Making Decisions About Professionalism and Ethics in a New Century

A program of the ALA 2003 Annual Meeting
Co-sponsored by the ACRL Ethics Committee and EBSS

Our program asked if there is a principle that one can invoke to decide in a given situation whether one ethical principle trumps another? Two moral voices: a) justice and rights and b) human connectedness and care were presented by Thomas J. Froehlich (PhD Philosophy), Professor of Library and Information Science at Kent State University. He framed the gender-related dichotomy, introduced by psychologist Carol Gilligan in 1982, as a tool to critique mores and values within library practice and policy.

Roma M. Harris (PhD Psychology), Professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario, presented her library research which looks at issues of gender in the profession and at how we use technology. She also discussed her latest and still unpublished study that phoned Ontario public reference librarians to ask whether it was safe to travel to Toronto during the SARS epidemic. Harris urged librarians to respond to information-seeking behavior studies by changing the way we provide services. Studies show that people prefer familiar and convenient sources of information and may begin with the need for emotional support over the phone, but can then be directed to web sites under the library's own logo leading to authoritative information on current topics, such as the SARS crisis.

Program Planning Committee: Sally Lawler and Karen Bacsanyi co-chairs, assisted by Kate Corby, Veronica Bielat, Darlene Nichols and Brenda Reed. A huge thanks to this Michigan-Ontario committee, Francis Maloy and our speakers. (Published in C&RL News)

Thomas J. Froehlich

Thomas J. Froehlich, Professor of Library and Information Science and Director of the inter-disciplinary Master's Program in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management at Kent State University. His major research focus is the ethical concerns of information profes- sionals. Froehlich has presented and written extensively.

Froehlich, T. J. Information Ethics. In Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, in press.

Froehlich, T. J. Animation. In Encyclopedia of Computer Science, in press.

Froehlich, T. J. ( 2001) Library and Information Professions. In Encyclopedia of Ethics, 2nd edition, ed. Lawrence C. & Becke, C.. 2 vols. New York and London: Garland Publishing.

Froehlich, T. J. (2000). Rafael Capurro and the Challenge of Information Ethics. International Information and Library Review. 32: 277-282.

Froehlich, T. J. (2000). Intellectual Freedom, Ethical Deliberation and Codes of Ethics. IFLA Journal 26: 264-272. "

Froehlich, T. J. (1999). Are Internet Tools and Resources Ethical?" In D'Atri, A., Marturano, A., Rogerson, S., and Bynum, T. W. eds. Proceedings of the 4th ETHICOMP International Conference on the Social and Ethical Impacts of Information and Communication Technologies (Rome, Italy: Centro di Ricerca sui Sistemi Informativi, LUISS Guido Carli).

Froehlich, T. J. (1998). Ethical Considerations Regarding Library Nonprofessionals: Competing Perspectives and Values," Library Trends, 46(3): 444-466.
Three major issues are addressed in this discussion: (1) the role, status, and compensation of such nonprofessionals as library clerks or technicians vis--vis professionals, the organization, and the public, particularly in their claims for, or realization of, professional status; (2) the role, authority, status, and compensation of nonlibrarian-professionals appointed as directors or supervisors; (3) the relation of professional librarians to other professionals on the library or information center staff. After characterizing the nature of a librarian professional, the actual and theoretical criteria for such a designation are discussed. Nonprofessional librarians may argue and strive for such status, but there are many things that should be considered. There are many stakeholders, a variety of ethical principles (e.g., such principles as seeking justice or fairness or preserving professional or organizational trust), a variety of ethical obligations (e.g., obligations to the self, the organization, or society), diverse loyalties (e.g., to the profession or the organization), and varying circumstances and conditions each of which must be brought into ethical deliberation. For each of the major issues, this article delineates the perspectives, values, obligations, and priorities that stakeholders bring. In such a manner, the complexity and diversity of factors will be made clearer so that resolution, if it can occur in a particular case, can serve the best ideals or seek a working consensus. (author's abstact)

Froehlich, T. J. (1998). Ethical Aspects of Internet Tools and Resources: Are Search Engines Ethical? In The Ethics of Electronic Information in the 21st Century (in press).

