The view

Photo illustration depicting fake news featuring a pinocchio puppet with a "news" sign hanging from its nose.

Librarian offers tips for identifying ‘fake news’


Published January 30, 2017

Heidi Julien.
“Digital literacy skills help people search for and identify good information by developing a critical information lens. ”
Heidi Julien, professor and chair
Department of Library and Information Studies

Responsible and level-headed Americans must develop “digital literacy skills” to sort through the flood of “biased or false misinformation” in today’s information age, warns the chair of UB’s Department of Library and Information Studies.

Lamenting “fake news” as the latest way Americans are misinformed in today’s instantaneous, ceaseless and often raw cyberspace world, Heidi Julien, professor of library and information studies, called the need to recognize faulty and misleading news “imperative.”

“We are awash in a sea of information, some of it objective and useful, and much of it biased or false,” says Julien, an expert on “digital literacy,” which she describes as the skills needed to access, evaluate, use and create digital information.

“Digital literacy skills help people search for and identify good information by developing a critical information lens,” says Julien, who teaches a course on information literacy instruction. “Digital literacy helps us to understand how information is produced, and the political and economic motivations for creating information.”

Julien was recently named vice president and president-elect of the Association for Library and Information Science Education, or ALISE, a nonprofit organization serving as the intellectual home of faculty, staff and students in library and information science.

Using her expertise in digital literacy, Julien recommends using the “CRAP” test to decide whether what you’re reading or hearing passes the “smell test”:

  • Ask how Current the information is. Is it recent? When was the website last updated?
  • Ask whether the information is Reliable. What is included and what has been left out? Is the information opinion or are there verifiable facts, data or references used to back it up? Is the information presented in a balanced way, including more than a single point of view?
  • Ask whether the information is Authoritative. Who created the information? What are the credentials of that creator? Who published or sponsored the information, and are they reputable? What interest or perspective is being represented by the creators or publishers of the information? Are there advertisements on the website that suggest who’s paying to produce the information?
  • Ask what Purpose or point of view is being promoted by the information. Is it fact or opinion? Is it biased? Is it trying to sell you something?

Asking these questions of any information source will help you discern whether you can rely on it or whether you should beware.

The field of information studies explores digital literacy and works to develop that skill set among citizens, young and old. UB’s Department of Library and Information Studies offers an undergraduate minor in information studies, giving students in any major the opportunity to develop work-ready skills in digital literacy and information management.

Julien has research expertise in digital literacy (the skill set needed to access, evaluate, use and create digital information), with an emphasis on training for digital literacy.

She also does research into information behavior and information practices, such as the ways in which people think about, search for, evaluate, interact with, manage and use information.


This is a good article and such an important one. I do think, however, that you should list the words after the acronym CRAP (Current? Reliable? Authoritative? Purpose?).  Without those, your long explanation of CRAP gets sort of lost -- (maybe because crap is sort of a loaded word).


But I absolutely think such literacy skills should  be taught --- a principal once said to a group, "everything is on the internet now so we really don't need a librarian."


But now, more than ever, students need to be taught to evaluate and winnow out the "good stuff."


Dorothy Tao