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An examination of information ethics standards in the management of open access electronic information resources (OAEIR) by Zimbabwean university libraries.

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Date

2024

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Abstract

The information society has given university libraries new technological tools and platforms to connect with their clients, eliminating the need to constrain what the library publishes and provision of access to its clients. However, it also unlocked many unanswered ethical questions and dimensions. The proliferation of open access electronic information resources (OAEIR) has created more significant ethical challenges for Library and Information Science (LIS) professionals, from the privacy, accuracy, property, and access to ethical standards, more so from the African cultural perspective. LIS professionals' adoption of information ethics standards, ethical dimensions and associated dilemmas are increasingly becoming topical issues in the information society due to the proliferation of OAEIR. The study was conducted to determine the adoption of information ethics standards in managing OAEIR by LIS professionals. Additionally, the study sought to determine information ethics dilemmas encountered by LIS professionals in executing open access electronic information management processes. Finally, the study sought to establish contextual information ethics standards that LIS professionals could implement in the open access electronic information management processes. The study adopted the deontological ethics theoretical framework and PAPA information ethics framework to thoroughly interrogate the library information processes, which are creation, organisation, and dissemination. The study used a pragmatism worldview as a research paradigm, a mixed methods research approach, and a sequential explanatory research design. The study population was drawn from LIS professionals serving in nine Zimbabwean university libraries. The study used the census survey sampling techniqu e and purposive sampling for operational level LIS professionals and managerial level LIS professionals, respectively. Additionally, the study used document analysis, which looked at OAEIR related policies and standard operating procedures. Quantitative and qualitative data analysis procedures were employed through descriptive statistics analysis and the SPSS, and thematic content analysis, respectively. The findings revealed that there was generally a lack of information and awareness on information ethics available to LIS professionals. University libraries' affiliation to the LIS code of ethics was viewed in terms of being members of either AfLIA or IFLA, but with no clear policy guidelines on how they would draw from these institutions’ codes. Local professional associations such as ZimLA and ZULC were not doing enough to conscientise LIS professionals on the profession's ethics. Resultantly, university libraries lacked clear policy direction regarding LIS professionals' ethical obligations in electronic content, affecting how ethical issues were being implemented in everyday electronic library workflow operations. Information management in this contemporary library environment and the information-seeking behaviour of library clients have created many ethical dilemmas for LIS professionals. The electronic information revolution has created many problematic ethical grey areas for LIS professionals, and generally in all PAPA, in the management processes of OAEIR. LIS professionals' application of ethical standards in the day-to-day management of OAEIR was influenced by duty-based principles at the library level, aided by experience. LIS professionals' culture greatly impacted the adoption and application of ethical principles and decisions in the management of OAEIR, ushering in an African culture ethical dimension. The available global codes of ethics standards for LIS professionals applied to LIS professionals in Zimbabwe in a broader sense, hence the need for a contextualised code of ethics framework. The study's findings contribute towards awareness, perception, and adoption of information ethics standards by Zimbabwean university libraries and other local affiliated associations, including managing ethical dilemmas emanating from the management of OAEIR. The study findings contribute a cultural dimension to the deontology ethics theoretical framework, thereby enhancing appreciation of the theory. The findings also contribute to more research on information ethics in relation to the LIS profession, especially from the African perspective, in addition to the offering of the discipline in LIS studies across the country and beyond, especially as viewed through the eyes of the contemporary library field.

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Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

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