Ethical and Legal Issues in Reference Discussion Group 2006 National Meeting Minutes

RUSA Reference Services Section

Ethical and Legal Issues in Reference Discussion Group

Intercontinental Hotel, Polydras Room

New Orleans, Louisiana

June 24, 2006, 1:30 p.m.

Chip welcomed everyone to the meeting and handed around a sign in sheet. Chip then explained his views on discussion groups. He would like to hear our concerns, along with voicing his own concerns.

Chip explained that at the January Midwinter meeting three (3) subcommittees were formed. (Academic, Public, Special) Each subcommittee has volunteers to organize the subcommittees. The minutes from the previous meetings are on the webpage.

At the next midwinter meeting in Seattle, Washington, Chip would like each subcommittee to give a 15-20 minute presentation. A possible way of presenting would be to have case scenarios.

At the annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Chip would like to see a new chair or co-chair(s) of the group installed. He is currently looking for someone to be their mentee, with the understanding that the mentee would become the new chair. Chip asked for any volunteers. Deb Van Petten from Valdosta State University expressed an interest. Duties would include running the meetings, planning a topic or having an open forum, advertising the meeting, and attending an ALA Executive Board Meeting to report on the group.

Anne had sent out an email explaining that at the current meeting, we would be having an open discussion on the legal and ethical issues implicated by the topic of plagiarism.

We each introduced ourselves, where we worked and explained why we were interested in the subject of plagiarism.

Anne explained that she was interested in learning more about plagiarism and what the role of the librarians is. The best sites she had viewed were mostly for high school students, while a few were for college or university students. Anne mentioned that School Library Journal has many articles on the topic.

The question came up of whether the issue should be detection or prevention. The articles she had looked at suggested that 70-80% of students have plagiarized. PRIMO, LOEX, and Brick or Clicks web pages either have presentations on the topic or have tutorials and handouts on the subject.

We were asked if we were familiar with Noodlebib which is bibliography-preparing software available on the web.

Critical thinking and group study were also discussed. Some faculty tell their students that they can not use the internet for their research. Faculty need to understand that proprietary online databases are not part of the general, “unsupervised” internet.

We also discussed the role of Information Literacy, and how it can be used to educate students on the topic of plagiarism. Students should be aware of the college’s or university’s plagiarism policy and/or honor codes.

The ethics of faculty using to check their student’s papers was discussed. One member mentioned that Faculty should state in their syllabus that they are going to use programs like She also mentioned that has a prepared statement on their webpage that faculty can use to put in their syllabus.

Working with faculty to create effective assignments was discussed next. Examples could be having students create their bibliography first, or having students write in a journal the steps that they took in their research process. It was discussed that we should work more in educating the students than catching them plagiarizing.

We then discussed who actually teaches plagiarism on our campuses. It was the general consensus that Writing Programs should be teaching plagiarism.

Famous people who recently had been caught plagiarizing were discussed. We also discussed what we should do with a book in our collection that the author was known to have plagiarized information in the book.

• Do we pull the book to discard? That would be impossible to keep up with.

• Do we put a note in the book?

• Or, do we create a “Plagiarism collection?”

• Do we use these books as a teaching tool?

We then discussed whether or not the Ancient Greeks plagiarized. We believe that they plagiarized right and left. We came to the conclusion that the idea of plagiarism being wrong is a 20th century American concept. International students are not always aware of the American concept of what is or is not plagiarism.

ALA’s Code of Ethics was mentioned. We should all be familiar with this document.

We plagiarize. When we use another library’s work, we need to mention that we have adapted this from the owning library.

Students feel that self-plagiarism is not wrong.

Students also believe that if the copyright symbol is not on the page, that it is acceptable to cut and paste.

Students also do not realize that when they download images, they need to give credit to the image creator.

The discussion on plagiarism wrapped up. We then realized that of all the people in attendance, the public library subgroup did not have anyone there to represent them.

Chip and Anne are trying to be consistent with the time slot for this discussion group. They realize there are other meetings that people may be more interested in attending.

There are no easy answers for ethics because values can be in conflict.

Respectfully submitted,

Deborah Van Petten

Valdosta State University