Friday, January 28, 2005

Ask the Information Ethicist: An Invitation

Ask the Information Ethicist
This is an invitation for you to post your questions here in the comments section. I'd love to hear from you. If you wish to be anonymous, you can make an anonymous post. If you prefer to contact me personally, use my email at

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Budget Cutting in Libraries-- Can We Keep the Doors Open?

Can We Keep the Doors Open?
From a reader: Dear Information Ethicist: Take a look at this news item. The Free Library of Philadelphia has laid off more librarians and will not be able to staff libraries with professonal librarians all the time, but the doors of more libraries will be open on Saturdays. What do you think?

News Item, January 21, 2005
Philadelphia Announces Cuts in Hours, StaffFour branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia begin half-day service January 24, the first of 20 branches to move to an afternoon-only schedule as part of a cost-cutting reorganization. In addition, 13 librarians and four library administrators were among 200 city employees sent layoff notices January 10.
Officials say the changes will allow all 55 city libraries to offer Saturday hours and be open during peak-use times. “What we are trying to do is target when the libraries are used the most,” said Dan Fee, Mayor John F. Street’s spokesman, in the January 15 Philadelphia Inquirer. Only 10 libraries are currently open on Saturdays, and between July and December last year, libraries were closed for a total of 734 hours because of staffing shortages, officials said.
But library supporters worry about eliminating librarian positions and say the changes will hurt the system, the Inquirer reported January 20. “If library usage is low in some communities, then we should be working harder to increase patronage, not shortening hours,” said Amy Dougherty, executive director of the Friends of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Library Director Elliot Shelkrot acknowledged that branches moving to half-day service would not have librarians on staff, but said that if needed, patrons with reference questions could be referred to a librarian at a nearby branch. “This is much better library service than we have going on today,” he said.
Posted January 21, 2005.

Dear Concerned Reader: Budget cuts in libraries are always difficult. In this case, the decision is to keep the libraries open even though there will not be professional librarians on duty. In fact, librarians have been cut all over the system to permit the doors to stay open. Concerned Reader, there is no easy answer to this problem--so common now in LibraryLand. But note that this is nothing new. Even in times of prosperity, libraries are often staffed by support staff and in colleges by students. The larger issue is money--isn't it always. How can we provide the excellent services our patrons deserve if we have to keep cutting staff? How do we make the library more visible and librarians a more appreciated group in our world? The time is right for us to do all we can. See the efforts of the American Library Association and their plans for National Library Week and other campaigns
Your Devoted Information Ethicist

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Information Ethicist--Thanks

Welcome to The Information Ethicist. My sincere thanks to my daughter April of for showing me the power of blogging. Thanks go also to so many people. I know that I can only remember some of them today.

*To Robert Hauptman--Bob--who served on my dissertation committee and believed in the vision of Information Ethics as a vital field to address the many challenges of information & communications technologies in our professional lives, in public policy, and in the personal decision-making of all of us. His contributions in the Journal of Information Ethics are immeasurable.

*To Rafael Capurro for inspiring me through his writings and friendship over many years
and continue to encourage so many of us through the International Center for Information Ethics and now with the new Journal of International Information Ethics

*To Toni Carbo for renewing my faith that I could continue my research in Information Ethics and for being a pioneer in building the field at the University of Pittsburgh

*To the early students at North Carolina Wesleyan who showed me the real- world side of business and professional ethics

*To the students in my first Information Ethics class at the University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill who jumped into the midst of my explorations of this as a vital area in the curriculum of library and information science

*To my wonderful friends at Saint Mary's College Library in Raleigh, North Carolina. For our years together on the staff when they supported me in becoming an information ethicist and helped me to pursue the doctoral degree at UNC-CH and for so many acts of kindness and love to me, to April, and to the good of so many. They are angels. They were and continue to be the ones who joined with me in practicing subversive ethics.

*To all of those who have invited me to speak to their groups through the years and to learn so much from them. In the library community--ALA (American Library Association), PLA (Public Library Association), Ohio librarians, medical librarians, librarians in Croatia, university librarians and adminstrators at Yale, Georgia librarians, and many more.

And so many more.....Stay tuned.

So what is Information Ethics and why should I care? Again stay tuned but for now look at the blog description.

Blog Description: Ask the Informaiton Ethicist questions about your concerns about the uses and abuses of information, information and communications technologies, professional ethics in the information fields (librarianship, information sciences and systems, resarch, biomedical/genetic information, and all kinds of issues in moral values and public policy).