Resources for the Study and Practice of Ethics




Ethics for librarians and other public sector agency professionals, including appointed and elected officials, are among the popular webinars and face-to-face programs we offer. We warn our clients that ethics teaches the importance of asking questions but does not supply easy answers.

These websites host information about codes of conduct and guidelines for librarians, government officials, and politicians, as well as community and political activists, degreed professionals, reporters and researchers, and interested employees and citizens.

Library Ethics: 

  • Everyday Ethics for Libraries video series by Pat Wagner
  • Resources on intellectual freedom from the American Library Association
  • American Association of Law Libraries Ethical Principles
  • Banned Book recommendations from the Highline Community College Library
  • Valdosta State University resources for library ethics
  • International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ Professional Code of Ethics for Librarians (of particular interest here is the information regarding indigenous peoples, including a link to the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials)
  • Medical Library Association Code of Ethics for Health Sciences Librarianship
  • School of Library & Information Science links to professional associations 
  • ALA’s Association of College and Research Libraries’ Code of Ethics for Special Collections Librarians
  • SLA Professional Ethics Guidelines

General Ethics:

Photo Credit:


Hard Choices: Thriving During Change and Catastrophe

thumSP114oct12A Conversation on ‘Hard Choices: Thriving During Change and Catastrophe’, with Pat Wagner

‘Hard Choices: Thriving During Change and Catastrophe’ provides a formula for staying above water as the oceans swell.

What stops us from making the hard choices?
We don’t want to give anything up. It feels like a loss, like a failure. We can be like hoarders: We identify our stuff with ourselves. Whether it’s an underperforming division of a company, or retail goods that aren’t selling, letting go of what isn’t working feels like we are losing a piece of ourselves.

Sometimes we have to kill our babies. My husband started the Office for Open Network in the 1970s. When I joined him, I began working on the monthly newsletter. It was beautiful, well produced, and took two weeks of my time every month to create. I poured my heart into it. One day my husband asked “If you stopped creating the newsletter today, would anyone notice?” I was devastated. I resisted, but several months later, after he had patiently asked again, I relented and gave the newsletter up. Out of our 800 subscribers, three noticed. So I gave it up. Now I had two extra weeks a month to reach out to clients, set up visits and appointments, and our income doubled.

Why don’t people plan for hard times? Is there a superstitious element?
Yes. But talking about worst case scenarios won’t make them happen. I was raised by Eastern European immigrants; if they weren’t facing the Russian winter or the Czar’s armies, it was advancing Nazis. There is always the possibility that something horrible lies over the next hill. Planning for failure is not the same as planning to fail. I’ve planned so that I know that if my business fails, we will still be OK. In the worst case we sell what we own, buy a small condo in a town with a low cost of living, and I can work retail while Leif programs computers.

Often, when hard times hit, people panic. They slash and burn staff and programs, and think they are being ‘business-like.’ Learn to be ready for crises with ‘Hard Choices: Thriving During Change and Catastrophe.’

Tip: Write down everything you count on: You count on your partner, your job, you count on a good economy, etc. Now, write down what you would do if you could no longer count on those things or people. You have to have a firm idea of what you rely on to be prepared to cope when those things go away.


An interesting WikiHow article on planning for success

For students, York College offers a Personal Strategic Plan

Some tips on disaster planning from the NFIB

Do You Have What it Takes to Be Self-Employed?

Photo Credit: Dover Publications, Inc. 2008.‘Do You Have What It Takes to Be Self-Employed?’ provides an antidote to the prevailing attitude of ‘be your own boss, set your own hours, work in your pajamas and sit back as clients rush to your doorstep.’

How long have you been self-employed?
Since 1976. I’ve had two ‘regular’ jobs. One lasted eight months, the other a year and a half. Leif has not had a straight job since 1963. His ‘real’ employment lasted four months.

What are some of the major misconceptions about self-employment?
That you are your own boss. I have customers. I have vendors. I have competitors. I have the world, the economy, the IRS, and the State of Colorado. I have a whole bunch of people telling me what to do, and who I have to deal with all the time. I am my own boss in that I choose how to respond. Don’t imagine that being self-employed means you do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it.

