Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ethics for librarians

After our class discussion today, Louise Robbins forwarded to me this draft of a Canadian Library Association "POSITION STATEMENT ON INFORMATION ETHICS IN LIS EDUCATION" which is an interesting twist on censorship and intellectual freedom debates.

Knowledge and understanding of pluralistic intercultural information ethical theories and concepts, including the ethical conflicts and responsibilities facing library and information professionals around the world, is necessary to relevant teaching, learning, and reflection in the field of library and information studies and information-related professions. Many important areas and issues currently facing library and information professionals can only be understood in light of their ethical contexts. Also, the contributions that library and information studies can make to knowledge societies can be significantly informed by their attention to information ethics.

As suggested by universal core values promoted by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions and other professional organizations and world bodies it is our responsibility to participate critically in the global discourse of information ethics, as it pertains to, at least, the following articles of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

• Respect for the dignity of human beings (Art. 1)
• Confidentiality (Art. 1, 2, 3, 6)
• Equality of opportunity (Art. 2, 7)
• Privacy (Art. 3, 12)
• Right to freedom of opinion and expression (Art. 19)
• Right to participate in the cultural life of the community (Art. 27)
• Right to the protection of the moral and material interests concerning any scientific, literary or artistic production (Art. 27)

The Information Ethics Special Interest Group of the Association for Library and Information Science Education strongly advocates that information ethics should be encouraged as an important aspect of education, research, scholarship, service, and practice in library and information studies and in other related professions. It therefore advocates that attention to information ethics (either through the curriculum, instructor expertise, resources, activities) be developed and enhanced in all programs of library and information studies education. Schools of library and information studies are urged to implement this recommendation to achieve the following desirable outcomes:

1. The curriculum should be informed by information ethics through a unit in the required foundations (or equivalent) course. This unit should cover the following student objectives:

• to be able to recognize and articulate ethical conflicts in the information field;
• to inculcate a sense of responsibility with regard to the consequences of individual and collective interactions in the information field;
• to provide the foundations for intercultural dialogue through the recognition of different kinds of information cultures and values;
• to provide basic knowledge about ethical theories and concepts and about their relevance to everyday information work; and,
• to learn to reflect ethically and to think critically and to carry these abilities into their professional life.

2. There should be offered periodically one or more courses devoted specifically to information ethics. Such courses should be taught by a qualified member of the faculty and be based on international literatures from a diversity of viewpoints.

3. Information ethics should be included in study and discussion across the library and information curriculum. It should be infused throughout the curriculum in such areas as management, young adult services, information literacy training, and information-technology related courses.

4. There should be ongoing engagement with information ethics, as challenging questions and issues need to be revisited through the lenses of individuals, institutions, and societies.


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