2010 Ethics Forum Notes

Ethics Forum

Thursday, August 12, 2010


In attendance: ca. 50 (besides CEPC)


  1. Introduction to Values Statement and Revision of Code of Ethics:


Recap of code revision. Rand noted that values statement should lay out core principles/essential tenets; these are not static documents, We need to think about them continuously; discussion of Values Statement began with Mark Greene’s Presidential address. SAA needs to go beyond just saying what we do and what we don’t do; we have responsibilities to the other members of society that are impacted by archivists’ decision making. We are involved in wider issues than just our day-to-day activities


SAA Council comments from Tom Hyry: The Values statement has been approved to go out to general membership for comment – it will go out in the next week or two – please read it carefully and give feedback. We are sticking with the idea that this has to be an aspirational code and not enforceable – practically we cannot enforce,


From audience: The values statement has social responsibility concerns; would this now be a job responsibility?


Summary of Code review from Elena: discussion around revision of code of ethics is more important than the final product; environmental scan – we looked at 10 codes of ethics and concluded that we do need an aspirational code because our organization is diverse. The American Historical Association: preservation of historical materials and access to historical materials – threats to open access include political and commercial concerns that would monopolize information. The Association of Art Museum Directors – a director will not deal in works of art, shall not provide authenticity statements or statements of monetary value, shall not receive stolen property ; the Association of Canadian Archivists; Special Collections Librarians; Institute of Certified Records Managers – you shall not reveal any proprietary information; discussing codes of ethics makes people aware; AHA makes public stance statements and SAA could do this and they would be defined in advance.


Membership comments (with note to what section of the Code they pertain to):

  • Values statement as a preamble to Code of Ethics or integration of Value Statements and Code ((Preamble)

  • Both statements say not only something about the profession as a whole but are statements to society as a whole – we keep in mind all audiences – e.g. this is an introduction to people who are new to the profession and that it will be available to the public (Preamble and Purpose)


  • Has CEPC thought about creating a Bill of Rights? (like ALA) – we will look at this to inform our work; should we say that we are linking and considering how our code relates to others like ALA, ACA, etc.

  • In 2005 people thought we should have three codes: Ethics, Personal Behaviors, Institutional Best Practices: are these all included in code? Is the institutional aspect being included as well as the personal aspect? In the 1992 there were parts relating to institutional aspect. Tim: we want to write a code that brings in information from Values Task Force, research, etc.; Elena: making distinction in the use of terms (currently says Archivist(s))(Professional Relationships, Trust, Privacy, and Security and Protection)

  • Wish there was more out there in our profession to go to re: what these codes mean; have a series of case studies or a regular section in our professional literature; have interns read code of ethics; in 2005 there were case studies based on the 1992 code, should we do this again Tim: we have talked about in the CEPC as a resource

  • Core values v. ethics: what is the insight that archivists contribute to the world? Would like to have something like this to share; Rand: probably addressed in History and Memory section of values statement – might want to highlight this as its own separate heading (Authenticity and Integrity)

  • Might there be an opportunity to have an advocacy committee to provide support/advice for SAA members? Do other associations do this? Tim: there will be supporting documents to give to your institutions, etc. to lay out values, ethics, guidelines; Rand: we have to be careful because we don’t have the legal support to get into litigation issues; difficult balancing point as to how far we can go w/o risking litigational problems; Tom: guidelines about what you can support, when we do it. When we don’t is a compelling idea; I’m pleased you’re doing this - code of ethics didn’t help in the past, had to leave that institution; now when I write a contract with anyone, I put in that “I will follow the ethical standards of …” – Independent Consultant

  • Rand: aspirational code suggests that we aim high, encourages members to think about what motivates them and raise the bar and make it something we can be proud of