It is time for another report from your ethics ambassador! In a break from tradition, rather than simply pointing you to resources this update poses two questions to get you thinking about ethics in libraries and information services.
Quite a lot has happened in the wider world regarding ethical practice of late; Australian sport was shocked by doping scandals, Lance Armstrong went on Oprah, and in the UK ex-MP Chris Huhne was charged with perverting the course of justice.
But what relevance do any these have to the library and information sector? Well, one of the above examples in particular caused great discussion in the library and information sphere. Any ideas which?
Of course, it was Lance, and the news that a library service had moved his books to the fiction department as a joke…
The humorous sign prompted a statement from the library service’s managers stating that books would not be reclassified without first receiving instructions from the Libraries Australia governing body. The important question to ask here is, did the library’s statement put ethics and their own integrity too far ahead of realising the humour intended by the sign? Is there a line to be drawn when the library’s integrity is put under the spotlight, or is there room for a bit of fun in a library service? I like to think that the two can be synonymous.
Elsewhere, the Google books settlement has been drawn back into the public eye. The BBC has aired a programme called Google and the World Brain in which the ethics behind digitising books is examined alongside Google’s intentions. For those in the UK, it is available on iPlayer for the rest of the week. For those outside the UK, information on the programme can be found here: http://www.worldbrainthefilm.com/
Have you ever recommended Google Books (or the DPLA / Europeana) to a library user when you can’t access a text, but it has been scanned online? What do you make of the ethical questions behind the mass digitisation of works? Do the projects’ usefulness outweigh the potential for copyright infringements?
If you have any topics you would like me to look into for my next update, please let me know.
SLA Legal Division Ethics Ambassador