Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Ethics and Values in Librarianship: A History

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Ethics and Values in Librarianship: A History

Article excerpt

Ethics and Values in Librarianship: A History Wallace Koehler. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. 275 pp. $80

Toward the end of this bifurcated study, Wallace Koehler informs us that he is not a historian; he is being far too modest, for this exacting work depends as much from and upon both general and library historical narrative as it does on ethical considerations, which is, naturally, the ostensible topic here. Koehler views matters in an extremely diverse and detailed fashion. Thus, there is little in librarianship that is not informed by value and ethical decision-making. He draws upon a broad array of material in English, French, Spanish, and German and credits some 600 scholarly works in his extensive bibliography.

S. R. Ranganathan and his laws provide the overall structure, but even today, after more than 40 years of familiarity, I cannot understand why they are so influential. That, however, is my problem. These famous laws lead to the ephemeral nature of information ethics, that is, things change and so ethical necessities alter as well. It is appalling to learn that the library may regulate information, which could lead to "social control and collectivization of thought" rather than individual autonomy. One can only hope that this is untrue for all types of libraries including small and large public and academic institutions and the many different special collections that serve a diverse constituency including doctors, lawyers, architects, artists, bibliophiles, and everyone else.

A host of values undergird the information professions and Koehler offers a long list including confidentiality, equity of access, service, intellectual freedom, and many others. …

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