Froehlich, T. J. (1997). Caveat Web Surfer! Social Responsibility and Internet Resources," National Online Meeting: Proceedings of the Eighteenth National Online Meeting, May 13-15, 1997 (Medford, NJ: Learned Information: 125-134.

Froehlich, T. J. (1997). Survey and Analysis of Legal and Ethical Issues for Library and Information Services," UNESCO Report (Contract No. 401.723.4), for the International Federation of Library Associations. IFLA Professional Series. Munich: G. K. Saur.

Froehlich, T. J. (1996). Ethics of Information Management. Information Processing and Management 32(4): 497-498

Froehlich, T. J. (1995). Ethical Considerations in Technology Transfer, and Ethics, Ideologies, and Practices of Information Technology and Systems. In Rafael Capurro, Klaus Wiegerling, Andreas Brellochs, editors, Informationsethik, Konstanz, Germany: UVK-Universitätsverlag Konstanz.

Froehlich, T. J. (1994). Relevance Reconsidered - Towards an Agenda for the 21st Century: Introduction to Special Topic Issue on Relevance Research. Journal of the American Society for Information Science (JASIS) 45(3): 124-134.

Froehlich, T. J. (1994). Rethinking Ethical Issues in an Online Environment," Proceedings of the 18th International Online Information Meeting, 6-8 December, 1994, London, United Kingdom.

Froehlich, T. J. (1994). User Assumptions about Information Retrieval Systems: Ethical Concerns. In Joseph M. Kizza, ed., Ethics in the Computer Age Conference Proceedings. New York, NY: Association for Computing Machinery, Inc..

Froehlich, T. J. (1994). The Development of a Model to Facilitate Ethical Decision-Making in the Information Professions. Proceedings of ISI '94 (Internationales Symposium für Informationswissenschaft, November 2-4, 1994. Karl-Franzens-Universität, Graz, Austria.

Froehlich, T. J. (1994). Ethical Concerns of Information Professionals in an International Context. In New Worlds in Information and Documentation: Proceedings of the Forty-Sixth FID Conference and Congress held in Madrid, Spain, J. R. Alvarez-Ossorio and B. G. Goedegebuure, eds. Amsterdam: Elsevier..

Froehlich, T. J. (1992). Ethical Considerations of Information Professionals," Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, ed. Williams, M. Medford, NJ: Learned Information: 291-324.

Froehlich, T. J. (1992). Ethical Considerations in Technology Transfer. Library Trends, ed. Robert Hauptman, 40(2): 275-302. "

Froehlich, T. J. (1989). The Foundations of Information Science in Social Epistemology. Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. Washington, D.C.: IEEE Computer Science Press: 306-315.

Roma Harris completed a Ph.D. in Counselling Psychology in 1980. She currently holds the rank of Professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at The University of Western Ontario where she is also the University's Vice-Provost and Registrar. Harris has authored three books and many articles on subjects that include gender in the workplace, the information-seeking behaviour of abused women, and the restructuring of libraries as a result of technological change. Harris is active in the community, a founding member of two agencies to serve abused women as well as London's Centre for Research on Violence Against Women and Children.

Harris, R. M. & Pendakur, M. (2002). Citizenship and Participation in the Information Age. Aurora, Ontario: Garamond Press.

Wikinson, M. A. & Harris, R. M. (2001). Beyond librarianship: Are librarians becoming isolated in the new information age. Canadian Association for Information Science Conference - Beyond the Web: Technology, Knowledge and People.
This paper continues a series exploring the perceptions of entering university students about the roles of librarians and others. A model developed by Elizabeth Graddy, suggesting that the extent to which an occupation receives legal sanction reflects the public's perception of its social relevance, is tested. While Graddy's focus on the relationships between occupations and the public, rather on conditions within various professions, is reinforced as predicting an occupation's ability to meet the challenges of a changing society, the data from this study demonstrate more predictive variables than those identified by Graddy. A more complex view of the future of librarianship is emerging. (authors' abstract).

