In Memory of Librarian Latanya N. Jenkins

Photograph of Latanya JenkinsIn late September, friends and colleagues gathered on Zoom to honor Temple University Librarian Latanya N. Jenkins, who died April 13, 2021 at the age of 45. She was a treasured colleague and continues to be dearly missed. 

Here at the Libraries, Latanya was the Africology and African American studies and government information subject librarian. She served on the Temple University Faculty Senate Committee on the Status of Faculty of Color, the International Programs committee, the Academic Center on Research in Diversity (ACCORD) steering committee, and the Global Women’s Dialogue steering committee.

Latanya was also very active in the field as a member of ALA’s Government Documents Round Table, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), and ACRL’s African American Studies Librarians Interest Group, among others. She frequently published and presented on government documents and information and on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Latanya was a contributing author to Government Information Essentials, which was awarded the Margaret T. Lane & Virginia F. Saunders Memorial Research Award by the Government Documents Round Table of the American Library Association in 2019. In 2020, Latanya was named a Library Freedom Institute fellow. Before joining Temple Libraries in 2013, Latanya was a reference librarian at Morgan State University and Bowie State University, both in Maryland.

Betsy Sweet, assistant professor of equitable and sustainable development at the University of Massachusetts Boston, worked with Latanya in several different capacities while teaching at Temple. During the program, Dr. Sweet noted: “I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to work with Latanya. Her intellect was so amazing; it sparked so many ideas. She was so hard working and so compassionate… you could read her smile coming through her emails and texts. She was so so loved by so many of her colleagues.”

Joe Lucia, dean of Libraries, noted that Latanya had been working toward regular appointment as a librarian at Temple, which librarians can apply for after six years of employment and increasing professional accomplishments. She received promotion and regular appointment prior to her death. He added: 

I do want to say just on a personal note that one thing about Latanya was that she was a uniquely light-hearted spirit among us, even when she was dealing with the tremendous burden of her illness. One of the ways she was recognized as a presence in the library is that oftentimes you heard her singing in the distance and knew that she was around. She always had a song in her heart.

Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, associate professor in Temple’s School of Theater, Film, and Media Arts, worked with Latanya on the Faculty Senate Committee on the Status of Faculty of Color. She led the Chat in the Stacks program in memory of Latanya, and said:

We wanted to do something more than just commemorate and celebrate Latanya’s life today. We wanted to do something ongoing. And so we’ve started a memorial fund. It will support programming and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives amongst the Libraries… We’ve all been touched in some way by Latanya Jenkins, and I’m laying it on your heart to figure out a way for her memory to stay at Temple in perpetuity. This memorial fund will be just that.

You can donate to the memorial fund in Latanya’s memory at giving.temple.edu/LatanyaJenkinsMemorialFund. And you can view a recording of the Chat in the Stacks program in memory of Latanya below. 

Care and Custody: Past Responses to Mental Health

Guest post by Courtney Eger, Learning and Engagement Librarian

Design proposal of the Sheppard Asylum near Baltimore, MD by Calvert Vaux, 1860
Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

The week of October 3rd is Mental Illness Awareness Week, the perfect time for Ginsburg Health Sciences Library’s online programming around Care and Custody: Past Responses to Mental Health. In the United States, it was once common practice to commit people to asylums if they had a mental health condition and their family was unable to care for them. 

Over time, the horrors of institutional care were revealed (overcrowding, abuse, etc.).  Asylums were closed in a process called deinstitutionalization, creating issues of care in the community. New problems arose from this change, including an increase in incarceration for those with mental health conditions and more attention to community-based treatment programs. 

George Elder in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, photograph by Nelson Martinez, 1971
Image courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center, Temple University

You can read more about this history at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) online exhibit website. There is even a Temple connection in the NLM’s exhibit: this photo of George Elder from the Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center 

​The Ginsburg Health Sciences Library invites you to attend a series of online events and workshops related to this topic from October 4–7, 2021. Our lineup includes:

  • Two workshops
    • Bias in Mental Health Literature, presented by Courtney Eger
    • Searching for Mental Health Topics, presented by Stephanie Roth
  • Two online lectures
    • From Incarceration to Therapeutics in the Friends’ Asylum: Treating Philadelphia’s ‘Insane’ in the 19th Century. Dr. Darin Hayton of Haverford College will speak on local mental health history. 
    • Giving Asylum to Those Who Need It. Dr. Dominic Sisti of UPenn will speak about deinstitutionalization and mass incarceration. 
  • One panel
    • Mental Health and Academics: Tips and Strategies for College Students with speakers Janie Egan (Temple University Wellness Resource Center), Hannah Roach (student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Class of 2023), Janet A. Castellini (MSS, LCSW), and Jen Rowe (Disability Resources and Services)
    • (Please note—The panel #FreeBritney: A Case Study in Care vs Custody, originally planned for this week, has been postponed.)
  • In addition there will be Creative Self Care kits for health sciences students on campus. Stop by the Ginsburg or Podiatry Libraries on Monday, October 4 to pick up a create-your-own jigsaw puzzle kit (while supplies last!).

