ETHICS FOR LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SCIENCE (LIS) PROFESSIONALS

ABSTRACT

LIS profession is a service oriented profession where mission of the LIS (Library and information science) professional is to provide right information to the right user to right format at the right time. However, because of information explosion, it is very difficult for LIS professionals to provide pinpointed, exhaustive and expeditious information to the users. Further, information seeking behavior of users is also fluctuating and thus making the job of LIS professionals more complicated. Information and communication technology has penetrated in every sphere of the library landscape and has even empowered users of the libraries to make both legal as well as illegal use of information. LIS professionals have concern for intellectual property right. All these developments demand that LIS professionals must be equipped with professional ethics so that while taking any decision regarding any issue in the library, they will take the right approach. Thus there is need for inculcating ethical values among the LIS professionals particularly in the present digital information landscape. Developing these ethical values in LIS professionals can be done in a number of ways like through organizing conferences, delivering lectures etc however; LIS professionals can play a pivotal role in this direction. Present paper highlights the ethics and ethical principles for library and information science professionals.

KEYWORDS: Ethics, Professional Ethics, Codes of Ethics, Ethical Principles, Library and Information Science Professionals, LIS Professionals.

1. INTRODUCTION

Library and information centers are repositories for humanity’s knowledge or information; they are our past, our present, and also our future. They are much more than storehouses for books, and include many other forms of data. The knowledge or information available in libraries must be accessible to all people. Retrieval of particular types of information requires specialized knowledge and database searches that are beyond the capabilities of many users, and particularly of undergraduates starting their university careers. LIS professionals need to share that knowledge or information with users, instructing them on how to use electronic or digital information resources and the Internet so they can do research on their own, while pointing out the limits and problems associated with electronic research.

Libraries from time immemorial are serving the societies by collecting, organizing, preserving and disseminating information available in multiple formats. Libraries as information centers plays a significant role in uplifting a society socially, culturally, intellectually, scientifically, economically by providing information to those who are in need of information. LIS profession is a service oriented profession with a mission and the mission is to fulfill the information needs of the people. Libraries comprise of three elements viz., library staff (LIS professionals), information sources and library patrons. LIS (Librarian) professionals are acting as a link between the library patrons and information sources. In order to make libraries as vibrant institutions library staff has to perform their professional obligations in a right manner so that mission of libraries is achieved without any hindrance. This obligation of LIS to perform in a right manner has given rise to the concept of professional ethics in LIS profession. Let us first discuss the meaning of ethics, professional ethics and then ethical issues in LIS profession.

2. ETHICS: WHAT IT MEANS?

The word ‘ethics’ is derived from the Greek word, ‘ethikos’ meaning custom or character.

The Webster dictionary defines ethics as, ‘the discipline dealing with what is good and bad or right and wrong or with moral duty and obligation’.

Different authors and researchers have defined the term ethics differently. Marnburg, 2000, defines ethics as ‘theories about what is right and wrong’. there researchers however defined it as ‘critical examination of the standards of good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice’ (Banerjee, 2005); ‘field of moral philosophy (Boatright, 2009) and ‘conception of right and wrong behavior and defining when actions are moral and when they are immoral’ (Fernando, 2009).

Ethics has been gaining attention of academicians and researchers around the globe. Since ethics has application in all fields and thus, LIS professionals are also required to abide by ethics as well. The library professions are required to perform their duties in an ethical manner. For this, even many organizations of LIS professionals have adopted codes of professional ethics. Such codes of professional ethics provide LIS professionals with guiding principles and norms to face ethical dilemmas or obtaining solutions to various problems.

Ethical and professional Codes and principles are not meant to replace law or morality but to serve as guidelines for professional conduct. According to Finks (1991), professional ethical codes, values or principles should define the limits of acceptable conduct and give guidance to what kind of actions are regarded as right or wrong in the occupation. The American Library Association Code of Ethics provides broad statements that guide ethical decision making and serve as framework for the profession.

3. PROFESSIONAL ETHICS

Professional means a person who has knowledge of some specific fields.

Professional ethics encompass the personal, organizational and corporate standards of behavior expected of professionals.

Professionals and those working in acknowledged professions, exercise specialist knowledge and skill. How the use of this knowledge should be governed when providing a service to the public can be considered a moral issue and is termed professional ethics.

Professional Ethics is professionally accepted standards of personal and business behavior, values and guiding principles. Codes of professional ethics are often established by professional organizations to help guide members in performing their job function according to sound and consisted ethical principles.

