Last weekend I was looking back through the comments on some of the posts and noticed a mini-discussion that emerged around the ALA Code of Ethics. That discussion seemed to get buried in the barrage of comments about how awful the Annoyed Librarian is for not kow-towing to radicals and how evil and stupid you all are for reading this blog, so I thought I’d bring it up to the top level.
There are several propositions in the ALA Code of Ethics, and we get to find out how we should think about "intellectual" freedom and "censorship" and all that kind of stuff. However, the discussion came up in the context of how we treat other librarians. For example, the way a hypothetical political thug who hates another librarian because that librarian’s politics differ from his might harass the offending librarian and try to get her fired. Or, the way librarians might manipulate each other in general and make each other’s lives miserable. Completely hypothetical situations and hardly the sorts of thing likely to happen in real life, but still worth discussing. The most interesting clause was this one:
"V. We treat co-workers and other colleagues with respect, fairness and good faith, and advocate conditions of employment that safeguard the rights and welfare of all employees of our institutions."
As I recall, one of the comments was, "Do we really?" Do we really treat our co-workers and other colleagues with respect? When we gossip about them in the halls? When we complain about them in meetings? How about when those supervisors exercise their petty power over their underlings and make their lives miserable? Does any of this stuff go on in libraries? It doesn’t in my library, of course, because my library is something of a fantasyland of library perfection, but out there in the real world? The Code’s preface says it is setting out the values that guide the profession. Hmmm.
The good thing for all the gossipers and abusers of petty power is that we’re not really bound by this code of ethics, and for that I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief. You see, "The principles of this Code are expressed in broad statements to guide ethical decision making." Because when I think "guide to ethical decision making," I think ALA! That’s a relief to many of you, I’m sure. You probably thought to yourself, "Oh no! If I’m mean to one of my coworkers or abuse one of my underlings, the ALA might get mad!" You’re completely safe, though, as long as you’re not some powerless rube questioning the inclusion of Heather’s Two Daddies are Angry Rentboys on the school reading list or tsk-tsking about Internet porn in public libraries.
So enjoy yourselves. Abuse your colleagues. It’s a library. As long as the patrons are happy, no one really cares what we do to each other.