Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Week 1: Introduction and Reflections

Hi, everyone. I’m Erin, and I chose to blog with my real name because I figure we’re all entitled to our opinions and also because I share my name with the author(s) of the Warriors series, so anyone Googling my name without additional information may have a difficult time finding the right Erin Hunter. I am a children’s librarian and I’ve been working in the same public library for over 10 years, the first 8 of which were in the circulation department. As a circulation clerk, I dealt a lot with patron privacy and confidentiality and workplace ethics, and now as a children’s librarian, it’s interesting to go through instances where personal judgment calls come into play and have to be pushed aside (collection development, etc). While my department certainly does its best to make sure we aren’t actually censoring our young patrons’ access to printed materials and information, we may sometimes caution (and I use the word caution loosely) them or their parents on recommended or intended ages or placement of the materials within the library. That being said, I’m interested to learn more about the ideas surrounding information ethics in my professional career.

The topic of ethics across different professions is similar because it deals with revealing confidential and private information. A pharmacist friend and we were discussing the Hippocratic oath and the importance of privacy and confidentiality of her patients and my patrons and how despite being in two very different careers, we still both deal with private information and we need to respect those we serve by not sharing that information or judging people based on their wants or needs.

The Fallis article brought up some interesting points and was a good introduction to information ethics. A few things that stuck with me from this article included Fallis’ mention of the people’s right to have access to information (29), and it made me think of an article some of us may have already read in a previous class about staff in a Kentucky public library removing a hold from a child’s card because they deemed the material’s content to be unsuitable for that child, based on the child’s age. (I couldn’t quickly locate the actual article but did find small blog entry about it: http://libraryshoptalk.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/librarians-fired-from-keeping-graphic-novels-from-young-patrons/) Where do ethics come into play in this situation? Fallis mentions the ALA belief that “access to library materials should not be restricted on the basis of age” (31). Staff thought they were protecting the child, but they were censoring material.

Where I work, we’ve been told at in-service days that to protect the fragile privacy of our patrons, we’re technically not even supposed to be “noticing” what those patrons are checking out. The Kentucky library story can also be a good discussion for another point made by Fallis, that “Information ethics is essentially concerned with the question of who should have access to what information” (24). It’s a sticky situation, but we should be aware of our need to step back and put our personal beliefs or biases aside, as difficult as that may sometimes be, so that we are best able to serve our patrons and our communities.

Puttnam discusses the changes in information through technology and use of entertainment as an educational tool. Access to information is changing, and people sometimes do now gain information through means that could be considered entertainment – libraries, park districts, and other community groups use such methods as Facebook and Twitter to communicate important or interesting information to their audiences. Emily mentions news-entertainment crossovers, and that was interesting because it’s a way that people have access to information which allows the heavy and serious topics at hand to become more easily-digestible.

1 comment:

  1. Erin, I wrote a bit about the situation you mentioned in Kentucky for my Intellectual Freedom class last Spring. Here are some links if you are interested in reading more.


    Fallis' article touches a bit on conflict between ethical systems. This was a case where someone's personal ethics came into conflict with their professional ethics.