Demonstrate awareness of the ethics, values, and foundational principles of one of the information professions, and discuss the importance of those principles within that profession.
Selected Profession: Librarians, especially children’s librarians
Understanding and Applying the Ethics and Values of Librarianship
in Order to Create Joy-Filled Library Spaces
Section 1 of 4:
An Introduction to What Competency A Means to Me and to Library and Information Science
My Personal Understanding of Competency A:
My understanding of the ethics, values, and foundational principles of librarianship, especially in children’s services, is shaped by the ethics and values of librarianship set forth by the American Library Association. The ALA is the largest library association in existence, whose mission is to “provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all” (ALA, 2021a, About section). Many library employers will only acknowledge Master in Library and Information Science (MLIS) degrees from ALA accredited programs. The ALA accreditation of an academic MLIS program “indicates that the program has undergone an external review and meets the ALA Committee on Accreditation’s Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies” (ALA, 2021b, Directory section).
Documents Where the ALA’s Ethics and Values of Librarianship Can Be Found:
The ALA provides a Code of Professional Ethics in this document:
https://www.ala.org/tools/ethics (ALA, 2021c).
The ALA examines the Core Values of Librarianship in this document:
https://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/corevalues (ALA, 2019).
Why Demonstrating Awareness of the Ethics and Values of Librarianship and Discussing the Importance of those Principles is Important to the Profession as a Whole:
Children’s librarians have the ability to help shape, define, and bolster a child’s lifelong growth. Children’s librarians provide children and families with frequent and positive exposure to early literacy skills and training, which build a strong foundation for any child. The responsibility with which these librarians are entrusted with is a hefty one. Being able to embody the ethics and values of librarianship and implement them so that all children, families, caretakers, and visitors in the library feel welcomed, respected, valued, and safe is paramount to fostering children’s growth in the library. Providing collections that apply the ethics of librarianship and are supportive, relevant to the community, and free of harmful censorship shows attention to detail and to what matters to patrons. Providing storytimes that welcome all patrons and incorporate joy, early literacy skills and foster child development is a serious responsibility. Children’s exposure to librarians who strive to provide ethical and valuable service in all areas they are responsible for (collections, programming, budgeting, staffing, demeanor, decor, training, inclusivity, etc.) creates lifelong readers and users of the library.
Why Competency A is Important to Me as an Information Professional:
I am very passionate about library practices that adhere to the ALA ethics and values. In my experience working in libraries, it has often been the case that these principles are acknowledged and paid lip service to, but are not consistently applied or practiced. I have seen library staff in children’s departments make racist comments to children, to staff, and to other patrons without repercussion. I have seen library staff take down book displays in children’s departments because the displays focused on supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, on the history of the civil rights movement, on LGBTQ+ inclusivity and support, and on the history of womxn's rights and the library staff member disagreed with these topics. That behavior by library staff is unethical. It is also practicing censorship, racism, sexism, and homophobia. That type of behavior goes against the code of ethics, values, and statements of support to Patrons of Color, the Black Lives Matter (ALA, 2020b) movement, and trans patrons (ALA, 2020c) issued by the ALA. Yet still these unethical behaviors by library staff exist and are especially heinous when directed at children.
The profession of children’s librarianship needs librarians who will not tolerate unethical behavior in their staff. The profession needs librarians who push for the ethical treatment of all patrons, especially those belonging to historically excluded groups. The profession needs librarians who will not turn a blind eye, but will hold themselves and their staff accountable for protecting the children in their libraries from racist, sexist, homophobic, and other hurtful and unethical behaviors. I believe this strongly, and I try to be that librarian for my patrons, for my community, and for my coworkers.
What Excellence in Competency A Looks Like to Me:
When I think of a children’s librarian who demonstrates awareness of the ethics, values, and foundational principles of their profession, I see many things. I see programming designed to be inclusive, supportive, safe, and informed. There is ample research on the benefits of nature on child development (Strife, & Downey, 2009). Libraries can play a large role in that. I see programming such as StoryWalk that embraces nature within the scope of early childhood literacy (LMIL, n.d.). I see programming like Therapy-Dog Storytimes that encourage learning to be kind to and comfortable with animals. There is ample evidence that reading to dogs can help children develop strong literacy skills (Kelly, 2016). Tying these elements into programming plans repeatedly offers consistency, development, and a set expectation.
