If we want to talk
about information ethics,
why talk about libraries and archives at all?





Ethics refers to well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues.

(Source: Velasquez et al, Issues in Ethics)



What are the most important institutions & organizations that deal with information?



(made w/ EtherPad.net)


& Archives *

 to whom?

Advance the charitable purpose of the organization

Maximize shareholder value

"A library is a different kind of social reality (of the three dimensional kind), which by its very existence teaches a system of values beyond the fiscal."

- Zadie Smith


A non-profit purpose...

A site of ethical exception

"The library-as-zone could represent another “fugitive infrastructure,” “assembled to do different things, for different people, and according to different systems
of value
” – values defined not by profit, by the “growth machine,” by protectionism or patriarchy."

In embracing democratic values and ideals of social justice under threat in our broader culture, the library might represent a haven, a sanctuary, in which we can creatively re-envision and nurture our social and intellectual infrastructures."

-Shannon Mattern

(admittedly a hopeful + optimistic view!)

It's worth considering that libraries are often embedded in other structures, with their own values and interests.

  • Choose a type of library (e.g. public, k-12 school, academic, medical, archives)

  • Who does this library answer to?

    •  Start local (the director). Think about larger organizations, 
        funders, and political entities. Stakeholders may or may
        not engage with the library directly as users.
  • Think of one specific library (in this category).
  • Who does this library serve? Are there core/primary types of patrons?   (e.g. undergraduate students, parents)
  • Pair up with the student next to you. Walk each other through your libraries, who they serve, and who they answer to.

  • Brainstorm 2 possible ethical dilemmas that you could imagine facing if you worked at each of your chosen libraries.
      (Dilemmas?  Think: non-mundane decisions, ones that involve values.)

    • Dilemmas often arise due to conflict. Consider your patrons and stakeholders. What are ways in which some patrons or stakeholders might see things differently from others?
    • Consider different facets of librarianship:
      • Buying & promoting materials • Providing reference help
      Cataloging • Building & maintaining spaces for community use • Promoting resources • Budgeting • Supporting staff and colleagues

ALA Code of Ethics, 1939-Present

Go to DataBasic.io. Select SameDiff.

Within SameDiff, select Browse Files.

Browse File 1 --> Upload 1939 Code

Browse File 2 --> Upload the other Code

Go to Moodle for the Library Internship.

Scroll down to this week.

Download, but don't open/look at these files:

• 1939 Code of Ethics
• Either: 1981 or 1995

ALA Code of Ethics, 1939-Present

Discuss with your partner:

What sense do you get for librarianship at
each of these times?

What are some of the most important continuities
between the two documents?
(i.e. don't say "libraries" :)

Now take a look at both documents directly (not via SameDiff).

How similar is it to what you expected based on your initial analysis?

What do you notice looking at the full text (that you couldn't see through distant analysis)?

ALA Code of Ethics
& Privacy

It is the librarian’s obligation to treat as confidential any private information obtained through contact with library patrons.

We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.

Why has this stayed the same?


• Take a character + read

• With a partner, compare your characters' privacy concerns.

• Using two different colors, mark:
   -  Color 1: Common elements
            don't have to be identical, just 

   -  Color 2: Unique elements

Privacy is not about technology -
it's about people.

Episode #1735: Whose
Country 'Tis of Thee?

High-tech surveillance and immigration

Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness
Simone Browne (2015)
Duke University Press

Note to Self  |  Episode: What We Learned from Grandpa's FBI File
Surveillance politics, past and present

So...what can you do?

2. Protect your browsing history
Try an extension that visualizes and blocks tracking websites

Privacy Badger  (free from Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Disconnect  (free tier available)

3. Learn as you go
An extension that helps make sense of terms and conditions on different sites (e.g. YouTube,

1. Start small

Easy adjustments to help share (or not!) your data more intentionally:  10 Tips for a New Year Data Detox

caveat!  These extensions will  cause some websites to behave oddly at times.
so: If you have trouble with a website, try disabling the browser extension + see what happens.

What else can you do?

Directory of alternative tools
that respect your privacy:

Alternative App Centre (Tactical Technology Collective)

Deepen your understanding of how
the web works:



Manuel Velasquez, Claire Andre, Thomas Shanks, S.J., and Michael J. Meyer. (2010 [1987]). What is Ethics? A definition of ethics in terms of standards such as rights and fairness. Issues in Ethics, 1:1. https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/what-is-ethics/

Library Internship Seminar, March 1, 2019

By Swarthmore Reference

Library Internship Seminar, March 1, 2019

Seminar on information ethics and privacy (created by sle)

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