Friday 11 October 2019

"Libraries are for everyone"

I've always really enjoyed libraries. I often visit them when I'm on holidays or travelling. Some of my fondest childhood memories involved visits to the local public library. My first library card was a piece of laminated paper with my name written on it in Biro. My mother kept it in her purse for safekeeping until I was older. I progressed from picture books, to young adult novels, to adult fiction as I grew up. I also loved to browse through the non-fiction section, often starting at 001 and working my way through to 999. I taught myself how to make pasta from scratch, create a weekly budget, write in calligraphic text, and I read about the lives of amazing women like Catherine the Great, Teresa of Avila, Louisa Casati, Margaretha Geertruida and many others. At primary school I helped re-shelve returned books in the school library. As I got older I made trips into the nearby city to visit the State Library where I could dip into their collection of old films (the original 1922 Nosferatu was a favourite find). At university the Social Science library quickly became my favourite place on campus. I found a particular row (somewhere between BF and BL in the Library of Congress Classification system used there) where I liked to sit down on the floor and read. I spent late nights there frantically trying to make up for procrastination. Sometimes I visited the biology library, or the small library where the theses were held. My whole world changed when I discovered Inter Library Loans and the new and exciting books they could provide me with.

A photograph of the QLD State Library interior. Kgbo [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]
So apart from a few unpleasant experiences during my working life, libraries have always felt like positive and welcome places to me. But I want to point out that my experiences of libraries have been influenced by many layers of privilege. And on the final day of Libraries Week - when prompted to discuss what libraries mean to me - this is something that I want to reflect on. Contrary to popular belief, libraries have not always been inclusive places. For much of history reading, writing, and places of learning were luxuries afforded to the wealthy. In these environments, women, children, and those from different faith traditions were actively excluded.

More recently and in living memory, colonialism, apartheid, and institutionalised racism saw black and minority ethnic (BME) people systematically ostracised from academic and public libraries across the world. Weigand and Weigand recently published The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South, which charts segregated libraries until the mid-sixties. While the library provision for Black and white Americans was separate, it was in no way equal. Some separate public libraries were established for people for colour, but they were provisioned with ageing stock, often withdrawals from the white-only public libraries. It took the Civil Rights Act in 1964 for American public libraries to open their doors to BME. More recently, public libraries in America have considered "defensive architecture" to make them less-appealing to homeless communities (Gee, 2017). In the United Kingdom, public libraries can still be characterised as places of institutionalised classism. Muddiman and colleagues undertook an in-depth study of British public libraries in 2000 and found that relative to their percentage of the population, "public libraries are used to a disproportionate extent by the middle class... In the this sense public libraries are not socially inclusive" (p. 13).

Inequality in libraries has not been limited to their users either. While the founder of the American Library Association (ALA) Melvil Dewey was responsible for several advances in the world of librarianship (such as the first library for the blind, and the admittance of women into his University programmes) he is also remembered for his serial harassment of women within the workplace (Beck, 1996; Wiegand, 1996). The low rate of pay for female library staff compared to their male counterparts also made them attractive employees at the time (Garrison, 1972). Recent data shows that in the information professions, women and BME people are still disproportionately underrepresented in the workforce and the phenomenon of the "glass escalator" is still pervasive in libraries (Gohr, 2017). For example, despite women making up nearly 80% of the workforce in the information professions, they occupy significantly fewer senior positions (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals [CILIP] & Archives and Records Association UK and Ireland [ARA], 2015; Department for Professional Employees, 2016; Olin & Millet, 2015; Shute, 2013).

Finally, the practices of libraries themselves are windows into a world of systematic bigotry. Different library classifications systems have at one point or another cast judgement on minority groups. The Dewey Decimal System had decimal headings for "Savages: races divided by practices" "Color in man" and "Monstrosities" grouped together (Adler, 2017). Works on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans topics were shelved under "abnormal sexual relations" or "social problems" adjacent to works on pornography and obscenity. The Library of Congress classification system was not better. The section that I spent so much time in during my Undergraduate degree is heavily skewed in favour of Christianity, and makes little room for classifying works about indigenous religion for example. Context is necessary in classification, but it also takes implicit judgements about the world and makes them real in the experiences of library users.