Other examples of ethical and valuable programming would be Drag Queen Storytimes, sensory-sensitive programs and storytimes, storytimes for infants, toddlers, and all ages that foster inclusivity and joy, STEM and STEAM programs, and a lack of designating programming, colors, or services strictly for “boys” or for “girls”. I see programming whose target audience is wide and inclusive. I see well researched and well implemented early literacy programs and trainings, which show a vested interest in the community.
I see decor and signage in the library in different languages, in rainbow colors, and in support of historically excluded peoples. I see a plaque in the main entrance acknowledging that the land the library is on is the traditional territory of the Indigenous peoples and cultures of that area. I see a library that is not stagnant, but that is constantly evolving: updating its collections, being openly supportive of its patrons, and actively ensuring that the library is a safe space.
I see libraries moving away from the Dewey Decimal system and its harmful roots, which organize books using racist and sexist structures (such as practicing erasure through relegating all information pertaining to Indigenous peoples and culture to the category of “history”, when there are many active Indigenous communities today) (Gattullo Marrocolla, 2019). I see libraries striving to provide resources and information to all who would seek it. I see libraries modeling the behavior of self-examination regarding their own participation in oppressive systems. I see libraries giving hope to a brighter future.
Section 2 of 4:
The Discussion of My Evidence
As my evidence, I am presenting a website I built called, A Children's Librarian's 12-Month Programming Plan (aka, “Evidence A”). This website delves into my approach for creating library programming, my commitment and drive to create equity through public libraries, my programming assessment tools, and my passion for my work in libraries. I approach all of my programming from a place of inclusivity and awareness, which I explain at length in the assessment I created to evaluate library programming with.
How and Why I Created Evidence A:
I created this website for my “Information 260A: Programming and Services for Children” course. The assignment was to develop a 12-month programming plan for a children’s library department. The instructions specified that the following programs must be included in the plan: activities for ages 0-12, literacy based story times, early literacy training for parents, summer reading, and other unique programming opportunities. The instructions also stated that how the programs enhanced children’s development must be specified. When I was creating these programs and this website, I wanted to make it something that I personally would use. I also wanted the programming plan to be centered around library ethics and values I am passionate about, such as providing inclusivity, supportiveness, joy, and opportunity.
The Process of Creating Evidence A:
I loved creating this website. It really gave me a chance to think about how I would implement programming in my own children's department and how I would continuously evaluate it to ensure it was meeting ethical goals and expectations. I decided that I would implement ethical programming by ensuring that the programs I designed were accepting and welcoming of historically excluded peoples. These programs include Drag Queen Story Hour, Sensory-Sensitive Storytimes, and my summer reading program which was built on the concept of welcoming everyone in the library. These programs tie into the ALA's principles of diversity, acceptance, and advocacy. To ensure that I had a section of Evidence A devoted to transparency on how I ethically assessed my programming, I pulled from my work in my "Information 230: Issues in Academic Libraries" course. In that course, I had created an ethical assessment tool based on the materials and assignments provided. I included that assessment tool in Evidence A's "Assessment" tab. I also thoroughly enjoyed the process of deciding how to create the website's design and aesthetics, and I settled on a streamlined but colorful and accessible design. Creating Evidence A was one of my favorite assignments in my MLIS program, as I was able to focus on how I wanted to incorporate joy into my work. As it turns out, having the framework of the ethical and value-based statements issued by the ALA provides me with a strong foundation for creating safe, welcoming, inclusive, and joy-filled programming and services for children and families in the library. Making these decisions regarding ethical programming goals, website aesthetic, framework principles, and an overall focus of incorporating joy, allowed Evidences A's creation process to be streamlined and effective.
Why I Chose to Feature Evidence A and How Evidence A Shows Ethical and Value-Driven Competency:
My library programming website does not shy away from ethical and principled subject matter that some may unfortunately consider “controversial”. Rather, my website dives in with arms opened wide. On the home page, front and center, is an enthusiastic announcement that welcomes Drag Queen Story Hour. The summer reading program I designed is based on the “Libraries are for Everyone” campaign which provides signage, decor, and library materials in over 100 languages and dialects, proclaiming that “Libraries are for Everyone” (HAFUBOTI, 2020). The signage features differently abled peoples, neurodivergent peoples, peoples with assisted mobility devices, people with mohawks, with hearing aids, with hijabs, and in rainbow colors. The ALA has issued statements of support and welcome for all of these historically excluded groups of peoples (ALA, 2020c).
Within Evidence A, I provide the templates for three completely developed storytime for different age groups. These storytimes develop early-literacy skills and foster inclusivity and joy. I created an entire assessment section of Evidence A that provides transparency regarding how I ethically create and evaluate all of my programming, as well as the values I adhere to. I also provide a budget so that patrons can see where funds are going.
