Competency A

Demonstrate awareness of the ethics, values, and foundational principles of one of the information professions, and discuss the importance of intellectual freedom within that profession.

Introduction

As a career in public service, the job of a public librarian in America is inherently tied to various ethics, values, and principles which reflect those of a democratic society. Professional associations across the field of library science tailor lists of these concepts to suit the specific needs of their professional interests. Consequently, reviewing a complete list of these concepts would take an infinite amount of time, so dedicated are the members of the library professions to serving their patrons. This discussion of San José State University iSchool’s Competency A as described above will, therefore, focus on the ethics, values, and principles of two leading associations in Library and Information Science: the American Library Association (ALA) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

ALA

ALA (2016a) describes several ethics on their website, citing the list as a “code of ethics”  which librarians should follow in order to provide exemplary service to all patrons. Because the ALA has a more general audience and membership than does YALSA, the ethics are appropriately wide in scope. The ethics’ broad applications allow for implementation and adaptation across all information professions, though some of these ethics may operate within a specific mission. A school library, for example, may not focus on service to everyone in the greater community, but should provide equitable access to services and materials across their selected community (students, faculty, and staff, in most cases).

Intellectual freedom, defined by ALA (2016c) as “the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction,” can apply in any type of library. Challenges may be made at schools, public libraries, and other library institutions (Banned Books Week, 2016), but because of the ALA’s strong support for libraries which encounter challenges to their materials, libraries are generally well-equipped to address patron concerns in such a way that does not infringe on the intellectual freedom of others.

ALA similarly supports the right to patron privacy and confidentiality. Patron privacy comes with its own challenges, however, especially as the Library and Information Science field relies so heavily on patron data to improve services and materials for their user base. Varnum (2015) notes that while libraries’ abilities to usefully analyze patron data increase, actually putting these systems into play can be at odds with the professions’ ethics. “Solid assessments cannot happen without solid data,” Varnum (2015) writes. Solid data, according to Varnum, may require linking patrons to the data they produce through their use of the library, its services, and its materials, especially to allow for follow up questions and maintaining long-term studies which can be used to examine patterns. This strategy may require not only multiple library staff to have access to this material, but also other local officials whom library staff members work to petition for additional funding or other data-based projects. Consequently, libraries must be careful when considering what kind of patron data to utilize and perhaps recruit some patrons to give permission in the access of their library usage statistics. This may be an imperfect solution, but until technology offers something better, it is certainly an option for library professionals who are committed to adhering to the ALA’s ethics regarding patron privacy.

ALA advocates for not only the consumers of material, but the creators as way. In their Code of Ethics, ALA (2015a) states, “We respect intellectual property rights and advocate balance between interests of information users and rights holders.” This, like other ethical areas, can be a difficult goal to navigate. This has never been truer than in modern ages with Internet access in many public libraries as well as increasing popularity in ebook lending through services such as Overdrive. Libraries have an obligation to serve their patrons to the best of their abilities, but may run into challenges with items such as ebooks, which can be more easily stolen or pirated than a traditional book and disseminated to larger audiences. The threat has always been a possibility, but libraries must be extra vigilant when handling electronic materials in their pursuit to achieve the goals set forth in this particular ethic.

Another challenging concept proposed by ALA (2016) is ethic VII, suggesting that librarians should not allow their personal beliefs to interfere with serving patrons and customers. For example, if a patron is seeking information on atheism and the librarian is a devout Catholic, the librarian should refrain from imposing her beliefs on the patron. This is also true for patrons seeking inaccurate information. While librarians may wish to passively offer material that presents factual information, withholding inaccurate information would be contrary to the ALA ethics, regardless of intent. Librarians may handle this conflict internally by supposing the patron seeks inaccurate information with the intent to educate themselves about opposing viewpoints.

The ALA indicates several other ethics to uphold as a library professional, though YALSA (2016) presents a more specific set of ethics. As an organization oriented toward serving youth in libraries, the YALSA ethics are appropriately positioned to facilitate and enhance that service. YALSA recommends nine “core values” in youth services. These are: accountability, collaboration, compassion, excellence, inclusion, innovation, integrity, professional duty, and social responsibility.

In addition to these, the ALA (2016c) lists several “core values” of librarianship. These are: access, confidentiality/privacy, democracy, diversity, education and lifelong learning, intellectual freedom, preservation, the public good, professionalism, service, and social responsibility. The ALA recognizes that values are a work in progress indefinitely. They state, “These values reflect the history and ongoing development of the profession and have been advanced, expanded, and refined by numerous policy statements of the American Library Association.”