Professional ethics is the ethical norms, values and principle that guide a profession and ethics of decisions made within the profession.

4. NEED OF ETHICS FOR LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SCIENCE PROFESSIONALS

Library and Information Science (LIS) Profession is for public service and therefore require highest standards of honesty, integrity and character. Only those persons should be encouraged to enter in this profession who are interested to help others and provide effective services with help of new technologies in information explosion environment. According to Dr. Ranganathan (1957), “The library profession is a noble profession. It can do no harm to anybody”.

As we know that library and information science is an intellectual profession. Intelligence and knowledge will be sharpened with hard work and strenuous efforts. This profession requires ‘study’ and ‘study’ throughout the career to keep him/her update in information era. He/she has to work hard like a spider to provide highest level of services to users through appropriate and well organized resources; equitable service policies: equitable access, retrieval, storage and dissemination of information: and accurate, unbiased and courteous responses to all requests of users. Thus, professionals must keep service-orientation in their professional work but for this high principle conduct should be framed to guide them. A code of ethic is essential to library professionals which lead to the profession to the excellence. According to Foundation of Library and Information Science, “The ethical conduct of information professionals is an affirmation of the critical values of service, respect for others, and the need to improve society. Ethics provide a frame work for conducting essential information functions, instituting policies and developing strategies for service”. (sites.goole.com)

The code of conduct lays down the LIS professional’s moral responsibilities towards users, information resources, society and the profession. Froehlich (1997) focused on the obligations of library and information professionals to themselves, to their organizations, and to “the larger environment within which information professionals work: (a) social responsibility; (b) obligations between professionals and clients and third parties; (c) obligations between professionals and systems; (d) obligations to the profession; (e) obligations to community or cultural standards”. According to Koehler and Pemberton (2000), there are six major elements relevant to information professionals’ code of ethics: concern with the rights and privileges of patrons; selection, access, professional practice and relationships; responsibilities to employers; and social and legal responsibilities. The main object of the code of conduct is to guide LIS professionals in maintaining standards of ethical behavior in his relationship with users, profession, colleagues, society, information resources and oneself. It helps to clarify the professional rights, privileges, obligation/responsibilities and their legal bases. It also helps to build a strong moral and ethical foundation of the LIS profession in the information society. The LIS professionals have eight categories of moral responsibilities.

A code of ethics provides a guide of dealing with ethical situations which arises in the course of the job. There are many ethical issues that LIS professionals must deal with when providing information services in libraries. Issues relating to equity of access, intellectual freedom, censorship/privacy, intellectual property, etc. are the major ethical challenges for LIS professionals in the information era. The basic goal of LIS professionals has always been to provide access to information to those who need it but ethical question arise concerned to that. According to Fallis (2007), information ethics is concerned with the question ‘who should have access to what information’. He also explains that core issue of information ethics includes intellectual freedom, equitable access to information, information privacy, and intellectual property. “Human beings have a fundamental right to access to expression of knowledge, creative thought and intellectual activity and to express their views publicly”. ‘Right of access’ and ‘equal access for all’ also create ethical dilemmas for professionals. Koehler, W. C., et al. (2000) define that “There are differences in which principles are emphasized, but that there is fairly wide agreement about what principles are. For example, library professionals should uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources”. It is the prime duty of the library professionals ‘to protect each library user’s right to privacy and also confidently’ and ‘recognize, obey and respect Intellectual Property Right’. Froehlich (1997) has proposed three main areas of focus, namely information production (copyright, moral rights, fair use, public lending rights, and related issues); information collection (issues of quality control and censorship); and information retrieval and dissemination (access, privacy and confidentiality).

5. ETHICAL PRINCIPLES FOR LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SCIENCE (LIS) PROFESSIONALS

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions-2007: Ethical Principles for LIS professionals, Librarians and other Information Workers,

Ethical Principles for LIS Professionals: Users Services

• LIS Professionals serve to all users equally in accordance with mandate and legal bases. LIS Professionals offer high quality services to all users.

• LIS Professionals provide users/clients access to holdings and publicly accessible information resources.

• LIS Professionals inform and advise all users/clients objectively, impartially and courteously, and assist them in retrieving the information they need.

• LIS Professionals treat all clients with equal respect, regardless of their origin, race, age, social status, creed, gender or sexual orientation.