I created an additional element within Evidence A, called “Fun Resources”. Here, I continue to abide by the ethics and values of librarianship by providing resources that are free and available to all, such as craft “recipes” that I have created and used before. I also provide links for free coloring sheets from libraries and museums across the globe. In the “Awesome Links!” section of Evidence A, I provide ethical and library-value-driven resources for kids who are out of school due to Covid-19. These resources include Indigenous educators teaching lessons online for elementary school children, a host of online storytime options, free marine-biology camp, free audio books to support children who process information better auditorily, and recommendations from the CDC on helping kids cope with stress and uncertainty. I believe children’s librarians are ethically bound to provide an abundance of supportive, inclusive, and fun resources and options.
Evidence A also contains a section for transparency about me, as a children’s librarian and as the creator of the website and programming model. I maintain boundaries and keep the tone lighthearted and welcoming. I also provide information on how I adhere to and believe strongly in ethical standards and am willing to protest and work to fight for those who do not have an equal seat at the table. This section also contains several storytime videos I made that are free and accessible to all, and incorporate inclusivity, awareness, acceptance, growth and early literacy for children.
Section 3 of 4:
How Creating Evidence A Helped Me Gain Expertise in Demonstrating Awareness of the Ethics and Values of Librarianship, and in Discussing the Importance of those Principles
Creating Evidence A Enhanced My Ability to Show Awareness of the Ethics and Values of Librarianship, and to Discuss the Importance of those Principles:
When I was given the assignment of creating a library programming plan and website, I was provided with an opportunity I valued deeply. This opportunity was the chance to demonstrate how I can apply the ethics and values the ALA and I advocate for. Having substantial wiggle room in the assignment’s specifics and a blank canvas for my creativity, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to take the ethical library concepts I fight for (such as representation, inclusion, acceptance, diversity, accessibility, and joy) and apply them in concrete ways to all of the programming a children’s department would conduct in a year.
I began with the site’s framework and structure. Organization was key. None of the research, effort, or goals I had for this project would matter if I presented the information in an inaccessible, confusing, or disorganized manner. I knew that this website had to be highly accessible in order to be relevant and of use. The site is uncluttered, with a clear title and navigation bar. The sections of the website flow in a logical order from the home page through the introduction, to the conclusion, references, and the added extras and sections on personal transparency. The site’s aesthetic is clean and direct, with a formatting and functionality that is easy-to-use. I also cite and reference all sources used on the site.
I made sure to include a visible statement on my site regarding equitable service policies. This was especially important in light of harmful behaviors news networks have covered regarding cells of community members reacting negatively and aggressively to events like Drag Queen Storytimes (Stack, 2019). My statement reads,
“We would like to note that everyone on the library premises is held to the same rules and standards
of behavior. We are a safe space, and any harassment of our staff, guests, patrons, or performers will
not be tolerated, and we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. (A link would go here that
would direct to the library system’s policies)”.
There is a grave difference between librarians providing accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all patrons, and librarians allowing library patrons and guests to be discriminated against or harassed in the library. I make that difference clear, as my programming and library spaces of influence will always protect those who have experienced inequity, oppression, and other unethical practices that are counterintuitive to the values set forth by the ALA.
On my programming site, I made sure that the photos, images, and representations of people I used reflected a wide array of identities, and not a whitewashed portrayal of library patrons and staff. I wanted the visual presentation of the website, the programming contained within it, the assessment tools and strategies I created, and the research that went into creating the programming and assessments to affirm the dignity and rights of all patrons, especially those who have been historically excluded. I wanted my programming to push our culture further along the line of acceptance and welcome and to assist in dismantling oppressive systems. I want all of the work I do in libraries to assist in dismantling systems of oppression and advancing the equitable treatment of People of Color, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, and all peoples who have been historically excluded.
How Creating Evidence A Changed My Way of Thinking about My Ability to Show Awareness of the Ethics and Values of Librarianship, and to Discuss the Importance of those Principles:
When creating this site, I knew I wanted to include programming that specifically catered to historically excluded peoples. I feature Drag Queen Storytimes, and programming specifically designed for those who do well in sensory-sensitive environments such as children on the Autism spectrum. I included programming that brings the benefits of nature and of animal companionship to those who may not have much positive exposure to those elements due to oppressive and inequitable cultural factors such as poverty or environmental racism (Lumen, n.d.). I made my summer reading program’s theme the “Libraries are for Everyone” campaign (HAFUBOTI, 2020) which focuses on the joy of diversity, acceptance, and welcome in library spaces.