Learn more about these events at our program website or on our events page!

Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

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New exhibit: Med school students get to know North Philly neighbors

“The idea was to see the world literally and figuratively through a new lens, to begin conversations, listen to stories, and capture the images of people living near Temple University Hospital and the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, the very people we will care for one day.”

—Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM) students

A new exhibit, Neighbors of North Philly, is now on display at Charles Library as part of Temple University Libraries’ Beyond the Page public programming series, Made in North Philly. The exhibit showcases the work of Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM) students as part of a project to get to know members of the surrounding community.

At Temple’s Health Sciences Center, students can enroll in an elective course where they get to meet individuals they may one day provide care for at Temple Hospital. Taught by Michael Vitez, director of narrative medicine at Temple University’s LKSOM, students are tasked with going out into neighborhoods surrounding Temple Hospital, finding people to speak with, and making conversation with them. From that conversation stems a narrative and better understanding of the people in the community. The class culminates with photos and stories to share about the neighbors. This exhibit includes work from students enrolled in the course in fall 2018 and 2019. 

View Neighbors of North Philly on the fourth floor of Charles Library, room 401, now through December.

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Meet the Libraries: Fall 2021 edition

Welcome to the fall 2021 semester at Temple University! Whether this is your very first semester on campus or if you are returning after a year of mostly online coursework, allow us to introduce (or reintroduce) ourselves: we’re Temple University Libraries and we’re here to help you succeed in your academic pursuits. We have a variety of resources, materials, and services to get you started and keep you on track as the semester unfolds.

Photo of Charles Library interior, with stairs

Charles Library, July 2021, photo by Geneva Heffernan

This post highlights just a few of ways you can use the Libraries this fall. Be sure to check our website for more resources, as well as the most up-to-date information on hours and operations. And don’t be a stranger—visit our contact us page for all the ways to get in touch.

Explore and access materials 

The Libraries provide access to a broad range of physical and online materials—from books, databases, and journals to ebooks, archival materials, and movies—all searchable through our website: library.temple.edu.

Photo of book stacks in Charles Library

Fourth floor browsing stacks in Charles Library, July 2021, photo by Geneva Heffernan

For those doing archival research this semester, our special collections are housed in the Special Collections Research Center and the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.

If you are looking for fully online materials, we have highlighted those on our website. 

Get personalized research help

Librarians are here to offer personalized assistance as you work on your research papers and projects. No matter what you are studying or what major you pursue, we have a librarian who specializes in your field

Getting in touch with your librarian is easy: you can chat, email, or schedule an appointment. Our chat service is 24/7, so no matter when you are working, someone will be here to answer your questions. 

Keep learning: free events and workshops 

We host a variety of events and  workshops throughout the academic year. This semester, our Beyond the Page public programming series will continue to explore the Made in North Philly theme we debuted last spring, and we’ll be offering a variety of virtual readings, concerts, conversations, and more.

Looking to learn a new skill or need a refresher on copyright rules? We offer specialized workshops on everything from visualizing data to using citation managers to getting started with virtual reality. 

As always, our events and workshops are free and open to all.

Tour Charles Library—from home!

Charles Library, located on Temple’s Main Campus, is our newest library building. If you are looking to get a peek inside before heading to campus, check out this new virtual tour of Charles Library


Here are a few more tips to help you navigate all the Libraries have to offer:

Announcing fall theme: Made in North Philly

This past spring, our Beyond the Page public programming series explored the home of Temple’s Main Campus and Health Sciences Center: North Philadelphia. We looked back on the past and considered the present and future of North Broad and beyond: the people, places, communities, and stories Made in North Philly.

Aerial photo of North Broad Street with Met sign

Aerial photo of North Broad Street, Temple University photography

You can view recordings of spring 2021 programs on our website.

