Citizen Literacy receives notice in ALA 2021 State of America’s Libraries Report

Citizen Literacy, the University of Louisville Libraries’ online toolkit to promote information skills and resist disinformation, continues to gain recognition. The latest notice is in The State of America’s Libraries 2021: A Report from the American Library Association by the American Library Association, which offers an overview of how libraries operated in the US during the past year during the global pandemic. The report lists Citizen Literacy in its section on disinformation.

Cover of American Library Association's 2021 State of America's Libraries. Special Report: Covid-19.

The University Libraries created the online portal to help students become better consumers of media, research and information. Launched to coincide with the final weeks of the 2020 election season, Citizen Literacy promotes essential information skills like algorithmic literacy, news literacy, how to evaluate expertise, how to investigate the veracity of online sources through lateral reading, and how to become an informed voter.

The site was created by Rob Detmering, head of Research Assistance and Instruction; Amber Willenborg, online and undergraduate learning coordinator; and Terri Holtze, head of web services.

Citizen Literacy was also recently praised in a recent report by Stanford University on general deficiencies in university instruction on digital literacy. The report shows that students are mostly unable to discern legitimate news and information sources from falsehoods and proposes innovative teaching methods to combat this deficiency. Citizen Literacy embodies a good kind of remedy, the report concludes.

“Institutions need to follow the example of forward-looking librarians and information specialists at the vanguard of new approaches to dealing with misinformation—often on shoestring budgets at liberal arts colleges and state universities. . . . Robert Detmering and Amber Willenborg, librarians at the Ekstrom Library at the University of Louisville, have produced a series of polished videos (with just the right dose of snark) that provoke college students to reevaluate their online behavior. We hope these and similar efforts will shine a light on a path for other colleges and universities to follow.”

“Educating for Misunderstanding: How Approaches to Teaching Digital Literacy Make Students Susceptible to Scammers, Rogues, Bad Actors, and Hate Mongers,” (Working Paper A-21322, Stanford History Education Group, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 2020).

Additionally, Last year, the Chronicle of Higher Education featured an interview with Detmering and Willenborg on media literacy; CHE’s weekly “Teaching” column focused on how higher education can combat disinformation by teaching media literacy through various means, and the Citizen Literacy toolkit was one strategy mentioned.

University Libraries’ Citizen Literacy helps students become savvy information consumers

When Stephen Colbert coined the term “truthiness” in 2005 it not only described misleading rhetoric during the ramp-up to the Iraq war, it captured a central dilemma of our modern media environment: shattered, segmented media ecosystems allow many of us to create our own version of reality. In such an environment, leaders can manipulate us with words that sound truthful but are false.

Determining reality in a “post-truth” era is challenging. It is also a central tenet of citizenship. Particularly during a presidential election season.

How can faculty teach students to become savvy consumers of information in this environment?

The University Libraries has created a new online toolkit called Citizen Literacy to tackle the issue. Launched to coincide with the final weeks of the 2020 election season, Citizen Literacy promotes essential information skills like algorithmic literacy, news literacy, how to evaluate expertise, how to investigate the veracity of online sources through lateral reading, and how to become an informed voter.

“We hope faculty will use these tools to engage students with these important information literacy topics in the context of specific academic disciplines,” said Rob Detmering, Ekstrom information literacy coordinator and one of the site’s creators. Amber Willenborg, online learning and digital media librarian, also created content and narrated the videos, and Terri Holtze, head of web services, designed the online site experience.

The site contains short videos, downloadable handouts and infographics that can be incorporated into syllabi or coursework.

In the news literacy section are strategies to help students examine the value of credible news sources and identify deceptive stories, including “fake news.” Another section helps students understand algorithms whose unseen mechanisms skew online searches in a way that impacts privacy and political understanding.

The toolkit includes multiple ideas for class activities that can be easily adapted across disciplines,  and that work in both online and face-to-face settings.  Faculty can easily incorporate parts in their courses.

To learn more, please visit the site or contact Information Literacy Coordinator Rob Detmering.