To say that libraries are places of inclusion is to wilfully ignore the past and present roles that they have played in institutionalised oppression. Libraries have purposefully excluded minority groups from their premises. Minority groups are systematically underrepresented in Library employees. Finally, library systems have further marginalised minority groups through their classification and treatment. Recognising the historic and present injustices in libraries and information professions does not prevent us from improving and overcoming them. In fact, progress towards building truly inclusive libraries cannot happen without confronting this reality. Discussing the lack of diversity and equality training in modern library and information science education, Cooke and Minarik (2016) note that “successfully serving racially and otherwise socially diverse individuals and groups is an issue of fairness and/or social justice, and requires skills of empathy and perspective-taking, as well as the knowledge needed for critically conscious and culturally competent practice,” (p. 187).

To fully contribute to inclusion we must, as information professionals, confront the realities of our own biases and those of the wider profession. So when we say "libraries are for everyone" lets first take a moment to remember how much work it took to be able to make that statement - and how much work we still have to do.


Adler, M. (2017). Classification along the color line: Excavating racism in the stacks. Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies, 1(1), 1–32.
Beck, C. (1996). A “private” grievance against Dewey. American Libraries Magazine, 27(1), 62–65. 
Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals [CILIP], & Archives and Records Association UK and Ireland [ARA]. (2015). A study of the UK information workforce: Mapping the library, archives, records, information management and knowledge management and related professions. London. Retrieved from
Cooke, A., & Minarik, J. D. (2016). Linking LIS graduate study and social identity as a social justice issues: Preparing students for critically conscious practice. In B. Mehra & K. Rioux (Eds.), Progressive community action: Critical theory and social justice in library and information science (pp. 181–214). Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press.
Department for Professional Employees. (2016). Library workers: Facts and figures. DPE-AFL-CIO Fact Sheet 2016. Retrieved from
Garrison, D. (1972). The tender technicians: The feminization of public librarianship , 1876-1905. Journal of Social History, 6(2), 131–159. Retrieved from
Gee, Alistair (2017). Homeless people have found safety in a library – but locals want them gone. The Guardian. Retrieved from:
Gohr, M. (2017). Ethnic and racial diversity in libraries. Journal of Radical Librarianship, 3, 42–58. Retrieved from
Muddiman, D., Durrani, S., Dutch, M., Linley, R., Pateman, J., & Vincent, J. (2000). Open to all? The public library and social exclusion. Retrieved from
Olin, J., & Millet, M. (2015). Gendered expectations for leadership in libraries. In The Library With the Lead Pipe. Retrieved from
Shute, G. (2013). Gender ratios in library management ('directorship’) roles in New Zealand public and tertiary libraries. (Master’s Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand). Retrieved from
Wiegand, W. A. (1996). Irrepressible reformer: A biography of Melvil Dewey. Chicago, IL: American Library Association

Wednesday 17 April 2019

Life and Death in Higher Education

I had the opportunity to attend Learn - Engage - Play in Winchester not too long ago, which was a fantastic experience. One of the workshops, led by Alison James, attempted to construct a dialogic landscape of the sustainable university/business. Apart from being fun the workshop prompted me to start thinking about what a truly sustainable university looks like.

We began with a silent discussion. I know, I hadn't heard of it either. But it was an excellent method for getting lots of voices 'heard' and lots of ideas onto paper. Andy Sandford took a video of the process below. Essentially everyone is invited to write (or draw) on a communal space, silently, for a few minutes. We then took a moment to talk about the different themes appearing on the paper.

Alison asked us to take one of those themes, as well as something that was missing from the discussion and build a LEGO model around these two ideas. I was struck by the image of healthy-looking tree, with the words "growth" inside so chose that as my starting topic. A single second's reflection on what was missing and I decided to also look at "death" as the secondary topic. Because hey, binaries can be fun sometimes. But as I started to build I thought more about what both growth and death mean in the context of a sustainable organisation, and the unexpected conclusions I drew shocked me.

We tend to think of growth as good thing, something to strive for and to cultivate. And yet, in no system is growth - and only growth - sustainable. In biology for example, whole communities rely on death for their survival. Fungi grow on dead and decaying matter, worms feed on the same to create humus, and plants need that humus to grow. Even as human beings, we need death (in the form of food) in order to live and at a cellular level our bodies are constantly recycling themselves through autophagy. So what does growth mean for the sustainable university? I think that if we want to be able to grow and develop in ways that will benefit our communities we need to let go of some of the processes and ways of thinking that are holding us back. By letting them die we can invest our energy into new and exciting ventures.

