Ethics in Context

This week’s discussion of the ALA Code of Ethics was interesting, and it hit on a lot of the concerns I had when first blogging about this topic. It was good that people pointed out that the code specifies that it does not hold in all situations, which is what I am worried about as someone planning to work in a school. I am still concerned about how to uphold the freedom to read while working with youth, but there is some comfort in knowing that other people have the same concerns at all levels of the profession. I think someone also said something along the lines of “having a Code of Ethics means that there are no easy answers.” It is such a great thought and I think it points to why something like the Code was created – in order to protect our patrons and their privacy, intellectual freedom, and freedom to read, while still acknowledging that there are some situations in which there may be times that the Code may not fit. In all, it was a very realistic discussion about library ethics, and I’m interested to see if and how it affects our one-shot workshops.

Speaking of ethical issues, I actually had a situation the morning of our last class that played all too nicely into the week’s theme. In short, a patron told me that he wanted to print out a large portion of a book and I suggested that he not do that and I helped him instead track down a physical copy. I felt great about this at first: I saved him prints, I saved paper, and I preserved the copyright of that text! (It was a published study guide of some sort.) Then I started to worry a bit, since previous discussions of library ethics had been about pretty much letting the patron do what he or she may do and let the consequences come, if they do. The more I thought, the more I realized that I was okay. The patron had told me that that was what he intended; he just came right out and said it. It was the only way that I knew it was what he intended. And I helped him try to get what he needed. It was a way for me to balance helping the patron with protecting intellectual property.

But this scenario deals with some other concerns I have about intent to use information. In my previous post, I voiced concern about patrons harming themselves or others with information that I provide. We as librarians can’t know intent if people don’t truthfully tell us what they are doing with the information, since we don’t want to prod too much. So someone could find what they need in order to do something hurtful. I don’t want to keep information from people, but I also am a person who doesn’t want even a minor part in someone harming someone else. I will have to do my best to believe that people will be responsible with the information they get in the library. But I also don’t want to abandon my concern for others. It’s a fine line that I’m struggling to balance on. I’m hoping that it will get at least a little easier with time and experience.

Okay, enough of me brooding over library ethics. Time to talk about workshops! I’m a little concerned about how little time we have, but I am looking forward to trying out our workshop for our group. We’re talking about librarian collaboration, which is something I have become interested in since I attended the public and school library collaboration panel at KidLibCon. I can’t wait to hear what others have to say on the topic. I am curious to see what others are thinking about it.

As for the structure itself, I love how many options we were presented with. The different activities fit into different types of workshops. I’m hoping we made the right choice for what we’ve included. I guess we’ll find out soon enough! Krista and I had communicated a little online about what we are doing, but we had a great planning session on Sunday where we worked through our workshop in a relatively short amount of time. There is still work to be done, but we’ve got a pretty good handle on it. Now to just try it out and hope we didn’t plan on too much content. I think a lot of the value of this will come in practice, with trying to adapt to the time that we have and how the group responds on Thursday. Like the book club, I am glad that we are getting a fairly receptive audience who will do just about anything we ask. All we can do at this point in refine the plan and put it into motion.

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Ethics and sticky situations

Library ethics is important to me as a librarian, especially since I plan on working with children and teens. As gray as the gray areas are in answering what Lenkes calls “dangerous questions” for adults, it gets even murkier in dealing with children. This came out during our book club discussion on young adult books and appropriateness, where Sarah talked about the responsibility that school librarians have to act as the makeshift parent to children and try to protect. them. It’s something that makes me a little uneasy; I’m a firm believer in the freedom to read, and yet I don’t want to risk the safety of others or my job to give a student any information they could possibly want. We discussed ethics in a previous class, but I felt like in that discussion we were encouraged to just follow the ALA Code without any potential concerns over what can happen when we give readers certain information. It really bothered me; again, I think everyone should be able to read what they want to read and the information they are looking for, but I also don’t want to be a part of someone’s self-harm or harm towards others or their property. It’s a really dicey issue, and there are no easy answers, but as librarians we need to know what we would do in certain situations.

