Ethical Issues of Information Technology

Ina Fourie (Department of Information Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa, e‐mail:

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 April 2002




Fourie, I. (2002), "Ethical Issues of Information Technology", The Electronic Library, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 158-159.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Ethical issues have always figured prominently in the lives of information professionals. Technology and the increased access to the Internet have, however, added a new dimension to these. Technology touches many facets of our lives. Ethical Issues of Information Technology is therefore a timely publication that can help information professionals to deal with a number of technology related issues. Under the capable editorship of Robert Wengert the reader is presented with nine contributions ranging from plagiarism to the purchasing of information technology.

In their discussion on the phenomenon of malpractice in librarianship, and librarians’ legal liability, Diamond and Dragich point out that they could find no examples of cases brought against librarians or against lawyers for faulty research in developing a case. With the growth in sophisticated end‐users, this may perhaps change. Plagiarism is another headache, which has become more prominent with the increase in access to electronic information. In their contribution Auer and Krupar raise a number of interesting issues (e.g. the factors contributing to plagiarism, students’ attitudes and the attitudes of faculty). They also offer Web site addresses to help in the fight against plagiarism. When dealing with technological implementation and ethical failures Hauptman considers how libraries spend their meager funds on technology. He argues that ethical guidelines are not sufficient; we should also have legal guidelines. Burbles considers the ways in which the unique structure of the Web affects its credibility as a reference system, while Górniak‐Kocikowska considers the effect of new technologies by pursuing the analogous revolution that occurred with the introduction of the printing press.

There are also two contributions stressing the teaching role of libraries. Alfino and Pierce consider libraries’ commitment to neutrality with regard to fiction. In the Internet era libraries need to consider the need to investigate the nature of information and its value. In his contribution Wengert sheds light on the ethical aspects of being an information professional. It seems as if in our daily practice there is less stress and interest in rights than in seeking the best practice to help patrons achieve their goals. If the teaching role of LIS professionals was stressed more, ethical discussions about the profession would be much richer and more realistic.

The last two contributions deal with the education of information professionals with regard to ethical issues and the issues concerning global information justice.

Most contributions are very well researched with extensive lists of references. Although there are one or two contributions that focus a bit too much on a specific case study, the overall impression is that of a useful publication that can alert information professionals to the dilemmas surrounding ethics and information technology and how to deal with these.

Ethical Issues of Information Technology is recommended for both academics and practitioners. Selected contributions can also be used as recommended reading for undergraduate and postgraduate students.

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