ALA Library Code of Ethics Statement VI: We do not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions.
In a school setting, I can’t say that I’ve had much chance to violate this sixth standard. I’ve never been offered a huge sum of cash or an exotic vacation in exchange for purchasing a grossly inferior encyclopedia instead of the World Book. Probably just as well.
Does accepting vendor purchased meals at conferences, adding vacation days to out-of-town conferences, or working on professional organization duties during school time violate this ethical standard? These infractions seem to be small potatoes in a world of political “contributions” and school boards being wined-and-dined in luxurious settings by big technology companies. My own conscience is not troubled doing any of these things in moderation. With one big exception: taking any form of gift from companies who supply E-rateable services or equipment should be absolutely refused regardless of type or value.
Regardless of the amount of discretionary funds at our disposal, we do have an ethical obligation to practice open service and equipment procurement practices, accurate curriculum mapping, review-driven material selection practices, and detailed budgeting. When budgets are tight, the selection of resources for their specific value to students and the educational program becomes even more critical. Convenience, charm of salespersons, or the lure of that free calendar simply should not enter into the choice of one product over another. I am genuinely distressed by seeing long rows of gourmet cookbooks on the shelve of an elementary school library. And those were ordered for whom?
A combination of new and expensive technologies, modest pay in the teaching profession, and a national spirit of entrepreneurship has created an environment in which some educators, including librarians, may be tempted to use school resources for personal gain. Establishing a website for a personal business on the school server, using school email to close a deal, or using computer equipment to do non-school or projects for pay certainly qualify as advancing “private interests at the expense of … our employing institutions.” We need to carefully separate the time, equipment and supplies we use as school employees from those we use for any private business or non-school volunteer activities we may undertake.
Our time is also a resource. Ethically we are bound to use the time we are at work in the service of our school, our staff and our students. We need to conscientiously eliminate what Steven Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People would identify as Quadrant III or Quadrant IV activities toward Quadrant II activities: those that are not urgent, but are important such as long-term planning, relationship building, and communications. We need to differentiate between our professional duties and those technical and clerical duties.
Most of us work in tax-supported institutions and have the obligation not just to be wise and honest in our expenditure of public funds, but avoid the appearance of any wrong-doing as well.