Professional Neutrality In Library Science . Martin Parker LIS 600 UNC-Greensboro. ALA Code of Ethics. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation
The Ignoble Standard - Professional Neutrality In Library Science
Professional Neutrality In Library Science Martin ParkerLIS 600UNC-Greensboro
In this presentation Im going to discuss the rise of professional neutrality in modern day librarianship, the impact neutrality has on librarians and their as role as professionals and, the impact to communities served by neutral librarians. Ill conclude with my point-of-view and what we, as professional librarians, might do in response.1ALA Code of EthicsIn a political system grounded in an informed citizenry, we are members of a profession explicitly committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information. We have a special obligation to ensure the free flow of information and ideas to present and future generations.
We provide accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.
The dictionary defines neutrality as the absence of decided views, expression or strong feeling. Both the American Library Association and the International Federation of Library Associations advocate neutrality and have documented in their respective code of ethics what it means to be neutral. Quoting from the ALA code of ethics adopted in 1995 In a political system grounded in an informed citizenry, we are members of a profession explicitly committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information. We have a special obligation to ensure the free flow of information and ideas to present and future generations. We provide accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests. We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources. In practice what this means is that librarians are to provide information requested by a patron, and should not question the reason a patron is requesting particular information except insofar as necessary to clarify the request. To do otherwise might infringe on the patrons intellectual freedoms. It defends neutrality as the librarys contribution to a political system grounded in an informed citizenry. But what does our political system have to say about neutrality? 2We The People
A democratic political system needs individuals (or citizens) that concur with its fundamental principles. We know something about what kind of citizens our founding fathers needed because the principles were outlined in such documents as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The premise was by recognizing the rights inherent in the founding documents the country would find fundamental agreement and common interests to unite the citizenry. It was understood that some personal freedoms were guaranteed, but the abiding principle was majority rule. It was understood that people were mostly honest, law-abiding, industrious and rational As immigrants, the old ways, with different religions, ideologies, cultures, and language were subordinate to the new principles. The citizens would recognize and advocate a common public good. 3Modern Developments In Education
But the political system today bears the influence of modern education in the social and physical sciences on morals, values and ethics. Modern educators teach us to be open to all cultures, lifestyles, and ideologies. It weakens the argument for universal truths in favor of relativism, a doctrine that believes knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute. We went from we hold these truths to be self-evident to truth is relative. What was once known became relegated to the realm of opinion, and in this modern era the seeds of professional neutrality germinated.
4What Did Dewey Say?The time has at last come when a librarian may, without assumption, speak of his occupation as a profession
He (Librarians) must teach them (patrons) how they may themselves select their reading wisely and a librarian may soon largely shape the reading, and through it the thought, of his whole community.
So, what did this transformation in education and political ideals mean for Library Science and what would Melvil Dewey think about professional neutrality then and now. Fortunately he left us clues. In 1876, in the first issue of the American Library Journal, Dewey boldly asserted that the time has come when a librarian may, without assumption, speak of his occupation as a profession. He went on to say he (librarians) must teach them (patrons) how they may themselves select their reading wisely and a librarian may soon largely shape the reading, and through it the thought of his whole community. Deweys statements are clearly not an endorsement of neutrality. Through the first two decades of the 20th century, librarians continued to see selection of materials as one of their most important professional responsibilities, and they carefully put into their libraries only those things that they thought the users should know. Librarians had no qualms about eliminating information from the public catalog that might lead the wrong people to potentially dangerous works
5What Did Foskett Say?The librarian ought to vanish as an individual person, except in so far as his personality sheds light on the working of the library; the librarian should have no politics, no religion, no morals.
Despite Deweys assertions it was already so, the modern day struggle for librarians to gain recognition among the ranks of professionals led libraries and their advocates to attempt the transformation of Library Science into an academic discipline which places the importance of neutrality and objectivity above those of ethical and moral considerations. By the 1960s the librarians role had been expanded to include advocacy of intellectual freedom and universal access to information. In 1962 noted British librarian Douglas Foskett expressed the view that The librarian ought to vanish as an individual person, except in so far as his personality sheds light on the working of the library; the librarian should have no politics, no religion, no morals. This indifference weakens the very influence and stature librarians are fighting for.
6ConclusionsDante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality John F. Kennedy in a speech on June 24, 1963 in Bonn, Germany.
Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective, immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity Benito Mussolini, 1924.
"We are out there on the cutting edge of the uncontroversial" - Martin Amis
As we look to the future the librarys identity in the public sphere remains unclear. Progressive librarians are voicing dissent over neutrality. Joseph Good, writing in Progressive Librarian wrote it truly seems that somewhere in neutrality lays the negation of moral responsibility. The very notion that both sides of an issue are inherently equal, and therefore entitled to an equal share of the publics attention, smacks of moral relativism. Moral relativism disavows any universally solid principles; it is a road to the hottest part of hell with a stop in Auschwitz along the way. Ill pause briefly while you consider further the quotes on the slide.
Its apparent I dont support professional neutrality. It cant be so that librarians wish to deny themselves the opportunity to shape their future. Self-interest alone is motivation to abandon professional neutrality. Neutrality is not a part of our early political system and its not a part of the early library profession. Id like to see librarians disavow neutrality and expose their reasons to the community why they think certain materials or services are considered outside the librarys scope. This can lead to civil, open discussion on issues that divide patrons. And it can secure a place for librarians in the future to be.
7Works CitedAmerican Library Association Council. 1995: Code of Ethics of the American Library Association.Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression. 2012: IFLA Code of Ethics for Librarians and other Information Workers.Dewey, Melvil., The Profession: The American Library Journal 1 (September 30, 1876): 5-6.Asheim, Lester., Librarians as Professionals: Winter 1979. Volume 27, Number 3: 232 .School of Communication and Information. Libraries and Librarians, Then and Now: Rutgers University. Foskett, D.J., The Creed of a Librarian: No Politics, No Religion, No Morals. London: Library Association.Good, Joseph., The Hottest Place in Hell: The Crisis of Neutrality in Contemporary Librarianship: Progressive Librarian, Winter 2006/2007. Number 28. pg 25-29.8