Library Programming Idea: Debates & Truthiness
A programming idea came to me on the drive home from work a few weeks ago. I hope someone will steal it for their library!
The elections are coming (November 6). The Commission on Presidential Debates (I didn’t realize this was a thing!) has announced four presidential and vice presidential debate dates and locations:
- Wednesday, October 3 – First presidential debate – University of Denver, Denver, CO
- Thursday, October 11 – Vice presidential debate – Centre College, Danville, KY
- Tuesday, October 16 – Second presidential debate – Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
- Monday, October 22 – Third presidential debate – Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL
Most campuses organize public viewings of the televised debates (or at least one of them) to encourage student involvement and civic engagement. I’ve seen this done through Student Senate or sometimes through the College Democrats/Republicans.
The library should totally partner up! We could have a table with 3-5 librarians wherever the debate is being shown. The librarians would have laptops or other Internet-connected devices. As the debate takes place, the librarians would be live fact-checking, pulling up data to clarify crazy accusations, finding local information that new policies might impact or disrupt, etc. Maybe the librarian would ring a bell and shout out an interesting related fact when they found it. Maybe there would be a projector showing a collaborative Google Doc up on the wall next to the debate, automatically updating with blurbs of information. Or projecting a Twitter hashtag with related information (specific to the university) where students could engage in the conversation. You could invite political science students/faculty to participate, partner up with a class, or even have some poly sci folks and librarians engage in a post-debate panel to debrief, discussing what was said and the truth (or untruth) of it.
Scary thought? Kinda, but also exhilarating. Imagine the fast pace, the tension, the engagement. Imagine students looking from the television screen over to a librarian for assurance – is what (s)he just said true?! Imagine the conversations this could spark. This kind of partnership would provide a plethora of opportunities:
- Show how research works/doesn’t work/is messy & iterative
- Encourage digital literacy
- Demonstrate the importance of critical thinking about and evaluation of information
- Promote civic engagement (w00t!)
- Show that the library is not just a building & the skills we teach can be applied outside the classroom
Practically, there would be some nuts and bolts things…The librarians would probably want to have an internal training session beforehand to go over some relevant resources/tools. Someone would make a LibGuide. Anything tangible that was developed could be shared with students as a resource. Or even opened up to student contributions (!!).
I am really drawn to the idea of transparently modeling research behavior. If we can’t find something right away, we are showing students that research is not easy and straightforward. It would be good for them to see that we’re not superheroes with this stuff, that even librarians sometimes struggle with research. You could almost just live-project your computer screen onto the wall and let students watch your process. Or, record everything with a tool like Captivate (this could make for a pretty dynamic video tutorial post-debate, particularly if you sped things up and did some voice-over work) and share it later.
It could backfire. But it could also be really fun. What other programming have people done around elections/debates? Please share thoughts and ideas in the comments.
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