In the spring and summer of 2010, the State Library and the seven regional systems sponsored a series of programs on Everyday Ethics for Librarians.
The program was launched at the KLA Conference with a program on the “Ethics of Using Facebook,” sponsored by the Northeast System. This program attracted a large crowd and stimulated a lot of lively discussion.
On April 26, Pat Wagner, of Pattern Research, gave a two hour presentation on the ELMER Network and presented the same material in a series of short videos. Pat presents on many topics nationwide and has had a long and friendly relationship with the Kansas library community. For this program, she presented material on Transparency, Equal Treatment, Privacy and Information Access.
Each of the seven regional systems, and also the State library, chose a topic related to library ethics and presented a 90 minute online webinar. Each webinar is still available in archive, with access on the Ethics page at:
The South Central System had the most unusual topic with “Serial Killer in the Library.” The system staff used the gripping story of the BTK Killer and the Park City Public Library to launch a discussion of confidentiality and ethically coping with law enforcement.
The Southwest System sponsored a presentation by Angela Maycock, Assistant Director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, on “Ethics of Collection Development.” This presentation highlighted intellectual freedom, diversity, and responsiveness to the individual community.
The Central System staff, Chris Rippel and Harry Willems, presented a program on “Ethics of Weeding.” This program did a good job of summarizing the concerns about weeding and explaining its benefits.
The State Library sponsored a presentation by Gina Millsap, Director of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, called “Are You Trustee-Worthy?” Gina’s presentation explored the responsibilites and dilemmas faced by trustees and emphasized the need for understanding and carefully designed trustee policy.
Kim Rutter, of the Southeast Kansas Library System, presented “The Ethics of Access.” Through eleven case studies, she demonstrated that ethics is not always so clear when real human beings are involved in using information.
The Northwest Library System sponsored a presentation by Lisa Kelly, Director of Information Services for the Nebraska Library Commission, on “Ethics of Answering Questions.” Lisa’s emphasis was on patron privacy, equal access and information access.
Finally, the North Central System put together a presentation by Carol Barta, Lee Dobratz and Jamie Kelley on crafting equitable use of library facilities. It was an information-dense presentation that raised many concerns about the appropriate use of public library facilites.
The diversity of the topics turned out to be quite remarkable and the participants obviously found them fascinating. Yet, they had some common themes. Ethics is critically important. It must be kept deliberately at the center of library philosophy, policy and procedures. If it isn’t, the citizens won’t have trusted and highly respected librarians or effective trustees and the community won’t have an excellent library.
In the real world, however, these issues are not always simple or easily resolved. Ethics must result in fairness and equality for all. But it is not possible to punch the dilemmas through a cookie-cutter that will resolve them in every service community. Only careful training, thoughtful discussion, a culture of service, and complete awareness of library policies can result in an ethical – and excellent – library.
On June 16, Pat Wagner wrapped the program series with a final presentation on the issues. The Everyday Ethics training series had been running for ten weeks. There were still lively discussions, puzzled questions, and definite disagreement. The participants don’t have a handbook that fixes the problems. But participants have commented on their greater awareness of ethical issues and their intent to handle them with care in the years to come. They do have a stronger and more sophisticated philosophy of library service.