Date11 June 2018
Publication Date11 June 2018
AuthorSteve O’Connor
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,HR in libraries,Library strategy,Library promotion
Information as the currency of democracy
Recently, on my first visit to the Acropolis in Greece, I reflected on the importance of what
the authors in this special issue have written. I wondered about the world of ancient Greeks
and to what extent they influenced the philosophical and practical origins of the classical
democracy which we revere today. Towering over the modern city of Athens, one can
imagine some of the debates which would have taken place there and in the Parthenon.
Thomas Jefferson, a Founder of modern American democracy, has had a quotation
attributed to him: Information is the currency of Democracy.This attribution is central to
the debates our societyare having about privacy and what is true or not truein our news and
social media. It is an issue that librarians have been discussing for a number of years the
authenticityof information sources and whatconstitutes authoritativeinformation. Librarians
and publishers have long cooperated on the release of content in books and journals after
robust peer reviewand editorial processes.The nature of what a publisherishas broadened
sharply recently to include social media, blogs and self-created websites. The impact of this
new media was apparent in American politics and elections of late, where much
disinformation was absorbed into the mainstream from which people form their views.
In these ways, information has been poisonousto the sacred tenets of democracy wheretruth
is so important and central to inform debate and decisions.
The modern country of Switzerland maintainsa strong element of the democratic process
as they decide whichlarger projects will receive publicmonies. It is a process which seemsto
be deeply embedded in their view of government and the role which ordinary people have.
The creation of the CLIS robotic storage facility located out of the Swiss city of Basel is a
concrete example of that process storing the lower used materials of the universities across
Switzerland. In this way, democratic processes find different articulations.
Grayling (2017) has recently published a book on democracy and its crises. The book is
a fine argument on the failings of British and American democraciesbut as Churchill
said: It is not perfect but is better than any other system of government which are on offer.
Grayling gives plausible recommendations for reforms, including compulsory voting, the
abolition of first-past-the-postvoting in favor of proportional voting, the breaking down
of party discipline systems and the banning of betting on election outcomes. But his book
does not offer a view on the subject covered in this special issue and that is, the quality
and robust nature of the facts and knowledge on which all our democratic decisions
are or should be made. However, he did recommend subjecting the press to strict
fact-check monitoring.
There are two aspects to this issue. First, who are these fact-checkers? Whose facts do
they check? What authority do they carry and how are their facts authenticated? With the
daily increase of plagiarism through lazy or criminal abuse of the work of others, comes the
selective quoting of persons out of context. Both processes can be a deliberate attempt to
obscure the intended meaning of words. There are many documented cases when desperate
persons seeking honors or accelerated promotion have misrepresented evidence to gain a
perceived advantage over rivals or in their own careers. It is always difficult to retract
those false articles or books once published. They stand for a long time as testimony to the
axiom to publish in haste is to regret forever.
Second, there is the issue of the factsused by writers in the first instance. The quality
content of publishing has suffered from the reduction in editorial staff for economic reasons.
Publisher are not as interested now in the content quality of their publications.
Library Management
Vol. 39 No. 5, 2018
pp. 282-283
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/LM-04-2018-0030

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