Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Professionalism and Ethics

The Library Bill of Rights and ALA Code of Ethics seem like fairly straight forward documents. To read them strictly on their own, one would think that all librarians need to do in order to live up to the ideals set forward in these documents is to try hard, avoid judging your patrons and check your own convictions and biases at the door on your way through the door that morning. I suppose in a way that is most of what is necessary most of the time, but Abbott’s Professionalism and the Future of Librarianship points out how much more complicated it is than that.
Librarians must try to uphold these values while combating “larger social and cultural forces, the context of other competing occupations, and the context of competing organizations and commodities.” (Abbott, p.434) Abbott focuses on technology, using as some of his examples, the rise of online databases and the “drift of modern culture toward being a culture of images.” (Abbott, p. 437) Coming out of Banned Book Week I would add political and social opposition to certain books and content, which is in direct contradiction of Article II of the Library Bill of Rights; “… Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” But that is not the point.
In the end I wonder if Abbott, having written this over ten years ago, would judge the librarians struggle to survive and adapt to the changing realities of librarianship (accomplished by embracing new technologies) as adequate or lacking. Successful isn’t an option in Abbott’s article, the world of professionalism (and semi-professionalism – I knew there was a reason I didn’t want to be a sociologist) seems to be full of conflict that cannot be transcended. It is the librarian’s task to change to fit the container they are poured into and dive into new technologies first lest they lose their status as experts. This is something that librarians seem to do well. It makes me excited, in an apprehensive sort of way, about the present and curious about the future.

1 comment:

  1. Zach - as you will see from this coming week's reading, you are right that things can get a great deal thornier for individual librarians in the field and on the ground than what our codes of ethics and professionalism can articulate.