We invite you to join us in the fall as we continue the conversation with a mix of in-person and virtual programming. We’ll take a walk up Broad Street together as we screen more gems from our video archives. We’ll meet current residents of North Philadelphia through the Narrative Medicine program’s Neighbors of North Philly project. We’ll hear from local community activists and representatives from Life Do Grow Farm about the challenges they face in the community. And we’ll learn more about institutions like the Church of the Advocate and the Uptown Theater.

These programs are designed to shine a light on North Philly and its incredible history, showcase the resiliency of the community and organizations that reside here, and inspire you in your own work.

And of course, we’ll continue to offer the concerts, Blockson Collection events, and partnership programs that you’ve come to expect from Temple Libraries.

View the schedule of upcoming events on our events page, and check back often as new programs are being added daily. All programs are free and open to the public.


Exhibits

Check out some of our exhibits to accompany our programming this fall!

Photo of man in North Philadelphia

From the Neighbors of North Philly exhibit

  • Care and Custody: Past Responses to Mental Health, Ginsburg Health Sciences Library, on view September–November 2021
  • Exploring Eastern North Philadelphia: Students and Community Engagement, Charles Library Exhibit Space, on view September – December 2021
  • Neighbors of North Philly, presented by Lewis Katz School of Medicine students, Charles Library, Room 401, on view September – December 2021
  • The Quest for Freedom and Dignity: Celebrating William Still and Harriet Tubman, Blockson Collection, on view through June 2022

Keep in touch

Have ideas for future programs? Let us know!

We hope to see you this fall!

 – the library programming team

 

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Behind the scenes with the Blockson Collection

Welcome back to Temple University Libraries’ programs and events blog! For our first post in a while, we’re going behind the scenes to tell you more about the programming brought to you by the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.

First, we’ll take a look back at some of the Blockson Collection’s recent programs, and then we’ll check in with Dr. Diane Turner, curator, and Leslie Willis-Lowry, associate archivist, who help plan and coordinate Blockson Collection programs.

Still from walkthrough of The Quest for Freedom and Dignity: Celebrating William Still and Harriet Tubman exhibit, from the Blockson Collection’s Juneteenth program

June programs celebrated Black Music Month, Juneteenth, and William Still

On June 3, we went on a musical journey with pianist, composer, producer, teacher, and dancer Alfie Pollitt. Pollitt, who has worked with a number of famed musicians in the genres of so-called jazz and rhythm and blues, spoke candidly about his life experiences and career. We invite you to view the program and watch the fascinating stories, hear musical tributes, and learn a little more about Black music in honor of Black Music Month.

Later that month, we celebrated the bicentennial of William Still’s birth and Juneteenth. We started off by watching a video walkthrough of The Quest for Freedom and Dignity: Celebrating William Still and Harriet Tubman exhibit, on view through August in the Blockson Collection. Then, Charles L. Blockson, curator emeritus and founder of the collection, reflected personally on his family history and relations to William Still and Harriet Tubman in a video from a previous program held at the Blockson Collection. View the entire program on our website. And, check out this article highlighting some items in the collection that can help us better appreciate and understand the significance of Juneteenth.


Meet the staff

We checked in with two Blockson Collection staff members, Dr. Diane Turner and Leslie Willis Lowry, to ask about recent programs, the shift to virtual events during the pandemic, and the upcoming season. But first, let’s meet them!

Dr. Diane D. Turner is curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University Libraries. Dr. Turner holds three Temple University degrees. Her areas of specialization and research include African American Labor, Cultural and Social History, Philadelphia Jazz History, Independent Black Filmmakers, Oral History, and Public History. Her dissertation is entitled Organizing and Improvising: A History of Philadelphia’s Black Musicians’ Protective Union Local 274, American Federation of Musician. She has taught African-American history at the university level including Brown University, Northeastern University, Rowan University, University of South Florida (Tampa, FL) and other institutions.  She has authored My Name is Oney Judge (2010), Feeding the Soul: Black Music, Black Thought (2011) and Our Grand Pop is a Montford Point Marine (2018), co-authored with her father, Corporal Thomas S. Turner Sr. Her writings appear in anthologies and scholarly journals. She serves as a consultant on a number of advisory boards and committees such as Bethel Burial Ground Historic Site Memorial Committee, Chronicling Resistance, Scribe Video’s Precious Places and others. She is president of the Montford Point Marines Association, Philadelphia Chapter #1 Auxiliary. Her current book project is a history of jazz in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Leslie Willis Lowry is associate archivist at the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University Libraries, and has worked in collections management and as an archivist, researcher and consultant in several capacities, including special collections, exhibitions, films, television and publications for over thirty years, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the International African American Museum in Charleston, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, The Museum of Afro-American History in Boston, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Bronx Museum of Art, Scholastic Books, among others. As a curatorial and research assistant to Deborah Willis, the nation’s leading historian of African American photography and curator of African American culture, Leslie has cataloged the work of individual photographers, photographic collections and groups of photographs that are part of an exhibition and publications; in addition to researching and planning for photographic exhibitions. After years of working in management, supervising hundreds of employees, and as liaison and consultant to many cultural institutions and religious organizations, Leslie’s career has been divided into two distinct areas – archival and education – within the broad areas of photographic history, visual culture, African American history and popular and material culture. Within these fields she has consistently emphasized the importance of the use of the archives to build programming, education and community connections.


