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Conflicting authority : Using the Trump administration’s responses to the EPA climate assessment report to teach information literacy

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The purpose of this paper is to suggest that librarians’ traditional methods of source evaluation – guided by the “Authority is Constructed and Contextual Frame” of the Framework for Information Literacy – do not adequately address today’s post-truth reality.


The authors will use the specific example of the release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) National Climate Assessment report on November 23, 2018 and the subsequent Fact Check News Release published by EPA Headquarters on November 28 as a lens to explore the difficulty of teaching the Authority is Constructed and Contextual Frame in an era of alternative facts and fake news.


A brief analysis of human psychology, modern learning theories and Patrick Wilson’s work on cognitive authorities demonstrates that to provide effective information literacy instruction, librarians must do more to incorporate the social and emotional factors that individual students bring to the learning environment into current instruction practices.

Practical implications

This paper can be used as a resource for librarians seeking new strategies for information literacy instruction in the post-truth era.


Although a large body of literature exists to discuss the prevalence and implications of fake news in the post-truth era, few scholars have proposed solutions beyond a rededication to teaching critical source evaluation. This paper points to at least one new resource for source evaluation instruction which includes self-reflection among learners and points readers in a new direction to develop more.
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Keywords: Academic libraries; Authority; Fake news; Information literacy instruction; Post-truth; Source evaluation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bortz Library, Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden Sydney, Virginia, USA

Publication date: February 10, 2020

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