Category Archives: Library

Library Closing on Wednesday, Aug 24 at 8pm – Community Meeting – All Are Welcomed – Monday, Aug 22 at 7pm

A New Chapter Begins…

Great news! We are building a new Library. The new Takoma Park Maryland Library, new Computer Center, and improved Community Center facilities are happening at last. After years of conversations and planning, we have dates on the calendar that will impact Library, Computer Center, and Community Center, and our patrons.

Informational Community Meeting

Monday, August 22, 2022
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Community Center
Auditorium
7500 Maple Avenue
Takoma Park, MD 20906

The meeting will be broadcast on RCN, Comcast/Xfinity, and Verizon Fios, and it will be streamed on City TV’s Facebook and YouTube.

Library Closing:

Wednesday, August 24, 2022, will be the last day to visit the Library and Computer Center before we relocate to a temporary space for the duration of construction. For more information, please visit: Library and Community Center Renovation

QR Code:

Use the QR for up to date news and updates on the progress of the Library Renovation

New Email Address

Email:  new library
newlibrary@takomaparkmd.gov

COVID-19 rapid test kits and N95 masks available now!

 

The Takoma Park Maryland Library has COVID-19 test kits and N95 masks available for pickup during regular library hours.

Location

Takoma Park Maryland Library
101 Philadelphia Avenue
Takoma Park, MD 20912

Hours

Monday – Thursday: 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Friday – Sunday: 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm

How to use your rapid test kit

Rapid tests produce results 15 minutes after you complete all steps.

  1. Read the instructions before beginning.
  2. Follow the steps to complete your test.
  3. Self-report your results.
About our N95 masks

We offer adult-size ZYB-11 masks (a brand of N95 masks). We do not have child-size masks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated mask guidance to emphasize protection against COVID-19 spread. N95, KN95, and KF94 respirators, or masks, provide higher levels of protection against COVID-19.

 

Order free rapid tests for at-home delivery from the US government.

 

Please note: Staff wore gloves while handling masks and test kits.

Information Literacy: A Special Report from the Takoma Park Maryland Library, Part Two

 

By Jill Raymond and Anne LeVeque

Last month we talked about the various forms of mis- and dis-information (Part One). Now we’re going to talk about how we sort out the vast amount of information we are exposed to every day. Two central skills are required for discerning credible from non-credible information: first is the ability to set aside our emotions and desires and use our capacity for reason, accepting facts even when we don’t like them; second are the tools to recognize trustworthy information.

So, how do we know what is trustworthy? Is a source that is trustworthy always right, every time? Actually, no. A trustworthy source can be in error, resulting from lack of clarity, insufficient data, or honest misinterpretation of data. Dr. Anthony Fauci, and others, asked that people not wear masks at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, thinking it would cause a shortage and medical personnel would not have enough; there were shortages of protective materials in the beginning, but as the science of the virus came into better focus, it was clear that mask-wearing offered great protection for the public; many people began making masks to help mitigate the shortage, and production ramped up. The knowledge around this issue continues to evolve.

Science builds its knowledge base on information gleaned from multiple failed experiments. The details of these experiments are critiqued by other experts in the same field, which is why we say that trustworthiness comes from facts as society currently has the tools to discern them. The tools of discernment examine factors like intent, expertise, and transparency regarding data, methods, connection to monied interests, etc.

 

Disinformation involves malicious intent. Disinformation is false information promoted to achieve a particular end goal that benefits the perpetrator, either financially, socially, politically, or militarily. Disinformation is usually (but not always) a professional product. Like actors on a stage or sophisticated advertising techniques, it is packaged to deceive and look like “the real thing.” One recent example is the well-documented effort by the Russian government to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Disinformation morphs as the public conversation shifts over time and as true and factual information becomes available to more people. For example, those who publicly deny climate change and the science behind it began to call themselves (and get the media to refer to them as) climate skeptics, which sounds much more thoughtful, often naming themselves something that sounds quite public-service-minded, like “Institute for Energy Research.” They try to discredit climate science by casting doubt on the evidence. However, their “experts” are often tied to the fossil fuels industry or far-right-wing organizations with political agendas tied to climate denial. A famous tobacco industry document from the 1960s said, “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public.

 

Do your own research: Google and Wikipedia. One problem in discerning information is semantic: The word research is used for many different levels of inquiry from scientific research into diseases to looking up the definition of a word with which we’re unfamiliar. Using Google is fine for a general inquiry and frequently takes you to a Wikipedia page as part of its results. Wikipedia is a user-edited encyclopedia and thus is subject to problems of bias. It does its best to address these issues, but it’s not perfect. Wikipedia is a good starting place. The example given at the beginning of this article, Critical Race Theory, was adequately addressed by looking at Wikipedia. The article ,was clearly scholarly and had many sources and footnotes. Those sources and footnotes are a good indicator of the reliability of an article.

