Long ago I gave a paper on ethics in cataloging. It was called:
"Cataloging as a Subjective Activity" at Health Sciences Users Group of OCLC
(Online Computer Library Center) Annual Meeting, Chapel Hill, NC, 4/94
When I was contacted to do the keynote speech, I offered ethics as my topic
of choice, because of a conversation that had recently happened on AUTOCAT,
where someone asked if there really WERE any ethical issues in cataloging
other than creating and assigning non-biased subject headings. I was
horrified that the question could even be asked.
Anyhow, Here are some ethical issues raised by the LC Working Group Report:
The ethics of being willing to share the burden/responsibility for providing
bibliographic access to information resources vs. choosing to rely on the
work of others: If your institution is a major research institution (an
ARL library, for instance), and the size of your budget and staff is
proportionately larger than that at most other institutions, and your
collecting brings in materials well beyond the "mainstream" ... is it
ethical of you to decide that you will not contribute full original records
to the national databases (but instead to outsource as much as you can and
do only brief, possibly not-share records for the remainder)? Is it ethical
to decide not to participate in cooperative projects such as NACO, PCC, etc.
when you actually have enough catalogers to make it possible? If yours is
an educational institution, interested in the dissemination and creation of
knowledge, is it ethical not to share records/information for your rare,
unique, materials on WorldCat?
Or, one of my longtime favorites:
The ethics of choosing to hire only experienced catalogers when you have a
large enough operation to enable you to hire entry-level catalogers and
provide the training they will require.
You can tell, from the way I phrased them, how I feel about these issues.
But it is distressing to me that people might make it through library
school, and through at least one class in the organization of information
without some understanding that they are entering a PROFESSION (something
you profess), instead of just getting ready to take a job, and that that
they might have been so little exposed to the mores and values of the
profession that they don't understand that their whole career will be a
process of choosing between right and wrong --- that is a MORAL/ETHICAL
right and wrong, not just a "did I manage to figure out the right
classification number?" kind of right/wrong.
Janet Swan Hill, Professor
Associate Director for Technical Services
University of Colorado Libraries, CB184
Boulder, CO 80309
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Tradition is the handing-on of Fire, and not the worship of Ashes.
- Gustave Mahler