Ethics and Libraries(ians)

This weeks readings discussed virtue ethics and the code of ethics maintained through the American Library Association (ALA).

This is only the second or third time that I have had the opportunity to think about and digest the concept of not providing reference service to someone because of some action that would harm themselves or others that may come from the research they are doing.  I am not sure that I would ever have considered it without it being brought up in SI 647 last semester.  I am glad for the reminder though to show that even if we say users can read anything and get anything they want, it may not be entirely true.

I understand wanting to make sure that resources and information given out to people is going to be used in an appropriate way – such as not using research to build a better meth lab but to write a letter about it to your home senator or something.  It still is a subjective thing though.  What if the person does not want to engage in a reference interview?  What if the person does engage in the reference interview and his or her answers seem “off” but nothing is stated that actually gives cause to no provide the resource.  It also seems like one of those, ‘what do I do’ situations in that our first instinct is to help the patron and make sure that they REALLY get what they want.

I think this also could get really dicey if librarians started putting their own judgements and biases on the information seeking behavior of the patron.  It is true that personal beliefs and morals are not to become a part of the job but will every library everywhere be able to do that?  I hope so but I’m sure it has happened and will happen again.

The hardest part about this, and most of the professions I’ve ever been interested in, is that there is no formula or straight answer to determine the actions of the librarian.  Each reference interview would be a case by case basis and the distinctions made with one patron may not work for the new patron.  I do need to look more into these dangerous questions and more specifically, how I am to handle it when I am on-desk.

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One response to “Ethics and Libraries(ians)

  1. You’re right — case-by-case is where we apply our ethics.

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