Friday, August 23, 2013

Comp A: Ethics

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


Every profession has its own principles, values, and codes of ethics. These are generally codified by the professional organizations that oversee the profession, and ours is no different. Over the years, the American Library Association (ALA) has provided library and information science (LIS) professionals with an official code of ethics, core values, a Library Bill of Rights (ALA, 1996), and a Freedom to Read Statement. All these can guide us through many problems we may face in our professional lives.

The foundational principles of our profession were articulated by S. R. Ranganathan – an Indian librarian considered by many to be the father of library science - in 1931. He wrote the five laws of library science: books are for use, books are for all, every book its reader, save the time of the reader, and the library is a growing organism. In this digital age, these laws can be expanded to include any artifacts or materials that may be included in a library collection.

The ALA listed the core values of librarianship in a document approved in 2004. Our values as LIS professionals include a belief in intellectual freedom, social responsibility, democracy, and access. As Rubin points out, “A democratic society functions best when ideas can be openly expressed” (as cited in Haycock, 2008, p. 10). People need to be able to access many different kinds of ideas, and we have a responsibility help them do that, whether we agree with the particular idea or not. The ALA core values of service, diversity, professionalism, privacy, and the public good mean we need to provide respectful, quality service to all patrons equally. The Library Bill of Rights provides guidance to librarians on how to put these values and principles directly into practice with library policies.

Our code of ethics follows from our principles and values as a profession. The ALA Code of Ethics is a good guide to how to uphold our values and principles. It provides a framework that we can use in decision-making. The guidelines cover quite a few areas – all of the values mentioned above, as well as respecting co-workers, no promotion of private interests, and respect of intellectual property rights.

Because intellectual freedom is of the utmost importance as a value, the ALA revised the Freedom to Read Statement, which details why this freedom is essential to the well-being of our society. “The freedom to read is guaranteed by the Constitution. Those with faith in free people will stand firm on these constitutional guarantees of essential rights and will exercise the responsibilities that accompany these rights” (ALA, 2004, para. 7).

Our role regarding intellectual freedom in the LIS profession is to fight censorship of materials, even if we disagree with what is in the materials. We must also advocate for the open exchange of digital information, and oppose attempts to roll back our rights (i.e., copyright legislation that increases the time into public domain or efforts to encroach on fair use). There is so much more to this issue than just Banned Book Week.

The importance of the ethics and values is one of the reasons I chose to pursue a degree in LIS. As an undergraduate in communications, I took a class in ethics in journalism. Those ethics are very similar to the LIS ethics, especially the importance of intellectual freedom. Until then, I did not know about professional codes of ethics; it was good to learn that certain professions take their morals and values so seriously. When I worked at a newspaper my senior year, journalistic ethics were the guideposts in every decision that needed to be made. Having a formal code seemed to make tough decisions a little easier when one could point to a specific guideline to follow.

I have had many jobs over the years – mainly in retail - where values were not mentioned, let alone codes of ethics. When a questionable situation arose, there was nowhere to go for guidance. I would like to think that my personal values will always lead in the right direction, but without a guide to follow, who’s to say for sure? The ethics and values of LIS are built into the very way we operate, and I am so grateful for that.


The first artifact is a research paper on net neutrality I wrote for LIBR 200 called Drewieske Net Neutrality. In it, I look at the history of net neutrality around the world and how libraries may be affected by changes to net neutrality laws. In short, net neutrality is the principle that all packets of information sent over the Internet should be treated the same way, no matter where the information is coming from, going to, or what it is. Many large Internet Service Providers are against this principle because they would like to charge certain customers more, block websites they do not agree with, and privilege certain kinds of traffic over others (for example, video games over web browsing). Libraries are especially at risk because it may cost them more to post materials on their websites and may slow down their digital services considerably.

In this evidence, I demonstrate that I understand the conflicting values among many parties involved in this thorny ethical issue. I would argue, along with the ALA and other intellectual freedom organizations, that information on the Internet must be treated equally. I show that intellectual freedom in the form of digital information is an extremely important value that must be upheld no matter the changes in technology.

My second artifact is a research paper I wrote for LIBR 244 called Drewieske Google Copyright. It is about Google and the many copyright issues the company faces. As an information intermediary, should they be held liable for copyright violations of those they link to? I think not, and Google has fair use and safe harbor regulations to back up this view. Currently, Google is able to use their takedown notice system to alert users to possible copyright violations, but it is not their responsibility to police the Internet.

This evidence demonstrates that while I “recognize and respect intellectual property rights” (ALA, 2008), Gorman’s statement about intellectual freedom holds true: “Freedom to think and believe is vitiated if access to words and images conveying the thoughts and beliefs of others is restricted” (as cited in Haycock, 2008, p. 19). Copyright is a complex problem in this digital age, but we in the LIS field need to keep pushing for the most open, least restrictive laws possible. This includes ways of searching for information, like search engines and databases.

The third artifact I have included is a Powerpoint (Drewieske Philosophy of Management PowerPoint) and accompanying essay (Drewieske Philosophy of Management Doc) I did for LIBR 204 on my philosophy of management. It articulates my thoughts about the ethics of management as it applies to LIS. I discuss the importance of having a code of ethics, along with a few personal examples, the limits of a code of ethics, and what other resources a librarian has. I also explain that ethics are not necessarily being taught in all LIS programs, a problem because our values are really at the heart of our profession. This evidence proves that I know how the ALA Code of Ethics and Ranganathan’s foundational principles can be used by management in library settings.


The ALA code of ethics can be something I always refer to, no matter if I work in a library setting or not. These LIS values and principles are extremely important in the wider world, as I have shown in my Google copyright and net neutrality papers. Values aren’t something you just turn off at the end of the work day. They are inherent in the way we live our lives. We can promote intellectual freedom not only in a library setting, but also in our outside lives. I will always use my dollars, mouse clicks, voice, everything to promote companies, groups, and individuals on the side of intellectual freedom.


American Library Association. (Jan. 23, 1996). Library Bill of Rights. Retrieved from

American Library Association. (Jan. 22, 2008). Code of ethics of the American Library Association. Retrieved from

American Library Association & Association of American Publishers. (June 30, 2004). Freedom to read statement. Retrieved from

Gorman, M. (2008). Professional ethics and values in a changing world. In K. Haycock & B. E. Sheldon (Eds.), The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts (pp. 15-22). Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited.

Rubin, R. E. (2008). Stepping back and looking forward: Reflections on the foundations of libraries and librarianship. In K. Haycock & B. E. Sheldon (Eds.), The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts (pp. 3-14). Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited.

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