Research DIY: Self-Guided Library

By Amber Willenborg

Research assignments can lead to enlightenment, but, as the scholarship on information literacy indicates, the path isn’t easy. The Project Information Literacy Freshmen Study found that students face many challenges with finding and using information, from locating appropriate databases to reading research articles and evaluating information. With this in mind, and in direct response to faculty requests for a one-stop research resource for students, the library has unveiled our new Research DIY website.

choose topic

Research DIY is an online tool featuring visually appealing infographics, videos, and step-by-step instructions to help students get started with a wide variety of research tasks. The PIL Freshmen Study revealed that students struggle most with formulating online searches, selecting and locating research resources, and reading and comprehending materials. On the DIY website, students will find resources that directly address these struggles: a video on generating keywords for searching, numerous videos with instructions for finding a variety of source types like scholarly articles, and an infographic on how to approach reading research articles. Research DIY also includes content created in conjunction with the University Writing Center to help students appropriately integrate sources into their research papers.

ask yourself

While the website is easy for students to find and use on their own, we encourage instructors to link to the site on Blackboard or in their syllabus, or direct students to sections of the website that would be helpful for particular assignments. In addition to Research DIY, the library offers a variety of teaching tools including online learning modules for practice with information literacy concepts and research guides for more in-depth information on research topics and resources. Librarians are also available to create custom content tailored to your class or assignment. The path may not be easy, but the library is here to illuminate your way forward to success.

additional tips

New Guide Provides Best Sources for Data and Statistics

By Chris Heckman, Intern, Research Assistance and Instruction, Ekstrom Library

Do you need to know the rate of accidental gun deaths in the U.S. between 2006-2012? What about the voting records of your representatives in Congress, or the percentage of households with running water in a particular Afghan province?

Finding very specific data like this can be a significant challenge for both new and experienced researchers. That’s why the University Libraries offers research guides, or collections of curated links to useful journals, databases, and depositories of statistical data, organized by subject. These can be invaluable resources for students beginning the research process, as well as for faculty who want to impart research skills in their students.

Social Sciences and Outreach Librarian Sam McClellan has recently added a new research guide, Finding Data and Statistics,  which provides links to several databases and search engines for use with a variety of topics. For example, Zanran is a search engine specifically designed for finding statistics on the internet. A search as simple as “birth rate Somalia” returns over 2,700 relevant graphs, charts, and tables for a researcher to easily narrow down and comb through. You can find a link to this research guide in any of the social sciences subject guides.

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The Finding Data and Statistics guide also includes links to social science data archives from universities such Cornell, Princeton, and Northwestern, all freely available for students at University of Louisville to use.

The new guide allows for narrowing by topic, including criminal justice, economics, education, environment, health, politics and elections, labor and employment, public opinion, religion, and urban planning and housing. Selecting any of these topics takes the user to a collection of links to useful data sources. For example, narrowing by “health” yields links to over 50 different data sources along with descriptions of those sources. These data archives are selected because they are freely available (or available to anyone with a UofL Library account), and because they contain a wealth of information for researchers interested in health issues in the United States and abroad. From statistics on the prevalence and mortality rates of specific diseases to information on access to healthcare by region, a wide array of information is available here at a researcher’s fingertips.

Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institute of Health (NIH) are available here, as well as data from international bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank. Broad research tools such as CDC Wonder, a search engine provided by the CDC for navigating the agency’s public records, or WHOSIS, the WHO’s statistical information system, can assist with research on a wide array of topics, but there are also databases for more narrowly focused research areas.  For example, the AIDS Public Information Dataset from the CDC provides data specifically on HIV/AIDS incidence in the U.S., while the Cancer Statistics resource from NIH provides data on cancer in the United States. You can find data from some current large-scale studies here as well. For example, results from Princeton University’s ongoing Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study are useful for research on children’s health, particularly among children with single parents.

Several resources provide information on mental health concerns (the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, the HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), child and adolescent health concerns (Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health, Monitoring the Future Series, The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, UNICEF Data: Monitoring the Situation of Children and Statistics, Guatemalan Survey of Family Health 1995), and healthcare cost and utilization (Health and Medical Care Archive @ ICPSR, Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HHS), Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (HHS)).

The Health section of the Finding Data and Statistics guide contains many more avenues for researchers to explore subtopics in the health field, and health is just one of the topics available in the guide. Anyone conducting research at University of Louisville should consider giving the research guides a try!

Research Assistance Gives Student Lifetime Skill

When they need help with their writing, most UofL students know to contact the Writing Center, located in Ekstrom Library’s Learning Commons.

