examining the role of the public library in teaching such skills. Information literacy in public libraries primarily focuses on early childhood literacy and technological literacy. The good(?) news is that recent events have highlighted this gap, prompting individual librarians and professional associations to respond to the need for public library instruction in critical information literacy.

Overcoming Obstacles to Instruction

One reason for the lack of public library instruction in this area may be that librarians are simply  not comfortable providing it; many academic librarians are uncomfortable with direct instruction and this feeling may extend to public librarians as well. In order for public librarians to feel comfortable and competent providing such instruction, MLIS programs need to better prepare students for this part of their professional role. Another acrl-info-literacyreason this instruction is not widely offered in public libraries could be that librarians view critical information literacy, which considers “ways librarians may encourage students to engage with and act upon the power structures underpinning information’s production and dissemination” (Tewell 2015, 25), as a violation of their commitment to political neutrality. Such concern is understandable. However, ethical instruction in critical information literacy need not make any political claims other than those librarianship is founded upon – that access to information and intellectual freedom are crucial components of a democratic society. Critical information literacy instruction simply extends the skills and knowledge librarians themselves are taught in every MLIS program – how to examine information resources for bias, authority, and context – to patrons.


ALA Public Programs Office. (2017, February 23). News: Fake news: A library resource round-up [Web log post]. Retrieved from

American Library Association. (n.d.). Access. Retrieved from

American Library Association. (n.d.). Evaluating information: Home. Retrieved from

American Library Association. (n.d.). Intellectual freedom. Retrieved from

Association of College and Research Libraries. (1989). Presidential committee on information literacy: Final report. Retrieved from

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Retrieved from

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2016). Framework for information literacy for higher education. Retrieved from

Davenport, C. (2017, January 25). Federal agencies told to halt external communications. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Dean, M. (2011). The role of public libraries in promoting information literacy: An annotated bibliography. Unpublished manuscript. Retrieved from

Dewey, M. (1876). The profession. American Library Journal, 1, 5-6.

Everything president Trump has tweeted (and what it was about). (2017, February 24). The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from

Fandos, N. (2017, January 22). White house pushes ‘alternative facts.’ Here are the real ones. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Hall, R. (2010). Public praxis: A vision for critical information literacy in public libraries. Public Libraries Quarterly, 29, 162-175.

Harding, J. (2008). Information literacy and the public library: We’ve talked the talk, but are we walking the walk? The Australian Library Journal, 57(3), 274-294. Retrieved from

Jackson, D. (2017, February 24). Trump again calls media ‘enemy of the people’. USA Today. Retrieved from

Johnson, A. M., Sproles, C., & Detmering, R. (2011). Library instruction and information literacy 2010. Reference Services Review, 39, 551-627.

Julien, H. (2005). Education for information literacy instruction: A global perspective. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 46(3), 210-216. Retrieved from

Julien, H. and Genuis, S.K. (2009). Emotional labour in librarians’ instructional work. Journal of Documentation, 65(6), 926-937. Retrieved from’_instructional_work/links/0fcfd508d50f2e65a1000000.pdf

Julien, H. & Hoffman, C. (2008). Information literacy training in Canada’s public libraries. The Library Quarterly, 78(1), 19-41. Retrieved from

Kelsey, A. & Mallin, A. (2017, February 24). Trump renews attacks on media amid news of FBI-White House contact. ABC News. Retrieved from

Lynch, M. P. (2016, March 9). Googling is believing: trumping the informed citizen. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Mackey, T. P. & Jacobson, T. E. (2011). Reframing information literacy as a metaliteracy. College & Research Libraries, 72(1), 62-78. Retrieved from

Oxford Dictionaries. (n.d.). Word of the year 2016 is…. Retrieved from

Savransky, R. (2017, January 11). Trump berates CNN reporter: ‘you are fake news’. The Hill. Retrieved from

Siddiqui, S. (2017, February 25). Trump press ban: BBC, CNN and Guardian denied access to briefing. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Singh, J., Kerr, P., & Hamburger, E. (2016). Media and information literacy: Reinforcing human rights, countering radicalization and extremism (MILID Yearbook 2016). Paris, France: UNESCO. Retrieved from