• LIS Professionals observe the principles of barrier free accessibility.

• LIS Professionals protect children and youths from contents unsuitable for them according to the Young Persons Protection Act and other legal regulations.

• LIS Professionals respect all clients’ privacy. Personal data will be saved only to ensure service delivery and only within the legal framework. Library Professionals will share personal data with other institutions only as required by law.

• LIS Professionals perform for duties in a professional manner regardless of personal opinion and view.

Ethical Principles for LIS Professionals: Other Services

• LIS Professionals encourage the shaping of opinion and the free flow of information as well as the existence of libraries and information services to facilitate free access to all kinds of information resources provided by our democratic society. We reject censorship of content.

• LIS Professionals protect of cultural heritage according to the libraries’ collecting mandate.

• LIS Professionals support science and research by providing information, resources and related services, also promote the freedom of science and research.

• LIS Professionals are committed to the principle of lifelong learning in order to improve own competence and the competence of all members of the public. In this context LIS Professionals see ourselves in a continual improvement process to optimize services for users/clients.

• LIS Professionals organize events to promote reading and the active use of information, alone and in cooperation with partners.

• LIS Professionals relationship with suppliers and other business partners is based on a high ethical standard.

• LIS Professionals choose information resources exclusively according to objective criteria, their quality and their suitability to meet the needs of library users/clients regardless of personal preferences and influences of third parties. Library reference services and professional competence guarantee access to all information resources.

• LIS Professionals actively advertise library services and facilities to the members of the public to make them aware of all means of access to public information.

• LIS Professionals provide information on the internet as data and full-texts within the legal limits to increase accessibility.

• LIS Professionals recognize the rights of creators and copyright holders of copyright-protected library and information material.

• LIS Professionals apply our professional competence to preserve heritage holdings for future generations.

• LIS Professionals treat our colleagues with fairness and respect, and promote a culture of cooperation, responsible acting and mutual trust.

• Professional independence, respect, fairness, willingness to cooperate and critical loyalty define our interactions with our superiors and superior authorities.

6. CODE OF ETHICS FOR LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SCIENCE (LIS) PROFESSIONALS

Professional Ethics may be defined as a code of conduct written or unwritten for regularity the behavior of a LIS professionals towards himself, society, information resources, institute, colleagues, profession and clients (users).

According to American Library Association, a code of ethics serves in “making known to the profession and to the general public the ethical principles that guide the work of librarians, other professional providing information services, library trustees and library staffs”.

According to IFLA Code of Ethics for Librarians and other Information Workers, “The Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is offered as a series of ethical propositions for the guidance of individual librarians as well as other information workers, and for the consideration of Library and Information Associations when creating or revising their own codes”. The function of codes of ethics can be described.

6.1 Access to information

6.2 Responsibilities towards individuals and society

6.3 Privacy, secrecy and transparency

6.4 Open access and intellectual property

6.5 Neutrality, personal integrity and professional skills

6.6 Colleague and employer/employee relationship further study

6.1 Access to information

The core mission of librarians and other information workers is to ensure access to information for all for personal development, education, cultural enrichment, leisure, economic activity and informed participation in and enhancement of democracy. Librarians and other information workers reject the denial and restriction of access to information and ideas most particularly through censorship whether by states, governments, or religious or civil society institutions. Librarians and other information workers offering services to the public should make every endeavour to offer access to their collections and services free of cost to the user. If membership fees and administrative charges are inevitable, they should be kept as low as possible and practical solutions found so that socially disadvantaged people are not excluded. Librarians and other information workers promote and publicize their collection and services so that users and prospective users are aware of their existence and availability. Librarians and other information workers use the most effective ways to make the material accessible to all. For this purpose they seek to ensure that the websites of libraries and other information institutions comply with international standards for accessibility and access to them is not subject to barriers.

6.2 Responsibilities towards individuals and society

In order to promote inclusion and eradicate discrimination, librarians and other information workers ensure that the right of accessing information is not denied and that equitable services are provided for everyone whatever their age, citizenship, political belief, physical or mental ability, gender identity, heritage, education, income, immigration and asylum-seeking status, marital status, origin, race, religion or sexual orientation. Librarians and other information workers respect language minorities of a country and their right to access information in their own language. Librarians and other information workers organize and present content in a way that allows an autonomous user to find the information s/he needs. Librarians and other information workers help and support users in their information searching. Librarians and other information workers offer services to increase reading skills. They promote information literacy including the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, organize and create, use and communicate information. And they promote the ethical use of information thereby helping to eliminate plagiarism and other forms of misuse of information. Librarians and other information workers respect the protection of minors while ensuring this does not impact on the information rights of adults.