Building Blockson Collection programs

Diane and Leslie took turns answering our questions about programming at the Blockson Collection.

Temple Libraries (TL): How do you go about planning programs for the Blockson Collection? Where do you get your ideas from and/or how do you choose speakers to feature?
Diane Turner (DT): Blockson Collection staff use program planning meetings to collaboratively work on developing programs. We use our knowledge base of history and culture in Philadelphia for inspiration and in identifying potential speakers.

TL: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the Libraries’ programs and events have gone virtual. What has that been like for the Blockson Collection’s programming? Have there been any unexpected benefits or challenges?
Leslie Willis Lowry (LWL): The Blockson Collection accomplished a great deal during this unusual period of working remotely through the COVID-19 pandemic. As an initiative to stay connected with members of our community, programs were redesigned using a virtual platform to give it the modern aesthetic needed for further reach. The virtual programs continue to enable our community members to become aware of new research and to identify emerging scholars and programming that addresses issues that are a part of our mission.

With the rich and impactful virtual programming we produced this year, we were able to strengthen our visibility and expand our contact list numbers. We were also able to develop wider audiences online through social media growth. Attendees were represented both nationally and internationally.

TL: Can you share a favorite moment from your recent June programs?
DT: The [June 3rd] program was pre-recorded at the Philadelphia Clef Club, and this was the first live music that I had heard since February 2020.  Also, we lost Sam Reed so we are honored to have featured him for Jazz Appreciation Month.

TL: Anything you can tell us about the upcoming 2021-2022 programming season?
LWL: The Blockson Collection’s upcoming 2021-2022 programs season includes the following:

SEPTEMBER
September 22 | Glenn Ellis
History of Black Health in America

September 29 | Gospel Music Heritage Month
Honoring the Legendary Marion Williams

OCTOBER
October 7 | William Still’s birthday Celebration

October 19 | Scribe Video Center | Precious Places Community History Project Screenings
-The Freedom Theatre
-William Penn High School
-Church of the Advocate
-OIC

October 28 | Cullen Knight
Entertainment, Jazz and Social life in North Philadelphia

NOVEMBER
November 4 | Oral History Program with Karen Warrington
Ile Ife Black Humanitarian Center: The Importance of the Center and its Cultural Impact

November 18 | Author Talk: Haki Madhubuti
“The Autobiography of a Black Vegan”

Check library.temple.edu/events closer to the start of the fall semester for program details.
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Temple Libraries: Here for Our Alumni!

This Alumni Week, Temple University Libraries welcomes alumni to learn more about the Libraries and all that you have access to as a Temple alum. Spoiler alert: your access to library resources and services doesn’t end when you graduate!

We’ve rounded up some of the best the Libraries has to offer you this Alumni Week, and every week.

Interior of Charles Library

Inside Charles Library, photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg, Temple University

Access the Libraries

Even after you graduate, you can continue to access library resources, including our buildings, collections, and more! Check out our library website to learn more about alumni services. 

View public exhibits

The Libraries offer a variety of exhibits each year, often featuring the materials in our special collections. Without leaving home, you can explore one of these exhibits from the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection right now: Black Lives Always Mattered! (BLAM!) 360° exhibit. This virtual tour provides a glimpse of a seminal forthcoming graphic novel, which has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

If you’re on campus, visit Charles Library to view the Special Collections Research Center’s latest exhibit. History of a Neighborhood: Mapping North Philadelphia, 1837–1990 is on view through the end of the month. 

Image of map

Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg, Temple University

Attend events and workshops

Every semester, the Libraries present our Beyond the Page public programming series. These free events and workshops are open to all, and we also record most of them for future viewing.

We invite a variety of experts, including alumni, to participate in these programs. Check out these recent programs featuring Temple alumni. Many of these events were part of our Made in North Philly series, which continues this fall. 

