The New Ethics

Published date01 April 1986
Date01 April 1986
AuthorNorman D. Stevens
Subject MatterInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
The New Ethics
Norman D. Stevens
In our frantic efforts to deal with
change, adopt new technologies,
promote library cooperation, and
otherwise enhance library and informa-
tion services, we must not lose sight
of broader professional concerns and issues.
Much of what we now do will change. The
technology that we are seeking to
use will change. The nature of our
profession will change. If we can
establish and maintain a sound
ethical basis for our professional
practices we will have done much to
ensure that, despite all of those
changes, librarianship will have
a continued independent role to
play, and will be respected for
that role, in the development of a
strong information society.
Stevens is Chief Librarian, The University
of Connecticut Library, Storrs, CT. He has served
Library Hi Tech for four years as a valued member
of its editorial board.
Librarians must distinguish clearly
in their actions and their statements
between their personal philosophies and
attitudes and those of an institution
or professional body.
Librarians must avoid situations
in which personal interests might be
served or financial benefits gained at
the expense of library users, colleagues,
or the employing institution.
On 30 June 1981 the Council of the American
Library Association adopted a Statement on Pro-
fessional Ethics that concludes with the two pro-
visions cited above. We have, for the most part,
dismissed those provisions from our thinking and
ignored them in our actions. A front-page article
in The Chronicle of Higher Education for 6 February
1985 calls our attention to the fact that many pro-
fessional associations are considering, revising,
or writing codes of professional ethics and developing
procedures for the enforcement of those codes.
The publication of Ann E. Prentice's and Jonathan
A. Lindsey's Professional Ethics and Librarians
(Oryx Press 1985), which is the first full-length
monographic treatment of the subject, reminds us
that we do have what appears to be a reasonable
code of ethics in place, although there is no means
of enforcing it other than our own attention to
proper behavior.
As a long-time observer of librarianship, I
am concerned by the increasing number of practices
that seem to be regarded as normal yet clearly
conflict with those provisions of our Statement
ISSUE 16 49

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