I really liked Lenkes’s approach to “dangerous questions” in his article, looking at all factors of the situation in order to come to the best decision. The ALA Code of Ethics is great; I think it’s crucial that we have a document that protects the freedom of our patrons. However, in some ways I don’t think it accounts for every possible scenario, which would be impossible in one document. Lenkes considers the idea that it’s not always best for a librarian to give certain information to a patron. There’s a fine line between giving a patron the information he or she asks for and protecting people who might be hurt by that information. There are legitimate reasons for people to look up certain explicit or potentially harmful information – for example, they could be doing some sort of research. But at the same time, we can’t know for sure what a patron’s motives are, especially since we are supposed to protect their privacy and we don’t want to make patrons uncomfortable by delving into their history. And as I mentioned, it gets even more complicated with minors and what their parents’ wishes are and whether we as librarians know what the parents may want for their children and whether we should act in place of the parents.

The ethics of reference service are tricky – trickier than how they were discussed in previous coursework. As always, I wonder where our class will take this conversation. I think it’s something that I will need real-world experience in before I can really get a feel for how to make the right decisions, but it’s important to be thinking about it as I learn about librarianship so that I can have a solid foundation upon which to base such decisions.

Live from not-New York, it’s the recap of book clubs!

I originally called this “Live from New York” since I tried to write this from New York City over ASB, but that didn’t happen because I was way too busy with everything that went on. I will try to blog about it soon, but in the meantime, I’m back in Michigan and now I’m recapping book clubs.

The different book club facilitators all chose very different readings, so the conversations took different paths. However, there were a lot of similarities between the book clubs. I felt like all of the facilitators started the conversation with a question but then let the conversation propel itself organically, only participating or introducing a new question when a particular idea or thread ran its course.

The participants brought a lot of great ideas and perspectives to our discussions of the readings. I definitely did not read things the way a lot of people did. For example, I didn’t consciously think of the gender issues in the story “The Fisherman and His Wife,” but we had a rich conversation on it, especially in trying to place the story in its original context and the gender roles at the time at which the story was written down.

Overall, I thought it was a very stimulating class period and a good practice of how to run a book club. A genuinely interested audience made it easier for us as facilitators, at least in my mind, because we had to do very little – Krista and I just had to make sure the conversation kept going (which wasn’t hard, since people had a lot to say about our readings on appropriateness and young adult literature). I know I say it a lot about the activities we do, but I really liked this activity. I know I’ll be doing book clubs in the future, and I love any chance I can to try out new questions or methods.

[Bonus] YA, appropriateness, and censorship

YA, appropriateness, and censorship

A.S. King is one of my favorite YA authors, not only for her amazing books (please go pick up the nearest copy of Reality BoyAsk the Passengers, or Please Ignore Vera Dietz if you haven’t already!) but also for how great of a person she is. I absolutely love this newest post of hers, which ties in nicely with the theme of the book club that Krista and I conducted in 643, which dealt with the darkness of young adult literature. I know that a lot of authors talk about the censorship of their own book sometimes, but I just really admire the way A.S. King wrote about it from her perspective..

[Bonus] One more reblog: MIKidLibCon

Check out another conference post I wrote on my other blog.

And please let me know if it’s annoying when I reblog stuff between my blogs. I don’t totally know what’s proper etiquette on that, but I sometimes think people who don’t follow one blog or the other might be interested in a post from there. I will likely merge these blogs in the future, so these posts will be redundant then and I will delete them, but since they are separate now I am trying to bring them together.

[Bonus] Talking about Carol Kuhlthau

Just wanted to say that I got to talk about Carol Kuhlthau in my Teaching Writing class today! We talked about writer’s notebooks and journaling, and I said how I would like to have students journal about the research process thanks to Kuhlthau’s ideas about the stages of the information search process. I don’t know if she’s typically well-known outside of library circles, but I was still sad that no one had any idea who I was talking about. Since it’s a class full of pre-service secondary teachers who want to incorporate writing into their classrooms and who will almost undoubtedly have to assign research papers at some point, I think Kuhlthau’s research could be very useful to them. It’s important for librarians and information professionals to remain user-centered, and I think that’s important for educators too – we should be focused on the student experience. An awareness of Kuhlthau’s work allows us to think about the student experience and try our best to ease their anxieties about research.