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PSA

November 12, 2012

Most people seem relieved, if not with the results of the election
then with the fact that it is over. The energy of election season has
an unhealthy quality to it, something like too much sugar and
caffeine.

I found it interesting while listening to the radio election night to
perceive that energy drain away as the vote followed the sun to the
end of a long day. If anything, it felt like sobering up on the walk
from a party to the subway for a long ride home.

It’s fun to dress up, but at election time we seem to don one of two
costumes that divide us, like football teams. Our citizenry separates
into a dumbbell distribution, when collectively our views are probably
more closely described by a bell curve.

Somehow, the voices at either extreme are granted megaphones for the
season. Maybe it’s good—everyone crowds back together trying to get
away from them. I imagine the Buddha coming back to check in: “Greed,
hatred, delusion! You have learned nothing!”

If I thought the Internet would be a source of unfortunate
misinformation, I merely had to wait for the incredible tide of glossy
card stock that came through my mail slot every day. No wonder this
election cost over $6 billion.

These remarkable appeals shouting off the paper might have been
parodies by The Onion or Mad Magazine, but unfortunately, they
weren’t.

The Internet was actually helpful in this regard. During one of my
shifts covering the AskColorado online reference service, I fielded a
question from someone wanting a comparison of her local candidates.

I didn’t find exactly what she’d hoped for, because I think no one had
presumed to offer an objective analysis on this particular race, but I
did find interesting summaries of the candidates’ stated positions on
various issues plus the voting record of the incumbent related to
those issues.

In this way, the Internet is a conduit for good and bad, useful and
not useful, helpful and not helpful. If you want rants, you can find
them. And often, if you want detailed information and insightful
commentary, this can be found, too.

There is an enormous amount of free information, to which it’s wise to
apply a measure of skepticism. As the evolution of the Internet
proceeds, more and more content is now appearing behind pay-walls of
some kind.

Journalism is necessarily moving this way. The tremendous decline in
newspaper income has adversely affected our Fourth Estate, to the
detriment of watchdog journalism, something our democracy depends on.

The apparent comprehensive familiarity of younger generations with new
technology does not translate into comprehensive media and information
savvy. Students are no more critical of online information sources
than they are about what they hear from their friends.

It behooves us to help them, if only to train future informed voters.
Students today spend much time online and do much of their schoolwork
with online information sources. They might luck out with Wikipedia,
but as with the opinions of friends, it pays to get a variety of
sources.

If you have students at home, know that with their library accounts,
they can use from home a number of helpful, and reliable, sources of
information for their schoolwork.

Right now, I’m thinking of “Points of View,” as well as the History
Reference Center and the Science Reference Center, all part of our
EBSCO online resources found through our website, salidalibrary.org.

This has been a public service announcement from your public library.

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