YALSA

Like the ALA ethics, the YALSA core values work on multiple levels and in multiple directions. Accountability may mean accountability toward the responsibilities in regards to serving teens, but also accountability as a member of a professional team. This may include owning mistakes and achievements, working toward a cohesive brand, and representing the institution or organization with pride. Collaboration works much the same. YALSA (2016) recommends working in collaboration with both internal (other departments within a library) and external (schools, organizations, and so forth) groups. Teens may also be included in a collaborative model.

Excellence may be displayed in any direction and, in doing so, forge a stronger support system for the library. When an individual representing the library makes positive impressions on potential allies through shows of excellence, the willingness of those allies to work with the library and associate themselves with the library in other ways is likely to increase.

Part of offering excellence as a part of a larger package is recognizing diversity within a community. To elevate abilities in this aspect, YALSA (2016) suggests inclusion as another core value. Depending on the community in which the library operates, this can be an especially challenging value to achieve. The greater the diversity in an area, the more there is to learn about groups unlike the self. While no one person can expect to fully understand every aspect of every community, a sincere effort can go a long way to showing dedication to inclusivity.

Evidence

LIBR 261A: Programming and Services for Young Adults – Developmental Professional Worksheet

This paper discusses the developmental needs of teens and what libraries can do to fulfill those needs. While the overall theme demonstrates the general dedication to service which is conveyed through the collection of ethics, values, and principles in both ALA and YALSA, specific items reflect named ethics from both associations. The most foremost of these is the suggestion of collaboration as described in YALSA’s document and reflected through the concept of collaborating with a food bank as part of a program intended for young adults. Meanwhile, inclusivity is included through a program such as the fashion show. While fashion may traditionally be associated with girls and women, everyone wears clothes and has occasion to express themselves through clothing. Some cultural, religious, and other groups specifically use clothing as markers for their identities. Therefore, the concept of this program as described in the paper promotes inclusivity as suggested by YALSA.

The careful consideration of program descriptions in this paper demonstrates an understanding and indirect inclusion of many of the ethics and values as posed by both ALA and YALSA. As a result, I believe this paper sufficiently shows mastery of San José State University’s iSchool’s description of Competency A, which is concerned with the profession’s ethics, values, and principles.

 

INFO 266: Collection Management – Selection Assignment

The Selection Assignment for the Collection Development course not only lists a theoretical selection of library materials for a prescribed library branch in San José, California, but supplies a rationale for that selection as well. This particular assignment especially demonstrates the ALA’s ethic that librarians should not work for personal gain, but for the gain of their patrons, and should not allow personal biases to influence their professional actions, recommendations, and so forth.

The selection process for this assignment included looking at the system as described by the assignment instructions and selecting materials based on the facts provided. This frequently meant selecting materials I had no personal interest in. This complicated the assignment because, without a personal interest and background in a given topic, it can be more difficult to gauge the potential usefulness of a given item. Consequently, I used reviews in various professional tools to help choose the most relevant and cost-effective items for the branch’s patrons. This made the assignment particularly realistic, as it is impossible for any one person to have a deep and understanding interest in every possible topic. Therefore, I feel this assignment reflects this particular ethic well, among others. Other ethics represented include inclusivity, intellectual freedom, respect, social responsibility, and, in some instances, innovation.

 

Conclusion

The complete set of core values from YALSA and the ethics as listed by ALA will significantly influence a library’s ability to serve its patron base in a positive way. Consistently reevaluating values, ethics, principles, and the intent behind them is a crucial part of keeping up with societal norms and the evolving landscape of any given community. To make a sustainably engaged and healthy relationship with the community, libraries must make this evaluation a regular part of their service.

References

American Library Association. (2016a). Code of ethics of the American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics

American Library Association. (2016b). Core values of librarianship. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/statementspols/corevalues

American Library Association. (2016c). Intellectual freedom and censorship Q&A. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorshipfirstamendmentissues/ifcensorshipqanda

Banned Books Week. (2016). Banned books that shaped America. Retrieved from http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/censorship/bannedbooksthatshapedamerica

Varnum, K. (2015). Editorial board thoughts: Library analytics and patron privacy. Information Technology & Libraries, 34(4), 2-4. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text.

Young Adult Library Services Association. (2016). Core professional values for the teen services profession. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/yalsa/core-professional-values-teen-services-profession