Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Legal and Ethical Issues of Information Service Delivery and Library Information Science Professionals in University Libraries in Nigeria

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Legal and Ethical Issues of Information Service Delivery and Library Information Science Professionals in University Libraries in Nigeria

Article excerpt


Library service delivery involves individuals who have expectations of the library and information science professionals in such ways as how they relate and behave towards the users, colleagues, their organisations and entire society. A visible outcome of the recent trends in information service is that on daily basis, professional and technological developments create more serious challenges and opportunities to draw on for the library and information professionals. The challenges have necessitated drastic changes in legal knowledge and ethical skills acquisitions for older and newly employed librarians to enable them improve their capabilities. Library and information science professionals need to adapt, embrace the current changes and still be effective and survive or else become redundant. Therefore, the professionals' burden of being held to a heightened standard of care, if not well aligned with appropriate skills, poses challenges to information service delivery.

Ethical concerns for the information profession arose from the social responsibility debate of the 1960s (DuMont, 1991). Library and information science professionals, as providers of information, require awareness of the growing complexity in legal and ethical issues and values manifested through the relationship between the professional duties and the society. The values are often embedded in the numerous concepts of information and professional ethics. Knowledge of these values with a commitment to upholding individual and collective responsibilities towards knowledge access and provision; doing right and upholding professionalism form the foundation to quality service delivery.

This shift places a focus on identifying some of the principles, obligations and behaviours which cause workplace problems and dilemmas. Working with an ethical framework demonstrates an understanding of common laws relevant to work role and particularly information service delivery. The performance criteria expect rights of the clients are protected when delivering service regardless of personal values, beliefs and attitudes. These underpin the ability of the library and information science professional to apply effective problem solving techniques when exposed to competing value systems, and ensuring that legal and ethical dilemmas are recognised and discussed appropriately.

Studies on legal and ethical considerations of information provision and services have focused extensively on responsibilities, principles, professionalism but less on the actual workplace application that should sustain the actions and decisions taken by library professionals. Shachaf (2005) concluded in part that attention should be focused on the implementation of the codes of ethics in order to determine the extent the codes are known by professionals in each country and the influence of the codes on the practitioners. This study therefore, examines awareness of some of the principles endorsed in the professional codes that support a more legal and ethical workplace and whether the library and information science professionals (LIS) in federal universities in Nigeria are practicing them in information service delivery

Literature Review

Ethics is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with moral principles of behavior or conduct of individuals in society. Ethics defines and provides ideas that sustain action that is good and right in terms of obligation, fairness and benefits to society (Wengert 2001; Markkula Centre for Applied Ethics 2010). Laws are enacted to address the principles and values that regulate behaviour with respect to what is right or wrong (Pollack, and Hartzel, 2006).Therefore, in practice, these laws support a more legal and ethical workplace providing a clear guiding philosophy (Shachaf, 2005) especially when making decisions.

Good knowledge of legal and ethical issues of information service delivery is acquired through education. …

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