Libro Futuro

Social Media, Open Access and Media Literacy as a response to disinformation. Mario Coffa interviews Jonathan Hernàndez

intervista in italiano

Jonathan Hernández is an associated researcher at the Library and Information Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, he is also president of the National College of Librarians of Mexico, member of the Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression Committee (IFLA). He is an active member of the seminar “Information and Society” of UNAM where topics such as misinformation, censorship, privacy, and digital forgotten are studied. He has participated in many conferences, seminars and workshops advocating for access to information, libraries in the 2030 Agenda, internet governance and related. His recent publications focus on information diversity on the internet, the digital forgotten and internet misinformation from a library perspective.

As a first question I would be curious to know the current state of libraries in Mexico. Libraries, digital libraries and librarian as a profession. Can you briefly illustrate us?

Sure, this is a good starting point. Mexico has a significant number of libraries across the country, public, university, parliamentarian libraries, among others, they all play an essential role in giving access to information. I want to highlight the role that university libraries are playing during the pandemic. Many of these libraries redesigned their digital libraries to offer better and new services to their users. They created new programs and moved online with a broader audience creating virtual communities. Digital libraries are now on the frontlines addressing community challenges during the pandemic crisis.
From a couple of years ago, we have seen a growth of library book clubs, and I’m impressed to see this growth during the lockdown. Many libraries are doing book clubs using social media platforms in Mexico, and they have great success.  Even Facebook, in its 2021 Trend Report, addressed the significant growth of these book clubs.
In a professional way, the library associations had been very active. They all worked on guidelines for a safe return. They moved its annual conferences to a virtual experience reaching a higher number of people. It has been a great experience.

You also deal with Digital Libraries. After the experience of COVID 19 we have (re) discovered, perhaps out of necessity, the importance of digital tools and platforms in every field of life and the world of professions. What role can libraries play in this new phase of the “digital revolution”?

We indeed live in a platform society, and COVID19 boosted this environment. We use platforms for every aspect of our life. We are dealing with uncharted challenges that the pandemic has posed to the digital environment. I believe we are living the consequences of the digital revolution.
Libraries are evolving continually, and even if some of them may not have the infrastructure to accomplish digitalization, they find new ways to adapt to the circumstances. I’m glad to see many universities are realizing the value of their libraries during this crisis.
We are facing not only a health crisis but an information one. We have massive disinformation campaigns and information overload that can get people confused and disinformed. By bringing together collections, services, spaces for collaboration, libraries will play a crucial role in a resilient recovery.
Also, as a library professor, I found it very interesting that many students are doing their dissertations on enhancing the user experience in digital libraries and the new services around them.

Also in your case, like me and many other colleagues, you are a “conscious” and assiduous user of social media. What do you think about their role as an information tool for libraries? Can they be useful? And again, what other skills do librarians need to adapt to them?

I think that this is the momentum for libraries to get more involved in social media platforms. Libraries realize that they need to transform the way they interact on it from just sharing announcements about library operations and events to develop services based on social media. Many libraries were doing this, and the pandemic boosted this situation. I’m happy to see my Facebook full of recommendations of libraries doing events, book clubs, conferences, etc.
The core librarian skills like search, research, collection management, organization, are used in a modern digital setting for some years now. I would say that there are other complementing skills, like networking, web and social media skills, and coding.

In one of your last conferences we talked about Open Access and how to fight disinformation. In a world affected by “fake news”, what can a library do to guarantee access to “healthy” information?

I think this is an urgent issue given the current situation. When a health crisis is on the way, it becomes harder to deny that truthful information is a necessity. Our health does not depend solely on institutional health care but also access to reliable information and data, and this is also a catalyst for our Right to Health.
It is essential to mention that there has been a marked decline in public trust in traditional media, government, and other credible entities, leaving people uncertain about what or whom to trust when they are looking for truthful information.  So, this brings new challenges and opportunities for libraries, especially for the Media and Information Literacy Programs.
Disinformation represents a severe threat to society. It is a complex phenomenon that requires multidimensional views and comprehensive efforts to understand how it works and combat it. We need more cooperation between the library and external stakeholders to address this complex issue.

Are you an IFLA member and I was struck by an article you posted on one of your social networks which titled: “Media Literacy in response to disinformation”? What can you tell us about it?

Disinformation has emerged as a critical threat to public life, and there has been some interesting discussion on the role of libraries in combating this phenomenon. Some authors call it “a librarians’ longstanding information war, and many international reports highlight the role of Media and Information Literacy Programs that libraries have provided over the years. Others underline that library proposals for combating mis and disinformation need to be developed along with a research program. There are several perspectives of disinformation. As I mentioned before, there is a need to address this phenomenon from a multidisciplinary view, working with educators by promoting Media and Information literacy courses at every stage of education.


Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.


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