Articulate the ethics, values, and foundational principles of library and information professionals and their role in the promotion of intellectual freedom.

Component 1: Statement of Competency

The role of librarians can be perceived in a very vague manner as a person who works with books. In fact most would not consider librarianship as a profession that would have to deal with situations that would challenge their moral beliefs. It is not common knowledge that the profession of librarianship upholds a code of ethics, guidelines by which we conduct our ethical decision meaning.  “ALA actively advocates in defense of the rights of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment” (ALA, 2014). This is the foundation of our profession; without these guidelines we will run into situations that will violate what we stand for as professionals, providing equal access to all. We are the keepers and disseminators of information, holding the means to learning and knowledge. This is a significant responsibility and for us to act in manner to uphold the values of the profession it is important that we understand the basis of our professional as outlined in the ALA Code of Ethics.

What this means to me is that at some point in my professional career I will be confronted with an ethical issue, an issue that may challenge my values and I need to have tools that will help guide me to act in accordance to what our profession stands for. Ken Haycock describes intellectual freedom and the dilemma we may face simply as,

“Individuals are entitled to think and believe whatever they wish and that freedom to think and believe is vitiated if access to words and images conveying the thoughts and beliefs of others is restricted. Allowing others to have access to writings and images of which you approve is easy; the difficult part is allowing that access to writings and images of which you disapprove” (Haycock & Sheldon, 2008, p19).

I need to be able to set aside my individual moral agent, which may hold a belief that certain content is morally offensive and would choose not to disseminate it, while my professional standards firmly believe in intellectual freedom and the dissemination of information equally to all, as point II in the ALA Code of Ethics states “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources” (ALA, 2008).

I know what is expected of me, but how will I go about my work making sure that I am upholding this ethical code? This means that I need to be proactive in my surroundings and those I interact with. I need to make sure that I am giving the same amount of effort to all patrons to help them find and access what they need. I need to make sure that I am proactive in assessing situations for more than what they appear to be, is the patron really understanding what I am explaining? I need to understand body queues that send signals of confusion or dissatisfaction and be willing no matter the subject matter to provide them with as much information as they want. This is a huge responsibility for us to uphold however it is vital to maintaining the true aspect of intellectual freedom.

Intellectual freedom is not only hindered by our moral self-agent but also by other factors such as funding and copyright issues. Access of information can be hindered by what is commonly called the digital divide. There are some factors we, as individuals, cannot control but ultimately it is our responsibility as library professionals to be impartial keepers of information. We are responsible for gathering it, organizing it and helping others find it. We are responsible to this regardless of what our moral self-agent believes. This does not mean we disregard our personal beliefs entirely, only when we are standing as information professionals representing organizations that uphold the professional standards with which we believe.

Component 2: Justification of Evidence and Evidence:

The first piece of evidence [History of ALA Library Ethics] I have included to support this competency is a 22-page term paper I wrote in Libr200 titled “History of ALA Library Ethics”. This paper goes into significant detail concerning the history and revisions of the ALA Code of Ethics and what they have become today. I have chosen this piece of evidence to show that I understand the basis of the ALA Code of Ethics and where they have come from. These ethics have become the cornerstone to our profession. For us to adequately uphold them, as with most important documents, understanding where they came from and how they were developed is key.

The second piece of evidence [Issues with equal access] is a class discussion post from on issues of equal access. In this discussion post I mention two factors that I see that have a large impact on equal access: funding and copyright laws. I chose this piece of evidence to show my understanding and acknowledgement that not only is equal access is important but that there are multiple factors outside of our moral self-agent that can hinder equal access to information and we need to learn to adapt to these hindrances so that we do not impede on intellectual freedom.

The third piece of evidence [Review of CARL professional association] I have chosen is a review on a professional association within the California Library Association, CARL (California Academic and Research Libraries). I selected this piece of evidence to show that intellectual freedom is important to associations beyond ALA. CARL’s dissemination of information focuses on the members of CARL and less on the human population as a whole, but I think it is important to show this aspect that even when it is specialized, these professional associations still uphold the believe that we need to provide equal access to information.

Conclusion:

Ethics drive our lives and shape the decisions we make. They provide the framework for our services to society as a whole. When we step into our professional roles we must mute our personal convictions. Patrons often are not coming to me so that I can impose on them my personal belief or judge them for what they read. They come to us knowing that we will do our best to provide them with the information they desire no matter the subject matter. It is my duty to make sure that patrons know this to be true of our profession.

References:

American Library Association, (2008). Code of Ethics of the American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics.cfm

Haycock, K. and Sheldon, B. (2008). The portable MLIS: insights from the experts. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.

Rubin, R. E. (2010). The Values and Ethics of Library and Information Science. Foundations of Library and Information Science (pp. 405-439). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Evidence:

History of ALA Library Ethics

Issues with equal access

Review of CARL professional association

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