Friday, February 6, 2009

James Taranto Mocks ALA Ethics And Rightly So; ALA Leadership "Blatantly Violates Ethics"

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal mocks the American Library Association's [ALA] apparent lack of adherence to its own Code of Ethics of the ALA. Despite claims of patron confidentiality, a library must have leaked information about USAir hero pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. Mr. Taranto calls this a "blatant violation of the ALA's ethics."

He then cleverly illustrates the ALA's ridiculous use of "slippery slope" arguments that are used to, for example, justify why librarians should allow children access to sexually inappropriate material or why libraries should allow computers to display p0rn despite local interests:

Now, we know what you're thinking: Surely in this case an exception is in order. Revealing the story didn't do Sullenberger any harm, and it was an inspiration to us all. But this is a slippery slope. Today it's Sullenberger, tomorrow no one's privacy will be safe. Maybe the next victim will be some innocent terrorist checking out books on how to make bombs, or a poor pervert who just wants to look at porn. Once you start cutting ethical corners, you're on the way to total moral breakdown. ("This Looks Like a Job for Patrick Fitzgerald," by James Taranto, Wall Street Journal—Best of the Web, 5 February 2009.)

Bravo, Mr. Taranto!

But, Mr. Taranto, the ALA has already decried the violation of a 9/11 terrorist's privacy when de facto ALA leader Judith Krug said she wished library privacy laws had been respected after a Florida librarian reported the terrorist to the police. See "A Nation Challenged: Questions of Confidentiality; Competing Principles Leave Some Professionals Debating Responsibility to Government," by David E. Rosenbaum, The New York Times, 23 November 2001.

And do not forget the library employee fired and the library patron kicked out for reporting child p0rnography on library computers.

How's that for "blatant violation of the ALA's ethics"—or maybe the ALA's leadership had no ethics in the first place.


1 comment:

  1. The Annoyed Librarian has also written about James Taranto's comments and the ALA's ethics violations, and she even cleverly remarks about me and this very blog post. She is the most read library blog, sometimes getting hundreds of comments, and I highly recommend her for her wit and honesty.

    See "Privacy, Shmivacy," by Annoyed Librarian, Library Journal, 9 February 2009, where she apparently agrees with me about the slippery slope argument and about the ALA's support for terrorists and about the ALA's lack of ethics, and even more, by saying:

    "The ALA, especially the ALA OIF, doesn't have logic, they just have ideology. Little thought goes into this, as must be obvious. Some ALA folks have a knee-jerk reaction to parents trying to protect their children from smut. I don't know why. Maybe they just like smut over there at the ALA. I don't blame them. I like a little smut now and again, especially if it's printed in a nice font on a thick creamy bond between discreet covers; it's just that I think smut has its place, and that place is not the public library. They see a rube reacting to Polly Wants a Cracker and to be Taken Roughly From Behind on public library shelves, and they go bananas. They see the attorney general of a presidential administration they don't like defending the confiscation of suspected terrorists' library records, and they go bananas. But until they know that Sullenberger is a registered Republican or something like that, of course they're not going to say anything about a violation of his privacy, just like they haven't denounced that Obama nominee because he would enforce the Patriot Act and seize library records in terrorist investigations. Privacy doesn't have anything to do with it.

    "Here's where I have to disagree with Safe Library Guy, who commented upon this story and sent it on to me. He dislikes the inconsistency of the ALA, especially the OIF, and opines that "maybe the ALA's leadership had no ethics in the first place." This is much too harsh, Safe Library Guy! Of course the ALA has ethics, they just aren't the ethics they claim to have. For example, they claim to uphold intellectual freedom and patron privacy. Personally, I think these are worthy ideals. They're just not the ideals the ALA OIF actually upholds. For example, there's nothing remotely intellectual about Internet porn, but they defend its presence in public libraries. Thus, they like porn in public libraries. Point established. It may not be a morally palatable position to some of us, but their consistency in applying it does show some sort of ethical gesture, no matter how crude."

    I am happy to have library land's most prolific and entertaining blogger largely agreeing with my views of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom and its hypocrisy.

    By the way, smut is the ALA's anthem.


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