Israel's ethical code for public libraries: liberal democratic values for a non-western multicultural society?

Meir, Daniel D. Israel's ethical code for public libraries: liberal democratic values for a non-western multicultural society?, 2004 . In 12th Bobcatsss Symposium, Riga (Latvia), 26-28 January 2004. [Conference paper]

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English abstract

In 1996 a code of ethics for public libraries was formulated by an ad hoc Committee of the Israeli Council of Public Libraries and endorsed by the Israeli Librarians’ Association. As stated by the chair of the committee, the main motivation was to improve the status of librarianship in Israel, for if it was to be taken seriously, it needed a code of ethics just like the medical or legal professions. The process of formulating the code involved little input from practicing public or school librarians, parents, educators or readers, and relied mainly on the analysis of existing codes in other countries. The specific values held by different segments of Israeli society - notably orthodox Jews, Muslims or immigrants from the former USSR – were largely ignored. The code is loosely based on the American Libraries Association’s Code of Ethics, emphasizing commitment to professional standards, freedom from censorship, equality and confidentiality of users’ records. Since its official introduction, the code has made practically no impact on the Israeli library scene. Not all of the academic training programs for librarians in Israel teach about information or library ethics, and those that do devote little if any attention to it. Awareness among readers of their rights as users is low, and the code is rarely mentioned in public debate about the type or quality of services that should be provided by public libraries in Israel, or about the level of public funding. There are no standing committees that can be consulted by readers or librarians about its implementation; and it hasn’t been updated at a time of rapid change in library service. Why has the code failed to become integrated into everyday life? Its critics consider it an attempt to impose western liberal democratic values on a non-western multicultural society. A survey of school librarians and principals showed that censorship is considered positively by many of them, mainly in religious schools. In Israel ethics is all too often considered a luxury rather than a necessity. A survey of library directors in Israel showed that technical competence is more highly valued than awareness of ethical issues when recruiting librarians. Perhaps the main questions that should be addressed are: Do we need an ethical code? What do we expect to achieve with it? Can having an ethical code prevent us in certain cases from dealing with the main issues hampering the quality of library services? What are the lessons to be learned about the process of introducing an ethical code for information services? Can we make everyone a stakeholder by soliciting broad participation in the deliberations leading up to the formulation of a code?

English abstract

Item type: Conference paper
Keywords: Information Ethics, Ethical Codes, Public Libraries
Subjects: A. Theoretical and general aspects of libraries and information.
D. Libraries as physical collections. > DC. Public libraries.
E. Publishing and legal issues. > EE. Intellectual freedom.
E. Publishing and legal issues. > EF. Censorship.
Depositing user: Mr. Daniel D. Meir
Date deposited: 27 Oct 2016 14:10
Last modified: 27 Oct 2016 14:10


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