So last week, we had a really great discussion on ethics in libraries. We were given a scenario where a mother had asked the school to remove a book so that her child couldn’t see it (I forget the title, but essentially the title was an injury that the child had actually sustained). My immediate question was…why? Was the book triggering for the child? Was the child being teased? Ultimately, though, our conclusion was that the Code of Ethics is not one-size-fits-all. What is considered ethical in a public library might not fly in a school library, especially when it comes to censoring books. In a school, the mission is to provide the safest and most comfortable environment for students, and while a public library also aims for those things, its ultimate mission, I believe, is protecting intellectual freedom.
I’ve worked in the YA section for a long time, and have had several requests to take books off of shelves. I always politely listened to parents’ concerns, of course, but I always told them that I could not censor what was put on the shelves. In a school library, though, I’m not sure that I could say the same. I hate to say it, but I think I’m glad that I’m not going to be a school librarian because I think a school library brings up a whole host of issues that I’m not comfortable with. (Kudos to those future school librarians, because I couldn’t do it!)
I think you, as the librarian, always have to consider the situation and decide about where to apply the Code of Ethics from there. I think there are some that think you should follow the Code to the T no matter what, but I think that’s unrealistic and possibly harmful. The Code is a great idea; any time that you have a set of rules for a profession, I think it’s helpful in a lot of situations, but I don’t think that there’s many sets of rules that exist that can be applied in every environment, every situation, all the time.
Okay. I could seriously talk about ethics in libraries all day, so I’ll quit now. But I love when we’re given scenarios in class and then discuss them, because every single time, someone comes up with a point-of-view that I hadn’t thought of before, and may not have ever reached by myself. I’ve noticed SI likes scenarios, and I’m glad, because you can sit there and lecture on a topic all day, but if students can’t apply it to real-world situations, then it’s really no good.
Next week, we’ll be doing our one-shot workshops! (AHHHHH!) Mollie and I are doing it on collaboration between academic, school, and public librarians, which is great because Mollie and I both have experience in an academic library, I have experience in a public library, and Mollie has experience in school libraries, so we’re hoping we’re covered! We’re also hoping that this is something that will appeal to everyone, regardless of their future career choice. Mollie and I talk about this topic a lot, so we’re hoping that shows. We’ll see!
I’ll admit: I’m really nervous. I’m excited about our topic, and I think our activities (which include scenarios, so…good!) are interactive and useful, but this is the sort of thing where I’m just going to have to go with the flow. I’m a little concerned about our time, because I think we’re going to cut it close, but I hope that we can give everyone enough time without running way over. I also hope that people come away with some ideas of how to collaborate, or even with the idea that collaboration is possible. Sometimes, librarians tend to isolate themselves with librarians of the same kind, so to speak, so hopefully if people haven’t thought about branching out, this one-shot workshop will help them to do that!