As others noted, I am always surprised at how simple ethical codes or codes of responsibility appear on the surface but become very complex once you try to apply them or actually think about why certain language was used. I think one of the main problems is that our personal ethics will inevitably conflict with a professional responsibility and the code of ethics will not always tell us what to do. We can recite in our minds that we will keep personal beliefs and professional responsibilities separate, but on some level that almost becomes a choice between following the code of ethics but hating ourselves for it or violating the code of ethics but staying true to ourselves. We spent a lot of time talking about such conflicts in my professional responsibilities class for law school.
I agree with Abbott and other posters that librarians will continue to be needed, and that we just need to embrace the change. I am confident that despite technological advances, librarians will still be integral to the public and other professionals in finding information. For example, many databases now allow lawyers to keyword search cases, statutes, and other legal documents; however, these lawyers still come to law librarians for helping finding information. The librarian understands how the databases are organized, how searching actually works, and the limitations of the databases; you can show lawyers how to search in legal databases, but it is still more cost effective for a librarian to do it. Therefore, as long as people need information, some form of librarian will also be needed.
I looked at the ethical principles of the American Association of Law Libraries (http://www.aallnet.org/about/policy_ethics.asp). Many of the provisions are similar to the ALA code of ethics and the other codes of ethics looked at by other class members. Two things stood out to me:
- I think it is interesting that the ethical principles include a paragraph about providing cost effective services. "We strive to obtain the maximum value for our institution's fiscal resources, while at the same time making judicious, analytical and rational use of our institution's information resources."
- The ethical principles require law librarians to provide "zealous service" but then acknowledge that services may be limited by institutions and the need to avoid the unauthorized practice of law.