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Defining librarianship

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1938 ALA Code of Ethics for Librarians


Extracting the essence and making distinctions: Online resources for defining librarianship.

Definitions as found in codes of ethics
American Library Association code of ethics current version, adopted June 28, 1995.

1938 ALA code of ethics On the books until 1975, when it was significantly overhauled. This code reflects an effort to lay out a functional, unified view of the library profession, an approach credited to Flora Belle Ludington.

ASIS professional guidelines American Society for Information Science. Adopted 5/30/92.

International codes of ethics for librarians A useful assortment of codes, maintained by FAIFE (Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression), an initiative within IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions).

Other relevant links
Library Services in Theory and Context by Michael K. Buckland. 2nd ed. copyright 1988, 1999. Context as an important defining factor in librarianship. Also of interest, by the same author, is a chapter from a UNESCO publication on library management (the chapter is called Concepts of library goodness). The article raises the interesting "paradox" that Lenin was an admirer of American public libraries. Buckland is a professor at the School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ethics and the Electronic Society by Florence Mason. A publication of the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA), copyright 1992 by the American Library Association. Ethical guidelines for information professionals.

ALA Core Values Task Force No approval after 5 drafts. Statements about the experience from proponents and opponents, as published by librarian Tim Wojcik at About.com. Maybe a definition would help.

Tools of the trade As proposed by Eric Lease Morgan. Section entitled "Librarianship and the Creative Spirit" describes libraries facing the challenges of computerization as being like caterpillars turning in upon themselves to emerge as new beauties.

The future of librarianship As seen by the California Library Association. Includes a discussion of the nature of the profession.

Passionate "librarianism" by Jennifer Cram. A rousing call to the power and spirit of librarianship. "I believe that the move on the part of librarians to drop any reference to libraries or librarianship in their titles ... signals a massive inferiority, which does nothing for our ability as a profession to advocate both for ourselves and for our libraries."

Automated digital libraries by William Y. Arms of Cornell, as published in D-Lib Magazine, July/August 2000. Makes very useful distinctions between the librarianship of humans and machines, e.g. "[a]utomatic systems have no trouble with being inclusive; they have problems when they attempt to be selective. Their weakness is lack of precision. They exhibit what, in a human, would be called very poor judgment."

12-point acquisition policy (in French) The context of public librarianship, a la francaise. A document of the Association des bibliothecaires francais. "The choices are not intuitive. They come under the rules of library management as they are constituted and being developed in all types of libraries. Furthermore, they are closely tied to the priorities of the community served by the library ... Those holding the library in trust on behalf of the community require that these choices be valid." (Webmaster's translation)

Using Ockham's Razor: Cutting to the Center Katherine de la Pena McCook slices to the core and finds "information equity"

The Invisible Substrate of Information Science Marcia Bates includes an interesting distinction between librarianship and information science: the latter is "value neutral," while librarianship "follows a more service-oriented and empowerment-oriented value system. The library is there to produce a certain desirable social result, and, as a consequence, many of the activities of the library field are organized and directed to meet that values-laden goal. The mix of values driving library work varies from country to country, and, appropriately, is suited to the particular circumstances of each nation."

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