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Do librarians have a shared set of values? A comparative study of 36 codes of ethics based on Gorman's Enduring Values

Foster, Cathy and Mcmenemy, David (2012) Do librarians have a shared set of values? A comparative study of 36 codes of ethics based on Gorman's Enduring Values. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 44 (4). pp. 249-262. ISSN 0961-0006

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Abstract

Thirty-six ethical codes from national professional associations were studied, the aim to test whether librarians have global shared values or if political and cultural contexts have significantly influenced the codes' content. Gorman's eight core values of stewardship, service, intellectual freedom, rationalism, literacy and learning, equity of access to recorded knowledge and information, privacy and democracy were used as a benchmark. A quantitative analysis was carried out of which values each code contained. The codes were further qualitatively analysed, to examine how each value was expressed. It was found that on average codes featured five of Gorman's eight values. The most popular values were: service, privacy, equity of access, stewardship and intellectual freedom. The least popular value was rationalism, across all codes. Some codes omitted certain values because of their specific focus, such as the Native American code. Codes varied in how values were expressed, for example some codes limited principles by law, while some did not. Expression of stewardship and democracy was found to be stronger in countries which have recently experienced conflict or colonialism. The relationship between the profession and the state was another area of variation. Countries in the Asia-Pacific put more emphasis on the power of the State.