Harris, R. M., (2001). Searching for help and information: Abused women speak out. Library & information science research: 23(2) 123-142).
Describes findings from interviews with 105 abused women. Discusses how and where these women sought help. Only one respondent explicitly mentioned the library. Urges local libraries to take on a higher profile, work with local service agencies, and learn more about barriers to information for abused women.(MOUSS Research & Statistics Committee Reference Research Review: 2001 An Annual Bibliography highlighting selected works in the literature).

Roma M. Harris (2000). Squeezing Librarians Out Of the Middle. In Balka, E. & Smith, R. Woman, Work and Computerization: Charting a Course to the Future, Seventh International Conference on Woman, Work and Computerization, June 8-11, 2000, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, : 250-259.

Harris, R. M. (1999). Gender and Technology Relations in Librarianship. Paper presented at the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE). National Conference, Philadelphia, Pa., January 26-29, 1999.
As technology continues to change the landscape of information work, library workers are particularly affected. The results of a study of the impact of technological change on library work are reported in this paper. The findings, based on interviews with employees in major public and academic library systems in the United States and Canada, reveal that library workers, particularly women, feel they have little control over decision making involving the introduction, integration, and use of new technologies. Some respondents also questioned whether, as a result of the intensity of technological change, administrators continue to perceive any value in the traditional specialized knowledge of librarians. Nevertheless, nearly half of those who took part in the study expressed optimism about the benefits of technological change for their own careers, while others are hopeful that there will be an ongoing need for people, as well as machines, to deliver library services. The results are discussed in the context of other studies of technological change and occupational segregation by gender.

Harris, R.M.& Marshall, V. Reorganizing Canadian Libraries: A Giant Step Back from the Front. Library Trends. 46(3), pp
The nagging question of "who does what?" in libraries has been exacerbated in recent years by significant restructuring initiatives, driven by ongoing budgetary pressures and constant technological change. In the study reported here, senior administrators as well as middle managers and front-line librarians in public and academic library settings were asked to describe the nature of organizational change in their workplaces and how new technologies affect or fit into the pattern of restructuring. (authors' abstract)

Dilevko, Juris & Harris, Roma M.&. (1997). Information Technology and Social Relations: Portrayals of Gender Roles in High Tech Product Advertisements. Journal of the American Society for Information Science (JASIS) 48(8): 718-727

Harris, R. M. & Dewdney, P. (1994). Information Transfer Failures, or Why It's So Hard to Locate the Information You Need.. In Barriers to information : how formal help systems fail battered women. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press. pp. 1-34. ?

Harris, R. M.& Dewdney. P. (1994). "Theory and Research on Information Seeking." In Barriers to information : how formal help systems fail battered women Westport, CN: Greenwood Press. pp. 1-34. ?

Harris, R. M. (1992) Librarianship: The erosion of a woman's profession. Norwood, N.J. : Ablex Pub. Corp.

Harris, R. M. & Highlen, P.S. (1982). Conceptual Complexity and Susceptibility to Learned Helplessness. Social Psychology, Personality and Developmental Psychology. 10, 183-188.
Groups of conceptually complex and simple female subjects were exposed to escapable or inescapable noise, or no noise pre-treatments within an instrumental-cognitive learned helplessness paradigm. Subsequently, subjects completed anagram tasks, and their performance was evaluated in terms of complexity level and helplessness effects. Consistent with predictions, conceptually complex subjects performed better than the conceptually simple subjects after exposure to the inescapable noise condition which was designed to induce learned helplessness. As expected, these complexity differences in anagram performance were not observed in the escapable noise condition. In an interesting, but unexpected, finding the conceptually simple subjects showed greater performance decrements relative to complex subjects in the no noise condition on two of the dependent measures. Overall, the data suggests that conceptual complexity level does mediate the experience of learned helplessness. Specifically, it appeared that the conceptually complex subjects were less negatively affected than simple subjects as a result of exposure to an uncontrollable, aversive situation. (authors' abstract).

Co-Sponsored by ACRL's Education and Behavioral Sciences Section (EBSS) and the Committee on Ethics.

2003 ALA Annual Meeting in Toronto, Ontario.