Book Reviews

Norman A. Mooradian. Ethics for Records and Information Management. Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman, 2018. 191p. Paper, $75.00 (ISBN: 9780838916391). LC: 2018010397.


During the last 30 years, information technology has exploded; with that comes a host of issues that constantly need to be addressed, including how to treat the various and numerous records that have been created as a result of said information explosion. Records and information management (RIM) professionals need to adapt and adjust to the responsibilities that these changes entail. Mooradian’s book, Ethics for Records and Information Management, is essentially a manual to help RIM professionals, including librarians and archivists, develop and implement ethical organizational policies by using a principles-based approach to ethics to help the reader through the process. The author points out that RIM professionals have specific ethical responsibilities and that they will need to be equipped to establish policies, training, and systems “that are meant to manage information in a way that is fair and legitimate” (xxv–xxvi). Mooradian addresses topics that everyone working in information professions should be aware of, such as the structure of ethics, including outlining principles, moral rules, judgments, and exceptions; ethical reasoning; the ethical core of records and information management; important ethical concerns such as copyright and intellectual property, whistleblowing, information leaks, disclosure, and privacy; and the relationship between RIM ethics and information governance.

In the first chapter, Mooradian presents an ethical framework by defining and breaking down the principles and rules in an understandable way. The five principles addressed include nonmaleficence, autonomy, fairness, responsibility, and beneficence. He then provides a small breakdown of each of the nine moral rules. Other topics in this chapter include classification of principles and moral rules, obligations, permissions, and rights.

Mooradian then moves on to discuss ethical reasoning in the second chapter by providing an overview of ethical reasoning and logic and what they entail (universality, impartiality, action, overriding, and punishable). There is also a lengthy discussion regarding what the author calls top-down reasoning. For those who have taken philosophy and/or some type of logic course, this will look familiar as the author uses the conventional premise/conclusion argument model and provides examples of what these would look like for information professionals making ethical decisions about such topics as data collection, how to use said data, and other records-related issues. Other topics in this chapter include bottom-up reasoning, moral issues, and decision-making procedures, of which the latter takes up a good portion of the end of the chapter as the author goes into developing a “strategy for researching and deliberating about an issue” (39).

Chapters 3 and 4 are devoted to professional and management ethics. Regarding professional ethics, Mooradian lays out the characteristics of professionalism, including the mastery of knowledge regarding a field, the trust that others have in them because of this mastery, standards and communities, and responsibilities professionals have “that go beyond those of being a mere employee” (45). The author also, wisely, provides a section on the public service mission of professionals, as they do not exist for their own sake, but in part to aid others. There is a lengthy discussion about the RIM profession and how it lines up with the aforementioned characteristics of professionalism, as well as the ethical core of RIM, of which “the ethical core of records management rests on the principle of responsibility” (51). The author further explores the ethical core of RIM specifically for librarians and archivists, referencing SAA’s Core Value Statement and Code of Ethics, and ALA’s Code of Ethics. Mooradian also discusses addressing conflicts and morality of interest, as well as conflicts of interest specific to records management. A major section deals with issues and examples of confidentiality. Management ethics focuses on the ethics of stakeholder management, RIM stakeholders, intellectual property, and copyright and RIM stakeholders. Copyright and public records are another section to this chapter, which covers “balancing questions in the area of copyright and record management, especially in relation to public records” (80). The last section of this chapter regards employee stakeholders and records management regarding them.

A major piece of this book regards the ethics of whistle-blowing and leaking information and the importance of this topic to RIM professionals. The author defines both practices and indicates where the two can overlap. He addresses the issues that potential whistle-blowers need to think about logically before engaging in this activity, including personal repercussions as well as professional repercussions that can arise from whistle-blowing. Mooradian helps illustrate his points by providing a section on how to analyze the moral problem with questions that will help someone make the decision if it is a good idea to expose the company or not (such as if an organization’s project can clearly cause damage to people versus a jealous employee). In addition, he provides a section regarding moral reasons not to blow the whistle. The author is not doing this to disregard the need for whistle-blowing, but to help the reader determine what should morally and ethically constitute a valid reason for whistle-blowing. Other topics in this chapter include moral responsibility and obligation of whistle-blowing and how whistle-blowing and leaking information can affect the information professional. Mooradian provides the case of Edward Snowden and how it has helped frame the debate on ethics in information records and gathering.

There is something troubling that needs to be called out in this chapter that Mooradian should address if he decides to release a second edition in the future. Frankly, this reviewer is unsure how it made it past the editors. By using Chelsea Manning’s former name and referring to her using incorrect pronouns, he is deadnaming her, which is a significant matter regarding ethics and records. Deadnaming happens when an individual uses a person’s name prior to transitioning, thereby misgendering and disregarding the identity of the individual. This is problematic and harmful to the transgender community in several ways, including but not limited to disrespecting a transgender individual’s identity or outing a transgender individual when it is not their choice to do so. This is a poor choice on the part of the author and should have been considered prior to publication.

A key part of every RIM professional’s work regards information privacy. Mooradian emphasizes that, with the rise of technological advancements and the information age, there is a need for the ethical handling of personal information. Important is the section regarding how the ethical framework can be used to form a bottom-up procedure for information privacy issues. Mooradian includes examples of organizations that have established ethical privacy frameworks including the Organization for European Co-operation and Development (OECD). There are 8 total principles to this framework, illustrating that an organization can make this as simple or as complicated as they want. The author finishes the chapter taking a further look at the NSA bulk metadata harvesting in terms of privacy and ethics.

Appendices include information on disagreement, relativism, and employing the ethical framework; using privacy to help readers see how the ethical framework can be deployed; and short synopses for the chapters in the book.

This book can be valuable to RIM professionals and students alike. It would be particularly useful to anyone working with records, whether it is metadata, cataloguing, acquisitions, archiving, and more. Mooradian does have a philosopher’s tone to his writing, which is great in laying out the logic of the issues at hand; but, for someone who doesn’t have the terminology of the discipline, it may prove challenging, although not to the point of completely misunderstanding his purpose. As mentioned above, the only problematic issue regards the aforementioned deadnaming of Chelsea Manning.

Norman A. Mooradian is qualified in RIM ethics. He holds a PhD in philosophy from Ohio State University and has completed graduate courses in legal studies at the University of Illinois, Springfield. He has experience working as an academic focusing on information ethics, as an information management professional, and in the information technology field regarding enterprise content management (ECM). He has published on issues in information technology ethics and business ethics. He has also taught ethics, business ethics, and logic and critical thinking at various colleges and universities during the last 20 years. Mooradian is currently a senior solutions analyst in Konica Minolta’s ECM Division.—Lizzy Walker, Wichita State University Libraries

Copyright Lizzy Walker

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