Hack the System!: Combating Fake News!

Posted on November 18th, 2016 by adowds in News, Technology, Teen Services
Tags: , , , ,


Post-election anxieties are pretty heightened right about now, and election results have left many people asking, How?!? Why?!? What?!? Fingers are being pointed in many directions, but one culprit taking the lead is “fake news”. So much so, some “fake news” bloggers are actually claiming partial responsibility for the election of Donald Trump.


“Fake news” is a form of news satire. Content is presented in a format typical of mainstream journalism, but the actual content is anything but real and often pokes fun at current events. Fake news stories pop up everywhere on social media sites, and receive almost immediate attention, likes, shares, and reactions from users due to its sensationalized material. According to BuzzFeed News Analyst Craig Silverman, “the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News…”. Silverman used a tool called BuzzSumo to compare the way the public engaged or interacted with traditional news stories vs fake news stories that peddled false claims during the final three months of the US presidential campaign. He found that the 20 top performing “fake news” stories received 8.7 million shares, reactions, likes, etc. on Facebook while the 20 top performing new stories from reputable publications received 7.3 million.



Does this mean that fake news won the election for Donald Trump? Most likely not. But it does mean that people either are not as media savvy as we hoped or, we tend to trust almost anything once it is posted online — no questions asked. While companies such as Facebook and Google have amped up their abilities to block ad monies that promote fake news and hoax stories, two individuals have created extensions for Chrome to help people circumvent untrustworthy new sites by warning them when they are visiting sites or reading material that is known to be misleading, satirical, or a hoax.



First, Daniel Sieradski created the “B.S. Detector” on Tuesday, November 15th for Chrome browsers only. This extension will identify and flag articles from questionable resources while users are browsing Facebook.  Sieradski’s invention relies on a pre-generated list of well-known fake news sites created by Melissa Zimdars, a communication and media professor from Merrimack College in Massachusetts. Users may submit requests to update and change this list.





The second extension, Fake News Alert, was created by New York magazine journalist Brian Feldman and was released Thursday, November 17th. If a user attempts to visit a known hoax site, a pop-up or banner appears to alert users. Feldman also uses Zimdars’ preexisting list of fake news sites to assist people who may not be media savvy or have been foiled hook, line, and sinker into reading and believing one of these articles.


These latest creations may diminish the outpouring of misinformation, but they also have a few downsides. First, they can only be used on Chrome browsers. Second, it is up to the user to proactively download the tool. And most notably, these extensions only work on the specific website domain, which means users must actually click on the website link in order to receive an alert. According to Feldman, preemptive alerts that flag articles before they are opened or read would require a more sophisticated version of his Fake News Alert Chrome extension. And similar to any antivirus software, new hoax sites can be created that aren’t in the extension’s database.


The good news — Both of these tools were created in about an hour and their inventors admit they are pretty bare bones. There is plenty of room for tinkering and improvement, which means there is ample opportunity for you all to hack the system and build your own app, fight against fake news, and enable people to place more trust in what they are reading!



Want to create your own technology life hack? Stop by Teen Central during Open Lab time.

“Hack the System!” features examples of technology life hacks created by Ally, the Youth Technology Librarian at Teen Central. Check back on the third Friday of each month for her latest post.

Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese: Library Wars Manga

Posted on November 8th, 2016 by jkenney in Teen Services

library-wars-manga-chapter-34-001v2Hello Otaku!

This month we stay with manga and an entertaining series titled Library Wars.  Story and Art by Kiiro Yumi, original concept by Hiro Arikawa. We have a couple of the print volumes at our branch in Hyde Park but I was able to find it online as well.  Check it out here at Otakumash.com.

You can navigate backwards to the beginning but volume 2 was the earliest we had on shelf. The story focuses on the young staff and instructors at the Kanto Library and their developing battle with the federal Media Betterment Committee (MBC). This body is an overseeing censorship group that was recently formed in reaction to controversial publications in local presses and literature. Libraries have reacted by forming a Task Force to defend freedom of speech, the press, and to fight censorship. This elite unit actually trains in firearms, marksmanship and other tactical combat skills. In a library! The ironic contrast between these two subject areas made for a humorous and light hearted read. The series is actually published by Shojo Beat Manga. Most of you will know that the term “shojo” is used to describe manga or anime meant for young women. This genre tends to center on themes of romance and friendship but the inclusion of libraries and war caught my attention as a “shonen” action fan. I think it’s a real victory for diversity in manga and encourage both men and women otaku of all ages to check it out. It is a lot of fun.

One of the first panels helps outline the library principles at stake in the story and the great fight between freedom of speech and censorship.  The artwork is bold and clean in a fine linear style. Technique is fairly modern and the figure shape, faces and costumes styles are up to date for a real world fiction.


The plot deepens when a bag of “offensive” books is found in a room after an administrator left moments before.


