Ethical implications of computer technology for librarians

Paul Sturges, C Pritchett and B Scully


Librarianship is at present in the midst of an ethical debate. To be honest this makes what is taking place sound rather more exciting than it really is, but there has certainly been much more literature appearing on ethical questions in librarianship since the mid 1980s than ever before. What is more, a number of library and information associations (the Library Association and Institute of Information Scientists in the UK and the Canadian Library Association will be mentioned here) are either in the process of reviewing aspects of their ethical codes, and related policy documents, or are contemplating doing so. Two reasons for can be identified. The first is that such codes have always been flawed and inadequate and therefore demand renewal, and the second is that changing circumstances in libraries and related institutions, most specifically the extensive use of computer technology, require serious rethinking of codes devised in an age dominated by print. This paper will naturally concentrate on the second of these two suggestions, but a word about the existing state of library ethics, and their inadequacies, is necessary to explain the kind of changes that are needed.