6.3 Privacy, secrecy and transparency

Librarians and other information workers respect personal privacy, and the protection of personal data, necessarily shared between individuals and institutions. The relationship between the library and the user is one of confidentiality and librarians and other information workers will take appropriate measures to ensure that user data is not shared beyond the original transaction. Librarians and other information workers support and participate in transparency so that the workings of government, administration and business are opened to the scrutiny of the general public. They also recognize that it is in the public interest that misconduct, corruption and crime be exposed by what constitute breaches of confidentiality by so-called ‘whistleblowers’.

6.4 Open access and intellectual property

Librarians and other information workers’ interest is to provide the best possible access for library users to information and ideas in any media or format. This includes support for the principles of open access, open source, and open licenses. Librarians and other information workers aim to provide fair, swift, economical and effective access to information for users. Librarians and other information workers have a professional duty to advocate for exceptions and limitations to copyright restrictions for libraries. Librarians and other information workers are partners of authors, publishers and other creators of copyright protected works. Librarians and other information workers recognize the intellectual property right of authors and other creators and will seek to ensure that their rights are respected. Librarians and other information workers negotiate the most favorable terms for access to works on behalf of their users and seek to ensure that access is not unnecessarily prevented or hindered by the mode of administration of intellectual property laws and that licenses do not override exceptions for libraries contained in national legislation. Librarians and other information workers encourage governments to establish an intellectual property regime that appropriately respects balance between the interests of rights holders and individuals and the institutions such as libraries which serve them. Librarians and other information workers also advocate that copyright terms should be limited and that information that has fallen in the public domain remains public and free.

6.5 Neutrality, personal integrity and professional skills

Librarians and other information workers are strictly committed to neutrality and an unbiased stance regarding collection, access and service. Neutrality results in the most balanced collection and the most balanced access to information achievable. Librarians and other information workers define and publish their policies for selection, organization, preservation, provision, and dissemination of information. Librarians and other information workers distinguish between their personal convictions and professional duties. They do not advance private interests or personal beliefs at the expense of neutrality. Librarians and other information workers have the right to free speech in the workplace provided it does not infringe the principle of neutrality towards users. Librarians and other information workers counter corruption directly affecting librarianship, as in the sourcing and supply of library materials, appointments to library posts and administration of library contracts and finances. Librarians and other information workers strive for excellence in the profession by maintaining and enhancing their knowledge and skills. They aim at the highest standards of service quality and thus promote the positive reputation of the profession.

6.6 Colleague and employer/employee relationship

Librarians and other information workers treat each other with fairness and respect. Librarians and other information workers oppose discrimination in any aspect of employment because of age, citizenship, political belief, physical or mental ability, gender, marital status, origin, race, religion or sexual orientation. Librarians and other information workers promote equal payment and benefits for men and women holding comparable jobs. Librarians and other information workers share their professional experience with colleagues and they help and guide new professionals to enter the professional community and develop their skills. They contribute to the activities of their professional association and participate in research and publication on professional matters. Librarians and other information workers strive to earn a reputation and status based on their professionalism and ethical behavior. They do not compete with colleagues by the use of unfair methods.

7. CONCLUSION

Ethics for LIS professionals includes: fairness, truthfulness, transparency, accountability and responsibility of these professions towards themselves, users, organization/institution, peers and society as well. LIS professionals play an extremely vital role as participants in the information society, given that their mission includes gathering, processing, distributing and using information. Only the LIS professionals have an efficiency and skill to pull out a drop of information from the vast ocean of knowledge. As we know that, if we write a single word in search engine of internet, it results into list of large number of websites related to that word. All such websites are not authentic and providing qualitative, appropriate and valuable information. LIS professionals have a knowledge, training and expertise to find out and disseminate accurate information to users from those resources in appropriate time. LIS professionals face many critical situations at the time of providing information services to users. At that time they must rely on their professional standards and value of the institute. LIS professionals have to make efforts to raise the social prestige of the profession and recognition of its prospective role in the information era by promoting and following norms and standards of code of ethics.

8. REFERENCES

 

Source: Essay UK - http://www.essay.uk.com/essays/education/ethics-library-information-science-lis-professionals/


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