Workshops and Ethics and Ads (oh my!)

There were no readings this week because my group is busy preparing for our one-shot workshop. As with the Socratic seminar, I do not want to give away too much information before we hold the workshop, but I can give a brief outline. We are discussing the recent Pew study Library Services in the Digital Age and how the results of this study will impact our professional practices as librarians. One thing that I have taken away from this survey is that people expect a lot out of their public libraries. They take advantage of the services that libraries offer, expecting both cutting-edge digital services and the traditional model of the library as a quiet refuge. With my two groupmates, we will lead a discussion of how we can reconcile these public demands (and if I know librarians, we will definitely try our hardest to reconcile seemingly competing demands!).

I see this one-shot workshop taking the form of an academic conversation on some level. One trend that I have noticed in library instruction as seen through the lens of SI 643 is that librarians seem to take a much less formal approach than full professors. I know that I am more comfortable with this approach. I think that part of the ethos of librarianship is that we are the pathfinders, we start people out on their journey but do not claim to have all the answers. The one-shot workshop as we design it assumes that the participants’ answers may be just as good as ours, and we do not want to presuppose a “right” answer in our presentation because that risks limiting the conversation. This may, however, be a weakness. One of the comments on our group’s Socratic seminar presentation was that we should not be afraid to insert our own opinions into group discussions. What do you think? Is this just me, or is this reluctance to insert one’s own opinion a characteristic of librarians?

In class last week, we also discussed issues of ethics, particularly whether it is ethical for the Toronto Public Library to allow advertisements on due date slips that are printed when patrons check out materials. My knee-jerk reaction was “No!” because I personally am tired of being bombarded with advertisements everywhere I go. Thinking about the recent Pew study, wherein many participants want the library to be a place of refuge, the presence of advertisements also seems invasive. My discussion group tried to think of this issue from a purely fiscal point of view, but even there it does not look as though having the advertisements is worth it. The library would not save enough money for it to make a major difference, and the companies that advertise would probably get the most out of advertising. You can read the article here. It states that the library would save $20,000, but in the context of the budget of a large public library, that is not very much. Most of the commenters on that article appear to agree.


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