Opinion

Librarians provide lifeline to protect objective truth

It may sound counterintuitive, but in the information age, school librarians are more important than ever.

The internet has made access to a limitless array of resources instantly available to virtually anyone.

The expertise required to zero in on the data that's needed to complete that project or report is harder to acquire.

Even more important is the ability to evaluate the reliability of the information that bombards us daily.

Ask anyone who has been forwarded a breathless e-mail from a gullible acquaintance, proving the existence of a government conspiracy to keep the public from learning about a herd of living dinosaurs.

The ability to repeat and spread misinformation is much more serious than the proliferation of a few lame conspiracy theories, of course.

Decisions on who to vote for, what to buy and where to invest our money and time can and have been based on clever lies that sound like truth.

Does truth even matter in an age when some fuzzy bit of truthiness seems preferable as long as it supports our preconceived notions.

Chicago Tribune columnist Rex W. Huppke recently declared the demise of objective truth.

"To the shock of most sentient beings, Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the internet," Huppke wrote.

"Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion." Huppke added.

That's certainly the way it seems at times, but we're not ready to issue a death certificate.

That's not to say that the concept of an objective, observable fact isn't ailing.

It's why we're alarmed by the threats librarians are facing. They're the ER doctors in the battle between acquiring knowledge and merely validating existing beliefs.

On Sunday, we printed an article by Dan Catchpole of the Yakima Herald-Republic on the plight of public school librarians.

In the face of dwindling school budgets, children have less access to teacher librarians -- professionals who help them learn how to find, evaluate and use information.

Librarians still help youngsters find the perfect books that spark young imaginations and fuel a desire to learn. That role remains crucial.

But a range of new skills are needed in the information age. Learning to protect yourself from identity thieves, scam artists and other predators needs to be part of every child's education.

Learning to judge the veracity of the data that come our way with increasing speed is essential to the future of our nation.

Reducing the number of teacher librarians is the wrong move for schools in our state. Facts won't stand a chance without them.

  Comments