Every organisation has skeletons in the closet. Occasionally, someone will joke about "knowing where the bodies are buried" in their workplace. But that covert assassination is not the kind of death I'm talking about. We can draw some inspiration from Marie Kondo here, and give those outdated or unhelpful processes a noble death. If we really want to grow, and do so sustainably, then perhaps it's time to acknowledge the now unhelpful things that have served us well in the past (and indeed in some universities served us well for hundreds of years), and let them go gently. We can then use that energy, time or resource to grow the university in other ways.

This is all terribly abstract. But it is proof that sometimes playing with a bit of LEGO can be useful for ideation and exploring overlooked concepts.

Friday 2 November 2018

Using Browns eight questions to prompt reflective writing

When submitting a portfolio to the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) - albeit for Certification, Chartership, or Fellowship - all evidence pieces must be reflective. The rough guidance for these pieces is to collect 3-4 per each of the evaluative criteria. CILIP prefers these evidence pieces to short and sweet, somewhere in the range of two pages or less. I don't blame them, reading through that many evidence pieces is a lot work, and as well as reflection there's something to be said for developing brevity as a skill.

Photo by Erik Eastman on Unsplash

Reflective writing can be a difficult skill to cultivate. Especially if you are used to writing in an academic or business setting, both of which tend to require descriptive and impersonal language and content. While my reflective writing skills have certainly improved over the years, I'm not going to lie and say it's something that I'm perfect at. So it's useful to think about ways that I can continue to grow this skill. Some people work well when given a framework to use for guidance and comparison, for example. So I've been exploring ways in which I can rough out a framework for reflective writing.

Brown’s eight questions are traditionally used to help authors draft an abstract for publication, with a total of 300 words that can be written in about half an hour. I've used this tool before to help others write abstracts for publications and dissertations, so I know how useful it can be. The questions are designed to prompt a very specific type of writing - concise, descriptive, and focused. They are;

1. Who are the intended readers? List three by name.
2. What did you do? (50 words)
3. Why did you do it? (50 words)
4. What happened? (50 words)
5. What do the results mean in theory? (50 words)
6. What do the results mean in practice? (50 words)
7. What is the key benefit for readers? (25 words)
8. What remains unsolved? (no limit)
From Brown (1994) Write right first time, Literati Newsline, Special Issue, 1-8.

I began to wonder if it was possible to re-frame the questions in such a way that they could prompt a different type of writing - concise, reflective, and focused. You can find my reworked questions here.

Like my reflective writing skills, it's not perfect by any means. It's not a tool that's right for everyone. But it's a start, and I wanted to share that with others. Have a look and let me know if you use it, and how it can be improved.

Friday 17 August 2018

Getting Organised

Last trimester I was so busy that I let my usual system of organisation slip, and promptly forgot about it. A couple of months ago I noticed that I was getting stressed about my workload. I'd frantically look at my inbox and think to myself "what is it I'm supposed to be doing right now?" So I deliberately took a couple of hours over the course of a week to spend time reflecting on the way I work, my goals, and what I can reasonably achieve in a working week. I also had the opportunity to attend a workshop on priority management and found it incredibly useful for looking at how I plan out my work.

Photo by Charles Deluvio from Unsplash


I don't use any one system, but instead take the bits and pieces that work for me and kind of mash them together. It's not perfect but it helps. You can see a sample template of how I organise things here. I use check-boxes because marking things done is very satisfying.

The weekly plan is pretty straightforward. It contains some recurring tasks, and things get added or removed as the week progresses. What doesn't get done makes its way onto the plan for next week.

The long term plan is a list of absolutely everything I need to get done. All the projects and areas of responsibility that have my name next to them. I aim to have each task/subtask roughly the same size in terms of effort or time. This often means breaking down a task into more manageable bits and pieces. I don't aim to get everything on this list finished right away. It's just helpful to have it listed together.

At the end of every week I take half an hour to review everything. This means clearing everything out of my inbox that shouldn't be there, checking my calendar for the next week, and blocking out time for tasks from my long term plan even if they don't involve a meeting or appointment. I also take this time to reflect back on the week and note down the things I'm proud of, things I could improve on, and ideas I've had. It's been quite helpful to note down the different ideas that have popped into my head as I go along.

You'll notice this is a mishmash of systems like Bullet Journal, Kanban, and Getting Stuff Done. But I also use aspects of the Time Management Matrix (or Eisenhower Matrix) to help me decide what's important and what isn't.


You've probably heard that it take 28 days to form a habit. But researchers at UCL have found otherwise. It can take us anywhere between 18 to 254 days (with the average being 66 days) to form a new habit. The most important factor is how easy it is to fit into your regular routine. So starting with small changes in habits is more likely to succeed (drinking more water, or taking regular breaks to rest your eyes and stretch your legs for example) than larger more complicated changes (replying to every email straight away, or doing sit-ups every morning for example).

