Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Week 1 responses and reflections


My name is Joanna. I am almost finished with my library degree, either graduating in December or May depending on whether I keep all my classes this semester. I am concurrently working on a law degree here at UW Madison which I began in 2007 and should finish this May. I have little actual library experience, but I am excited to finally get out of school and get a real job after this year.

In regard to the importance of a course in library school focusing on ethics, I think it is very important for professional schools to require students to take a course addressing potential ethical issues he or she may encounter. I think ethical issues can be resolved in many ways and in deciding such issues one or more of the theories in the Fallis article could be applied; I do not think the theories necessarily are mutually exclusive or one theory more important than another, but rather a situation could be assessed under multiple theories as a way to really assess the problem, concerns, and solutions. Law students are required to take a class that does address ethics; the focus is really on a lawyer's professional responsibilities but the professional responsibilities address many ethical issues lawyer's may encounter, for example revealing confidential client information to prevent harm to others. I just took this course over the summer and it really made me think about how my individual ethics or morals and my responsibilities as a professional can overlap and conflict. As far as I know, medical students are not required to take an ethics course.

I agree with the other posters who thought Puttnam's thoughts on the blurring of entertainment and information are still relevant today. I think the two can coexist but it is important to establish policies that will implement new technologies and entertainment as ways of improving society. At the same time, I agree with Lori who brought up the danger of people expecting everything to be entertaining; I personally am always doing something on my laptop or iPhone and become anxious when I have time to just sit and contemplate, read a book, or can't access the Internet.

I also agree that libraries can provide people access to information on all topics. I feel that describing libraries as the "'guardians' of freedom of thought" may be a bit strong, but I do see libraries as institutions essential to an informed society of individuals able to decide what he or she wishes to think, read, watch, etc.

Finally, although many found Mills dense and difficult, I actually enjoyed reading Mills and always find his ideas entertaining and still relevant today (my undergraduate background is History and Classics so I felt right at home reading Mills and thinking about ethics); I especially liked his point that we need to allow open discussion on issues because without the discussion we lose sight of the arguments for our beliefs or "truths." I am generally pretty open minded, but I am far less likely to respect another's opinion if he or she cannot formulate a good argument for that belief.


  1. Joanna you make a good point that when it comes to ethics it isn't a matter of determining which system is best. Rather the ability to analyze an ethical problem from a variety of perspectives is more important. As a former Philosophy student, I personally hate Ethics, because definitive answers are often elusive. That said Ethics are of critical importance in every profession. If your knowledge of the requirements for medical students is correct, I'm somewhat shocked that they would not be required to take a class in medical ethics.

  2. Just as a side note, for medical students I think it depends on the school whether they have an ethics course. I work at the medical library, and I know UW med students have ethics in a section of one of their first-year classes and as a theme throughout their studies (whatever that means!). Also, my fiance is at Loyola University in Chicago and he's in the middle of a required medical ethics course. It's interesting hearing him talk about it because he shares your same sentiment, Joanna, about the benefits of being intentional about sitting down and examining who you are personally and professionally, and where you may experience tension in some situations.

    Ethics tend to annoy me also, David. :) I think they are hugely beneficial to recognize as pillars of a person's profession, and more importantly to recognize that ethics differ between professions. I think that has been my biggest challenge with ethics, that they've always been referenced and discussed in a very large, overarching manner rather than specific to the things we encounter every day as librarians, lawyers, or doctors (which is really what we should be talking about).