On the value of values

Part of my writing plan for this year is to post to this blog at least every two weeks, which doesn't take into account whether I actually have something interesting to say or not. But such is the pleasure of forcing yourself to write! Anyway, today I thought I'd write a little about strategic planning, since both my library and our broader university are in the midst of those processes. I'm on our library's strategic planning team, and it is the first time I've been involved in that at any workplace. I tend to be a little allergic to mission/vision/values kinds of writing, because it can get so floaty and bloaty. So, it has been interesting to be in the room, to actually be a part of doing that work. It can be remarkably hard to succinctly describe what you believe in and why.

I have also been considering the role of professional values statements, like ALA's Core Values of Librarianship. I find myself pointing to those pretty often these days -- both as a reference point in Strategic Planning meetings, but also in other meetings outside of the library to justify my position or my reason for participating in a project.

Yesterday, there was a campus-wide email responding to an article in the student newspaper about a student body representative who is an outspoken white nationalist. I hadn't read the article yet, so of course I tracked it down, but I actually found myself more drawn to the editorial response that they published later. In it, they refer heavily to the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists. They outline how their reporting follows the four major principles: seek truth and report it; minimize harm; act independently; and be accountable and transparent. However, they note, "Our role as journalists can only extend so far, however. We have provided you with this information in what we believe to be the best, most ethical way possible. The power to do something with this knowledge rests in your hands."

While I had the flu, I watched, among other things, the film Spotlight and the Korean drama Argon, both of which focus on investigative journalism. In both, these four principles were tested, as journalists face public challenges, financial threats from company backers, and social pressure to back down on a story. (Argon is completely fictional and pretty over the top, tho not so much as my other favorite news-related K-drama, Pinocchio.) Of course, these principles are also deeply, almost inherently compromised according to Noam Chomsky, but I can't help but want to take whatever scraps I can get. As I've been doing my Oregon Humanities conversation around the state, it has been fascinating how often these ethical tensions come up, and how keen folks are to know how and to whom journalists are accountable. I think of that with the ALA core values as well -- how and to whom am I professionally accountable? and my organization? Strategic planning isn't designed to answer those questions, but it is part of what I'm thinking about.

(Shoutout to the excellent issue of Library Trends from last year dedicated to the core values, and edited by Selinda Berg and Heidi Jacobs.)