Why this site
Defining librarianship

Why this site

On the scent

Working answer

My lunch with Zola

Malodorous catalog

Undefended books

Contact Page

1938 ALA Code of Ethics for Librarians

Isn't this being done already?

Logically, this sort of thing would be the province of such organizations as the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) or of such national organizations as the American Library Association (ALA).

These organizations contribute much in the ongoing search for the best way for librarianship.

But their contributions have very important limitations.

Librarianship as an activity

IFLA, ALA, and such associations exist to advance the cause of "professional" librarians. Essential as this function is, it fails to recognize librarianship as an activity that transcends considerations of status.

An amateur musician is still a musician. A volunteer or non-degreed librarian is still a librarian.

This site stresses commonality among all those performing the work of librarian, work which stands to be ever more widely practiced with the advent of cyber-communities.

For a fuller discussion, see My lunch with Zola

The diversions of anti-censorship

Does the common ground shared by all librarians include anti-censorship, as the ALA code of ethics requires? Obviously not, if the librarian works for the Chinese government or the Concerned Women for America, both of which are unabashedly pro-censorship.

It is quite simply the case that anti-censorship is an ideological stance that is not rooted in the common ground of librarianship, which is always and everywhere a service response to distinctive communities and institutions.

But isn't anti-censorship necessary to the defense of libraries and their collections? In fact, it isn't the best or the most ethical response, for the reason given above that anti-censorhip is a principle that can't be derived from a basic, universal definition of librarianship.

A sounder, more ethical response--one rooted in an adequate, comprehensive definition of librarianship--bases the defense of practices on the purpose of librarianship to serve in response to community needs. It shows specifically how librarianship has acted properly, guided by a well-written set of policies that shapes an adequate and appropriate response to community need, rather than by a generic appeal to ideology.

In fact, where intellectual freedom concerns in libraries are paramount, it is better served by practices that satisfy the requirements of librarianship, rather than by anti-censorship. One ironic result of basing practices on a generic anti-censorship platform has been the development of defensive tactics that are hardly conducive to intellectualism.

For an attempt at defining librarianship, see Working answer

For a fuller discussion of these issues, see My lunch with Zola and Undefended books