Speaking of habits, I've noticed that I'm at my most productive mid-morning, and least productive either side of lunch. So when I have a task that requires a lot of concentration, creativity, or analytical ability I try to schedule it for mid-morning. This usually includes things like lesson planning, writing reports, and library queries. Likewise, if I have a task that is repetitive, or that doesn't require much thought I'll try and schedule it around lunchtime. Examples include reading list data entry, examining use statistics for eresources, weeding old stock, or sourcing a price for a new book. 

I've also given myself permission to procrastinate during my usually unproductive time. It sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out! John Perry uses the term 'structured procrastination' to describe this approach, writing that "the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important. Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact." So when procrastination strikes, I find something productive, yet more enjoyable from my long term planning list to do. This might include catching up on my RSS feeds and Listserv emails, testing a new app or online service, coming up with new ways to teach a particular topic, drafting a blog post, or even searching for literature on a topic I'm curious about (enthographic research on how patrons use library space, twitter mentions as a predictive measure of citations, Lego and digital literacy etc.).

Another habit I've adopted is re-examining recurrent tasks. If there is a task that I find myself doing over and over again, I'll try to find ways to automate it instead. I used to spend a lot of time emailing back and forth with students about setting up appointments, for example. Lots of "I'm available on..." and "are you free at..." which was not only wasteful but frustrating. So now I use an appointment scheduling app which students can use to book consultations.

I've also identified some bad habits I want to get rid of. I was in the habit of checking my email constantly. So now I am making the effort to only check my email twice a day, à la Tim Ferris. I'll check my inbox first thing in the morning and then again after lunch. At first I felt terribly guilty, but as time went on I realised my stress was decreasing and my attention to task was increasing.

Does all this work? 

The short answer is that it works for me. I feel less stressed about my workload and about priorities. There's a lot of value to had in taking a long hard look at they way you organise your workload and being honest about what you can realistically achieve. I'm glad I was brave enough to do it!

Tuesday 31 July 2018

Superheroes and Awe

"We need to get our capes on an emerge from the LRC in our alter ego forms to rescue library services everywhere," proclaims one of the facilitators. Because the library is imperilled. It's fallen down the well, and the only people who can save it are the employees on the ground. I'm talking about the Library Superhero Roadshow, of course.

unsplash-logoRaj Eiamworakul

The Library Superhero Roadshow is a professional development workshop that aims to inspire library staff to "shout about their work," at seminars, conferences, and in professional press. The process of being a "loud and proud" librarian (I'm not even going to touch on that one) is likened to being a superhero. Where are you on the "Superhero Scale of Professional Pride?" Are you shy and retiring, like Ant Man, or are you "superlibrarianly" like The Incredible Hulk? At first glance, it seems all in good fun. Except the underlying language and premise of the workshop are a teeny bit concerning.

It's not fun being a superhero. The work of a superhero is alienating, demanding, and requires impressive sacrifices. For example, Peter Parker/Spiderman and Clark Kent/Superman both sacrifice their love lives so that they can save the world. A reliance on superheros also externalises the responsibility for injustices. No longer is it the duty of citizens, public officials, or the state to solve our problems. Instead, superheroes will come to our rescue, literally carrying the world on their shoulders for us. It's not the fault of organisations or governments for systematically eroding worker's rights, dismantling cultural funding, or discontinuing social services. It's the librarians' faults - they're not shouting loud enough!

unsplash-logoSerge Kutuzov

In a recent issue of Information Professional one of the facilitators writes that "It occurred to me that there was a superhero analogy between the self-depreciating persona we routinely adopt on the library helpdesk and the self-publicising role we should be aspiring to." Asking information professionals to engage in unpaid, voluntary, scholarly activity risks the overburdening and burnout seen in academia. It also misses a salient point - libraries are already overrun by volunteerism, and burnout. Linda Christian (2015) describes how under the guise of professional responsibilities, employers already routinely extract additional labour from librarians. Not engaging in scholarship doesn't make us self-depreciating.

