Back between undergraduate and graduate, I was a shelver at a public library. I interviewed for couple of these positions before I got one. It turns out having a lip ring and mohawk affects your ability to get a job, who knew? The question of ethics was always on the interview set of questions for these positions. I remember thinking to myself, my third or fourth attempt to answer the question, how utterly helpless the question made me feel as a future librarian. On one hand, I understood that as a shelver I shelve the books no matter what. But am I not also a human being? Am I not a mere question answerer, but also a guide to users through information on a larger level?
There is this conundrum at the center of the librarianship right now between librarian as social worker and librarian as repository of information. As a repository of information, I am obligated to help people pursue information. But as a participant in an active community of learners, I am also obligated to make the world a better place in whatever way I can possible. I feel like the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association definitely sees the librarian as a repository of information. In some ways I found it to be a very dated. Librarians (or at least the sort of librarian I want to be) don’t go around giving out answers. In fact, I feel like we are getting worse and worse at doing that. I think we are wayfinders, advocates, teachers and listeners. The idea that a librarian could be the only path to information is just silly. I think the Lenker article is attempting to consider the social work aspect of what librarians do.
I’m not means saying that we should be censors. I just think that our attempts to cast ourselves as neutral impersonal information vessels just deflates much of what librarians do. My job is help people find what they need, not just fact and figures.