Dear SLA Legal Division Members!
It is time for another update from your Ethics Ambassador. This newsletter update contains a mix of thoughts from your fellow members, and links to some helpful resources to get you thinking about ethics within law librarianship.
To start us off, a few thoughts from one of our Canadian colleagues, Cyndi Murphy:
“Maintaining high ethical standards is integral to the work of the law librarian, even in – or more appropriately, especially in – uncertain economic times. We define ourselves and our profession by critically and judiciously determining which information resources in which to invest; by providing service using the most appropriate information resources; by treating colleagues with respect and cooperation; by continually enhancing our own knowledge and skills; and, by encouraging the professional development of co-workers and potential members of the profession.”
- Cyndi Murphy, President, Canadian Association of Law Libraries / Association canadienne des bibliothèques de droit
Despite the distance between the UK (where I am based) and Canada, all of Cyndi’s points still resonate strongly. Whilst the resources we use may change from region to region, our ethical approach to work will often be the same. To demonstrate how ethics can remain the same the world over, why not take a look at IFLA’s ethics guidelines?
Virginia Mattingly has kindly shared some of her thoughts on ethics from the perspective of a law librarian in an academic setting:
Ethics in academic law librarianship to me is exhibiting courtesy to my colleagues and respect for my patrons. It requires carefully balancing the delivery of information without crossing the line over into offering advice and always maintaining our patron’s confidentiality.
- Virginia Mattingly, Cybrarian at the University of Louisville’s Louis D. Brandeis School of Law
If you are feeling inspired by Virginia’s academic environment, why not try to contemplate changes in library ethics over time? Take a look way back to 1922 with this article by Charles Knowles Bolton, from the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science:
- Bolton, C. K. (1922) “The Ethics of Librarianship: A proposal for a revised code”. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 101, pp.138-146.
Charles identifies 30 areas for a librarian to keep in mind when doing their job. Whilst many of these were written with a public library in mind, how many do you think are relevant today? If you felt so inclined, why not try to compare them to SLA’s professional ethics guidelines?
Finally, to round off this email update, a few thoughts from SLA Legal Division’s president, Tracy Z. Maleeff:
“What ethics means to me as an information professional in the legal field really isn’t that much different than the ethics I hold myself to in my personal life. But, strictly speaking as a legal librarian, I see ethical behavior as adhering to copyright laws and obtaining research from credible sources that you are proud to hand over as your work product. I see our role of ethics to never tire of answering questions, even if it’s the same one over and over again. That our duty to the legal community is to put forth the best work possible and not to cut corners because we are librarians and we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. As Chair of the Legal Division, I believe it is my duty to lead by example and accomplish goals that don’t just benefit me, but are to the advantage of the 1,000+ members of the division. I believe that ethics as a leader of a professional organization means that you represent all those voices within your voice, and that you constantly think of the greater good of your actions. I hope that I have accomplished all this, both in my professional life and in my role as Chair. I believe that ethics are standing up for what is fair or right, but not at the expense or detriment of others. I also believe that work ethic and ethics in general are intertwined. I strongly believe, right or wrong, that my Master of Library and Information Science degree requires me to hold myself to a higher professional standard. Many legal informational professionals I have met seem to subscribe to that philosophy as well, and that’s what makes the ethics of being a law/legal librarian so unique and special.”
- Tracy Z. Maleeff, Library Resources Manager, Duane Morris LLP, SLA Legal Division, Chair (2012)
That’s all for this update, but why not take a few minutes to sit and think about your views towards ethics in the sector this evening? Perhaps they correspond exactly to the views kindly shared with us by Tracy, Virginia and Cyndi? If not, why not get in touch and share your views for the next email update? I’d love to hear from you.
SLA Legal Division Ethics Ambassador