Explore Digital Collections

Our Digital Collections offer free worldwide access to the Libraries’ unique primary historical and cultural resources and to selected scholarly works and other publications produced at Temple.

As a Temple alum, you might take a special interest in the following collections: 

Read alumni authors 

Temple University Press is known for publishing socially engaged scholarship in the social sciences and the humanities, as well as books about Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley region.

A number of Press titles have been authored by your fellow alumni! Check them out below:



Nelson Diaz (JD, 1972; Honorary PhD, 1990)    
Not from Here, Not from There/No Soy de Aquí ni de Allá

Ray Didinger (BS in Communications, 1968)
Finished Business: My Fifty Years of Headlines, Heroes, and Heartaches
One Last Read: The Collected Works of the World’s Slowest Sportswriter
The Eagles Encyclopedia: Champions Edition

Bill Double (BS in Theater, 1961)
Charles E. Hires and the Drink that Wowed a Nation: The Life and Times of a Philadelphia Entrepreneur

Murray Dubin (BS in Journalism, 1969)
Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America
South Philadelphia: Mummers, Memories, and the Melrose Diner

Harold Gullan (PhD in History, 1998)
Toomey’s Triumph: Inside a Key Senate Campaign

Valerie Harrison (Master of Liberal Arts, 2007; PhD in African American Studies, 2015)
Do Right by Me: Learning to Raise Black Children in White Spaces

Larry Magid (Fox School of Business, 1964)
My Soul’s Been Psychedelicized Electric Factory

Laura Katz Rizzo (EdM in Dance, 2001; PhD in Dance, 2008)
Dancing the Fairy Tale: Producing and Performing The Sleeping Beauty

Mis/disinformation and COVID-19: A conversation about infodemiology

by Lauri Fennell, Public Health and Social Sciences Librarian

Illustration of eight people on their phones, with the text "try to stop the spread of false information"

Image created by Ruth Burrows

Editor’s note: In celebration of National Library Week and National Public Health Week coinciding this year, Temple University Libraries is pleased to share with you this conversation between Librarian Lauri Fennell and Dr. Jeni Stolow of Temple’s College of Public Health.

Because of the ever changing or evolving information that is normal with a novel disease, there’s been a lot of resistance and where there are gaps in knowledge and trust, misinformation/disinformation will grow.

Dr. Jeni Stolow is a new faculty member in Temple University’s College of Public Health. Her goal is to partner with communities to implement rapid, effective, equitable, and sustainable responses to behavior change and infection control. I first learned about her when I inquired with another faculty member about an upcoming World Health Organization (WHO) Infodemiology Conference. This was a new concept to me and I was eager to learn more. I was surprised and excited to learn that Dr. Stolow was not only involved with WHO but has been working specifically on the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting infodemic.

I was fortunate to interview Dr. Jeni Stolow about this topic on March 23, 2021. What follows is an edited transcript from our conversation, which was recorded.

Lauri Fennell: Dr. Stolow, could you provide a quick introduction to infodemiology?

Jeni Stolow: Infodemiology has actually been around for decades but is now picking up a lot more momentum in what we’re calling a co-occurring pandemic of COVID-19 and “infodemic” of information. Infodemiology can be thought of as the epidemiology of information. It aims to unpack out how information spreads throughout populations and social networks; utilizing statistics, health communication, risk communication, and different health theories to figure out the best ways to communicate with individuals. It also works to assess misinformation, disinformation, trust issues, access to information, and health literacy.

LF: What are some of the biggest challenges we’re seeing right now in terms of managing information?

JS: I will say a big part of infodemiology starts with you—your use of social media, how institutions communicate, how your own backyard is handling things, etc. So, it’s really important that we at Temple University are preparing our students, faculty, staff, and communities to be able to evaluate, assess, and promote good information.

The biggest challenge in the COVID-19 infodemic is the changing information. Because COVID-19 is a novel disease we were, and still are, learning a lot about it. That’s how novel diseases and outbreaks work. It has also become very obvious that there are trust issues related to the political climate, science, and the varying perceptions of health and wellness. Because of that, and because of the ever changing or evolving information, there’s been a lot of resistance to COVID-19. Where there are gaps in knowledge and trust, misinformation/disinformation will grow.

That is the basis of any outbreak, health crisis, epidemic, etc., and why we in public health are tasked with ensuring communities can effectively assess the reliability of information. On a given day if you open up Facebook, Instagram, or the news, you’ll see conflicting information within a 10 second period.

On a given day if you open up Facebook, Instagram, or even the news you’ll see conflicting information within a 10 second period.