Being able to apply these ethics and values to tangible programs that I designed helped me to realize two things. 1) That the programming options I gravitate towards and support embody many of the established and evolving ethics and principles of librarianship (such as diversity, respect, dignity, and equitable treatment) and 2) That I could easily design a year’s worth of supportive and growth-oriented programming for children in the library, and that I was excited to do it. Creating this programming plan and this website was a very enjoyable experience. This confirms to me that I am in the right place, professionally speaking.
Coursework That Has Prepared Me for Demonstrating Awareness of the Ethics and Values of Librarianship, and for Discussing the Importance of those Principles:
In my “Information 232: Issues in Public Libraries” course, I completed an assignment that asked me to evaluate a public library from the perspective of a patron walking through its doors. This was during the pandemic and library shut downs, so I chose to do the assignment as if I were walking through an imaginary library that strongly adhered to the ethics and values of librarianship, and what that would look like in practice. I evaluated 15 points provided in the assignment instructions and I describe how this library is manifesting its ethics and values for each point.
In my “Information 204: Information Professions” course, I completed a “Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat (SWOT)” analysis of a fictional library. My analysis was based on how well the library was adhering to the principles of librarianship. In this same course, I created an Interoffice Memo and action plan addressing the ethical issue of patrons with permanent housing complaining to library management about patrons without permanent housing. In my “Information 230: Issues in Academic Libraries” course, I created a website called “Diversifying the Library Sciences”. I designed this site to keep pushing libraries forward in their understanding of and adherence to the ethics and values of librarianship pertaining to equitable treatment and the dismantling of systems of oppression. In my “Information 244: Online Searching” course, I created a LibGuide titled, “Using the Civil Rights Digital Library database”. I designed the guide in support of racial equity and social justice causes in library spaces.
In my “Information 263: Materials for Children” course, I created a website especially relevant to ethics and children’s librarianship. The site is called, “Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and White Privilege Study in Children's Books”. It presents the need to provide collections and services that are diverse, equitable, inclusive, and actively working to eschew concepts of whiteness. This site is supported by an Illustrator and Illustrator-Author Study that I created for the same course. In the study, I focus on providing positive representation for underrepresented and historically excluded creators and viewers. Furthering this effort, in my “Information 237: School Library Media Materials” course, I created a book-promotion website called, “Children's Books with AMAZING illustrations!”. I ensured that the books in the collection I curated were full of fantastic representations of and by First Nations Peoples, Black Peoples, and peoples of a delightful array of gender identities and geographical origins. In Info 237 I also created a curricular text set that examines issues of representation in the media people consume for enjoyment. In my “Information 263: Materials for Children” course, I also created a site called “Children's Non-Print Resources from the Library”. In this site, I focus on ways libraries can provide a plethora of new and exciting opportunities, services, and activities to children patrons without any financial barriers to the patrons.
How I Have Changed From the Person I Was Before These Courses, to the Person After, to the Person I Am Now:
These courses, the materials they have presented to me, and the assignments they have given me have truly helped to shape my own perception of myself. Before I started this MLIS program, many of my experiences working in libraries had been defined by a heartbroken frustration with the lack of ethical behaviors from other library staff. After many experiences where library staff with high levels of social privilege discriminated against, excluded, stereotyped, and harassed patrons and staff with lesser privilege, I left libraries all together. My outrage and resistance to the racist, sexist, and homophobic actions of coworkers was always met with lip service and with no change from library management or administration. I felt like I was losing my mind at some point. How could every employee go through the same ethics trainings, walk past the same equality statements on the walls, yet most have no understanding of or desire to adhere to them? I felt that I did not belong in the world of librarians if this was what I was meant to tolerate and practice.
Completing an MLIS program that provided me with instructors, courses, materials, assignments, and perspectives that advocated for strong ethical frameworks to librarianship was a rescue boat plucking me off a deflating life raft. These courses have allowed me to not only embrace my own strong perspectives on ethics, but to have the support of other librarians, library professors, and library students.
I now feel that I have the tools, references, confidence, and abilities to better create ethical and value-driven library spaces. I am now better equipped to fight for equitable programming, services, collections, spaces, staffing policies and budgetary allotments. As I am completing this MLIS program and looking forward to what my career will be after it, I have more confidence and a deeper understanding of my own moral compass regarding librarianship.
