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Information Ethics Case Study

Information Ethics Case Study

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Published by: stacimnovak on Apr 04, 2012
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1Information Ethics Dilemma:Case Scenario
Loose Handcuffs
 By:
Mary Kramer, Linda Mahon, Staci Novak, Amber Ovsak and Deedra Totten
“Ethics brings the discipline of thinking to the moral life so that we can figure out what to do when our 
instincts becom
e overloaded.”
- Richard J. Severson, The Principles of Information Ethics
Background
 The American Library Association (ALA) adopted a Code of Ethics in 1997 to helpmembers of the information profession make guided ethical decisions, as well as provide thepublic with an idea of the principles that guide the profession. In regard to minors and their rightto freely receive information in libraries, the Code of Ethics does not explicitly address this issue
 but in a more generalized principle states: “We
provide the highest level of service to all libraryusers through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable
access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.” Also, addressing
censorship in
libraries it states: “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist allefforts to censor library resources” (ALA, 2008). In addition to the Code of Ethics, the ALA had
previously created the Library Bill of Rights to describe the policies that should be the guidelines
of service in all libraries. Article V states: “A person’s right to use a library should not be deniedor abridged because of origin, age, background, or views” (ALA, 1996).
Supreme Court Cases
Beyond the ALA’s Code of Eth
ics and Bill of Rights, there is a deeper issue of restrictingaccess to information to minors. Some people believe this is a violation of their FirstAmendment rights. Several cases have been taken to the Supreme Court for this reason. In one
 
2of the most notable cases, a seventeen-year-old high school student named Steven Pico and four
other teens disagreed with the School Board’s decision to pull several books from the library’s
shelves due to their belief that they were inappropriate for student access. Pico and hisclassmates filed a lawsuit against the School Board, and it subsequently made its way to the
United States Supreme Court where the students won (Crutcher, n.d.). The Court stated that “the
right to receive ideas is a necessary predicate to
the recipient’s meaningful exercise of his ownrights of speech, press, and political freedom,” and that “students too are beneficiaries of this principle” (Chmara and Mach, 2004, “Minors’ Rights to Receive Information Under the FirstAmendment,” para. 4)
. More recently similar cases have resulted in the same outcome.
Case Study
Katie Sue is a fifteen-year-old freshman at Cedar Point High School. She is a goodstudent, smart, and an overall nice young lady. Katie Sue also participates in after school clubsand loves to read. She comes from a well-to-do family in Cedar City, Kansas, where her fatheris a prominent businessman. Her mother is a member of the school board and both of her parentsare very involved in the community. They are also very involved parents. Everyday when KatieSue comes home, they ask her about her school day and her school work.Three or four times a week, Katie Sue goes to her high school library to check out books.One particular day while she was browsing, she noticed a new book on the shelves. It was called
 Loose Handcuffs
by Christina Crutcherson.
She read the excerpt, “Paige, a high school senior, is
the girl every girl wants to be and the girl every guy wants to be with. Michael, also a highschool senior, is the complete opposite. He is a troubled loner with a dark past. After a chance
meeting, they realize they share the same detrimental secrets.” After reading the excerpt, she
 
3decided she would check it out. When she took it to the librarian, Mrs. Kotman, Katie Sue asked
if she had read it. Mrs. Kotman replied that she hadn’t, but had read a number of good reviews
and thought it would be a good book to have in their library.That night after eating dinner with her family and doing her homework, Katie Suedecided to get started on her new book. She was particularly excited because it was a novelabout a fifteen-year-old living in a small town, just like her! When she was halfway through the
 book, her mother came into the living room. “Whatcha reading, sweetie?” her mother asked asshe sat down beside her daughter. “Oh, just a new book I found. It’s really good.” Katie Sueresponded. “Mind if I take a look?” her mother asked. “Sure.” she said. As her mother began
flipping through the novel, she was hor
rified. “Katie Sue, there is profanity and references to sexin this book! Where did you get this from?” Her daughter gave her a weird look, “Um, at theschool library.” “This is ridiculous
,
” her mother replied
.
“There is no way a freshman in high
scho
ol should be reading this elicit of a novel. I’m going to have a talk with your schoollibrarian.”
 
The next day, Katie Sue’s parents went to the librarian.
 
“Why was our daughter allowed
to check out this book? It is extremely inappropriate for a girl he
r age.” “I’m sorry Mr. and Mrs.
Plant, but we do not tell the students what they can and cannot checkout. If it is in our library,
they are allowed to check it out.” said Mrs. Kotman. “You mean to tell me, replied Mr. Plant,
that there is no rating system for the books in this library? Why, they should be rated just like
movies and music! I demand that this be done.” “And that’s not all, continued Mrs. Plant.
Wewant a list of every book in this library that has similar content to
 Loose Handcuffs
, the novel ourdaughter checked out yesterday.
 

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