When a scholar is beginning a research project, they will go further than Wikipedia, of course. They will begin by searching academic databases for their topic, reading those articles, and further researching the footnotes and references given by those articles. This way, researchers can be sure they are not either covering well-worn ground or furthering incorrect information. This type of research is best aided by a research librarian who is familiar with the literature in any given field of study.

Another use of the word research is scientists’ clinical trials and laboratory experiments. This kind of research is based on the foundations laid by prior research and the preliminary research done by searching databases. When the results of this kind of research are submitted for publication, the study undergoes peer review, where other researchers in the same or a similar area review it and recommend (or not) the research for publication.

When we research a topic, we want to see what Google or Wikipedia says for most of us. However, if we want verified, reliable information, we should go to such resources as Encyclopedia Britannica, Oxford Reference resources, and others, all of which are available through the library’s website. Your tax dollars have paid for access to these resources.

There are other valuable resources online for checking facts and quelling rumors. One of the best is Snopes.com, which began as a fact-checker of urban legends but has expanded into a trusted source of information. Another is Politifact.com, which as its name implies, verifies political information, including statements made by politicians or pundits. It is sponsored by the Poynter Institute, a non-profit school for journalists.

 

Speaking of doubt. This brings us to two important caveats as we think about how to navigate the oceans of mis- and dis-information on the internet and in our conversations.

  1. Cynicism and nihilism are the byproducts of a chaotic and unreliable information environment. To throw one’s hands up and surrender, to find oneself saying “they all lie” or “they all cheat and steal” is as damaging to our info-ecosystem as spouting the tenets of the newest cult. To be critical is not the same as adopting a posture of manufactured cynicism. Criticism shines light, and it does not promote hopelessness, which is the real goal of many purveyors of disinformation. Cynicism and hopelessness do not work to make things better.
  2. Critical thinking does not exclude marginalized or minority voices. The insights from racial, ethnic, and gender minorities have been excluded, deliberately and otherwise, from much of public discourse.

Our tools of discernment and fact-checking must become habits of thought, like looking both ways before crossing a street. The good news is that the more people there are being careful with information, the easier the job becomes because we share reliable and credible sources.

 

Library Director Jessica Jones contributed to this article.

 

A note to readers: The authors posted references, footnotes, and some expanded content on the library website, including links to reliable sources of information along with some amusing illustrations and memes. Go to www.takomapark.info for more information.

 

This article was featured in the February 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see full list of past newsletters.

Information Literacy: A Special Report from the Takoma Park Maryland Library, Part One

 

By Anne LeVeque and Jill Raymond

Not long ago, a library patron asked for help in finding information about Critical Race Theory (CRT). The patron had searched online using Google and said that all the results, “were negative.” We helped the patron find unbiased information about CRT, including a clear definition of it. There is a huge amount of misinformation and disinformation about CRT being bandied about in the public square, not just on social media but in school board meetings, state legislatures, and the courts. Many of these debates are heated and have led to death threats against school board members.

The consequences of poor information literacy can be dire. In the age of COVID, people have literally died because they believed incorrect information about the disease, how to prevent spreading it, how to treat it, and, of course, vaccinations that prevent it. Not only that, but the misinformation around COVID has led to significant financial losses in our economy. The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security published a report in October 2021 estimating that the cost of COVID vaccine misinformation and disinformation is between $50 and $300 million dollars per day since May 2021, and that is just in the United States. Global figures are much higher. At press time, the omicron variant has just emerged, and we may see this figure increase significantly.

First, let’s start with some definitions: What is misinformation, what is disinformation, and what is the difference? The meanings are very close. Both terms refer to false information. Misinformation refers to false information, such as false rumors, misunderstanding of information, and misleading use of facts. Disinformation is like misinformation; false information is used deliberately and in an organized fashion. The term has its origins in the Cold War era and originally referred to a type of propaganda, particularly government-sponsored propaganda. The word “disinformation” has come to mean any organized campaign of false information, whether government-sponsored or not. Think of it as the deliberate intent to convey an untruth or to persuade people of an untruth for the purpose of achieving some goal of the perpetrator.

Information literacy is the ability to distinguish reliable information from mis-and-disinformation. The term arose in the 1980s in the context of libraries and refers to the ability to evaluate information critically to determine its authenticity, veracity, and purpose. In this article, we hope to convey information about some of the tools available to help you do that.