Smith, L. C. & Wong, M. A. (Eds.). (2016). Reference and information services: An introduction (5th ed.). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Stanford History Education Group. (2016). Evaluating information: The cornerstone of civic online reasoning (Executive Summary). Retrieved from

Tavernise, S. (2016, December 6). As fake news spreads lies, more readers shrug at truth. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Tewell, E. (2015). A decade of critical information literacy. Communications in Information Literacy, (9)1, 24-43. Retrieved from

For the Encryption Illiterate: A Brief, Up-to-Date Review of Human Rights and Encryption

Based on the UNESCO publication Dec 2016 of the same name; one of a series centered on Internet Freedoms and accepted guidelines of Internet Universality

padlock-lock-chain-key-39624It cannot be ignored. Within the realm of internet governance, there is no more debated topic than encryption. Encryption is defined by UNESCO as “the protection of personal data against unlawful access by other-than-intended recipients”(UNESCO, 2016, p. 12). It has been a topic of concern since the 1990s, beginning in the U.S. Crypto Wars. Such an epic title! Yet, this refers to the ethics of telecom companies wiretapping individuals for law enforcement. If you missed it, the state won; i.e. CALEA act. The topic seems to have faded to the periphery until 2013, when the debate arose once more, after Snowden blew a whistle on U.S. mass surveillance tactics compromising privacy, security and anonymity. Bam! The world paid attention to whether state’s have the right to force the private sector to play peeping tom on an individual; i.e information freedom facing off against public safety concerns. In a world of terrorist threat, the state tends to fear that strong encryption would present possible obstacles to access and lead to dark shadows of maliciousness. World councils have pondered this problem; two ideas that resurface are increased transparency or backdoor government access. Within the framework of this Encryption report, the conclusion is that these solutions are flawed or technologically impossible to achieve due to points of vulnerability and certain collateral damage to e-commerce, global trade and cyber-security, etc.  The reviewers acknowledge the doomed seesaw effect… pursue one platform, compromise the other.


Policy Development around the World

Various state approaches to internet governance and encryption policy are given attention, as well. For example, the German state has plans to become ‘Encryption Site #1’. And, Brazil drafted a legal framework of internet rules, bundling internet rights with net neutrality, etc. On paper, it looks good… in practice? Well, people have to pay attention to a freedom before much can be said. In Northern Africa, Tunisia, they have laws banning the encryption usage and tossing individuals in prison for up to 5 years for the unauthorized sale/use of such. To round this out, Egypt’s ‘Remote Control System’ is a tyrannical mass-surveillance concept. Did you know, the state even blocked Facebook? Horrors! Evidently, state encryption policies fall on a wide spectrum. However, the internet, by its very nature as a communication network, has no international boundaries. The report recommends user advocacy/education and further coordination among nations to develop internet governance norms. People want a “free, open and trusted internet that enables [them] to …access information resources…[and] to contribute information and knowledge to local/global communities”(UNESCO, 2016, p.11).


How do Human Rights fit in?

How do they not? Human Rights (UDHR ‘soft law’ and ICCPR treaty agreements) are considered in a lengthy fashion. Nobody has the right to tell you what to think; opinions are absolute freedoms. They are formed through access to information and an exercise of the freedom of expression. Therefore, policy protection granted to expression, extends to opinions and to information access points. In combination with the policy right to privacy, user encryption rights are covered; even deemed an obligation. Further, there is a basic human need for uninhibited communication in order to develop as individuals.Without which (drumroll, please), the result may be a “general numbness or freezing of intellectual life”(UNESCO, 2016, p. 54).

To conclude, follow the worthy report’s recommendation…. Resist an intellectual ice age! Do not become popsicles! Develop as individuals! Exercise your right to information access and educate yourself about encryption!



25/02/17 by Shannon Yarbrough

To read further on this publication, CLICK HERE!



UNESCO. (2016). Human rights and encryption. Retrieved from

                                                     Images found on