The topic for this weeks class was ethics. After I completed the readings for my class prep, I wasn’t sure what to expect from class. I was anticipating having a discussion about the Lenker reading and finding out what all of my classmates thought about it. I was also interested in finding out how some of my classmates would have handled the “dangerous questions” that were described in the readings. However, I was surprised that we did not have an in depth discussion relating to the specific scenarios that Lenker created.
Instead, Kristin brought some real life examples of controversial decisions in libraries that do not occur at the reference desk. Though I was a little disappointed that my confusion about difficult reference desk questions was not cleared up, I thought that our discussion was very rewarding. I was glad that we were able to to engage with the topic of ethics in ways that I haven’t had the chance to do in my library classes yet at SI. It was really useful to get a picture of how all kinds of library decisions, especially those away from the reference desk, could possibly conflict with the ALA’s code of ethics.
I was particularly surprised that overall our class felt more comfortable with placing advertisements on library receipts than allowing patrons to opt out to purchase a book from a third party retailer, allowing the library to collect a percentage of the sale. My small group had the opposite reaction than the majority of the class. Initially, I thought that putting adds on the back of library slips/receipts would be a good idea. The library could make some revenue, it could build good professional relationships with local bushiness and organizations and it could be a reminder to patrons that the library has very limited resources to provide services with. Though the last benefit is rather passive aggressive, it could be used as a bargaining chip. However, in our small group discussion we came up with countless scenarios that could create problems for the library. I can only imagine the long legal meetings that the library had to go through in order to create a legal contract that outlines the conditions that the advertisements must fulfill. In contrast, a “buy now” option through a third party retailer would likely be less obtrusive to the patron. Though there are still legal/practical things that the library would need to work out to make the system work, I think it presents fewer places for conflicts to arise. Transparency would need to be key for the system to work. I think the library would need to go to great lengths to make sure patrons understand when they are leaving the library website, as well as other privacy concerns. Though only one retailer was participating at the time, I think that if more retailers joined the program, the better the program would look to the public.
Overall, I thought yesterday’s class was very interesting and not what I was expecting. I was, definitely pleasantly surprised. As for the more practical questions that I had going into class after completing the readings, I’m hoping that our one shot workshops next week will provide a chance for me to gain some clarity of how to ensure that my own work follows ethical guidelines.