Skip to content
BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access December 5, 2019

The Self and Others: Revisiting Information Needs and Libraries as Public, Social Institutions in a Post-truth World

  • Tami Oliphant EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Information Science


The post-truth era and the increasing ease with which fake news is disseminated and consumed is a wicked problem that invites re-examination of the media environment, algorithmic authority, library and information science (LIS) professional practice, and what people bring to information interactions in terms of cognitive biases and worldviews. Fake news has social consequences such as undermining civic discourse and democracy, and inciting hatred. Consequently, the role of libraries as public, social institutions embedded in democratic societies and the relational aspects of information needs are important to consider. An alternative framework, the decent society, a society in which its attendant social institutions do not humiliate, is explored. An example from the Toronto Public Library (TPL) is used to illustrate the ways in which a social institution can uphold the principle of non-humiliation in an increasingly politicized world.


Aiken, M. (2016). The cyber-effect: A pioneering cyberpsychologist explains how human behavior changes online. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau.Search in Google Scholar

Albright, J. (2016, December 10). Left + right: The combined post-#election2016 news “ecosystem.” Retrieved from Medium website: in Google Scholar

American Library Association. (2007, May 29). Intellectual freedom and censorship FAQ [Web page]. Retrieved from American Library Association website: American Library Association. (2019, January 29). Library Bill of Rights [Web page]. Retrieved from American Library Association website: in Google Scholar

Anderson, J., & Raine, L. (2017, October 19). The future of truth and misinformation online [Web page]. Retrieved from PEW Research Centre website: in Google Scholar

Andrejevic, M. (2013). Infoglut: How too much information is changing the way we think and know. New York, NY: Routledge.10.4324/9780203075319Search in Google Scholar

Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2009). The dark side of information: Overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies. Journal of Information Science, 35(2), 180–191. in Google Scholar

Bruffee, K. A. (1986). Social construction, language, and authority of knowledge: A bibliographic essay. College English, 48(8), 773–790. in Google Scholar

Cacioppo, J. T., & Petty, R. E. (1982). The need for cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42(1), 116–131. in Google Scholar

Campbell, C. (2011). Scapegoat: A history of blaming other people. London, UK: Duckworth Overlook.Search in Google Scholar

Case, D., & Given, L. (2016). Looking for information (4th ed.) Bingley, UK: Emerald.Search in Google Scholar

Chatman, E. (1991). Life in a small world: Applicability of gratification theory to information-seeking behavior. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(6), 438–449.<438::AID-ASI6>3.0.CO;2-B10.1002/(SICI)1097-4571(199107)42:6<438::AID-ASI6>3.0.CO;2-BSearch in Google Scholar

Chatman, E. (1999). A theory of life in the round. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 50(3), 207–217.<207::AID-ASI3>3.0.CO;2-810.1002/(SICI)1097-4571(1999)50:3<207::AID-ASI3>3.0.CO;2-8Search in Google Scholar

Colbert, S. (2005, October 17). Truthiness [Video file]. In J. Stewart, T. Purcell, and S. Colbert (Executive Producers), The Colbert Report. Los Angeles, CA: Comedy Central. Retrieved from Comedy Central website: in Google Scholar

Cole, C. (2011). A theory of information need for information retrieval that connects information to knowledge. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(7), 1216–1231. in Google Scholar

Cole, C. (2012). Information need: A theory connecting information search to knowledge formation. Medford, NJ: Information Today.Search in Google Scholar

Cooke, N. A. (2018). Fake news and alternative facts: Information literacy in a post-truth era. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.Search in Google Scholar

Day, R. E. (2014). Indexing it all. Boston, MA: MIT Press.10.7551/mitpress/10073.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Day, R. E. (2017). Before information literacy [Or, Who Am I, as a subject-of-(information)-need?]. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 54(1), 57-60. in Google Scholar

Doctorow, C. (2019). Fans of Brazil’s new fascist president chant “Facebook! Facebook! WhatsApp! WhatsApp!” at inauguration. Retrieved from BoingBoing website: in Google Scholar

Erdelez, S. (1999). Information encountering: It’s more than just bumping into information. Bulletin for the American Society for Information Science, 25(1), 25–29. in Google Scholar

Fallis, D. (2015). What is disinformation? Library Trends, 63(3), 401–426. in Google Scholar

Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.10.1515/9781503620766Search in Google Scholar

Fidel, R. (2012). Human information interaction: An ecological approach to information behavior. Boston, MA: MIT Press.10.7551/mitpress/9780262017008.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Fisher, M., Goddu, M. K., & Keil, F. C. (2015). Searching for explanations: How the Internet inflates estimates of internal knowledge. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(3), 674–687. in Google Scholar

Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (1991). Social cognition (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Search in Google Scholar

Froelich, T. (2017, December). A not-so-brief account of current information ethics: The ethics of ignorance, missing information, misinformation, disinformation and other forms of deception or incompetence. BiD: textos universitaris de biblioteconomia i documentació, 39. Retrieved from in Google Scholar

Fuller, S. (2018). Post-truth: Knowledge as a power game. London, UK: Anthem Press.10.2307/j.ctvgd30vSearch in Google Scholar

Gigerenzer, G. (2003). Calculated risks: How to know when numbers deceive you. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.Search in Google Scholar

Holiday, R. (2013). Trust me, I’m lying: Confessions of a media manipulator. New York, NY: Penguin Books.Search in Google Scholar

Holman, A. E., Garfan, D. R., & Silver, R. (2014). Media’s role in broadcasting acute stress following the Boston Marathon bombings. PNAS, 111(1), 93–98. in Google Scholar

