Ethics in the Age of Technological Change and its Impact on the Professional Identity of Librarians

Ethics in the Age of Technological Change and its Impact on the Professional Identity of Librarians

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4735-0.ch009
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Abstract

Professional ethics and core values provide professionals with guidance for their actions by helping professionals determine what constitutes right and wrong professional action. Because they are written for and by librarians, these documents offer one articulation of librarians’ professional identities. This chapter examines the core values of librarianship with an eye to how they articulate the relationship librarians have with technology. These documents illustrate that librarians understand technology to be a tool that is used to meet the information needs of users. The Social Construction Of Technology (SCOT) is discussed as an alternative approach to the understanding of technology by LIS professionals. SCOT examines the social processes that are behind the development of technologies and highlights how different social groups contribute to the social meaning and even use of technology. SCOT provides an expanded view of ethics that encourages librarians to not only consider their professional ethics when implementing a new technology but also the intentions of the technology’s developers, its various users, and their local communities. To illustrate the potential of SCOT for librarians, this chapter explores an examination of how librarians have managed the ethical challenges that Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has brought to library services, followed by an examination of how librarians interpret their ethical role as service providers.
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Introduction

Identity has been described in this book as a narrative, or description, of the self within a specific discourse. Professional identity is often articulated in such documents as codes of ethics and statements about professional values. LIS educators point to the need for a strong ethical foundation from which LIS students can embrace information work. Britz and Buchanan (2010), for example, argued that in an age of rapid technological change, ethics needed to be taught throughout the LIS curriculum – not only as a single topic in a larger course, but as an embedded topic in all LIS courses. There has been a lot of debate over whether or not technological changes have impacted, or should impact, the core ethics and values of the profession. This chapter will explore these debates and their impact on the professional identity of librarians. First, the core ethics and foundational values of the profession will be explored. Next, the value of technology will be considered. Is technology a neutral tool or a value-laden social construction that shapes how it is used? How does the neutrality or value-laden nature of technology impact professional ethics? And, what impact does this have on professional identity? Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) will be used as a case study to examine how librarians have interpreted or amended their professional ethics in the face of a technology that has the potential to threaten a core value of the profession. Lastly, the ethical implications of mobile technologies, specific smartphones, will be examined to see how librarians interpret their roles as service providers in the face of ethically challenging technology devices.

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