5.2 Professional Ethics
Candidates practice the ethical principles of their profession, advocate for intellectual freedom and privacy, and promote and model digital citizenship and responsiblity.
For some years now, the term “character education” has been a part of the school’s vocabulary. In an age in which our country’s youth are often not taught how to be well-mannered, ethical citizens at home, it falls to the teacher and the school community to pick up the slack. Naturally teenagers are skeptical of or even oppositional to many of these efforts, often faling to see their value. The activities planned around these topics may seem corny or trivial, and teens rarely respond well to more overt preachy messages. The truth is that the best way we as educators can convey appropriate behavior to our students is to model these expectations for them. In the creation of my school library website, I actively demonstrated the ethical principles of our profession for my future students and colleagues.
I strongly believe that the core of all that for which ALA stands is their document on intellectual freedom, their “Freedom to Read” statement. Each of the sample SLM sites I viewed from fellow or previous degree candidates and professionals in the field included some adaptation of the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom documents, but on many sites, this information was practically hidden – not acknowledged in any of the page headings in the Table of Contents and often taking multiple clicks to reach. I felt this subset of our professional ethics was so important that I included my “Reader’s Rights” document (creation in my very first SLM course, Literature for Children) on the homepage of my school library website, so that it can be seen and acknowledged by each person who visits the site. In doing this, I have illustrated for my students that I am not afraid to advocate for their rights as readers.
I embarked on the construction of my own intellectual freedom adaptation with the goal of keeping the document clear, simple, and easy to understand. This resulted in a list of just four essential rights to which all readers are entitled. These “Reader’s Rights” are the following: (1) Students are free to check out and return materials daily, (2) Students are free and are trusted to select their own books based on what they know to be right for themselves and their families, (3) Students are free to determine the grade level of the literature they read for pleasure, and (4) Students are free to access a wide range of materials to gain new perspectives on the world around them.
It is extremely important for the students to recognize that they have these rights in order for them to truly feel comfortable in their use of the library. They need to know that the library is theirs to use as often as they would like – every day, if they so choose – not just a place where they go with their classes when working on a research assignment. The students need to know that, as the school librarian, I will not be upset with them if they bring a books back the day after they have checked them out because they did not like them. Likewise, students must know that I will not be upset if they select a “fun” book to read that is written below their reading level and that I will not put them down if they select challenging books that may stretch the limits of their reading abiliry. They need to know that it is perfectly okay for them to select and read any book that I have determined to be appropriate for inclusion in the collection based on the age range of our student population. If there are any limits set on what the students may or may not read, that is the decision of their parents, not me.
In our profession, the other truly significant subset of ethical behavior deals with the avoidance of plagiarism and copyright violations. Because of my focus on Standard 5.2 doe this website assignment, I spent time carefully evaluating just ow well legal and ethical standards were adhered to in the sample sites of the other graduate candidates and also of professionals in the field. None of the creators make any huge bloopers in attributing material to its original source, but I observed a number of violations in how this was approached. Most included brief statements or parenthetical notes concerning the source of the information. A citation on one former candidate’s website listed just a person’s name as the source for an idea, but there was no document name or explanation of whom the person was and no available way to track down that information. Another former candidate used a book cover image without even including the web address from where the image was obtained. This did not seem a best practice to me since images tend to be one of the stickiest issues; students and teachers both so often fail to site from whence they came. Courtnay Moore’s website, on the other hand, always included simple but clear citation information such as, “Image courtesy for Google for Educators.” Her more precise adherence to the ethical codes of the professional served as a model during the building of my own website.
In the “Research Guide” portion of my student resources, I include links and tutorials for two different online citation generators: Bibme and NoodleBib Express, clearly highlighting the importance of properly citing sources. I also included a section entitled “Why It’s Important to Cite” that defines plagiarism and states simply for a middle school audience, the ethical standards involved in utilizing another’s intellectual property. It is imperative to discuss these issues with students, the sooner the better, in preparation for the expectations of high school. As I developed my collection of resources to include on the website, I was indebted to a number of people for providing the initial concepts I adapted and/or for providing invaluable resources which I either linked to or embedded in my site. Modeling appropriate digital citizenship and responsibility for students and teachers alike, I noted the origins of all materials not produced by me, aiming to improve upon the example sites I had viewed.
When linking to other websites, I clearly acknowledged the person or organization responsible for the content and maintenance of that site. On my “Reader’s Rights” document, I acknowledged both the ALA “Freedom to Read” statement and also Mona Kerby’s adaptation, “School Library First Principles,” which were the inspirations for my own work. I found it very important to emphasize the Big6 Information Literary Model in the “Research Guide” portion of my student resources to establish consistent guidance through the thought process involved in conducting research. Legally, it was imperative that I acknowledge the creators of the Big6 Model, Michael B. Eisenberg and Robert E. Berkowitz, in the manner in which they requested to be cited, which includes a link to their website. I also needed to acknowledge the influence of a chart from the course textbook for my Information Sources course, Reference Skills for the School Library Media Specialist: Tools and Tips, 2nd Edition; it was this document that made it easy to decipher and to delineate between the Big6 steps. Therefore, I included a full bibliographic citation for the book according to the MLA style guide. Full bibliographic data was something notably absent from the sample websites I viewed.
Heck, in my quest for thoroughness, I even acknowledged my dog Gus on the “Your School Librarian” page for his willingness to pose for the photos I included on the site. I made every effort to cover all of my bases so that my website would stand as an emblem of professional ethics, and the resulting product clearly illustrate my mastery of Standard 5.2.
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