LF: So we can get an even better understanding on this, can you give an example of something that’s misinformation or one of the possible other issues?

JS: Definitely. There are a lot of rumors, myths, misinformation, disinformation around everything with COVID-19, especially anything related to vaccines.  Depending on who you are or where you live, you may have a completely different understanding of the vaccines and probably heard a variety of stories about people’s vaccine experiences. One goldmine for misinformation is the topic of vaccines harming pregnancies and fertility. That’s just simply not true. Both my sisters are pregnant and I can tell you that I advocated for both of them to get the vaccine. Why?

Because (1) the mRNA platform is pretty safe, (2) we know it is an effective platform for people who are pregnant, and (3) protecting yourself from COVID-19 is more important than any unlikely side effects. I think this speaks to why misinformation/ disinformation pops up, because as soon as you think of a vulnerable group (i.e. pregnancy, fertility, fetuses, children) it becomes a really easy place to trigger fear.

Whenever there are gaps in knowledge, it creates openings for misinformation, disinformation, and fear-leveraging to occur. For example, people may not know that pregnant women often get vaccines (like the whooping cough vaccine every time they’re pregnant) and may be confused as to why public health is “allowing” these women to get vaccinated. The truth is that we have a long history of pregnant women, or women contemplating pregnancy, needing vaccines and prenatal care, so why is COVID different? Is it just that you’re afraid? Is it just because it’s new? Is it just an excuse to avoid vaccination?

And so, wherever there are those opportunities to strike fear or confusion, that’s where you’re going to see a lot of people with their agendas leveraging it for misinformation/disinformation.

Wherever there are those opportunities to strike fear or confusion, that’s where you’re going to see a lot of people with their agendas leveraging it for misinformation/disinformation

LF: So I heard two things that I would like to highlight a little more. One is about the agenda behind who is giving you that information and the other is the fear or the emotion that you experience when reading something and how that might play a role in whether you believe it.

JS: The reality of the situation is anytime you’re dealing with a health issue people have different agendas. This is true for every health issue since the beginning of time. This gets multiplied by 1,000 once you have a politicized situation like COVID-19. There is now an undertone, symbolism, or connotation to behaviors as opposed to behaviors just being based on best practices and safety. What is the symbolism behind wearing a mask?

Whenever you have this politicalization or symbolism tied to behaviors it starts to get trickier, but it also makes it easier to manipulate information. For example, prior to the introduction of these COVID-19 vaccines, the idea of an anti-vaxxer seemed pretty silly or extreme to people. But right now in 2021 we have a whole new meaning to this idea of an anti-vaxxer or vaccine hesitant person in relation to COVID-19. It’s interesting that people associate anti-vaxxing differently between the MMR vaccine and COVID-19. There’s a lot of moving targets and moving meanings behind all these components of health.

The other thing is fear. I wrote an article with several of my colleagues about how people should not leverage fear to motivate behavior. “Fear appeals” is a sore spot for me because once you start scaring people or utilizing fear to motivate people you take away their autonomy. Furthermore, you can trigger underlying mental health issues and start alienating populations. You cannot do that. You cannot create “good” and “bad” people.

Over the last year, we’ve seen a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes that come from fear and xenophobia. Fear and hatred are closely tied together. Whenever you have messaging that uses fear, or tries to trigger a fear response, it can demonize, alienate, or harm certain populations. Honestly, if you see health information using fear tactics, it’s a really good way to flag that this source is probably just trying to get more likes or reads from a sensational reaction than it is trying to give you the facts.

Whenever you have messaging that uses fear, or tries to trigger a fear response, it can demonize, alienate, or harm certain populations.

LF: There are many tools out there that maybe help people think about or evaluate their source.

People don’t necessarily want to use a checklist every time they read something new.  But, there is one thing that every tool I know of identifies, and that is to take a pause.

There are even campaigns about that, like #pledgetopause.

JS: Exactly. I love the way that you phrase that. Every tool, every checklist, every recommendation always starts with pause. Take a minute and reflect. We are living in a very fast time where, especially with social media, being the first to send out information or having the most sensational information is really appealing. That can be harmful. I understand the desire. I understand that a lot of us are “doom-scrolling” just trying to find out more, or trying to find information that satisfies our preexisting biases.

It’s really important to take a pause before sharing because you’ll often realize that the reason you want to share information is for emotional gain, not to educate or support your network.  Most importantly, if you don’t know, don’t share. If you are not 100% capable of defending, restating, and explaining a source or information, you should not be sharing it.

