Everyday Library Ethics Series: Part One
Four Key Principles That Will
Build Trust and Respect for Your Library
Is it selfish to buy books we love for our collection, even if they never circulate? What should we do when the sheriff arrives to seize circulation records? How can gossiping at a front desk hurt our library’s funding? Can we hire the best architect in town even if she is our director’s sister? Is it okay to give senior citizens a break on library fines?
Everyday ethics is about guiding the decisions and actions at your library according to principles that ensure that everyone is treated fairly, that governing the library does not happen in secret, that library users have access to all types of information, and that confidentiality is respected.
In Part 1 of this series, participants will learn how to apply ethical standards to:
• Establishing policies that protect user and staff records
• Creating decision-making processes that are fair and open
• Ensuring that library resources are available to everyone
• Providing services without regard to status or influence
• Making difficult decisions that balance differing opinions and facts
Everyday Library Ethics Series: Part Two
Making the Big Difficult Public Decisions and Staying Open, Fair, Credible, and Effective in the Process
The principles of everyday library ethics make sense to most people. However, the test is when library users, staff, directors, and library boards disagree. Protecting library records, dealing with book challenges, and implementing fair treatment regarding library policies can result in workplace conflicts, formal grievances, and even lawsuits and court appearances.
Library ethics is about the processes people use to create policies, inform the public, gather input, and make hard decisions. A successful process builds support for the library, regardless of the outcomes.
Participants will create and implement ethical decision-making methods by:
• Educating staff, leadership, and the community about ethics
• Creating public and transparent methods for input and dialogue
• Staying calm and positive during difficult discussions
• Gathering facts and opinions from all sides before deciding
• Treating all parties and points of view with respect
Everyday Library Ethics Series: Part Three –
Case Studies: Ten Real Library Ethical Dilemmas
Case studies are stories that provide us ways to discuss and analyze situations and learn from the mistakes and successes of others. Many people think the best way to understand library ethics is from talking about these stories. Talking about other people’s concerns can help us recognize and empathize problems that we are too close to see. And, case studies remind us that others have had to deal with the same ethical situations.
These ten examples are based on real events, although the details have been changed to protect the identity of the libraries and the people involved. They don’t provide cut-and-dried answers, but case studies can prepare us by helping us work through potential problems and solutions.
Participants will be able to address ethical challenges in their libraries by:
• Creating policies and procedures before there is a problem
• Clarifying shared concerns inside and outside the library
• Building support for making difficult decisions
• Educating the public about ethical guidelines
• Evaluating current situations for possible interventions
Pat Wagner – Biography
Pat has been working with libraries as a trainer and consultant since 1978, from one-room rural storefronts to the largest public and academic libraries in North America. She presents and consults on library ad public sector ethical topics, including material challenges, filtering, collection development, personnel, customer service, development and enforcement of policies and by-laws, governance, and conducting public meetings regarding volatile issues.