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Title:Teaching professional ethics to students of library and information science
Author(s):White, Herbert S.
Subject(s):Librarians --Professional ethics
Library schools
Abstract:This is not a paper on historical developments of ethics, better left to individuals far better qualified than the author. Suffice to say that the confusion and difficulty surrounding the topic continues to this day. When newsman Bill Moyers (1989) conducts an in-depth interview with modern-day ethicist Michael Josephson, many pages of eloquent exposition in conversation with one of the brightest interviewers of the day nevertheless leaves one with the impression that Josephson is dealing with interpretations of the golden rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It is certainly a useful and valid statement, but it does not really help in more than a very limited sense, e.g., do not murder or do not steal. But does not a librarian give information to individuals who would do with it what the librarian would not? That does not fit nearly as well, and it spotlights the problem that ethical concerns for professionals are not easy and obvious issues. Librarians oppose censorship, but the Library Bill of Rights and the codes of ethics adopted by various American Library Association bodies really state the obvious and solve no problems. Library schools must indeed teach this, but more importantly, they must teach how to make it work. However, professional conflicts fall on more complicated ground. What are librarians' responsibilities to employers, be they corporations, universities, or public agencies? Can these responsibilities be contradictory to those owed to library users? What if the inadequacy of funding or staffing provided by library funding agencies means that librarians are providing inadequate service to them? It is a fascinating characteristic of the professional library literature that librarians worry a great deal about whether or not government documents should be released to the public through the depository library system, and not one whit whether or not anybody can find them in a massive cataloging backlog, assuming the documents are cataloged at all. What is the professional ethical concern in a cataloging backlog; or in a failure to have adequate reference service available; or in the recognition that, while a copy of a book has been purchased, the patron cannot have it because it is charged out and the librarian refuses to borrow another copy? One can see that the issues involving professional ethics are more complicated than they first appear.
Issue Date:1991
Publisher:Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Citation Info:In F.W. Lancaster (ed) Ethics and the librarian (Papers presented at the Allerton Park Institute held October 29-31, 1989): 31-43.
Series/Report:Allerton Park Institute (31st : 1989)
Genre:Conference Paper / Presentation
Publication Status:published or submitted for publication
Date Available in IDEALS:2007-04-11

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