But what about the meat and bones of their papers: research, i.e., finding, evaluating and citing sources? For this equally challenging and unwieldy task, students have an excellent resource in the librarians in Research Assistance and Instruction (RAI), also located in Ekstrom’s Learning Commons.

Christian Bush

Photo by Ashley Triplett

A phone call or appointment made online will get students a face-to-face meeting with a research librarian, who can help them find relevant sources and learn better methods of research to benefit their future scholarship.

UofL sophomore Christian Bush is a recent convert to the benefits of research assistance. He thought such help was only available to students in higher grades.

“Students at all levels and at all times need this help, and don’t realize such a resource is available,” said Bush, a History and Asian Studies major. “When you first enter college, you have an impression that research appointments are sacrosanct; that only seniors working on their senior papers can get help.”

But after a savvy History professor suggested Bush reach out to RAI for help with his research, Bush found he could access the services himself. Required to create an archeological site profile for his class, History 341, Introduction to Egypt, Bush “did what most students do, I googled. But I couldn’t find any information on Google at all,” he said.

In particular, he needed a specific site profile from 1911 that was nowhere to be found. Exasperated, he set up an appointment with RAI online, after which the response was “lightning quick,” Bush said. “They called the next day.”

At the research appointment, RAI Librarian Sue Finley showed Bush not only the original excavation report he needed, but subsequent ones, up to modern-era excavation where ground-penetrating radar helps archeologists explore  underground tombs.

“I got a wealth of information,” Bush said. “More than enough to write my paper, and then some.”

But beyond helping with his immediate needs, Finley “took me through her methodology for locating the sources. She spent a good amount of time showing me how to use databases and work with sources, the nitty-gritty of the research.”

“If I hadn’t been able to meet with her I wouldn’t have had such a strong research base and it would have made the profile much less substantial,” he continued. “The fact that she taught me how to research and how to go through sources and then use the sources within sources; that’s benefited me outside that project.”

“A paper is only as strong as your writing skills and your research; if you don’t have solid research, there’s only so much you can do.”

The short-term results were important to Bush, too: “I got an A on the paper,” he said, smiling.

Be a Search Ninja in WorldCat Local

By Anna Marie Johnson, 01/07/2015

What we have labeled “Library Catalog” on the University Library’s webpage is really far more than a catalog of books or even books UofL owns. If you have used it, you probably have discovered all kinds of other materials: videos, government documents, archival documents, magazine and journal articles, and more. You probably have also realized that your search results may also include items not available at UofL but at other libraries around the world which show up in the WorldCat Local database.

In addition, the database changes daily due to additions from libraries around the world as well as updates from database providers such as Medline. So, your search results today won’t necessarily match your search results from yesterday.

While you may have searched the Library Catalog/WorldCat Local, you may not have had time to really play with it. Below are some search tips that will allow you to dig deeper into the contents of the database and have more precision with your searches. If you would like more information on searching WorldCat Local, please contact a librarian!

Having trouble looking for the title of something? Try adding ti: to the beginning of your search.

Example ti: Immunology

This is especially helpful for one-word titles or titles which have lots of words in common with other titles.

If you know the author, you can create an even more powerful search by adding au: author’s name

Example ti: Shiver au:stiefvater

Just like in Google, quotation marks can be used to search adjoining words as a phrase.

Example “The Sun Also Rises”

Want to search for variations on words?

You can use the * to find variations of a word ending or # to replace a specific character.

Example parent*

Example wom#n

There are MANY more fields you can search specifically such as Library of Congress subject headings (hl:) or MESH (hm:). See the full list here:


Are you a real library geek who enjoys using Boolean operators? You can use them in WCL too, but keep in mind there are still other factors that affect the results set such as whether we own the item. Generally, the Boolean logic seems to apply well in some cases but not others due to the complexity of the search algorithm.

The default operator is AND, so any words you enter will be joined using AND unless you use one of the other two operators OR and NOT. You can also use the | or – signs if you prefer.

Example moon OR stars

Example moon | stars

Example moon NOT stars

Example moon -stars

Use of the facets on the lefthand side can be used to sift through the abundance of results when your search returns more than you anticipated. So for example, if you are looking for a book, often book reviews of the book will show up in your results. You can remove these by using the Book facet on the left.

Some limits can be added to the search before you complete it by using the Advanced Search link.

In this area, you can add or remove additional databases to broaden or narrow your search. Unfortunately, some databases such as Medline, ERIC, GPO, and British Library Serials cannot be removed. They are a part of the OCLC WorldCat Local database.

