The Ethical Librarian

A teacher librarian supports all students and users in the library by following a strong ethical code. The American Library Association’s “Code of Ethics” ensures that libraries are welcoming sources of knowledge and ideas.  The ALA’s “Code of Ethics” are “the values to which [librarians] are committed, and embodies the ethical responsibilities of the profession in this changing information environment” (ALA, 2010, p. 303). A successful teacher librarian advocates for intellectual freedom, protects users right to privacy and confidentiality, and instructs library patrons on copyright.

The teacher librarian protects the intellectual freedom of all library patrons. “Intellectual freedom is a core value of the library profession and should be reflected in all school library policies” (Weisburg & Toor, 2015, p. 65). The ALA’s “Code of Ethics” states that “[Librarians] will respect intellectual property rights and advocate balance between the information users and right holders” (ALA, 2010, p. 304). In supporting intellectual freedom in the library, the library will provide free, unbiased information and services to all students and patrons. In the library students have the freedom to pursue knowledge and resources, both in print and digitally, without their selection choices constrained by interest groups, other’s choices, age, grade level or reading levels.  The ability for students to make unconstrained choices in their selection of reading materials will help them develop their critical thinking skills in evaluating materials and assist them in make informed decisions in the future.

Upholding ethical standards in the library will not only develop a stronger library to serve students, but to help all students feel safe and secure in discovering new information aligned with their interests. When students and teachers use the resources in the library to access materials both in print and electronic form, it is important to maintain privacy and confidentiality about the user’s history and records. Teacher librarians will “protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired, or transmitted” (ALA, 2010, p. 304).  Adherence to confidentiality will insure that students do not feel uncomfortable in making selections or while looking up information on topics that they may find embarrassing. Confidentiality will also promote access to diverse and new topics, as students will not feel criticized (both real and implied) for their interests. Privacy in the library goes beyond the individual circulation records for students and teachers.  Patron privacy also includes any websites that are visited and any library information where there is personally identifiable information. All library records with personally identifiable information must be removed in a timely manner to protect and ethically serve library users.

A teacher librarian needs to be knowledgeable in copyright to assist both students and teachers in the ethical use of information. In New on the job: A school librarian’s guide to success by Weisburg & Toor (2015) the authors state that there are two primary ways that plagiarism will occur in schools. The first is when work written by someone else is knowingly submitted under someone else’s name.  The second is when work is not cited or quoted properly. It is the teacher librarian’s responsibility to help others understand the extent of copyright and how to appropriately use copyrighted information in their academic and personal lives. The teacher librarian need to maintain a strong knowledge base on the various different types and uses of copyright (ALA, 2009) such as fair use, creative commons, and public domain.  A teacher librarian models the proper use of information resources. In ethically using materials in relation to copyright it is helpful to have handouts and resources easily accessible for both students and teachers.

American Association of School Librarians. (2009). Empowering learners: Guidelines for school library media programs.  Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

American Library Association. (2010). Intellectual freedom manual. Chicago: The American Library Association.

Weisburg, H.K., & Toor, R. (2015). New on the job: A school librarian’s guide to success.  Chicago: American Library Association.