Prior to last week, I had never taken part in a book club. So, finally doing so was a great chance to witness the dynamics of the club. I had assumed that it was similar to that of a small conversational language class (like if you were learning conversational Spanish). That is true in many ways. The teacher acts like a facilitator, trying to nurture an environment that will engage the participants to share their thoughts and feelings about a particular subject. If that engagement is tuned just right, then the participants will forget that they are speaking in a language that is not their native tongue thereby reaching some level of fluency. If the teacher gets too involved, the students are reminded of their level and position, and will shut down. In the case of the book club, the participants will be engaged by the text and others in the group that they will forget they are in an artificially constructed group. They will then reach a level of comfort with the writing and the other participants. However, as mentioned in class two weeks ago, if the facilitator presents themselves as the authority, it will dampen conversation.
I went in as the facilitator being hyper-sensitive not to influence the discussion because I tend to over-share in small groups. However, this sort of worked against me since I gave off the impression of not being engaged with the group and discussion. I am glad that I had the opportunity to take part in this activity, both as a facilitator and participant. Being the participant allowed me to see what worked for the group while noticing how the facilitator can guide the group along. I would have never guessed that doing a book club was a such a tight rope walk.
ALA Ethics and a Virtue Ethics Approach
The ethical questions raised by both readings this week are appealing to me as a future librarian. Some of my personal ideals are wrapped up in the ALA’s Code of Ethics, such as principles of intellectual freedom and user’s privacy rights. I am proud to be entering an occupation that is founded on such principles. But how do these principles guide our occupation in a daily way?
One of the biggest questions that I have had during my time at UMSI has been how does a librarian conducting a reference librarian deal with the “dangerous reference question” as Mark Lenker calls them. I realize that there isn’t a formulaic answer since each situation will have nuanced differences, however I need more guidance than the basic framework of the Code that ALA provides. So, I was excited to read Mark Lenker’s article “Dangerous Questions at the Reference Desk.”
However, at the end of the reading; I was just as confused by my question. I do not think that I understand what virtue ethics are and how they are different from what most people (not limited to librarians and information professionals) facing an ethical dilemma do…namely critical thinking. Due to using subjectively defined terms like quality, virtue and vice, led to further confusion. What one culture thinks of as a vice, another may not. However, maybe he is using these terms, so that one can interpret the situation through their own cultural lens.
Another issue that I have with this, is the sheer amount of time it may take to think through the different virtues in order to approach the situation at hand in an ethical way. It seems that this sort of reflection would take time, and I am not sure there is a sufficient amount of time when a patron approaches you in the library.