In the Advanced Search, you can search for a date range, something you cannot do post-search with the date facets.

For a step-by-step tutorial on Advanced Search in WCL, see

Searching Hashtags across Multiple Social Media Websites

by Samantha McClellan

Most hashtags fizzle out, but some can spread like wildfire. Hashtags to share experiences such as #tbt (throwback Thursday) or hashtags trending because of news events such as #Sochi or #BlackLivesMatter are used across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and more. Whether you’re following friends’ vacations (#BillandTedsExcellentRoadTrip2014), an avid news reader, or researching something like the evolution of communication in social media outlets, you may want to quickly look across multiple social media platforms for the same hashtag, word, or phrase.

Fortunately, there are actual search engines out there designed to allow you to search across multiple social media websites. But before we get to those search engines, I want to use an example to discuss some of these useful search engines with help from Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake:

As you probably noticed, they’ve introduced us to a lot of hashtags. Perhaps some have gone by the wayside (this clip is from September 2013, after all), but maybe some have stuck. In the spirit of “It’s almost winter break,” Jimmy Fallon uses the hashtag #IsItFridayYet. I’ll explore this hashtag throughout this blog post to explore a couple of these social media search engines.

Exhibit 1: Topsy

While Topsy is known for social analytics, it also serves as a social search engine. It features limiters that allow you to look at tweets, links, photos, and videos from certain time ranges. As well, you can limit to the aforementioned links, photos, et cetera. You can also view the Top 100, 1000, 5000, or 20,000 links that are being promoted on the web through social media.

Going back to the social analytics part, you can look at the tweets per day for the past month of your hashtag (circled in red in the image below). This could be particularly interesting for a before-and-after perspective of a news event, especially if you’re analyzing conversations surrounding events such as the Sochi Winter Olympics or the Michael Brown or Eric Garner grand jury decisions and protests.


Exhibit 2: SocialMention

                SocialMention is another social analytics tool that also acts as a social media search engine. Unlike Topsy, it provides analytics right on the same page as your search results. Sticking with #IsItFridayYet, I searched all media platforms (over 100 platforms including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google, and more).


Though a small screenshot, you can see that the social analytics are on the left and the results are on the right, allowing you to organize the results and sort by date. SocialMention features an advanced search option that allows you to focus on keywords you want in your result, exact phrasing, unwanted keywords, as well as pulling results from only specific sources such as blogs or news as well as results from a specific location, which gives you, the searcher, a lot of capability in limiting down your results.

Though #IsItFridayYet was an example provided by the dynamic duo of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, just imagine how powerful these search engines can be for you, whether personally or academically. Imagine searching #McDonalds if you’re in a business class and paying attention to the social analytics of the hashtag for a marketing class; imagine searching #ElectionDay or #RocktheVote during Election Day. You can follow absolutely anything with these tools with the ability to search across multiple platforms.

Of course, these aren’t your only options. Others include WhosTalkin? and Social Searcher. With any of these tools, you can set up an RSS feed or an e-mail alert for certain hashtags, keywords, or phrases popping up across social media to stay up to date on anything that interests you.

For more information on social media search engines, check out a recent Forbes publication entitled 4 Social Search Engines to Track User Data, which emphasizes the information marketers can gather on potential consumers. If you’re curious what hashtags are trending, take a look at Tagdef or

The LION in Summer

If you logged into the Literature Online (LION) database this summer, you might have noticed its sleek new design. Although the depth of LION’s content—journal articles, author biographies, various reference works, full-text poetry and prose—has always made it one of the best databases for literary research, the previous interface was a bit clunky and difficult to use. Unsurprisingly, we tend to avoid databases with cluttered screen layouts and incoherent search results, despite the quality of the content. We rightly expect more from our technology.

Given that the old LION was no spring chicken, it was clearly time for an update. And I’m happy to report that the new version represents a marked improvement over the previous iteration, especially in regard to the initial search screen. It’s much easier to determine the different types of content included in the database, and the menu options facilitate searching and browsing in a more intuitive manner. If you search all the content at once using the main search box, the results remain a little challenging to parse. However, the overall look is cleaner, so you should be able to find what you’re looking for after a few seconds of scanning.