Action ensues early on when the heroine, corporal Iku Kasahara, is practicing on the gun range. Then on the same page, the story drops into friendly competition-chibi mode for a bit of comic relief and humor. The contrast of story elements and subject matter is really refreshing. Familiar visual effects and sound effects are used in this series and help the reader feel right at home.


And of course romantic effects like the classic “champagne bubbles” and “light flares” appear at appropriate times. Here is an example of light glistening off tears when Iku allows herself to cry on her favorite instructor-crush’s shoulder, Sergeant Atsushi Dojo. A tender moment of support and relief after Iku was hounded by the press.

So check out Library Wars. You’ll be surprised by the action and comedy in this “shojo” title. The creativity in manga and anime the past several years is really amazing. It’s not all just epic saga extension of massive story lines and character lists. Some titles are well put together, tightly knit and a lot of fun. There are a couple anime versions out there available at Kissanime. They are next on my list.


john250-150x150Did you know that in addition to physical books and DVDs, your library card gives you access to anime and graphic novels online? The BPL subscribes toHoopla, a streaming service that allows you to check out and enjoy the media you love on your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can learn more about the BPL’s digital media collections here.

Want company while you’re watching anime? The Hyde Park Teen Anime Club meets on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m.

*”Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese” features reviews of anime and manga by John, the Teen Librarian at the Hyde Park Branch, on the second Tuesday of every month.


Curl Up & Read: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth

Posted on November 4th, 2016 by vkovenmatasy in Books, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services



Title: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth

Read by: Snipe, Dudley Branch

Summary: This book is about a girl named Cameron Post discovering her sexuality and realizing she’s a lesbian. Eventually her aunt and grandmother, who are conservative Christians, learn about her being a lesbian and kissing a girl named Coley Tyler and they send her to a conversion therapy camp. She’s forced to stay there for about two years until she escapes with her friends Jane and Adam, who were also at the camp for similar reasons. The whole story is about how conversion therapy is wrong for everybody and it damages youth. It keeps them away from exploring their sexuality and leads to them being confused and having negative outcomes.

Genre/Subgenre: Realistic fiction

Standalone/Series: Standalone

Length: 470 pages

Personal Thoughts:

I thought this book was really good. First off, you can tell it wasn’t written by a straight author, which is really important. You need to get this type of experience and dialogue in your narrative from an actual person who’s gay, not a straight person who just heard these things. It deals with people being confused about their sexuality and I think that’s also an important part of the book, because not everyone just knows they’re gay, or that what they are is what they are. It could be relatable to anyone, especially people in this age range, who are also confused about themselves. One of the major important parts of the books is about conversion therapy, which is where gay kids are sent to learn that they’re bad for being who they are. It goes into how the people that run these camps actually think they’re doing some type of good and believe they’re right in doing this, and how you can’t let these types of people be in charge of children, especially ones who are questioning themselves.

The book uses words like “faggot” a lot to describe gay people, which is obviously a slur now, and it also describes a graphic scene in which a boy cuts himself because of the abuse of his father and feelings of inferiority and self-hatred. If you’re a person who doesn’t deal well with those types of scenes you probably shouldn’t pick this book up, or should at least try to skip that scene. If you read the book, you’ll recognize the part where it begins.

I would give this book an 8 out of 10 and would recommend it especially to people in the LGBT+ community and anyone questioning their gender and/or sexual identities.

animated-2Looking to borrow the book mentioned in this post? This link will take you to our catalog:

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Need a library card? Wondering how long you can borrow these books? Borrowing and Circulation information can be found here.


* “Curl Up & Read” posts book reviews by librarians and teens like you on the first Friday of every month. If you’re a teen and you’re interested in having a book review posted on the Teen Blog, please email vkovenmatasy (at) bpl (dot) org and pitch your idea. We might even be able to hook you up with an Advance Reader’s Copy of something coming out soon, so you can really be ahead of the crowd!


Stop the Press: Freshman Year for Free

Posted on November 1st, 2016 by rschmelzer in Teen Services

Recently a flyer promoting this awesome program was shared with BPL Librarians, and it was too good to not share on this blog with our Teen users. If you don’t already know, college costs can be astronomical. The current presidential candidates have made claims of how they want to make college costs more affordable, but what about right now?


Enter “Freshman Year for Free” by Modern States. This is available not just to high school students, but also current college students and adult learners. How it works is that you sign up for classes offered by Modern States. Once you complete the course, you take an exam. If you pass the exam, you then receive college credit for the course! That means you won’t have to pay for the class in college, you can move on to other classes you need to earn your degree.

An added bonus of this program is that it also pays the $80 test fee an $20 scheduling fee for students who enroll in the course and take the exams. The exam you would be taking is the CLEP exam, administered by the College Board and are accepted for credit at more than 2,900 colleges and universities.

If you’re interested in this free on-ramp to college, sign up here!


icon of RebeccaAre you interested in keeping up with the news and current events? The Boston Public Library has subscriptions to newspapers that you can read in the library or online.

