Information ethics for twenty‐first century library professionals

Publication Date13 Mar 2007
AuthorDon Fallis
Information ethics for
twenty-first century library
Don Fallis
School of Information Resources and Library Science, University of Arizona,
Tucson, Arizona, USA
Purpose – To provide an introduction to concepts and resources that will be useful to library
professionals learning about information ethics.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper argues for the importance of information ethics to
twenty-first century library professionals. It describes what various authors have said about how
information ethics can be applied to the ethical dilemmas faced by library professionals.
Findings – In order to deal effectively with their ethical dilemmas, library professionals must have a
good working knowledge of information ethics. Codes of professional ethics can help to provide such
knowledge, but they are not sufficient. Courses on information ethics must be part of the education of
information professionals. Such courses should provide library professionals with an understanding of
ethical theories and how they apply to concrete practical cases. Such courses should also make explicit
the connection between information ethics and the mission of the library professional.
Research limitations/implications – This paper is not intended to provide an exhaustive list of
publications on the topic of information ethics and library professionals.
Originality/value – This paper provides library professionals with a concise introduction to
information ethics.
Keywords Ethics, Librarians,Librarianship, Informationscience, Censorship, Privacy,
Paper type Literature review
Library professionals play an extremely important role in society. Their mission is
essentially to provide members of society with access to the information that they need
(see Ortega y Gasset, 1934/1961). Just like doctors, lawyers, and other professionals,
library professionals would like to carry out their mission in an ethical manner[1]. And,
like these other professionals, they regularly face ethical dilemmas:
.Should we put internet filters on all the computers in a public library (see Doyle,
.Should we tell law enforcement officers investigating potential terrorists what a
particular patron has checked out (see Garoogian, 1991)?
.Should we add a book donated by a racist organization to the library collection
(see Nesta and Blanke, 1991)?
.Should we allow a homeless person that smells very bad to use the library (see
Baldwin, 1996)?
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 15 November 2005
Revised 18 October 2006
Accepted 1 November 2006
Library Hi Tech
Vol. 25 No. 1, 2007
pp. 23-36
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/07378830710735830

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