It’s worth taking the time to familiarize yourself with LION because it’s an ideal starting point for literary research across all genres and periods, particularly for undergraduate researchers. If you need background information, you’ll find numerous short critical biographies of notable authors, as well as cross-searchable full-text reference titles such as The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms and The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Even more significantly, you can cross-search the MLA International Bibliography and the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL), making LION a one-stop shop of sorts for literary criticism. Finally, you can locate actual full-text literary works (over 350,000) and unique audio and video recordings. For instance, I found a very cool video of Nikki Giovanni reading “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes.

To learn more about LION and other online resources for literary research, including Project MUSE and The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, check out our Literature Research Guide.

An Introduction to DiRT: Digital Research Tools

By Samantha McClellan
April 22, 2014

As a reference and instruction librarian, I generally provide assistance on where and how to search for information. After that, there’s certainly a lot left to do: organize information, analyze information, format information in a paper…the list goes on. Luckily, numerous technologies exist to help undergraduates, graduates, and faculty with these facets of research; however, it is hard to know everything that is available.

This is where DiRT can help.

DiRT, or Digital Research Tools, is a wiki created and maintained by several institutions of higher education. This resource is a collaborative effort amongst individuals who want to share new technologies that have helped them in some aspect of the research process by aggregating the resources in one location.

screenshot for blog1

The DiRT wiki is organized into areas like write a paper or analyze texts where digital research tools might help. As you can see, there are numerous areas where DiRT can provide you with a useful research tool. At the Reference and Information Literacy Department of Ekstrom Library, we frequently help with managing bibliographic information. For example, several librarians in our department teach classes on how to use EndNote.

DiRT’s manage bibliographic information link contains a list of resources to help you do just that. Each list of resources features limiters, much like those found in a library database. You can limit by operating system, cost, and resources that are most commented on and utilized. While some software listed costs money, many resources compiled on DiRT are open source. Ultimately, this tool gives you options. For example, if you’re not keen on EndNote (a bibliographic management tool that is free to UofL students and faculty through iTech Xpress), you can always use Zotero, an open source bibliographic management tool.

Here’s how wiki editors present a resource:

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Since ‘wiki’ is synonymous with collaboration, YOU can contribute. Share any tools not already on DiRT that have helped you with your research, or review resources like you would for a product on Amazon or a restaurant on Yelp. A new feature allows you to suggest digital research tools for creation.

Visit DiRT at and see what kinds of digital research tools can work for you.

Not for Business Majors Only: Business Resources for Everyday Life

By Sue Finley

Do you avoid business databases and reference books because you think they are packed full of financial ratios, P&L statements, or tax laws that will make your head spin?  If so, you may be missing out on some interesting and useful information.

Although the word business originally meant simply the “quality or state of being busy,”[1] over time it has acquired a monetary connotation, and is now generally considered “the activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for money,”[2] but not necessarily for profit.  Thus, business encompasses almost everything we purchase, use, view, and participate in every day, and business resources cover everything from your morning coffee (Folger’s is the best-selling brand according to Business Rankings Annual, found on Table 15 in Ekstrom) to local banks, hospitals, and schools (see Louisville Business First Big Book of Lists 2012) to television shows (NCIS edged out Sunday Night Football for the most viewers during the 2012-2013 season according to Market Share Reporter, also on Table 15 in Ekstrom).

Looking for an auto repair shop near UofL?  Use the custom search option in ReferenceUSA’s U.S. Businesses Database.  Select “General Automotive Repair Shops” from the Major Industry Group list under Business Type, and “Radius Search” under Geography.  Enter UofL’s address or zip code with the desired distance to get names, phone numbers and addresses of the closest repair places.


Starting a job search?  Learn more about various industries and potential employers by using links on the Industry Profiles & Overviews and Company Profiles & Directories pages of UofL’s business research guide. Then use the company news links to stay up to date for your interviews.


Want to know which large charities are the most efficient in terms of converting your donations to charitable services?  Check out “Charity All-Stars” and “50 Largest U.S. Charities, by the Numbers” in Forbes, which is available through Business Source Premier.

Shopping for a new phone? Read the latest Consumer Reports reviews, also available via Business Source Premier.

Smartphone comp3

For more information about these and other business resources, visit UofL’s business research guide or contact me at

[1] “business, n.”. OED Online. September 2013. Oxford University Press. 7 November 2013 <;.
[2] “business.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2013. <;.