*”Stop the Press” features current events posts by Rebecca, the Teen Librarian at the Grove Hall Branch, on the first Tuesday of every month.

On the Radar: Five Books to Check Out in November

Posted on October 28th, 2016 by vkovenmatasy in Books, Previews, Teen Services

Get your library card handy and reserve your place in line for these new November releases! If you place a hold now, they can be in your hands before they even hit the shelf.

Please note: all summaries are taken from the Boston Public Library catalog unless otherwise noted. They may have been edited for length and clarity.


my sister rosa cover

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Aussie Che Taylor loves his younger sister, Rosa. But he’s also certain that she’s a psychopath—clinically, threateningly, dangerously. Recently Rosa has been making trouble, hurting things. Che is the only one who knows; he’s the only one his sister trusts. Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and very good at hiding what she is and the manipulation she’s capable of. Their parents, whose business takes the family from place to place, brush off the warning signs as Rosa’s “acting out.” Now that they have moved again—from Bangkok to New York City—their new hometown provides far too many opportunities for Rosa to play her increasingly complex and disturbing games. Che’s always been Rosa’s rock, protecting her from the world. Now, the world might need protection from her. (summary via the publisher’s website)

 Why We’re Excited: Ahhhhh this book sounds so scary! But probably in a good way? Larbalestier is a writer who can handle suspense — like everyone else in the book blogosphere, I really admired Liar, although to voice an unpopular opinion I think Team Human, which she cowrote with Sarah Rees Brennan, is even better — and the plot of My Sister Rosa sounds genuinely terrifying. We’ll have to see if I’m brave enough to read the whole thing! (Final note: kudos to whoever designed that cover. It is gorgeous and deeply disturbing.)


Trun_ 9780399557422_cvr all_r3.indd

Dear My Blank: Secret Letters Never Sent by Emily Trunko (ed.)

Summary: From the popular Tumblr account of the same name comes a collection of heart-warming, tear-jerking, and gut-wrenching anonymous letters that people never intended to, or didn’t have the courage to send. What first started as a Tumblr account with over 30,000 followers, is now a carefully curated collection of 150 anonymous letters covering a range of topics from heartbreak, unrequited love, and loss, to inspiration, self-awareness, and gratitude. Featuring exclusive content not available on Tumblr, these unsent letters are addressed to secret crushes, lost loved ones, boyfriends, siblings, parents, grandparents, and many more. (summary via the publisher’s website)

Why We’re Excited: There’s something addictive about reading anonymous confessions — I was obsessed with PostSecret in high school. And I can’t wait to see the illustrations!



The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon


Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

(summary via the publisher’s website)

Why We’re Excited: Well, in case you somehow missed the insane popularity of Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon’s debut hit the stratosphere — #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List, starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, selected for YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. So it’s not surprising that her second novel has some pretty high expectations to live up to. But Yoon (who is also a member of the We Need Diverse Books team, incidentally) has the romance-writing chops to handle the challenge.



Dear Yvette by Ni-Ni Simone

Summary: All sixteen year old Yvette Simmons wanted was to disappear. Problem is: she has too many demons for that. Yvette’s life changed forever after a street fight over a boy ended in a second degree murder charge. Forced to start all over again, she’s sentenced to live in a group home far from anything or anyone she’s ever known. She manages to keep her past hidden, until a local cutie, known as Brooklyn, steps in. Slowly, Yvette lets him into her heart and he gives her the summer of her dreams… But in Yvette’s world things are never as they seem. Brooklyn has a few secrets of his own and Yvette’s past comes back with a vengeance. Will she face life head-on? Will she return to her old ways? Or will an unexpected letter decide her fate? (summary via the publisher’s website)

Why We’re Excited: Ni-Ni Simone never languishes on the shelf! (She’s actually an author I have to keep re-purchasing and re-purchasing, since the teens who check her books out love them too much to bring them back…) The previous installment of the Throwback Diaries, Down By Law, came out over a year ago, and my library’s copy has barely spent a month in the building.



Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Summary: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen. Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. (summary via the publisher’s website)

Why We’re Excited: I could probably just say “new Marissa Meyer book!” and that’s all you would need to know, right? This is her first book that isn’t part of the Lunar Chronicles (although if the idea of no more Cinder has you down, don’t worry, she also has a graphic novel set in the same universe coming out in January), so it’ll be interesting to find out if she can recreate the magic of her debut. I have to confess that Alice in Wonderland doesn’t have quite the same resonance for me that Cinderella does, but I’m still curious to see what Meyer does with the story.


icon of VeronicaDid I get you interested in reading one of these books? Just click the title of the one you want and the link will take you to the relevant page in the catalog. From there you can click the green “Place a Hold” button and you’re all set!

Need a library card? Wondering how long you can borrow a book? Borrowing and Circulation information can be found here.


*”On the Radar” features book previews by Veronica, the Teen Librarian at the Dudley Branch, on the last Tuesday or Friday of every month.