You may have heard William Gibson's quote, "The future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed." Libraries in the 21st century are striving to be the even distributors of the future. In the United States, public libraries are one of the weirdest quirks of a capitalist society, providing a place where information, resources, help, and access to an ever-growing variety of things (from technology to tools to citizenship classes to board games) are freely available to all members of their communities. At many public libraries in the U.S. today, you could work with an English tutor, send designs to a 3D printer, check out a cake pan, take a child to storytime, and get help reformatting your resume all in one trip.
This guide explores our professional ethics, including codes of ethics from various groups and librarians' critical approaches to working in the field today, that we feel are worth learning about and keeping in mind while you're working with your fellow students in the library.
Librarianship is, at its core, a rule-based profession (think about those labels and numbers we slap on everything) that has ethics and standards that are baked into the minds of future librarians when we attend graduate school. There are good things and bad things about the history and demographics of our profession that we are grappling with in the present day.
We are overwhelmingly white as a field, there is a disproportionate number of male-identifying individuals with leadership positions in a profession that is predominantly female-identifying, and many of the choices made in information organization by folks like Melvil Dewey came from the dominating white cishet male Christian point of view of the turn of the 19th/20th century. We see white members of our profession silencing or speaking over the voices of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) members at conferences and other important meetings. A recent debate sparked by the question of whether or not libraries should allow the use of their meeting spaces by hate groups has led to many librarians standing up in favor of free speech, presumably at the cost of the safety and comfort of its most marginalized staff members and patrons.
In short, we have a lot of work to do, but we are getting some stuff right, like defending privacy and free access to quality information in a world where both of those things are in jeopardy.