Fobazi Ettarh (2018) describes vocational awe as the manifestation of an assumption about the inherent goodness of libraries. Libraries are sacred spaces, where employees are saints fulfilling their calling in a labour of love. We see this in Richard O'Connor's (2018) recent animation The Temple of Knowledge and when Maya Angelou (2012) called the library a "rainbow in the clouds," placed there by god. Ursula K. Le Guin (2004) even describes the library as a "sacred place to a community," in her homage to the written word, The Wave in the Mind. An entire book by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell (2006) has been dedicated to capturing the "deeper meaning and higher purpose" of librarianship. We would question this if it took place is other professional settings. Not so librarianship. Ettarh notes that in the professional literature the discussion about job satisfaction in libraries is about passion, or a lack of it, rather than fulfilment, safety, or support. For this reason, we must struggle and sacrifice to become 'superlibrarians' because being a 'normal' information professional isn't good enough.
In the face of grand missions of literacy and freedom, advocating for your full lunch break feels petty. And tasked with the responsibility of sustaining democracy and intellectual freedom, taking a mental health day feels shameful. Awe is easily weaponized against the worker, allowing anyone to deploy a vocational purity test in which the worker can be accused of not being devout or passionate enough to serve without complaint. (Errarh, 2018)
Self-depreciating indeed.

Thursday 19 July 2018

Ethical issues in dis/misinformation

Previously I have discussed the definition and nature of dis/misinformation, social mediation of dis/misinformation, how dis/misinformation is influenced by culture, and the legal issues information professionals might expect to encounter that are related to dis/misinformation. I began this reflection because I was asked to look at how information professionals can help society by identifying and avoiding dis/misinformation. But I believe that some discussion is merited over the question of whether it is appropriate for information professionals to actively promote avoidance of information at all, even if it is dis/misinformation. 

The assumption that it is appropriate for us to may be at odds with the activities and ethics of modern information practice. Librarianship has a strong tradition of campaigning for intellectual freedom and against censorship of all kinds. For example the American Library Association Library Bill of Rights states that “Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation,” and that “Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view,” (ALA, 1996). The avoidance of dis/misinformation in collections and services is also problematic from a practical point of view. For example, the Conspectus Collection Depth Indicator for a comprehensive collection “strives to be exhaustive, as far as is reasonably possible,” (Biblarz, Tarin, Vickery, & Bakker, 2001). Such depth of coverage would include resources that could easily be described as disinformation and misinformation.

I also contest the assumption that the avoidance of dis/misinformation is helpful to society. Some research has shown that avoidance of alternative points of view is unhealthy and leads to the propagation of ‘echo chambers’ and ‘filter bubbles’ neither of which could be described as helpful to society, though I hasten to add that there are disagreements about this (Bozdag & van den Hoven, 2015; Dubois & Blank, 2018). Disinformation can also be beneficial to society; propaganda is a species of disinformation, and yet some types of propaganda can also be helpful, such as public health messages, safety advisories, and social equality campaigns for example (Buşu, Teodorescu, & Gîfu, 2014). 

Photo by Sylvia Yang on Unsplash

I don’t think it’s our job to instruct people to avoid certain types of information.  Dis/misinformation isn’t a technological problem. It’s not an aspect of an algorithm that can be adjusted for. The effects we’re experiencing; microtageting, fake news, alternative facts, and the weaponized narrative are so pervasive because we’re used to ‘lazy thinking’ (Pennycook & Rand, in press). Critical analysis of any kind is challenging. But it’s our job to inculcate curiosity coupled with scepticism in the communities we serve. Dis/misinformation is a hard reality of life, and in a world of large-scale simultaneous communication it is one that we should get comfortable with challenging. 

American Library Association [ALA]. (1996). Library bill of rights. Chicago, IL: American Library Association. Retrieved from

Biblarz, D., Tarin, M.-J., Vickery, J., & Bakker, T. (2001). Guidelines for a collection development policy using the conspectus model. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions Section on Acquisition and Collection Development. Retrieved from

Bozdag, E., & van den Hoven, J. (2015). Breaking the filter bubble: democracy and design. Ethics and Information Technology, 17(4), 249–265.

Buşu, O.-V., Teodorescu, M., & Gîfu, D. (2014). Communicational positive propaganda in democracy. International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, 38, 82–93.

Dubois, E., & Blank, G. (2018). The echo chamber is overstated: the moderating effect of political interest and diverse media. Information Communication and Society, 4462, 1–17.

Pennycook, G., & Rand, D. G. (in press). Lazy, not biased: Susceptibility to partisan fake news is better explained by lack of reasoning than by motivated reasoning. Cognition, 1–12. 

