Foundations of the Profession
Graduates of the SLIM Master of Library science degree program will be able to:
Articulate a philosophy of ethical and client-centered information services for the library and information professions.
The LI801: Foundations of Library and Information Science course provided an introduction to the roles of information professionals, the missions of libraries, the basic principles of information ethics, the information life cycle, and the core tenets of the library and information science professions. Close attention was given to ethical decision-making in the realms of intellectual freedom, privacy, intellectual property, professional ethics, and intercultural information ethics. The Four-Step Method of Principled Ethics (Severson, 1997) was applied to various scenarios as groups of students presented information ethics cases to the class.
In order to get an understanding of the basic principles of information ethics, I wrote a paper that focused on how one of the most crucial roles a librarian can play in society is to protect and promote intellectual freedom. I generalized about how the suppression of certain ideas in order to encourage unity actually hinders progress because people will not be able to test new theories and ideas in pursuit of something better. I then specified how ethical decision-making regarding intellectual freedom extends to how much children should be exposed to different perspectives in our society. Ultimately, I concluded that parents, not librarians, should be the gatekeepers for what material their children should be exposed to. Librarians should allow access to a wide variety of materials, and parents, who know better what their children can and cannot handle, should guide children in their decision-making about what materials to check out from the library.
The second artifact from LI801 that deals with information ethics was conducted in groups. Groups of four were given a scenario and were required to prepare a presentation to the class demonstrating application of Severson’s information ethics decision-making model and to create a newspaper communicating the controversies of the assigned information ethics case. My group’s intellectual freedom case centered on a parent of a young child who challenged the classification of Jesus Walks with the Dinosaurs. The book was originally shelved with the science materials, and the parent wanted it moved to the fiction section. The library council reviewed the request and re-catalogued the book to the religious area. My group ultimately decided that the move insured that the library would not have to make a decision about the issues at stake: creationism versus evolution and the ultimate fallout that could occur from patrons on both side of the issue. The book was not removed; therefore, intellectual freedom was not violated. The fictional newspaper we created effectively communicated the event to the public, provided a book review of Jesus Walks with the Dinosaurs, and featured letters to the editor about the controversy.
A working knowledge of information ethics is crucial for a librarian to possess. Inevitably, a challenge or question of a book’s content will occur several times throughout a librarian’s career, and she will need to know how to handle the patron’s challenge or question. The two information ethics assignments gave me the framework for addressing problems and challenges to intellectual freedom in my future career as a librarian.