What I Have Learned:
In completing these courses, assignments, and this MLIS program, I have learned a very important piece of information about myself, my ethics and values, and my approach to librarianship. What I learned was this: in my previous work in libraries, my pull towards creating ethical, inclusive, and supportive programming and library spaces was on point. The pushback and lack of understanding and enthusiasm I experienced from other staff members did not mean that I was approaching librarianship the wrong way. Instead, that resistance meant that when I saw room for improvement and tackled it head-on, I made those comfortable with the status quo become uncomfortable with progress. In this MLIS program I have learned about the ethics, values, and founding and evolving principles of librarianship. I have been provided with substantial educational, academic, and historical resources that support my gravitation towards ethical, inclusive, and supportive library practices.
Section 4 of 4:
How the Knowledge I Have Gained Will Influence Me in the Future, as an Information Professional
What I Bring to the Position, in Terms of Competency A:
I bring my own heartfelt experience of working in libraries, my strong drive to create ethical, library value-driven, inclusive, and supportive library spaces, and a willingness to embrace and implement changes to library practice that will actively welcome even more patrons and staff. I have very valuable experiences in navigating and applying the ethics and values of librarianship. I have seen libraries fail at creating and implementing inclusive, informed, and supportive programming and it has truly broken my heart. I have also seen libraries go above and beyond in creating programming that opened their arms to patrons struggling with issues of inequity, and this has given me such incredible hope and joy. With my career, I hope to help libraries truly understand how important they are in the battle for equity that their patrons and staff are enmeshed in, and to encourage and inspire libraries to reach new heights in what they offer to their patrons who are struggling.
How My Increased Learning and Growth in Demonstrating Awareness of the Ethics and Values of Librarianship, and Discussing the Importance of those Principles Will Contribute to My Professional Competence in the Future:
I would be an excellent librarian because I consistently and enthusiastically demonstrate a comprehensive awareness of the ethics and values of librarianship. I understand how important it is to discuss those principles and their deep meaning to librarianship. Most importantly, I know how to actively apply the ethics and values of librarianship to programming, services, staffing policies, budgetary allotments, library evaluations, community engagement, and so many other wonderful aspects of libraries. I have learned how to understand, discuss, and apply the ethics and values of librarianship through creating an entire year’s worth of programming for a children’s librarian, including its budgetary needs, assessment tools, an understanding of the audience, and demonstrating what it would look like in practice. Creating A Children's Librarian's 12-Month Programming Plan taught me how to put into practice all I have learned about the ethics and values of librarianship by designing my own programs, strategies, and assessment tools. My understanding of the ethics and values of librarianship, including learning to create programs, plans, and websites that adhere to those principles, make me an outstanding candidate for this position.
American Library Association (ALA). (2021-a). About ALA. http://www.ala.org/aboutala
American Library Association. (2019). Core values of librarianship. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/corevalues#:~:text=Among%20these%20are%3A%20access%2C%20confidentiality,%2C%20social%20responsibility%2C%20and%20sustainability.
American Library Association. (2021-b). Directory of ALA-accredited and candidate programs in library and information studies. https://www.ala.org/educationcareers/accreditedprograms/directory
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American Library Association. (2020-c). Libraries respond: Protecting and supporting transgender staff and patrons. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/diversity/librariesrespond/transgender-staff-patrons
American Library Association. (2021c). Professional Ethics. https://www.ala.org/tools/ethics
Calgary Anti-Racist Education (CARE). (n.d.) Whiteness. Retrieved August 22, 2021, from: https://www.aclrc.com/whiteness
Drag Queen Story Hour. (n.d.). https://www.dragqueenstoryhour.org/
Gattullo Marrocolla, E. (2019, October 1). The trouble with Dewey. School Library Journal. https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=The-Trouble-with-Dewey-libraries
HAFUBOTI. (2020). #LAFE library. https://www.hafuboti.com/lafelibrary/
Kelly, L. (2016, February 2). Kids reading to dogs in libraries. Public Libraries Online. http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2016/02/kids-reading-to-dogs-in-libraries/
Let’s Move in Libraries (LMIL). (n.d.) Storywalk. http://letsmovelibraries.org/storywalk/
Lumen. (n.d.) Reading: Environmental racism. Retrieved August 21, 2021, from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/alamo-sociology/chapter/reading-environmental-racism/
Stack, L. (2019, June 6). Drag Queen Story Hour continues its reign at libraries, despite backlash. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/06/us/drag-queen-story-hour.html
Strife, S., & Downey, L. (2009). Childhood development and access to nature: A new direction for environmental inequality research. Organization & environment, 22(1), 99–122. https://doi.org/10.1177/1086026609333340