Demonstrate awareness of the ethics, values, and foundational principles of one of the information professions, and discuss the importance of intellectual freedom within that profession.
Merriam Webster defines ethics as the “guiding philosophy or principles of conduct governing an individual or group” (Definition of ETHICS, n.d.), and the professional organizations that support the Information Science profession are quick to offer guidance on these principles, including the American Library Association (ALA), the Society of American Archivists (SAA), and the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T). Information ethics, according to Garnar (2015) is “a field of applied ethics that addresses the uses and abuses of information, information technology, and information systems for personal, professional, and public decision making” (p.289).
Essentially, the ethics and values of a professional help guide decision making in professional activities and Garnar (2015) muses that having a clearly defined ethical code is the hallmark of a true profession. The American Library Association’s Code of Ethics is designed to reduce ethical dilemmas by clearly defining the values of the profession, which are applicable regardless of whether to Information Professional is working in a brick and mortar library, or in a digital archive.
One reason that ethics and values are so very important in the Information Management profession is that the notion of intellectual freedom is tenuous in the current political climate. According to the ALA, intellectual freedom is, “the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored” (American Library Association, 2007). Bias and the under-reporting of facts have upended global politics and it’s more important than ever that information be accessible and reliable, and it’s the responsibility of the Information Professional to ensure that. Libraries play a pivotal role in access to information through their collections, programming, and published materials, and serve as a safe haven of information, not only protecting access but going so far as to push against the untruths and restrictions to that intellectual freedom that cycle through our politics and society.
In my own professional experience as a Digital Asset Manager and Content Management System Administrator, I have relied on the ALA’s Code of Ethics to guide my decision making, particularly in the principles of to uphold intellectual freedom and to balance the rights of intellectual property holders with the interests of the public in gaining access to that intellectual property.
In the ideal to seek and receive information without restriction, I was particularly moved when I was working as a Digital Asset Manager to provide parity in metadata when working with cultural visual resources. It was immediately apparent when I was collecting the existing facets gathered on those resources that there was extreme bias regarding the historical and cultural significance of those items, and I considered it my responsibility to add facets for those items from the perspective of other cultures, ethnicities, and genders. With metadata being the driving force of discoverability, I was concerned that context could get lost, and hinder the access to these valuable resources. For example, our collection, which served as the visual source for educational videos delivered to high school students, contained a number of images from the Founding Fathers. The existing metadata generally had their name and perhaps documents that they had signed, but little else. I added more information to their records, so that if someone searched “slave owner” their results would feature those Founding Fathers who owned other human beings.
Also in that position, I worked heavily with copyright, assessing the items that would be reused in the videos that delivered the content of distance education courses. One of my large responsibilities was negotiating re-use on copyrighted items and in the absence of permission, assessing those items for a claim of Fair Use. While Fair Use is considered as a “use it or lose it” right and our pursuit was noble, it was important to respect the rights of the copyright owner and not infringe on their right to copy. I considered it a great responsibility to consider the four factors at play in Fair Use, as well as weigh the other legal opportunities to reuse copyrighted material such as the TEACH Act.
This assignment demonstrates my ability to champion intellectual property rights while advocating the rights of information users. In this assignment, I gathered resources to aid Information Professionals in the balance between protecting the rights of intellectual property owners and exercising the rights of re-use for those materials. The site includes information on the laws that govern the scope of copyright and the rights of the general population to circumvent those restrictions, including Creative Commons and Fair Use.
In my fifth blog post in this course, I address the ethical concerns pertaining to a specific information community, in this case, the legal profession. I identify the importance of ethical guides within a profession and the impact that these guidelines in disparate professions that Information Professionals support has on the information-seeking behavior of that group.
I am submitting this assignment as an example of my ability to assess a potential ethical dilemma and discern guidance from the published ethical guidance materials from the profession’s professional organizations. The assignment demonstrates my ability to glean direction from the published ethical codes and apply them to everyday questions and professional difficulties.
Very similar to the previous example, this assignment demonstrates my ability to discern guidance from a Code of Ethics, and how I will apply that guidance to real-world situations. Also, in this example, I go beyond just the published guidance and resources, but consider my professional peers as a resource when facing ethical dilemmas in the workplace.
Information professionals are the keepers of history and freedom of thought, and it’s a duty that should not be taken lightly. It is an ancient profession that bears a great responsibility to society, and it is imperative that the inevitable conflicts and complicated situations be addressed in a uniform manner, using guidance from the governing entities within the profession. Like most things in life, the work performed by an information professional is intricate and nuanced, and when the scope of that professional influence is measured, the importance of these foundational documents is made plain. I have learned much about the principles of the profession in my coursework, and have applied those principles in my real-world professional applications as well as in the coursework highlighted. I will continue to apply these principles, turning to the foundational documentation from the guiding organizations, as well as from my professional peers.
American Library Association. (2007, May 29). Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q & A. Advocacy, Legislation & Issues. https://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorship/faq
American Library Association. (2017, May 19). Professional Ethics [Text]. Tools, Publications & Resources. https://www.ala.org/tools/ethics
ASIS&T Professional Guidelines. (n.d.). Association for Information Science and Technology | ASIS&T. Retrieved January 31, 2020, from https://www.asist.org/about/asist-professional-guidelines/
Definition of ETHICS. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved January 31, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethics
Haycock, K., & Romaniuk, M.-J. (Eds.). (2018). The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts (Second edition). Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.
Hirsh, S. (Ed.). (2015). Information services today: An introduction. Rowman & Littlefield.