Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Codes of Ethics

I couldn’t help but focus on Abbot’s ruminations concerning our ‘modern’ cultural shift from written text to provided image, and how that affects libraries and their ‘competitive’ faculties ultimately focused on remaining viable. I would argue that this shift has undoubtedly had a greater impact on the human condition than all of our modern technological advancements (this of course coming from an impatient humanist…), the rub being that it was greatly provoked by modern technologies (TV, etc). I also would refine Abbot’s ‘culture of images’ to ‘culture of provided images’. Although the images we receive via the internet or television have been created, the majority of us do not create mass images for mass consumption. Thus, we are provided the images that, to a great degree, dictate how we interact with our environment. We are not a culture that relies on images and imagination, or images and direction; we are a culture that relies on an image, pure and simple, to provide the whole story. Our news programs, schools, churches, etc., rely heavily on enlightening us through visual representation. And we, in response, have come to expect this from them. This in part has contributed to the shortening of our attention spans (just think about online text – the understood rule is to keep it short and sweet while augmenting it with a picture). The advantageous side of all of this is, like Abbot stated, the increase of a librarian’s responsibilities (collecting, collating, and making accessible all of these images). Cultural tools (technologies) will come and go as we find more efficient ways to complete the jobs at hand, but the demand for ideas (either expressed orally or visually, new or old, will always be in season.)

I chose to compare the ALA’s Code of Ethics with the Association of American Educators Code of Ethics (www.aaeteachers.org/index.php/about-us/aae-code-of-ethics). I thought it could afford an interesting comparison as Abbot claimed, when it comes to the fight for funding, public libraries and public schools are in the same ring. The two sets of guidelines are quite similar, both being very inclusionary and liberal (in the sense of fostering ideas). Also, they both exude a symbolic, if somewhat shallow, sense of power for those in their profession. If it came down to a legal battle concerning intellectual freedom (or the like), the probability of either association going to bat for the individual (librarian or teacher) is questionable. The main difference between the two codes, one that makes sense when thinking of their greater audiences, is the focus on “protection from conditions detrimental to learning”. I think many librarians would love to incorporate such a clause in the ALA codes (but thankfully would not be able to – or should not be able to, as the library is truly a community resources, not just a youth resource).

1 comment:

  1. Tecumseh - this is a thoughtful entry, as always. I can't speak to the AAE, as I am not familiar with that body, but I should say that the ALA is frequently involved in supporting libraries and librarianship in many tangible ways, with resources and more. If you mean to suggest that the "code of ethics," as such, has very little legal power or mechanisms to force enforcement or compliance, that is correct. We ought to think about that compared to, say, the American Medical Association or state bar associations.