“The covid19 pandemic is bringing out the best and the worst in people. Understandably, we are seeing the rational and the irrational clash. In an unfolding global crisis that mixes life and death decisions of human health, politics, science and opinion in a fluid negotiation, social media is turbocharging both the distribution of facts and myth. Uncertainty breeds anxiety, disease feeds fear and the messages of the unscrupulous or naive can fuel panic, mistrust and danger. Last century’s trusted sources are widely ignored and ridiculed in a parallel environment of truth decay. Last week’s statistics are out of date, and it’s only Monday.

As 21st century librarians striving to serve our communities, this is our business. Once seen as gatekeepers through our collection development policies, we’ve been digitally disintermediated. Let’s reassert our presence even as our libraries go into lockdown for the duration.

I want librarians to accept the information challenges the covid19 pandemic presents. As our workplaces close, as we’re sent home or go into self-isolation, I want us to get online and channel our skills into serving the community through some crisis librarianship.

Whenever we see something dodgy, fact check it. This can be as simple as a quick keyword search like bleach coronavirus fact check or gargling coronavirus fact check. Use reverse image searching for checking pictures and videos, which are often years old and presented out of context. Use First Draft’s SHEEP methods of verification. Browse and search Google Fact Check Tools for updates from around the world. Discover why covid19 is different from the flu or the common cold. Check good quality medical and government sites for current data and advice, places like the CDC or WHO. Various professional bodies have good resources, too, like ALIA’s Australian libraries responding to COVID-19 page or the #Library’sResist page on Health and Pandemics.

Once you’ve done your research and verified the facts, chime in. Be empathetic. Don’t bully. People are often sharing out of good intentions and are feeling vulnerable, so be gentle and share their concerns before turning in the facts. Link to sources that are appropriate for the context. A far-out conspiracy theory enthusiast will probably think the World Health Organisation is part of the problem, so choose another source or ask them for their source or evidence.

It’s not always going to work, but we can only try.”