Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

The Book for Our Times: True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News by Cindy L. Otis

On Monday, you saw that TLT announced that it’s 2021 focus project will be #FactsMatter, a deep dive into nonfiction and information literacy. Earlier this year, I bought this book which seems like the book of our times. We hear a lot about “Fake News”, so this book is timely and so very needed.

A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News

by Cindy L. Otis

Publisher’s Book Description

“If I could pick one book to hand to every teen—and adult—on earth, this is the one. True or False is accessible, thorough, and searingly honest, and we desperately needed it.” —Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

A former CIA analyst unveils the true history of fake news and gives readers tips on how to avoid falling victim to it in this highly designed informative YA nonfiction title.

“Fake news” is a term you’ve probably heard a lot in the last few years, but it’s not a new phenomenon. From the ancient Egyptians to the French Revolution to Jack the Ripper and the founding fathers, fake news has been around as long as human civilization. But that doesn’t mean that we should just give up on the idea of finding the truth.

In True or False, former CIA analyst Cindy Otis will take readers through the history and impact of misinformation over the centuries, sharing stories from the past and insights that readers today can gain from them. Then, she shares lessons learned in over a decade working for the CIA, including actionable tips on how to spot fake news, how to make sense of the information we receive each day, and, perhaps most importantly, how to understand and see past our own information biases, so that we can think critically about important issues and put events happening around us into context.

True or False includes a wealth of photo illustrations, informative inserts, and sidebars containing interesting facts and trivia sure to engage readers in critical thinking and analysis.

Brief Thoughts

This book received Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal and is highly recommended for all YA and High School collections. It was also recommended by several people on Twitter today when I asked about books to beef up a library collection on information and digital literacy. It’s tone, mixture of graphics and text and insight are all greatly valuable and readable.

Library Bootcamp

Reach out to your incoming 6th graders now and help them develop the library skills they need by creating a library book camp, reel them in to your teen services program and really catch their attention.  In the fitness world, boot camps are popular – so let’s take it a step further and help teens get fit minds, too. 

This is a great way to transition younger users to your new teen services and area, to get them invested in the program by helping them know how to navigate the area, and to let them meet teen services staff and start building those essential relationships.  This is a fun way to make sure teens learn basic information literacy skills. 

Getting Organized:
Determine what you want teens to take away from your boot camp.  I recommend the following 3 basic areas (think stations on an obstacle course to keep with the boot camp theme):  Navigating your teen area, Navigating the catalog, Navigating your library databases.

Enlist the help of staff, you’ll need a lot to make this work.  You will need at least 1 staff member for to be the instructor for each obstacle course station and you will need about 3 platoon captains so you can divide the students that come that day into 3 platoons to alternate between the stations.  So we’re talking a minimum of 6 unless the teachers bring assistants to lead the teens from station to station.

Pick a time, I recommend the first 2 hours that you are open so that there are less people in the library to be disturbed and there are more open Pacs.  I also recommend setting a finite window that teachers can sign up for, which will depend upon the number of schools you serve.  When you send out your packets to the teachers be sure to indicate that they can call from x amount of time to y to sign up for spots at 9 am during the weeks of September 6 – 30, for example.

Get an advertising packet together:  Write a letter explaining to your teachers what you are trying to accomplish, what the benefit is for the schools and the students, and highlight how it can provide curriculum support.  In addition to a letter, put together a very attractive, very visual brochure to sell the bootcamp to the teachers and administrators.  I recommend both approaches to reinforce the message and reach a wide variety of brain types, some teachers and administrators will respond better to a formal letter while others will embrace the visual.  Always try and communicate your message in multiple ways to reach the greatest number of people, what works for one person will not work for another.

Develop a basic scavenger hunt that will include questions (let’s say 5) from each obstacle course stop.  Put it together in an attractive one page sheet (not too long, you don’t want it to be intimidating or look too much like school work).  During your bootcamp you are not only training your teens on basic library skills, but you are selling yourself (your library and your teen services program) by showing that the library is fun.

How it will work:
When the students come for the day, divide them into 3 groups.  Each group is given a leader who will take them from station to station.

At each station they will be given a basic overview and then an opportunity to explore and do hands on activities that will allow them to answer the questions on the scavenger hunt sheet.  You are looking at 20 minutes per station.  Plus a 10 minute introduction and a 10 minute wrap up, minimum. 

After the teens have rotated through all 3 stations, get everyone together and share the correct answers.

Don’t let them leave empty handed:  Have a raffle for arcs or leftover SRC prizes that you have hanging around, hand out bookmarks and fliers for upcoming events (be sure to have one coming up soon after their visit).

Sample Boot Camp Questions:
What is the call number for Twilight?  How many different formats is it available in?
Tell me the name of a graphic novel series available in the teen area?
What library database would you use if you needed a magazine article on social media?
How many items in the library have the word “zombie” in the title?  What is the most recent addition?
I need to know how to survive the zombie apocalypse, is there a handbook for that?
Name an author who writes both adult and teen novels.
How many posters are on the wall in the teen area?
Name an upcoming teen program?

This is the layout I did for a 30 day online scavenger hunt.  You can do the same type of layout for Bootcamp Bingo.

I can’t take credit for this idea myself, it is an adaptation of an awesome program put together by the staff at Washington Centerville Library in Ohio and from my time working with them I can tell you that this is a great program.  It may take a couple of years to get all your teachers on board and fill up your slots (and work out the kinks), but don’t give up – it is worth it.

You can also set this program up as a once a month program with open sign up to get all the teens in your community trained in library skills.  Have a monthly or quarterly library bootcamp.

Note: I picked 6th grade but it may be 7th grade for some libraries, depending on how your program is defined and arranged and how your local schools are arranged.