House of Commons. (2018, July 29). Disinformation and ‘fake news’: Interim Report; Fifth Report of Session 2017–19 [PDF file]. Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee. Retrieved from UK Parliament website: in Google Scholar

Ignatieff, M. (1986). The needs of strangers. New York, NY: Penguin Books.Search in Google Scholar

Juric, M. (2017). The role of the need for cognition in the university students’ reading behaviour (in Proceedings of ISIC, the Information Behaviour Conference, Zadar, Croatia, 2023 September, 2016: Part 2). Information Research, 22(1), paper isic1620. Retrieved from in Google Scholar

Keyes, R. 2004. Post-truth era: Dishonesty and deception in contemporary life. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.Search in Google Scholar

Keyes, R. (2016). The post-truth era. Retrieved from in Google Scholar

Kolko, J. (2012). Wicked problems: Problems worth solving. Austin, TX: AC4D.Search in Google Scholar

Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121–1134.10.1037/0022-3514.77.6.1121Search in Google Scholar

Lenker, M. (2016). Motivated reasoning, political information, and information literacy. Portal, 16(3), 511–528. in Google Scholar

Mahmood, K. (2016). Do people overestimate their information literacy skills? A systematic review of empirical evidence on the Dunning-Kruger effect. Communications in Information Literacy, 10(2), 199–213. in Google Scholar

Margalit, A. (1996). The decent society. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.Search in Google Scholar

McFarlane, L. (2018). The fallacy of post-truth. In C. G. Prado (Ed.), America’s post-truth phenomenon: When feelings and opinions trump facts and evidence (pp.189–199). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.Search in Google Scholar

McNerney, S. (2011). Psychology’s treacherous trio: Confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, and motivated reasoning [Web page]. Retrieved from Why We Reason website: in Google Scholar

Mehra, B., Rioux, K. S., & Albright, K. S. (2010). Social justice in library and information science. In M. Bates & M. Maack (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences (3rd ed., pp. 4820–4836). Los Angeles, CA: Taylor & Francis.Search in Google Scholar

Mokhtari, H., Davarpanah, M., Dayyani, M., & Ahanchian, M. (2013). Students’ need for cognition affects their information seeking behavior. New Library World, 114(11/12), 542–549. in Google Scholar

Nemer, D. (2018, October 25). The three types of WhatsApp users getting Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro elected. The Guardian. Retrieved from in Google Scholar

Noble, S. (2018). Algorithms of oppression: How search engines reinforce racism. New York, NY: NYU Press.10.2307/j.ctt1pwt9w5Search in Google Scholar

Petty, R. E., Briñol, P., Loersch, C., & McCaslin, M. J. (2009). The need for cognition. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 318–329). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Search in Google Scholar

Post-truth. (2019). In Oxford English dictionary. Retrieved from Oxford University Press website: in Google Scholar

Ramussen, D., & McKenzie, P. (2011). Putting the pieces together: Endometriosis blogs, cognitive authority, and collaborative information behavior. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 99(2), 127–134. in Google Scholar

Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.10.4159/9780674042605Search in Google Scholar

Rieh, S. Y. (2010). Credibility and cognitive authority of information. In M. Bates & M. Maack (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences (3rd ed., pp. 1337–1344). Los Angeles, CA: Taylor & Francis.Search in Google Scholar

Rittel, H., & Webber, M. M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, 4(2), 155–169.10.1007/BF01405730Search in Google Scholar

Savolainen, R. (2012). Conceptualizing information need in context. Information Research, 17(4), paper 534. Retrieved from in Google Scholar

Selley, C. (2017, December 15). Toronto’s public libraries make an imperfect but brave stand for free speech. National Post. Retrieved from in Google Scholar

Sundin, O., Haider, J., Andersson, C., Carlsson, H., & Kjellberg, S. (2017). The searchification of everyday life and the mundane-ification of search, Journal of Documentation, 73(2), 224–243. in Google Scholar

Swanson, T. (2006). Information literacy, personal epistemology, and knowledge construction: Potential and possibilities. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 13(3), 93–112. in Google Scholar

Thomas, N. (2012). Algorthimic subjectivity and the need to be in-formed. In G. Latzko-Toth & F. Millerand (Eds.), TEM 2012: Proceedings of the Technology & Emerging Media Track—Annual Conference of the Canadian Communication Association (Waterloo, May 30-June 1, 2012) [PDF file]. Retrieved from the Canadian Communication Association website: in Google Scholar

Toronto Public Library. (2017). Community and event space rental policy—revisions [PDF file]. Retrieved from Toronto Public Library website: in Google Scholar

Verplanken, B., Hazenberg, P. T., & Palenewen, G. R. (1992). Need for cognition and external information search effort. Journal of Research in Personality, 26(2), 128–136. in Google Scholar

Wathen, C. N., & Burkell, J. (2002). Believe it or not: Factors influencing credibility on the Web. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 53(2), 134–144. in Google Scholar

Wilson, P. (1983). Second-hand knowledge: An inquiry into cognitive authority. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Search in Google Scholar

Wilson, T. D. (2000). Human information behavior. Informing Science, 3(2): 49–55. in Google Scholar

Yorio, K., & Peet, L. (2018, July 10). Free speech debate erupts with ALA’s inclusion of hate groups in revision of Bill of Rights interpretation [Web page]. Retrieved from School Library Journal website: in Google Scholar

Received: 2018-09-16
Accepted: 2019-06-03
Published Online: 2019-12-05

© 2019 Tami Oliphant, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

Downloaded on 10.12.2023 from
Scroll to top button