Say I’m self-employed. Do I have to do everything on my own?
Oh, god no. But we all do it at first, especially starting out – it kind of goes with the hands-on mentality of being self-employed. At first, I did everything, from our taxes, to our marketing, to graphic design. But what I’ve discovered is that if you don’t delegate, or hire tasks out to other skilled professionals, it is difficult to grow your business beyond your fingertips. We have limited time, and it is more productive to focus on those things you do well (what your customers are paying you for). Particularly important is your ‘professional network,’ including your lawyer, accountant, and insurance agent.

What fields are best suited to self-employment?
A simple fact of business is that you need to sell something for more than it cost to produce, and at a profit that makes it worth your time. There has to be a significant margin – you won’t be able to support yourself making and selling something that can be found for less at Target. It’s less about which specific field is good for self-employment and more about the margins; as a one-person operation, even with a strong network, you have less access to economies of scale.

Enthusiasm, persistence, and talent are not enough. Learn to avoid common mistakes with ‘Do You Have What it Takes to be Self-Employed?’

Tip: Engage with your local chamber of commerce. If you are starting out with limited resources, they can provide a wealth of information as well as access to other professionals.


Great all-ages information from the AARP on self-employment

An array of resources at 

And be sure to avoid work-at-home scams

Writing Skills for Workplace Success

Photo Credit: conversation with Pat Wagner on ‘Writing Skills for Workplace Success,’ a hands-on program in which participants learn effective writing skills and put them into practice.

Can adults learn to write?
Yes. It can be developed through practice like any other skill. The problem is that adults with little writing experience come in with psychological barriers. Some have been called stupid by a parent or teacher, or their writing has been criticized in such a way as to scare them away from the whole process. Also, many people have an inflated view of what it means to be a writer. They assume that in order to write at all you have to be the best. It’s just not true. I made part of my living for 25 years as a professional writer. I wasn’t the best, but I was reliable, accurate, worked well with my editor, and I understood my audiences.

Can you be influential in your workplace without good writing?
It’s much harder. For better or worse, the people above you on the food chain are always looking at you, always judging, watching for talent and skills. The management in any company wants their employees to be able to express themselves well, and writing is a big part of that. In large, formal organizations employees are expected to communicate through memos, essays, reports, etc., and in these instances both good and poor writing stand out.

How can writing well advance your career?
I have competed with people for various gigs who were more qualified and experienced than me; I got the work because I was a better writer. Good writing will benefit people even if they aren’t on a career track. For example, a fry cook at a fast food restaurant might have a great idea. His supervisor says “I love it, write up a memo, and we’ll send it up the chain.” Being able to write well is key in such situations.

Gain confidence in your writing with Writing Skills for Workplace Success.

Quick tip: Practice, practice, practice.


Writers of all skill levels can benefit from the wealth of information at Purdue’s Online Writing Lab

Great grammar tips by Grammar Girl

The always useful Chicago Manual of Style

Introduction to Lean Government Reading List

Our friend and training partner Steve Elliott of Constant Improvement Consulting, Inc. has annotated this reading list for both new and experienced Lean enthusiasts. You can find information about his introductory webinar series at

The Change Agent’s Guide to Radical Improvement, by Ken Miller. Copyright 2002 by American Society for Quality. This is a handbook chock full of exercises, templates forms, and step-by-step instructions for how to work your way through implementing Lean in your organization. I was a member of a book club that read this book and met every week to go over one chapter. It brought up some good discussions!

We Don’t Make Widgets, Overcoming the Myths that Keep Government from Radically Improving, by Ken Miller. Copyright 2006, Governing Books. If you are in government, you need to read this book. It’s small: 118 pages; you can read it in a day.

Extreme Government Makeover, Increasing our Capacity to Do More Good, by Ken Miller. Copyright 2011 by Governing Books. I’m a Ken Miller fan; have you noticed? Another good book for government employees.