If you have questions, you should ask! We are fortunate to be a part of Temple University where faculty and librarians are so happy to walk you through assessing information.  If you’re leaving Temple University with a degree, it’s assumed that you can effectively interpret information and teach others about it. If that doesn’t feel like a comfortable skill, you should come talk to us because that’s our job.

 If you don’t know, don’t share. If you are not 100% capable of defending, restating, and explaining a source or information, you should not be sharing it.

LF: So what can someone do when a friend or family member shares something that you believe could be misinformation or disinformation?

JS: Really good question. I think it depends on the format.  In any situation, the best thing you can do is once again pause, figure out what they’re actually saying, why you disagree, have evidence, then approach them. Those are the general steps to use.

The other thing you can do is report it on social media. If this is on a social media platform, I recommend sending them a message. Actually talk to them. People are not going to interpret good intentions on social media, we know that.

Address the issue and say, “Hey I’m really glad you shared that post, I actually learned about this in class. I’d love to talk to you about it, here’s my thinking ….and here’s my logic…”

The more emotion you can take out of your response, the better. Whether you’re texting, on the phone, at a family reunion, or just talking to your parents at dinner, it’s okay to take a second, say “I hear you, I totally understand where that comes from, I’ve heard these other things, what do you think?” It’s not about conflict, it’s about conversation. That’s the big difference. I think oftentimes we polarize ourselves into right and wrong, liberal and conservative, X and Y. That is not how you communicate. Everyone has common ground; it’s just figuring out where it is and then building an understanding from there. It takes time, it takes a thick skin, but it’s worth it. Always make sure that you pause before you share and make sure that you are taking the emotion out of information.

LF: And what about for those who are not part of an academic institution?

JS: I would say, for anyone who is interested in learning more check out our module but also reach out! We’re hoping that the future iteration of this module is for everyone, from five-year-olds in the community, all the way to 95-year-old professors. Whoever you are, there will be a universal module available to help people navigate health information.

Editor’s note: Temple University Libraries is open to all. Learn more about our community access to our resources, services, and spaces.


RESOURCES

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Building a Digital Humanities Project with Synatra Smith

Photo of Synatra Smith

Photo courtesy Synatra Smith

Temple University Libraries is pleased to welcome Synatra Smith, PhD as our new Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Postdoctoral Fellow. In this joint position, she is splitting her time between the Libraries and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). While working with the Libraries, Synatra will focus on digital scholarship projects related to African American art history in collaboration with the Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio. She also plans to work with the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.  

Synatra earned her PhD in Global and Sociocultural Studies with a concentration in Anthropology from the School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University.

Beckie Dashiell, editor for Temple University Libraries, recently had the opportunity to check in with Synatra and learn more about her research interests and the work she is engaging in at the Libraries and the PMA.

Beckie Dashiell: First of all, welcome to Temple Libraries! Can you share with our readers more information about your research interests and ongoing projects?

Synatra Smith: My research focuses on the creation, perpetuation, and transformation of the socio-political intersectional Black cultural landscape with special attention to the ways in which virtual and physical space are used as environments to conceptually and practically transform Black identification processes, as well as the material culture that contributes to this phenomenon. 

I’ve been working in the galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM) field for the past five years officially in museum education, but I’ve also curated, worked in collections, managed an outreach initiative, etc. Typical small museum work where each department is a staff of one and everyone does everything. I’ve painted walls, been the bartender at events, testified in front of the County Council for funding, and written grants. Outside of this fellowship, I’m working on a multi-chapter report to historically contextualize the use of racially restrictive deed covenants in Hyattsville, Maryland as a federally-sanctioned method of residential segregation during the first half of the twentieth century.

Beckie: Can you tell us a little bit about the kind of work you’ll be doing here at the Libraries, particularly in the Scholars Studio? What goals do you have for your time here?

Synatra: The Scholars Studio offers me an amazing opportunity to learn about a variety of digital tools for data collection and analysis that I intend to apply to my collection and interpretation of Black art, history, and culture. I’m currently participating in a few Zoom workshops to learn photogrammetry, text analysis with Python, and 3D scanning and modeling. I’m kind of creating my Batman utility belt of digital humanities tools that will allow me to develop an interactive exhibition that showcases current local Black art and scholarship through an Afrofuturist lens that reimagines time and space in order to speculate about the future. 

Beckie: As part of your fellowship, you’ll be working jointly with the Libraries and the PMA. What kinds of opportunities do you see this collaboration offering?

