Available Until 4/28/2028

Doing What is Right - Ethics and Health Science Librarians


For more information or to schedule this course, please contact Priscilla Stephenson <priscilla.stephenson@va.gov>.

Librarians are familiar with the need to protect our patrons’ rights to privacy, confidentiality, and intellectual freedom. Health science librarians deal with additional issues in providing information used to make personal health care decisions. Ethical dilemmas occur when values are in conflict. Participants in this face-to-face course will recognize the distinction between an ethical dilemma and an ordinary ethical situation and will be able to apply a decision-making model to a dilemma. A series of discussions and exercises will allow participants to work both individually and in groups to examine ethical issues and use models to aid in ethical decision making. Participants from consumer health, clinical, and research-focused health science libraries will become familiar with various codes, particularly MLA’s “Code of Ethics for Health Sciences Librarianship,” and will examine ways to apply them. This workshop will use lecture, case studies, role playing, and video clips to introduce health science librarians to ethical concepts and issues.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this course, the participant will be able to:

  • Demonstrate awareness of the MLA Code of Ethics for Health Sciences Librarianship and at least one other applicable code;
  • Apply a written code to an ethical situation in which there is no dilemma;
  • Identify an ethical dilemma or conflict of values;
  • Examine an ethical dilemma with a decision-making tool;
  • Effectively communicate an ethical decision to another professional.


8:00 am Welcome and Introductions (Stephenson & Taylor); Pre-Workshop Assessment 

8:15 am Overview - lecture (Stephenson)
8:30 am Professional Codes of Ethics (Taylor) – review MLA’s CoE – small groups compare MLA
CoE to another professional group's CoE
9:00 am Video clips and discussion of goals and principles for ethical conduct: (Stephenson) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5r3fGdU8rN4 ALA Code of Ethics for Student Workers, Jim Holmes, 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq3Q6C1Patw Ethics and the Library, Jill Markgraf, McIntyre Library, UW-Eau Claire, WI, 2012
9:45 am Break
10:00 am Ethical Dilemmas; Ethical Dilemma Flow Charts (Stephenson)- lecture
10:15 am Hypothetical Situations (Taylor) - paired teams test flow charts to examine ethical dilemmas; group discussion to follow
10:45 am Decision Making Models and Ethics (Stephenson)- lecture
11:15 am Communicating Ethical Positions with Clients & Patrons (Taylor) - group discussion, role playing

11:45 am MLA Course Evaluation and Post-Workshop Assessment
12:00 pm Conclusion

Facility Requirements

 Seating must be flexible, as we will be moving into small groups of 2-3 people for discussion. There need to be tables, so that participants can turn to face each other during those discussions, while still having room for their workbooks in front of them on the tables. We will need a computer to project PPT slides onto a large screen, and Internet access for the YouTube videos. Depending on the size of the class, there may need to be a table-top lectern and table at the front of the room for the brief lectures.

MLA CE Credits: 4