People have commented that the background to my website reminds them of a scene from the Matrix. That’s intentional.
Hopefully no one is visiting libraries in search of “The Architect”. However, every person who walks through a library’s doors is in search of something and, most of the time that something is information. Since their creation, libraries have been repositories for a society’s information. With the advent of the internet, cloud computing and other emerging technologies, today’s libraries have become portals that can transport us through time and space. In fact, today any person in almost every democratic and uncensored country in the world can visit a public or academic library and gain access to much of the world’s information. Yet most people don’t realize that and, when they do realize that a vast wealth of knowledge is available to them, they often need the assistance of a librarian, data scientist or trained researcher to help them retrieve it.
Of course, Google, Yahoo and other search internet search engines have provided everyone with the power to become researchers to some degree but there are still questions which require in-depth research and access to information that is generally held in academic, law, health or government libraries. Accessing this information requires not only internet access but a planned search strategy and knowledge of the resources. Without the latter two skills you could spend weeks searching for an answer that could have been found in an hour, like I have on occasion, or risk not finding the information you need at all, which sadly I have also experienced. And those experiences are part of the reason that I am currently pursuing studies in librarianship.
From the historic grandeur of FLP Parkway Central to the beautiful mahogany walls and, quiet nooks and crannies of a building at Beacon and Berkley, libraries have always held a special place in my heart. Yet, it has been over the course of the past four years that I’ve fully realized the vital role that they serve in their communities. So, while contemplating a second career that could bring my customer service skills, interest in teaching and love for technology together, I decided to pursue the path to becoming a librarian.
Since beginning my MLIS studies, I have been introduced to the various types of libraries, theories of librarianship, various types of information search strategies, basic concepts in metadata as it relates to the cataloging and archiving materials, the fundamentals of reference and information services, and an introduction to data science and data analysis using R programming. And of course, I have read quite a few books. I have also had the pleasure of interviewing several practicing and noted librarians.
In 2018, I had the opportunity to interview, Ms. Becky B. Nelson, MSLS, Rank 1, School Library Media on the topic of ethics and values in school librarianship. Ms. Nelson is: a member of the Scott County Public Library Board of Trustees; a Kentucky Bluegrass Award, Preschool Division, Chair; a Library School Connection, Reviewer; and, Children’s Literature Instructor at the University of Kentucky.
I asked Ms. Nelson how the American Library Association’s Core Values and Code of Ethics apply in a school library setting and, to elaborate on which were most important to her and best represented the profession of librarianship.
The American Library Association has established a set core values considered essential to modern librarianship. They are: access, confidentiality/privacy, democracy, diversity, education and lifelong learning, intellectual freedom, preservation, the public good, professionalism, service, and social responsibility (“Core Values”, 20016).
The ALA Code of Ethics guides school librarians to: provide the highest level of service; resist all efforts to censor library resources; respect intellectual property rights; treat coworkers with respect, fairness, and good faith; distinguish between personal conviction and professional duties; not allow personal beliefs to interfere with provision of access to information resources; and, strive for excellence by maintaining personal knowledge and skills.
Ms. Nelson began by discussing Article I of the ALA Code of Ethics which states: “we provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests. (Professional Ethics, 2017).
Ms. Nelson challenges all librariana to consider, “who decides what is appropriate?” (B, Nelson, personal communication, November 29, 2017). She recommends that all librarians have a “selection policy” and adhere to that in choosing materials.
She recommends that librarians, “regularly read professional literary reviews and read as many of the titles as possible to determine appropriateness of each title to the school’s collection. Beyond that, unless parents have expressed what they want their children to read, children should be free to choose their reading material without censor by the librarian.” (B, Nelson, personal communication, November 29, 2017).
She objects to the use of Lexiles or reading level labels on library books and believes that they squelch reading choice and impede the motivation of young readers As an example, she recounted the incident in which her own 7-year-old grand-daughter, who reads at a high level, was told she couldn’t check out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone from her school library due to her age.
Regarding Articles VI and VII which state that librarians should neither attempt to advance their own interests at the expense of patrons or allow their personal beliefs to interfere with the fair representation of their institution (“Professional Ethics,” 2017), Ms. Nelson stated:
“Librarians have to be intentional in knowing their patrons and NOT select materials that reflect their own (or even the majority of their community’s) point of view to the exclusion of others. They must not be afraid to choose materials just to avoid any possible controversy (LGBTQ, diverse families, various religion points of view) as long as the materials are judged to be well written/researched and appropriate to the school’s age level. We also have to be aware of unconscious censorship in selection–aware of our innate preferences. This can be sticky in a school situation, but while we don’t teach religious points of view or specific morals, we should have materials that reflect a wide range of thought. No student has to check anything out that s/he or the parents feel is objectionable to their family values.” (B. Nelson, personal communication, 2017)
As a student member of the ALA, I strive to adhere to those values and ethical standards.
This year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Stocker, Librarian/Cataloger for The Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room of Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library on the advice for aspiring catalogers. I’ll share an expert from that interview at another time.
And now I’ve created this which is: one part academic diary and, one part information resource. In addition, the site includes links to my bookshelf, digital library and reference resource reviews. In the winter of 2019-2020, I hope to include a podcast, a few very basic computing training videos and, the first installments of The GryphonOwl Chronicles, stories designed to aid in the development of empathy and social emotional development of young children. If you are currently a librarian, or also a MLIS student, I ask that keep in mind that I am on the path of learning just like my other readers and do not profess to have yet mastered the skills of reference research, cataloging or archiving. This is a journey,
In conclusion, for those of you who have never seen the movie, “The Matrix” here is a video clip. Enjoy.
American Association of School Librarians Intellectual Freedom Committee. (2008). What is Intellectual Freedom [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/intellectual_freedom_brochure1210.pdf
“Core Values of Librarianship”, American Library Association, July 26, 2006. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/corevalues (Accessed December 2, 2017)Document ID: 33390955-19b0-2164-9d0d-07dfe5ec504e
“Professional Ethics”, American Library Association, May 19, 2017. http://www.ala.org/tools/ethics (Accessed December 2, 2017) Document ID: 39f580a8-833d-5ad4-f900-53ecfe67eb1f
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