Synatra: PMA’s Library and Archives is working on a Wikidata project to link their collection to those records, and that data can be queried using SPARQL [a coding language] to visualize it in some fascinating ways. We’re also creating blog posts about local Black artists in PMA’s collection and we’ll be conducting oral histories with these artists soon, all of which can be added to Wikidata and linked back to PMA’s website. I’d like to do something similar with Temple Libraries’ collection so that when a person Googles one of these folks, they’ll come across their items in both of these organizations’ collections and archives. 

Also, both of these institutions are providing a launchpad for my own research project to explore the myriad ways in which Black artists and scholars in Philadelphia reimagine and conceptualize their communities. I am going to be working on capturing a broad spectrum of materials, from murals, zines/comics, posters, fashion/cosplay/textiles, and performance art, to three-dimensional models of sculptures and monuments, and using linked data queries and mapping tools for data visualization. 

Beckie: Can you envision any potential impacts for the kind of work you are doing? 

Synatra: As a true millennial, I not only have a full time fellowship and a research project, I also work with a childhood friend and his fraternity brother on a mobile Black culture trivia app called Trivia Black. I recently started brainstorming ways to integrate a gaming experience into this project potentially through virtual reality and/or augmented reality to create a more interactive digital exhibition model. Think Pokemon Go or the Sims but Black, local, and scaled way down to fit within a 2 year fellowship. 

Also, something Trivia Black talks through pretty often is how to make Black history not feel so heavy, which can be particularly difficult thanks to the legacies of enslavement, disenfranchisement, and terrorism against Black people both historically and currently. We try to be very intentional about the way we phrase questions, which is something I also do in my work more generally. The story may start with an injustice but I try to shine a light on the way we’ve fought against that oppression. Relatedly, I recently hosted a panel discussion where one of the panelists explained that her organization’s work integrates spiritual healing practices when the community interacts with the archive to soothe the very deep emotions that often arise. With all of that being said, I’m thinking of ways to keep the narratives pretty balanced between celebratory and tragic, and how to be responsible when tackling Black trauma in an interactive, gamified virtual exhibition.

Beckie: Thanks so much, Synatra! We look forward to checking back in with you over the course of your fellowship, and seeing how your project continues to develop

Editor’s note: A condensed version of this interview appears in the Fall 2020/Winter 2021 issue of Speaking Volumes, the newsletter for friends of Temple University Libraries.

Reading for social change: Perspectives on oppression and wellness

Guest post by Brittany Robinson, wellness education program coordinator with the Wellness Resource Center 

Self-care practices such as getting quality rest, consuming nourishing foods, and regularly moving our bodies are known to positively impact our well-being. We can make choices that help us feel well. At the same time, our well-being is also influenced by systems that we can’t control. Access to resources, support, and opportunities are distributed disproportionately and can have profound effects on our health and well-being. Today’s post is a collaboration between the Wellness Resource Center and Temple University Libraries

Abstract image, viewing building through window

photo by Joseph V. Labolito, Temple University

Oppression is discrimination that is supported by systems and structures within a society. It shows up in education, policies, healthcare, and more. Health disparities are just one area in which the consequences of oppression are clear. Folks with marginalized identities often experience health inequities at alarming rates. Bringing these systemic issues to light is necessary in the journey to create positive change. Before engaging in discourse, it is helpful to educate ourselves around oppression and its harmful effects. Books are a wonderful resource that allow us to view reality from diverse perspectives. 


How Does Reading Help? 

Before engaging in discourse, it is helpful to educate ourselves around oppression and its harmful effects. Books are a wonderful resource that allow us to view reality from diverse perspectives. Research shows that reading can improve empathy and perspective-taking. 

Here are some suggested titles, available through Temple Libraries

Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington 
Washington’s text takes readers on a journey of the mistreatment African Americans have endured as unsuspecting experimental subjects within the U.S. medical system from the era of slavery through present day. 

The Health Gap by Michael Marmot 
Through examples and telling statistics, President of the World Medical Association  Michael Marmot writes about social injustice being a threat to global health. He also highlights existing tools to reduce health inequities that we may not be utilizing as we should. 

Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care by Dayna Bowen Matthew 
In this text, Matthew discusses how unfair and unjust healthcare treatment of folks with marginalized identities leads to avoidable health disparities. She offers solutions that address implicit bias.


Resources Available 

Temple’s Tuttleman Counseling Services has specially-trained therapists and support groups for Temple University students.

Temple’s Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership (IDEAL) provides a space for the campus community to learn about diverse perspectives, receive training, and explore strategies for making our campus and the world a more equitable place. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has health disparities resources to help folks further their understanding of the causes and consequences of oppression in healthcare.