ASSOCIATES (2004, July, v. 11, no. 1) - associates.ucr.edu
[Editor: Jennifer has written a follow-up to her original article titled, "'Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk' -- Ethical Standards For The 21st Century" <http://bubl.ac.uk/archive/journals/associates/v01n0294/column4.htm> in Associates (1994, November, v. 1, no. 2). In her original article, Jennifer described ALA's recognition for the need to spell out standards of professional conduct in a formal ethical code in 1938. Jennifer describes her current views.]
*Gripping the Handrails: Is "Walking the Walk" slippery now?*
Jennifer S. Kutzik
Information Technology Technician II
Colorado State University Libraries
Once again, it was time for library professionals far and wide to amass at the American Library Association annual conference. Not everyone was enthusiastic about visiting central Florida during the dog days of June, but I eagerly anticipated visiting family in the area following the conference. After weeks of preparation (travel plans, meeting schedules, wardrobe conundrums), I was finally off to Orlando via trains, planes and automobiles. Lugging a heavier-than-normal carry-on bag containing a laptop computer plus a projection system, I found myself continually reaching for handrails on the stairs and escalators. I still feel young and vibrant with fairly good balance, but especially on open stairs or moving walkways, I observed myself using those welcome banisters. A sign of my over-50 status or a sign of the times? Are more of us welcoming the added security of an anchoring point?
Ten years ago, I published my first electronic article for Associates. (1) In "’Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk’ -- Ethical standards for the 21st century," I examined the 1981 revision of the "Librarian’s Code of Ethics" (originally crafted in 1938). I also discussed point-by-point the changes being proposed for the next revision, which was ultimately adopted by the ALA Council on June 28, 1995. (2)
Two very critical alterations occurred between the time I wrote the article and when the 1995 revision passed: 1) The name of the document was changed to the "ALA Code of Ethics" and, 2) The declaration of each major precept changed from the original wording of "Librarians must…" to the less-didactic "We" statements, as in, "We protect ... We provide ... We uphold ..."
To quote Kathleen Weibel of the Chicago Public Library, "I work in a library, but I’m not a librarian." Support staff now comprise over 66% of the work force in libraries but most of us do not have "librarian" in our job title. Beginning with the formation of the Library Support Staff Interests Round Table (LSSIRT) in 1993, library workers created a welcoming home in ALA for colleagues who were ready to affiliate with their professional organization. LSSIRT began providing programming at ALA conferences and enabling lines of communication among its membership. This fast-growing Round Table has increased its membership to over 400 in the last year. The change from "Librarian’s Code of Ethics" to "ALA Code of Ethics" heralded the beginning of a more inclusive professional organization. Efforts are continuing on many fronts as outcomes assessments from the "3rd Congress on Professional Education: Focus on Support Staff" have mandated consistently embracing wording on all ALA communications. (3)
Whereas the 1981 Code launched immediately into "Librarians must…" dictums, the 1995 Code preamble set the tone: "…we recognize the importance of codifying and making known to the profession and to the general public the ethical principles that guide the work of librarians, other professionals providing information services, library trustees and library staffs." (4) The library world is made up of a myriad of professionals, all working for the combined mission of providing information and service to our patrons. The change in title, the wording of the preamble and the "We" statements are all indicative of this wider professional world.
Ten years ago, the Oscar for Best Movie went to "Forrest Gump." William Jefferson Clinton was President of the United States. The World Wide Web was used by a select-few scientists. Identity theft happened less frequently than being struck by lightning. Everyone didn’t have a cell phone permanently affixed to their ear. The World Trade Center boldly pulled the New York City skyline towards the heavens.
All professional Codes share certain characteristics, including raising awareness and consciousness of issues associated with that profession. The 1981 Code revision included a principle on resisting efforts by groups or individual to censor library materials. The 1995 Code, in a splendid stroke of forethought, spoke to bigger issues yet to come: "In a political system grounded in an informed citizenry, we are members of a profession explicitly committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information. We have a special obligation to ensure the free flow of information and ideas to present and future generations." (5)
My 1994 article ended this way: "As support staff accept the career challenges of managing, leading and staffing library resources, we must show that we are ready not only to "talk the talk" but to "walk the walk" of professional ethics." (6) Fast forward to the summer of 2004 and significantly more has changed than just the price of bread and milk. More library support staff are accepting professional challenges and finding it is an increasingly slippery slope. When it comes to day-to-day conduct, I’m gripping the handrail of the ALA Code of Ethics.
(1) Kutzik, Jennifer S. "’Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk’ -- Ethical Standards for the 21st Century." Associates: The Electronic Library Support Staff Journal (v.1, no. 2, November 1994). Accessed July 12, 2004. Available from: http://bubl.ac.uk/archive/journals/associates/v01n0294/column4.htm
(2) "American Library Association Code of Ethics." Adopted by the ALA Council June 28, 1995. Accessed July 12, 2004. Available from: http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/statementspols/codeofethics/coehistory/codeofethics.pdf
(3) "3rd Congress on Professional Education: Focus on Library Support Staff. Report of the Steering Committee." American Library Association EBD #8.4 (2002-2003). June 2003. Accessed July 12, 2004. Available from: http://www.ala.org/ala/hrdrbucket/3rdcongressonpro/COPE3Final_Report.pdf
(4) "American Library Association Code of Ethics." (ibid)
(5) "American Library Association Code of Ethics." (ibid)
(6) Kutzik. (ibid)