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Alexandra Filindra

Alexandra Filindra is the first political scientist in residence at the Vernon Area Public Library.

Chicago-area library launches political scientist residency ahead of general election

One suburban library wants to help patrons navigate disinformation this upcoming election cycle. Reporter: Adora Namigadde; Host: Melba Lara

One suburban library wants to help patrons navigate disinformation this upcoming election cycle. The Vernon Area Public Library in north suburban Lincolnshire has launched a new political scientist in residence program. Alexandra Filindra is the first person in the role and recently spoke with WBEZ’s Adora Namigadde about what she hopes to accomplish.

How did you first learn about the political scientist residency at the library?

Filindra: “The library contacted me. I teach American politics at the University of Illinois here in Chicago. So they wanted somebody who teaches about the American political system and can answer questions about how the system works and what the different parts of the machinery do.”

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What do you think the greatest challenges are for people in Lincolnshire in participating in democracy?

“I think that one of the key challenges for all citizens is the complexity of the American political system, which has a federal government. It has a state government, it has county governments, it has local governments, it has different people doing very different things and essentially we are trained to see government only when things don’t go well. We don’t notice government when it does its job. We need to have more confidence and care about our government and not see it as negatively all the time.”

What are some of the biggest problems people face when deciphering fact-checked news from, dare we say, fake news?

“A lot of fake news travels through people that we trust. They send out an article or a meme or a message that says something that sounds plausible to us. It’s consistent with the way we think generally and it comes from somebody that we like and trust. As a result, we don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it. A good way to check the legitimacy of the source is Snopes, a website that basically tries to sort out what’s real and what’s not.”

You’re the first person in this role. What sort of long-term impact do you hope to leave?

“Well, I am hoping this will answer some questions people have, make them a little less negative about politics and government and make them want to engage in the system more. Those are really, really important things to me because I view the government as all of us collectively. It is the product of our collective will, and it is how we operate as a society.”

Adora Namigadde is a metro reporter and host of The Rundown podcast’s morning episodes for WBEZ. Follow her at @adorakn.

The Democracy Solutions Project is a collaboration among WBEZ, the Chicago Sun-Times and the University of Chicago’s Center for Effective Government, with funding support from the Pulitzer Center. Our goal is to help our community of listeners and readers engage with the democratic functions in their lives and cast an informed ballot in the November 2024 election.

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