Personal Freedom and Professional Reputation

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about having controversial ideas and Facebook.  It is my primary interest in creating this blog post to get the opinions of the other students on this matter.  First, I would like to recognize the power that Facebook has for communicating ideas and creating communities of thought.  Recently, I have found myself in the position of having to argue for other people’s rights.  This has steeped me heavily in a debate over religion and politics.  I feel pressed to do the right thing and start harnessing the power of the internet to fight for what the rights of commonly marginalized people, however I feel that there might be serious professional consequences for supporting controversial ideas.  Is being politically active on the internet a good or bad idea?  A policy for a library institution should avoid too many political ideas because it needs to fair to everyone.  However, as an individual shouldn’t I be able to express my opinions and fight for rights beyond what is popular? The ability of an employer to research your private life and regulate your opinions is limiting my right to free speech.

I argue that we should have legislative laws that keep an employer from discrimination based on political ideas.  I believe that we need to protect free speech. This is of great importance on the internet.  I have a guarantee by the constitution to the right to assemble, the right to choose my own religion and to exercise free speech, but if an employer can research these things and begin discriminating are we not walking into violating these freedoms.  I would like to see what you think about these concepts and what you would do.  What moral compromises would you make to have a peaceable work place?

Personally, I feel that I have come to the conclusion that all battles are hard.  I just have to face that I may have professional consequences to stand up for the civil rights of someone else.  That means talking about religion and politics.


5 thoughts on “Personal Freedom and Professional Reputation

  1. mcnabbarchives

    I believe wholeheartedly that you should express your values, opinions, and thoughts, no matter how controversial they may be, and no matter how quickly and widely disseminated. And I’m not the only one who believes that- so does the ALA and many other proponents of public librarianship! Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, intellectual freedom, etc are important and closely guarded tenets of librarianship. See the ALA Core Values statement as well as Library Bill of Rights, ALA Code of Ethics, ALA Mission Statement, and so forth.

    The caveat of course is that you can express yourself as an individual only. If you are posting as the public face of your library or whatever place of business, you are a spokesperson of that organization. So, for instance, if you were the social media maintainer for a library, you could only post a political opinion if your director okayed it.

  2. Lauren Peters

    Great topic. I feel that when one steps through the workplace door, that all politics, religion, and controversy should remain outside. We are being paid to do a job pleasantly and professionally which includes working well with others. But as we leave our personal lives outside, so should management. What we do when we are not being paid is our own business. Management should stay off our personal social pages.

    But really, how many people can you change their minds from a FB posting? Just look at the comments section following any report. It only takes 3 or 4 comments before the name calling begins. I think we need to ask ourselves, how much am I standing up for someone else or how important is it to me to have the last word?

    My policy is that this is a public institution. If my children cannot read it because it is too angry, then the post gets deleted. The haters will just have to find somewhere else to hate.

  3. Nomi

    Very interesting and important thing to think about. Here are some of my thoughts in response.
    1. Yes, you should be free to believe and practice religion, politics, etc. as you see fit and sometimes that doesn’t match up with the ideals – vocalized or otherwise – of the organizations where you work. However, while I want my beliefs and practices to be respected, I also think that work isn’t necessarily a good place to advertise them. Therefore, I agree that there is a major challenge figuring out how we balance our needs/desires to express our opinions and beliefs while also being a good “face of an organization”.
    2. While it is true that the internet and social media platforms make it MUCH easier for employers and potential employers to find these things, it isn’t something that they wouldn’t have been able to do before on a smaller scale. Particularly, given that librarians are a public face for ideas and thinking and therefore people hiring us wonder who we are, what we think, what we say. It used to be done much more through newspapers and word of mouth (particularly in smaller communities and the academic world). Therefore, while the level of care that we need to take to safeguard our privacy has increased, there has been no time in the even nominally recent past when it wasn’t necessary to be aware that when you say or do things publicly, they are public and people see and hear them.
    3. I think that the question of “what’s the goal” is an important one. Am I trying to express something because I believe it and I think that it needs to be vocalized, or am I getting caught up in an argument because I want to have the last word? This is often reflected in the language and tone that we chose. I don’t have to agree with you and might in fact find your opinion reprehensible, but you are entitled to express it and I am even willing to listen to you express your opinion, provided it is done in an appropriate manner – hate speech, etc. makes me wonder if what you have to say can stand on its own, or if it needs to be inflammatory in order for it to exist.
    4. I think that libraries can be great places for thought-provoking and challenging topics to be covered in ways that encourage productive conversation and growth. Hopefully this is one of the things that we can continue to work on as we go forward in our careers. The issues that our society faces are not getting any easier and it is therefore not a need that is possibly going to disappear. Hopefully we can continue to create library spaces that are meeting this (and many other) societal need and challenge.

    Thanks for making me think about these things in this manner!

  4. isingidanceireadthings

    Yes, I agree that ones political views should hold no baring in the application process. Once given a job, however, I think what is important here is that Facebook users to make a clear distinction between their personal and public life. Just as it is inappropriate to shout ones political views in the workplace, it is inappropriate to post them in a public forum where co-workers, patrons, and clients can see. For example, there is a teacher in our school district who has been extremely dissatisfied with her job this year, and consistently posts negative comments about her work on Facebook. Were this a purely personal account, such posts could be argued as understandable. However, she has several professional contacts, including her boss, as friends, and no filters in place. Not only is her behavior then unprofessional, but by sharing personal views in what can be argued to be a professional environment, she is potentially endangering her job.

    Personally, I keep any potentially controversial posts to a minimum, and when I feel inclined to present my political, spiritual, or other views, I do so in a manner that is not demeaning to those who may have a difference in opinion. Moreover, I will not add anyone to my page who I do not view as a personal friend. In the future, as my professional contacts expand or I have my own classroom or library position, I do plan on creating a separate account that is purely professional. This way, any students or parents that I work with can have access to information about what is going on in the library or class, and can also contact me via this site, without having access to my personal life.

    In short, as long as an employee strives to keep the personal and professional separate, and is respectful of other views when the two do happen to intersect, social media tools can function as a great asset in one’s career.


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