Types and Sources of Misinformation

We all pass around misinformation. We all like to be “in the know.” Sometimes an otherwise reliable source we trust has made an error, and we have passed that on in casual conversation or on social media.

One source of misinformation is our own memory. Professional investigators know that the memories of eyewitnesses to crimes or other events are notoriously unreliable, some have even tweaked their interviewing techniques appropriately.

Are there things you would like to be true, but you suspect probably are not, like horoscopes? Are you ever in arguments with friends about a scandal involving a sports figure or celebrity? You may not want to think this person guilty of serious moral failings, but the credible evidence suggests that maybe they are.

Psychologists know that people too often believe what they want to think is true for emotional reasons. This is called “confirmation bias.” People often want to believe something just because they think large numbers of other people think it’s true. This can bring about something called the Mandela Effect in which large numbers of people believe that something happened (the death of Nelson Mandela in prison in the 1980s, when in fact he died in 2013 after serving as president of South Africa) that didn’t occur.

Another source of misinformation is “spin.” Spin is the manipulation of information for a particular purpose. It is not necessarily inaccurate, but it is info that is packaged in such a way as to achieve a specific reaction in listeners/readers. Relevant details may be left out deliberately or irrelevant ones disproportionately emphasized. The best example of this is television commercials. All of us boast, exaggerate, or try to “spin” the facts if, for instance, we are embarrassed about something. But for serious and reliable information based on facts as society currently has the tools to discern them, casual assertions cannot be taken at face value.

An extreme sort of spin is clickbait. Clickbait is not necessarily incorrect, but it is designed to tempt. It screams something phrased to enrage, terrify, offend, or otherwise make people put down what they’re doing and look at something they would otherwise ignore. Whenever this is the case, we must look at what interest is being served here. Most clickbait articles are on sites that are paid “per click,” so there is a financial interest in getting people to read these lurid articles.

Satire is such an enormous source of misinformation that some social media platforms have required it to be tagged as such. A well-written satire is not always discernible as comedy. Three centuries ago, Johnathan Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal,” which suggests that the poor in Ireland could survive by eating their children. Scholars debate Swift’s precise target, but it certainly served to excoriate British policy towards the Irish.

Today, Alexandra Petri writes columns for the Washington Post with headlines like, “Big Bird is a Communist.” But as things get passed around on the internet, often without identifying source details, some people mistake satire for sincere argument and may be inclined to join up with a movement that isn’t real. Is Big Bird a communist? Another example is in the 1990s, the satirical news website The Onion ran a joke article saying that J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, was encouraging children to worship Satan. This article was spread among people who believed it to be a real news article and evidence that the Harry Potter books were Satanic. Those who spread the article, presenting it as real, whether they knew it was satire, have spread misinformation.

The founders of America knew that a mass of people could be manipulated into an angry mob capable of violent behavior none of the individuals would separately, having thought about it, engage in. What they feared is really a combination of disinformation—on the part of the perpetrator, who has something to gain—and misinformation being passed along among members of a crowd that is emotionally primed to believe what the perpetrator is telling them. And that’s why the founders knew the framework of checks and balances they devised was not by itself sufficient for protecting democratic governance. An educated and knowledgeable populace was necessary. Inscribed on the Library of Congress building named for him is James Madison’s warning: “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own governours must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Library Director Jessica Jones contributed to this article. Next month’s article (Part Two) will discuss how to tell reliable information from misinformation.

 

This article was featured in the January 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see full list of past newsletters.

Library’s Books-To-Go Service Begins Monday, July 6th

 

Here’s how curbside service will work:

To check out books, all books on your library card first must be returned! Once you return your books in the book-drop, they are quarantined for four days, so they will still appear on your account for a few days after you’ve brought them back.

Before requesting books, please check our catalog  to see if we have the book, and if it is available. This saves us time, and allows us to serve more patrons.

Requests will be taken by email (strongly preferred), and by phone.

The email for book requests is: librarytakomapark@gmail.com
To request kids/teen books, call: 301-580-0085
To request adult books, call: 240-507-0229

  • Phone requests will be taken Mondays and Wednesdays, 10-12 and 4-6, and Saturdays, 10-12.
  • Please provide your birthday, in either your email or phone request,  so we can call up your account, and also to ensure you get the books you ordered.
  • Patrons are limited to 5 books per order.

Picking up your books

  • Once your requested books are ready. we’ll give you a pick-up window.  Mondays and Wednesdays, 12-2 and 6-8, and Saturdays, 12-3.
  • Call 301-580-0085 when you get to the Library during your assigned window. We’ll bring out your books and leave them on a table for you to pick up.