Module 6: Serving All Patrons Equality

Fair, equitable, and unbiased service.

Equal Service

Paragraph I of the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics is an important one. Not only does it call for the same treatment for all, it calls for being objective and neutral in the way we handle requests.

“We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.”

The intent is that each of us gives every patron the same level of respect, attention, and courtesy. We don’t, for example, give city or county officials preference over other patrons, or treat homeless with less respect than others. Children and their questions are given the same level of care we give to adults.

When there are barriers that seem to make it difficult to give everyone equal service — for example, we can’t speak the patron’s language — it is our responsibility to find ways to overcome those barriers.

All Questions Are Important

Just as all patrons receive equal treatment, so do all questions.

We do not make judgments that some questions are more deserving of our time than others. All questions are important to the person who is asking them and deserve a fair share of attention.

For example, it may seem at first glance that a request for the words of a song is less important than the address of a business requested by the local factory. The request for the words to a song may, in fact, be critical to a patron who is planning a public performance for a charity benefit. We can’t be the ones to judge the seriousness of a request. Only the patron who asks can do that. Every patron has an equal right to the services of the library for any information request.

Objectivity

Paragraph I also means that even if you do not agree with what the patron wants to do, even if you dislike the information asked for, you must put aside your personal opinions and handle the request in a neutral, impartial way.

There will be times when you react strongly against what the patron asks. For example, suppose a patron asks for material supporting an election measure lowering salaries of all public employees by 30%. You have a duty as an information provider to do your best to provide the patron with the information wanted.

Your personal opinions are yours off the job. At work, you must remain unbiased.

Major Point: All people in the community are entitled to equal, unbiased library service, and all questions deserve equal treatment.

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