Friday 6 July 2018

Legal issues in dis/misinformation

I’ve discussed in previous posts the nature of dis/misinformation, as well as some of the social and cultural issues involved. However there exist several legal issues with the existence of both disinformation and misinformation in the wider information society and in the knowledge economy that are worth considering. For example, the types of disinformation that I have discussed before, such as ‘weaponized narratives’ and ‘psychological operations,’ can be used to incite terror in populations, undermine governments, and foment dissent, all of which are potentially criminal.  

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

In 2003 the US government used potentially dis/misinformed reports of the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq and the destabilisation of the Iraqi government. When analysing the way this evidence was treated, Jervis (2016) wrote that decision makers used no comparative methods, failed to test alternative hypotheses, displayed rampant confirmation bias, and ignored contrary evidence. Taken together, this points to concerning lack critical information skills in those running our governments. Yet politicians weren't the only ones affected. In 2003 international researchers investigated how members of the public processed information about the war:

“We draw three pragmatic conclusions: First, the repetition of tentative news stories, even if they are subsequently disconfirmed, can assist in the creation of false memories in a substantial proportion of people. Second, once information is published, its subsequent correction does not alter people’s beliefs unless they are suspicious about the motives underlying the events the news stories are about. Third, when people ignore corrections, they do so irrespective of how certain they are that the corrections occurred.” (Lewandowsky, Stritzke, Oberauer & Morales, 2003, p. 194). 

While official estimates vary, the resulting war led to in excess of a hundred thousand deaths, civilian and military alike. Dis/misinformation can have a horrific cost. 

A more recent example of this includes evidence given at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Inquiry into fake news, which revealed that data from social media combined with military methodology had been used to manipulate the voting intentions of hundreds of thousands of British citizens (Dehaye et al., 2018). Shortly after the revelations debate erupted as to whether the results of the 2016 referendum were potentially invalidated (Hansard, 27 March 2018, col. 689). Most responses to the news that fake news and microtargeting were being used to influence democratic process called for technical solutions. Facebook for example has implemented a ‘disputed’ message for questionable content appearing in for German and US users. But this fails to address the point; it is not that some information is potentially dis/information, but that all information is potentially dis/misinformation. In response to the inquiry, colleagues writing on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) advocated for a greater emphasis on critical thinking coupled with information literacy, particularly in secondary school (Goldstein et al., 2017). It’s a tame response, but they make a good point. In order for societies to function democratically, citizens need to be able to critically question all the information they are given, and schools are good place to start building that capability. 

More practically for information professionals, some have suggested that dis/misinformation in the information economy risks accusations of negligence and information malpractice (Ferguson & Weckert, 1998; Healey, 2008). The Special Libraries Association was concerned enough to issue and information kit on malpractice in librarianship in 1992. However commentary from Diamond and Dragich (2001) suggests this is highly unlikely to occur. But the discussions raise an interesting thought, who is ultimately responsible for actions arising from dis/misinformation? For example;
  • If an academic librarian unknowingly gives a student incorrect information to use in an assessment, and that student fails, is the librarian responsible? 
  • If a legal librarian unknowingly gives judicial officials disputed information, is the librarian responsible for any resulting miscarriage of justice? 
  • If a health librarian unknowingly gives a surgeon recalled practice guidelines, and a patient is harmed or dies as a result, is the librarian party to that harm?

These may be examples, but they show that the work of modern information professionals is important. And because of that importance, we must do our work well. From here we enter the realm of ethical issues in information practice. Stay tuned...

Dehaye, P.-O., Wylie, C., Collins, D., Elliott, J., Farrelly, P., Lucas, I. C., … Watling, G. (2018). Oral evidence: Fake news, HC 363. London: HM Government. Retrieved from, R., & Dragich, M. (2001). Professionalism in librarianship: Shifting the focus from malpractice to good practice. Library Trends, 49(3), 395–414.Ferguson, S., & Weckert, J. (1998). The librarian’s duty of care: Emerging professionalism of can of worms? The Library Quarterly, 68(4), 365–389.Goldstein, S., Secker, J., Coonan, E., & Walton, G. (2017). Written evidence submitted by InformAll and the CILIP Information Literacy Group (FNW0079). London: Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. Retrieved from, P. D. (2008). Professional liability issues for librarians and information professionals. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.Jervis, R. (2006). Reports, politics, and intelligence failures: The case of Iraq. Journal of Strategic Studies, 29., S., Stritzke, W. G. K., Oberauer, K., & Morales, M. (2005). Memory for fact, fiction, and misinformation: The Iraq War 2003. Psychological Science, 16(3), 190–195.