Library Ethics

Library Ethics

Library Ethics

Library Ethics

Synopsis

The evolution of ethical standards for librarians parallels the development of librarianship as a profession. Our most important professional values have been tested and debated in the course of formulating and adopting our codes of ethics. This book includes historical precedents and current examples of ethical issues facing the profession. It looks broadly at the many arenas in which librarians face ethical choices, helping practitioners identify an ethical dilemma and providing guidance on how to respond, how to separate personal belief from professional responsibility, and how to make exceptions in a principled way. Where appropriate references are included to the codes of ethics of other professions: journalists, booksellers, and lawyers.

Excerpt

In planning for library service, librarians face ethical issues before the first patron comes through the door or visits the library’s Web site. Basic choices about the library’s location, its hours and collections, the qualifications of its staff, policies about who can use the library and under what conditions, choices about what information can be accessed and how, all require not only professional competence but ethical judgment. Our need for ethical awareness has grown as the practice of librarianship has become more professional, our roles and services more complex, and information technologies faster and more pervasive.

This book will examine how our understanding of library ethics has evolved along with the development of librarianship itself. It grows out of the foundations course I have taught for many years at the schools of library and information science at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and at Indiana University in Indianapolis. The course was designed as an introduction to the profession of librarianship, its history, values, and the issues and challenges that librarians face. It is organized around six major themes: identity, ethics, issues, access, funding, and future. While the content of the course has changed continuously as our world and our work have been transformed, the framework has remained the same, giving students a way to view the world over the course of their careers.

While it has never been solely an ethics course, it has functioned in that way. Students often call it the “ethics course.” Beginning with professional identity, it explores the role of libraries and librarians in various settings and over time. We distinguish professional identity from “image.” Professional . . .

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