Good to Great, by Jim Collins. Copyright 2001 by Jim Collins Published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. The first line of this book is: “Good is the enemy of Great.” Think about it. Complacency is an insidious, seductive siren. Good enough is good enough. If you believe that, you’ll never be great. This book identifies great companies and the common threads that make them great. Read this book.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean, Lessons from the Road, by Jamie Flinchbaugh and Andy Carlino. Copyright 2006 Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Again, aimed at manufacturing. But it contains some of the best real-life examples of how to overcome problems usually passed over in books trying to champion a new methodology. Things like: Where do you start, how do you overcome resistance, and managing expectations.

Lean for Dummies, by Natalie J. Sayer & Bruce Williams, Copyright 2007 by Wylie Publishing, Inc. Need I say more? Like all the Dummy books it gets right to the meat and lays it all out.

Lean Six Sigma for Service, by Michael L. George. Copyright 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies. At last, a book about Lean that isn’t aimed at manufacturing.

Lean Thinking, by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones. Copyright 2003, Free Press. This is one of the very first books about Lean I read and one of the few available when I got interested in Lean. A good overview of Lean Thinking – but definitely aimed at manufacturing.

Office Kaizen, by William Lareau, Copyright 2003 American Society for Quality. This is the book that translates manufacturing into service and describes how to identify Lean concepts in an office environment. For example, waste in the office is waiting for a return phone call or a signature, or being given an assignment to create a report that isn’t needed.

Kaizen Event Planner, by Karen Martin and Mike Osterling. Copyright 2007 by Karen Martin and Mike Osterling. 2010 reprint by CRC Press. Charts, graphs, checklists worksheets, and a CD in the back. If you’re going to facilitate a Kaizen event, this will help to make sure you are really prepared.

The Big Book of Six Sigma Training Games, by Chris Chen and Hadley Roth. Copyright 2005 McGraw-Hill. Let’s face it, if you’re going to do any training, you’re going to have to have exercises for your class. Somewhere in here is an exercise that you can use. It will, at least, get your brain cells working on the kinds of things you can do.

Innovator’s Toolkit, Second Edition by David Silverstein, Philip Samuel and Neil DeCarlo. Copyright 2012 by BMGI. Wiley & Sons. Buy this book. Study this book. Memorize this book. Reference it weekly. People will think you’re a great consultant. You don’t have to tell them how you got that way.

Visual Thinking, by Nancy Margulies and Christine Valenza, Copyright 2005 by Nancy Margulies and Christine Valenza. Crown House Publishing. OK, this isn’t strictly a Lean book, but if you ever have to stand up in front of a white board with a marker in your hand this will make you look better. With a bit of practice, you can wow people with your fantastic cartoon capabilities. And, you’ll be able to get simple concepts across to everyone.

Hoshin Handbook, by Pete Babich. Copyright 2005 by Pete Babich. Total Quality Engineering. At some point you will realize that Lean is just one part of the puzzle. If you are going to have an organization with purpose and direction, there has to be a way to get the entire organization aligned and to coordinate everyone’s efforts. This is how it’s done.

Seats Available for Live FL Everyday Library Ethics Class March 14, 2013

I understand some seats are still available. If you live near Tallahassee, will be at FAMU library.

Ethics is one of my favorite topics to share with live or online audiences. It is about asking questions, understanding different points of view, becoming well-versed in a variety of topics, and always remembering that you might be wrong, and they might be right. My experience has been that people who think in terms of black-and-white often have trouble with sometimes ambiguous and complex ethical challenges.

Although there are many flavors of ethics and ethical theories, I stick to a pretty vanilla party line: I currently (notice I am hedging here) prefer a standard description that ethics is “the study of morality and right and wrong”. Sounds simple to some, but when good people have conflicting ethical principles, and those principles collide in a workplace where decisions have to be made on the clock (and in front of a surly group of taxpayers) – and you might have no laws to fall back on for guidance – simple it ain’t.

Ethical practices – and particularly the paths by which those ethical decisions are made – can earn us trust and respect, even from our opponents. And, an ethical life earns you a good night’s sleep. You can live with your decisions, and the cliché is true: You can look at yourself in the mirror without flinching.

In 2010, the Kansas State Library created a year-long program on ethics in libraries. I was very flattered to be invited to participate. The videos and materials are posted at:

We have several program topics related to practical ethics in workplaces.

What are your favorite resources?